Summer camps


It is already that time of year. Kids are off to summer camps. I will be teaching my fourth season of camps. I am often asked advice on which summer camp a particular student should attend. Well, it is not so cut and dry as one would assume.

Summer camps have a big range in what they offer and the options are endless. Day camps, sleep-away camps, camps that offer basic instruction to master level camps. Finding the fit for you and your child is the thing.

1) Be honest in evaluating your student. Sending them to a camp they are not ready for will do nobody any good. Is the camp age-appropriate?

2) Do some research. How long has the camp been around? Have they delivered on past promises? It is a tough market and some clubs have been known to offer “guest coaching staff and guest fencers” that do not materialize. Ask to talk to former participants.

3) Ask about the facilities, particularly with sleep-away camps. Check on after-hours activities and supervision, food (including arrangements for food allergies), medical emergency availability. etc. Is the facility air conditioned?

4) A quality program should require some information about the student as well: health issues, diet restrictions, competitive background and any special needs.

5) How does the timing fit for up-coming competitions? Some fencing camps focus on fitness and tuning you up for the next goal while others are more skill acquisition.

The list goes on. I feel camps can be a great asset. I even send kids off to other camps when indicated. Having other eyes evaluating a student, and other training methods employed can sometime help a student see a problem in a new way. That said, if any fundamental changes are made with the student, I ask them to review it with their coach. This should be an open discussion which can lead to adopting the camp coach’s advice, staying with the status quo or even finding a third solution or middle ground. I feel this is all for the best, regardless of the source of the opinion, as long as the solution works. This is a great chance for us all to learn more.

Last, I strongly suggest with sleep-away camps that your child team up with someone else from your club. Parents can share the driving too. Younger children’s experience can be diminished without a friendly face around.

coach Geoff

Screaming and other distractions!

Photo on 7-9-12 at 9.50 AM #3

I remember my first fencing lesson. My teacher had a handlebar mustache and the first thing he talked about was that fencing was an honorable and noble sport. We should act in such a manner at all times (at least when he could see us). We salute, shake hands, and acknowledge touches when practicing. Always wear clean uniforms, offer friendly advice (lie) and generally behave as civilized sports people.

Flash forward……….

You're fencing your first pool when the fencer on the next strip screams in a tone that one assumes must be from a horrific wound of the type that, fortunately, is exceedingly rare in our sport. But no, we come to discover he/she has just succeeded in scoring a touch on a poor unrated fencer in their first competition. This display of hubris is repeated over and over again with much gesturing and drama. In the end, the screaming fencer makes a lame excuse for a salute and fails to even look the other fencer in the eye as they give the compulsory hand shake.

Lets add to this passion play the fact that this has become the norm. It is repeated in a way that reminds me of seeing my reflection in two mirrors, never ending. Fencers think this sort of aggressive behavior adds to their competitive spirit. We now have a room full of these…I want to use the word idiots, but let;s use “situationally challenged”, individuals screaming over every action they make in a bout. All with a “look at me! I’m all that” vibe. Really, do we need this? Is this progress? I mean, I would give you some slack if you just recovered from a major car accident or recovered from stage four cancer and went on to win Nationals. But, how often is that the case?

See, I am an understanding sort of guy. Let me respond to this in a kind and sensitive way………….shut up and fence!

I feel better now,
coach Geoff

On Warming Up


Warming up for fencing can be both physical and mental. I will try to address some options, but please keep in mind this is often an individual thing. That said let us start with basics.

Arrive early, pack up your gear the night before. Have all equipment checked and repaired well in advance! Preparation of this kind will mean less stress going into your competition. Also .a good nights sleep and proper nutrition are absolute musts!

We need to warm up our muscles before fencing, and I often suggest running. Not fast, we are just trying to break a sweat. Stretching should be done with warm muscles. Back in the day we stretched first but now we know better. Give yourself some time. All to often I see students arrive late and forgo this important discipline.

Some students do visualization exercises before a competition. Some analyze their opponents strategies and skills. Others may hide in their music and refuse to engage in any distraction.

Most fencers I know need to work on reaction, distance and point control. This can be done during warmups, but in my opinion, is often better addressed separately Often fencers will ask someone to spar with them for this purpose. I was taught to seek someone from your club for this sparring, but I now believe that fencing an unknown person awakens that observational part of the brain that is vital in epee.

As I said, these are but suggestions, and are very brief and limited in scope. You need to try, via trial and error, what works best for you. Some skills like visualization and nutrition have books written on the subject. I will do my best to add these skills in more depth at a later time.

2012 Mean coach of the year,
coach Geoff

USFA Membership

Imported Photos 01399

The USFA is starting its new fiscal year, time to renew your membership if you have not done so. Membership is required to compete in sanctioned events.

The USFA has insured coaches and students for years. Students in training were covered via their coaches and club membership. Without this our sport could not exist. I have been told that the insurance company will as of August only insure actual USFA members. Details are still being worked out at this time. This will greatly effect beginners and non-competing students and coaches/clubs . The USFA hopefully worked this out by offering any students that don’t compete a non-competitive membership for $5. I will keep you posted.

Good day for a bike ride,
coach Geoff