Make the Most Out of Every Tournament.
Over the course of the season, the average competitive fencer will travel to and compete in several tournaments. From local events, to regional open circuits and super youth circuits, to North American Cups and international events. As you start your competitive fencing career and become more serious in your training, it’s important to get the most from each competitive experience.
One of the most difficult phases I see fencers hit is when an athlete is aging out of Youth-14 and is now starting to compete in Cadet, Junior, and Divisional categories.
At times it can be frustrating to travel for hours to a distant city, compete in a single round of pools, and lose in your first DE. In my first Division I event, I fenced six bouts and was part of the bottom 20% of fencers to be cut after the first round of pools. I finished forth from last place.
Today the competition is becoming tougher, with tournaments reaching greater numbers and the skill level being raised each season. It can seem near impossible to be as fast and accurate as you need to be to compete. But as you begin fencing in higher level competition, there are ways to make the most out of your tournament experience.
Study the competition. Once you have been eliminated from your event, stay in the venue and watch the rest of the competition. Find the fencer who knocked you out of the competition see how he or she fences. Watch which fencers make it to the top eight and how they fence. Of those eight, who makes the top four and why? Who gets into the final? What are they doing that you aren’t? How do they move? Try to answer these questions. Think about how you can bridge the gap between how you fence and how the top eight fence.
Use local/regional events for practice. It’s incredibly difficult to fly across the country only to be eliminated early in your event. No matter how much you practice or take lessons, there’s very little that can simulate actual competition experience. Find local competitions (meaning anything within a drivable distance), and practice your pre-competition routine, perfect your mental game, and get used to fencing different competitors. This experience will a huge benefit when you start traveling to larger competitions.
Record your performance. First, keep a notebook handy during your competition. You can write motivational statements for yourself, take notes on your opponents, study the fencers who make the finals, and most importantly, take notes on your own performance: what went well, and what needs work. Second, if you have a smartphone, flip camera, or tablet/ipad, ask your parent or teammate to record your bouts. Later, go over your bouts with your coach and discuss how you can make improvements. Take video of the semis and final bouts to take home and study.
Entering higher level competition is difficult, but you can increase your experience by sticking around after you’re eliminated and studying how the top competitors fence. Keep studying the rest of the competition until someday, you end up in the final bout and others are watching you compete.