Psychology is a major part of fencing. In order to play an effective game, the fencer must use both his mind and his physical prowess to confuse and outwit his opponent. That’s just one reason why psychological development is so important for our athletes. At Silversword Fencing, we focus on the athlete as a whole person. Both their psychological and physical health and development matter; one cannot occur without the other if you expect excellent results. So how exactly does the psychological development of athletes work, and how do we encourage that development?
Positivity and Sportsmanship
No athlete can be a high-level performer if they aren’t able to stay positive and sportsmanly. An athlete who loses should always do so gracefully without becoming angered at their opponent, even if the win was overwhelming.
Teaching athletes stress management techniques like breathing, meditation, and gratitude helps in the development of a positive attitude. So, too, does instilling the idea that a loss is just a loss and not the end of the world from day one.
Frustration is simply a part of competitive sport life. Even athletes with the most positive attitude in the world can experience it — they’re only human! Emotional regulation skills (the very same taught in basic anger management) can help the athlete to become much more resilient to these ups and downs, especially if they’re playing at a high competition level.
Self-regulation of emotions is most important in the heat of the moment. A fencer who becomes angry while playing is an ineffective fencer, so learning skills that allow the athlete to let go of negative emotions (or to a lesser degree, use them as motivation instead) is vital.
It starts with learning to simply accept and acknowledge feelings as they occur. Much as in meditation, the athlete needs to recognize the emotions but not latch on to them or obsess about them.
Some people seem to be born with a natural affinity for planning and goal-setting. Others…well, not quite so much. Not every fencer begins his or her career with realistic goals, and that can cause a great deal of stress. Unrealistic goals (like becoming a famous fencer within just a year, or expecting a 6-year-old child to learn fencing in a few months) don’t help the fencer to improve, they just force them to try to attain perfection.
Encouraging fencers to come up with both short-term goals (e.g. “I want to improve my parry within the next month”) and long-term goals (e.g. “I want to attend a competition within two years”) is the best way to develop the ability to set goals and stay motivated.
From helping your little one to get a start in fencing without frustration to guiding competitive adults through competition, the psychological development of athletes is so important in the fencing world. Contact Silversword Fencing Academy today for more information about our services.