Fencing in a slump?


Everyone, at least in my experience, at some point finds themselves in a slump. A most disheartening situation that can feed on itself, as negativity envelops us, leading to even greater depths of frustration.

Our slumps may result from many sources, trauma- both physical or mental, illness, both over training and under training, a poor performance or even the exceptional “over” performance, unrelated stress, changes in routine, the list goes on. Sometimes we just don’t know why we fall into a slump (boyfriend or girlfriend, or other social issues often remain “unknown” at least to the coach). The first thing to reverse the situation is to admit it. A fencer, fencing below their proven abilities, feeling stuck, a fencer often feels he or she just needs to try harder, in the hope that willpower alone will reverse the situation. Sometimes it can, sometimes, not so much. Some root causes can be addressed if known. Training intensity can be adjusted as needed. Distractions can be addressed. Physical issues ruled out or attended to. The bottom line is to address any causation issues so rebuilding can proceed.

It has been useful for me, as a coach, to return to basics. This both reinforces technical skills, but gives the fencer a chance to mentally reboot. More importantly, a chance to rebuild a pattern of success and establishing a pattern of success is a powerful tool in your training. Such success can be established, at a very fundamental level, by proper execution of drills and skills, using these building blocks to rebuild your confidence and game.

An issue that must be addressed, falling into a slump can be devastating. Do not underestimate it, depression may or may not be a factor. Ask for help, if in doubt. The often quoted definition “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” should be kept in mind. I sometimes find it helpful to make a gratitude list, those positive things I can identify and build upon.

I will briefly address the proven success of mental visualization, seeing yourself totally focused, executing actions clean and decisive manner, using timing and strategy to your best advantage. Do these mental exercises in as much detail as possible. If you have trouble doing this on your own, seek professional assistance. Of special interest is visualization towards the goal of improved mental focus. Lack of focus can be seen as an underlying issue when discussing slumps.

We have all been there,
coach Geoff

Question about focus

As a coach, I have often used the term “focus”, perhaps all to often. The term in unclear and seldom helpful if not understood.

Time for me to make amends and define how we understand the issues involved. Here is the
wika link, small wonder we have confusion. We also have this, also not how I see the term being used in sport.

The term as I’m understanding it, in regard to fencing, is not always that microscopic tunnel vision of an issue seen in minute detail, IE asking, how do I rotate or not rotate my wrist in a bind, during a competition or other such minutia. It is better described as full situational awareness and being totally in the present moment. Focus, as a term, is also used by coaches to attempt to have our students remember the objective and goals they set. This is often used when distractions are placed in front of the athlete. I prefer to think in terms of maintaining an awareness of distractions, but not letting them obscure our full awareness of the situation. Rather then deny that distractions exist, be aware of everything, but do not loose sight of your immediate goals.

The term focus is often related to discussions of vision, how we focus our eyes, would be an example. So let us look at our vision. We have two distinct attributes in the way we see. Focal vision, lets us look at things in detail. It allows us to remove information not relevant to the task at hand. It allows us to read, work on small objects. Best considered in context with keeping our immediate goals in mind. Peripheral vision by contrast, allows us to see the big picture, is better at sensing movement and seeing things in shadow. It is the latter that I feel is a better analogy of situational awareness. We need both to thrive.

What does “be in the moment” really mean? Sounds a bit new age perhaps, but you may be understandably mistaken. Being in the moment, not living in the past, not projecting into the future, just being fully aware of what is happening now, is a very helpful attribute in fencing. Often I see fencers trying to relive the same bout over and over, or obsessing over how every action they may take, with an eye towards a possible, future outcome. Yes, these can be distractions, as such we should recognize them, yet not allow them any undue weight. If we attempt to block out entirely these predisposition’s, we will fail to learn from our past behaviors. We may simply be try to be fully aware, and direct our energy towards our immediate goal.

Please note that an absence of distractions does not equal focus! That said, we always have some distractions, don’t we.

Maybe the word focus is just to broad a term. So where can I be going with this rant? Make sure you understand the proper use of “focus” as it applies. Don’t let it become a meaningless word your coach yells from time to time. I hope you all spend some reflecting how you're understanding and implementing the term.

Practicing mindless perfects mindlessness.
coach Geoff