August is the start of the new fencing season, and with that come new fencers in beginning classes as well as brand new seasons across school leagues.
As with any sports team, parents, coaches and kids can prepare at the beginning to make the most of the season in terms of developmental progress and results.
Responsible Sports has published their own pre-season guide and checklist for parents. They suggest that you “spend the pre-season to get on the same page. The exercise helps parents and athletes prioritize goals and then forge a partnership to reach those goals.”
Here are some of those steps:
Determine Kids’ Goals. Why do your children want to fence? Go ahead and ask them; you might be surprised to hear what they say. Ask your kids to write down the reasons why they want to fence this season. Then ask them to rank their top-3 reasons, but don’t look at their lists (you have your own to do.)
Understand Your Goals. Go ahead and do the same exercises. Why do you want your kids to fence? Is it to learn new skills? Help with college applications? To gain self-esteem? Improve fitness? Be part of a group? Make a list of your reasons and then rank your top 3.
Work As A Team. Now take a look at your kids’ list and compare. Do you both want the same things? If you have different goals then that can make for a rough season. Spend some time to get on the same page so you can have shared goals – and a shared approach to evaluating the season come July.
Embrace A Mastery Approach. Recreational through elite athletes can all benefit from a Mastery Approach. Focus on what the athlete can control (effort, attention to detail performing actions) and let go of what they can’t (whether or not a referee sees an action). When talking to your kids, emphasize the importance of effort and a commitment to learning. Find out what they want to learn this season and work to set up a plan to develop those skills.
Open Communication. Parents and coaches need to be on the same page also. Coaches should have a parents meeting at the beginning of the season. In this meeting you have the opportunity to share your coaching philosophy and walk parents through your process to determine how athletes are evaluated. (There are a number of example parent meeting agendas and other tips at PositiveCoach.org.)
Commit to Feedback. Coaches – During that first parent meeting, let them know that you will conduct surveys post-season to get their feedback. Also let them know up-front how you will be evaluating the season. It’s suggested that you also come up with some ways to gather anonymous feedback so that all parents feel comfortable giving feedback.
Have Fun! With full schedules and lots of commitments, parents can get run down and harried. Sometimes all of that activity makes us lose sight of one very important truth: we play sports because it’s fun! Remind yourself and your kids of that if you need to! Some days it’s worth it to just sit back and let them play.
You can find more tips and a weekly Parent Tips newsletter at ResponsibleSports.com.