Did you know young fencers are not just smaller adult fencers?
Did you know that over 70% of Olympians (2000-12) were multisport athletes?
Did you know that a primary reason kids participate in sport is to have fun and a primary reason kids discontinue sport is because it is no longer fun?
Did you know coaches have an influence on athlete enjoyment, satisfaction, development and desire to continue?
Did you know that winning is not everything, and do your actions align with this?
“Compassionate coaching is an important part of my approach to teaching fencing. There is so much failure inherent in the sport, from having a bad practice, to losing a touch, to losing a bout, that it is critical to keep your athletes focused on the process of improvement and finding the positive in everything. If the drive to succeed can come from positivity, rather than a negative place filled with fear of losing, fear of disappointing yourself, your coach or your family, then better results and higher self-esteem will follow.” –Dan Kellner, 2004 Olympian and Owner of Brooklyn Bridge Fencing Club
Copied from USA Fencing's website: https://www.usafencing.org/adm
Discovery and Fundamentals – Musketeer and Bronze Beginner Programs ages 6-9 years old
An athlete has decided to try the wonderful sport of fencing. The initial exposure should focus on fun, engagement, physical literacy and basics of learning to learn.
Develop and Optimize – Silver I and Silver II Intermediate to Advanced Recreational and Competitive Programs – 10 – 14 years old
Silver I: Athlete training evolves into more emphasis on fencing-specific tactics, technique and training, but still a continued focus on ABCs (agility, balance, coordination, and speed), multisport involvement, exploration and fun; teamwork and sportsmanship are also emphasized.
Silver II: The athlete enjoys fencing and wants to continue to develop and improve, athlete-driven desire for the challenge of competition, more individualized coaching, greater commitment to fencing, and focus on competition as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Excellence and Growth – Gold Team Advanced Competitive Program – 14 years and older
These athletes are committed to attending classes regularly and participating in private instruction, as well as cross-training in other sports such as swimming to ensure whole body and mind wellness.
Fencing for a Lifetime - Veterans and Fitness Fencers – 20 years and older (veterans 40 and older) The athlete is “hooked.” Fencing is a lifelong endeavor, and the individual may take on many roles within the sport. Older teens and adults who love the sport and want to continue as recreational fencers or competitive fencers may also get involved in other roles within the sport.
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The references quoted in the question answers are from Built from Broken: A Science-Based Guide to Healing Painful Joints, Preventing Injuries, and Rebuilding Your Body by Scott Hogan CPT, COES
We develop neuromuscular coordination through these exercises. This is the "ability of your central nervous system to control muscles while executing complex movements. This is essential to address in the early stages of training to prevent bad habits." (p19)
Anyone may learn to fence. We don't have a culture of fencing in the US, so just about every new fencer is in the same level. You don't have to be an athlete to fence. "Many people mistakenly believe that your levels of coordination are set in stone. but that's not true. By establishing joint stability with targeted corrective exercises and frequently practicing the primary movement patterns, you can improve neuromuscular coordination. (p19)
Doing what is termed "footwork and blade drills" helps the student develop muscle memory and a feeling of where they are on the fencing strip in relation to other fencers. This is called "joint proprioception. "Joint proprioception describes your ability to sense the position and movement of your body through space. When you build skill around movements that challenge joint proprioception, your ability to protect yourself from injury improves intuitively." (p20)
"In addition, fatigue management must be programmed into training. This includes fatigue-proofing important postural muscles that you can't afford to have quit on you." (p20)
No! In fact we encourage multi-sport athletes. Multi-sport athletes generally enjoy better performance and reduced injury rates than single-sport athletes. This is the push behind the US Olympic and Paralympic Commission's Long-term Athlete Development Program (ADM). "A study commissioned by the National Federation of State High School Associations showed that single-sport athletes are 70% mor likely to suffer an injury than are multisport athletes due to a greater risk of suffering repetitive use injuries. They also develop lopsidded musculature and narrow movement patterns." (p21)
Muscle imbalance occurs when one or more muscles in your body are stronger or larger than others. Everyone has some muscle asymmetry, but imbalances that alter joint mechanics are the real problem. A muscle imbalance alters movement patterns and joint mechanics, which leads to postural faults, excessive compensatory loading on specific joints and muscle, inflammation, pain and injury.
Practicing fencing exercises without a coach who understands the development of body mechanics in fencing can cause serious muscle imbalance, or worse, injury. "Muscle imbalance occurs when one or more muscles in your body are stronger or larger than others. Everyone has some muscle asymmetry, but imbalances that alter joint mechanics are the real problem. A muscle imbalance alters movement patterns and joint mechanics, which leads to postural faults, excessive compensatory loading on specific joints and muscle, inflammation, pain and injury." (p21)
Coaches will give you exercises that can be done at home if you ask. We do not recommend weight training unless the trainer understands the mechanics of fencing.
There are two types of stretching, static and dynamic. "Static stretching is holding a stretch for a period of several seconds or longer. However, a 2011 meta-study revealed that static stretching has no "significant effect." Stretching before competition or working out impairs performance...and may actually increase injury risk. Dynamic stretching is actively moving back and forth through full ranges of motion (for example, during lunge drills). Stretching has its place, but mobility, training, corrective exercise and adding more varied movement are much more effective training strategies." (p21)
First and foremost, inform you trainer or coach immediately. You may be executing the exercise incorrectly and need to make an adjustment, or you may have over worked that area, something that often happens during a tournament.
While joint pain can stem from injuries to ligaments and cartilage, in most cases the source is your tendons. Tendons are the fibrous connective tissue throughout your body that attaches muscles to bone. They are often the first to break down from overuse, causing inflammation and pain, and cell degeneration, called tendinopathy. (p23)
"Tendinopathy is the most common class of overuse injuries, affecting both competitive athletes and recreational fitness enthusiasts. Tendon injuries often seem to happen suddenly but are usually the result of several microtears that occurred over time. In the past, virtually all cases were referred to as tendinitis, which means an inflammation of the tendon. And instances where tendon degeneration was apparent was called tendinosis. Today, most experts refer to both as simply tendinopathy." (p42)
"One of the biggest misconceptions about tendinopathy in that inflammation is the primary cause." (p42)
"Tendinopathy develops in relation to your tendon load capacity and the corresponding training load applied to your tendons. Everyone has their own load threshold for tendon adaptation, called the load tolerance set point. When you exercise and move at your setpoint, or just slightly beyond it, you experience fitness improvements. When you fail to stress your tendons enough to reach this setpoint, your tendons adapt by reducing their load tolerance." (p43) If you aren't training and performing drills, you are setting yourself up for injury if you participate in a tournament.
If you have tendinopathy and are wearing knee or ankle braces to protect weak joints, make sure you move through full ranges of motion before and after using them. Prolonged immobilization of joints reduces hyaluronic acid concentrations within synovial fluid and reduces the clearance of inflammatory compounds." (p51)