Whether this is your first or fifth season as a member of the RFC’s competitive program, there are a number of things you will need to do to make the most out of this year. To get started, here are a few things you can do to help you prepare for this season.
Write it Down.
The all important fencing notebook! For some fencers, you may already have a notebook that you maintain rigorously, or perhaps it’s been left sitting in your fencing bag all summer with few scribbles here and there. For others, the fencing notebook is a new tool.
Whether you’ve used a notebook in the past or not, the important thing is that you start taking advantage of this tool this season. Your fencing notebook should be treated like your diary. After each practice, take a minute write down the skills you’ve worked on, how you felt, and where you found success and difficulty. Your notebook will be your guide, for listing your goals and tracking your progress. Bring your notebook to competitions so you can take notes on what your opponents do, and assess your emotions throughout the tournament.
Without a way to track your progress, it will be too easy to be practicing three months into the season and feel that you haven’t accomplished anything. When you hit tough points in your training, it’s important to have the ability to look back in the pages of your notebook and see what you have accomplished so far. That is the purpose of your fencing notebook. It’s proof of the work you’ve done, the high points and the low points. It’s so that you can look back at those pages and see, “oh yeah, I’ve done all of this hard work, I can get through more!”
Before heading into the season, take a moment to assess where you are as an athlete. At this time, most fencers have completed summer competitive training, have just moved into the competitive class, or returned after a summer respite. Regardless of how you spent the summer, you have ahead of you this fencing season, so what’s the next step?
This is where you take stock; what is your current skill level? What are your strengths and your weaknesses? It’s important to have an understanding of your current skill level and knowledge base so you can then begin planning your goals for the season. Talk with you coach how you are progressing and what the next steps in your training should be (and then write them down in your notebook!).
With the help of your coach and your parents, begin selecting what competitions are going on your calendar for the season. Which events are local to your area, and which competitions will you need to plan travel arrangements for. Find out what competitions your teammates are going to as well, and find opportunities to carpool to reduce travel costs. If there are competitions that overlap with school, plan your studies accordingly. Lastly, as you are adding competitions to your calendar, take note of each competition’s registration process. You do not want to set your travel plans for a competition only to realize that you’ve missed the registration deadline by two weeks.
Set your goals for the season. Now that you have a tournament calendar, start setting goals for each competition. Once you have an idea of what you want to accomplish at a given point during the season, you then work backwards in your calendar.
Let’s say you have a major competition in six months. This tournament is where you want to be at the height of your training. Set a challenging, yet reasonable goal for yourself (with the guidance of your coach) and now you have a long-term goal for this competition. You have a local event in one month and a regional competition in 3 months. These two competitions will serve as markers for your progress toward your long-term goal. Set mid-term goals for both the local and regional competitions. Working backward from each competition on your calendar, build a picture of where you want to be in your training in preparation to each competition. For instance, you have three weeks before your first local event, set a goal for each week of training and track your progress (by writing in your fencing notebook!)
As you progress through the season, track your progress toward your goals and make adjustments as necessary, it may turn out that you progress faster than anticipated and need to push your goals higher!
In Summary, take this time at the start of the season to prepare and plan ahead. Make a road map for yourself by setting goals throughout the year. Be familiar with where you are starting from and what you want to aim for this season. Good luck to all!