Antonio's Little Fencing Manual (Knowledge & Coaching)
Updated: Mar 28, 2020
This manual is not intended to teach anything to anyone. Rather it is a humble contribution to those, fencing coaches or not, who wish to enrich their 'baggage' of experience with something different and perhaps also useful in the career and lives.
Personally, I didn't have any direct clear help (written or otherwise), so in part the manual is a gift to myself too.
True satisfaction in life is doing something well. I know that one can't succeed unless we work "diligently, with quality" every day. When I became a coach, I found it terribly satisfying to show individuals how good they could be. My job was to lift the bar for them and show them what was possible, widening their horizon every single day.
Good, strong fundamentals are the best platform on which to build your talent up to its full potential. In fencing as in life.
Becoming a coach
If you have been an athlete it can be a difficult transition. As a fencer, you turn up at training, you work, you enjoy, then you go home and forget about it. A coach has full responsibilities and "thinks" fencing 7 days a week 24 hours a day - it's never "off".
It comes down to a number of factors. Having a good knowledge of fencing or having been a good fencer is not enough. You have to be a psychologist, a father, a mother, a big brother, and certainly a leader. The human factor becomes instrumental in your ability to pass your knowledge on to individuals.
Coaches need emotional maturity because they set the bar for the whole team's attitudes. Coaches need to be analytical and dispassionate in the heat of a battle. High emotions can be misleading
As time passes, you develop a sense of what you need to do to get the best out of each individual in your team so that you can be effective in your coaching delivery. You should get as much knowledge as you can. You can always learn something new and improve. Effectiveness is strictly related to connection with the athletes. There is no need to be their friend though, communication with them isn't "equal". It's the role of the coach.
Developing Individuals (emotionally)
Confidence: It's the coach's job to make each athlete aware of their strengths and shortcomings so to develop their very own self-awareness.
Humility: A coach should teach his fencers about understanding their limitations and that there is more to learn, always.
Respect :Acknowledging opponents and team mates, always paying them due respect, is fundamental for an individual athlete's development and success.
Resilience: Fencing, as life, has its setbacks, its disappointments. Athletes must learn to handle those odds and bounce back from them, growing stronger from them.
Developing Individuals (technically)
The first lessons are fundamental for "building" the correct bond with the athletes.
The coach's arm (and mind) must connect with the student's one.
Basic position, movements, coordination and rhythm must immediately be introduced.
The "priority game" has to easily be explained and taught by developing the correct technical "feelings" into the fencer.
When you are coaching children, you'd better make the environment fun and interesting. There also need to be challenges.
Encourage all families to be part of the fencing community yet to kindly keep their distance from technical matters, that being their coach's concern only.
Help parents to behave well during comps, towards officials and their own kids.
It must be clear to them the important supportive role behind (and not before) their kids.
A team comes before individuals.
"We" stays in front of "I"
"Victory's hunger" gets developed every day.
Trust the coach, always follow him/her.
Training is the platform to success.
When you coach a team, you soon learn that each individual has different "triggers".
In coaching, technical messages are often quite repetitive. Collecting quotes "around" your messages helps you communicate them better.
Shakespeare is, for example, a source of great inspiration. "Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt" (Measure by Measure)
Old Romans too. "Memento Audere Semper", remember to always listen.
Or contemporary singers. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" by Kelly Clarkson
Training must be physically harder and more complex than the game itself. The decision making at training must happen in unfavourable circumstances.
Culture of Excellence
Leadership is about two things: knowing where you are going and being able to persuade people that you can get there. A coach shows the way, every day, with every lesson, in every training session. Technically, coaches must eradicate sloppy habits and ensure quality at all times.
Attributes of Success
All successful people have these key attributes: ambition, skill, aptitude, resilience and persistence.
The best performers are those who can control their emotions and make good judgments in the cauldron of a competition
A defining quality of champions is humility. Humbleness underpins an attitude that says: "I can get better, there is more to do in order to improve". Great athletes always "listen" so as to constantly learn
Importance of honesty: Players deserve to know where they stand, what is expected from them, and what the consequences are for their performance and behaviour.
Connecting with your athletes: A coach should:
A) be sympathetic to his/her fencers;
B) continuously engage with the athletes, because they are the innovators;
C) communicate both with the group and separately with individuals
Challenge the athletes; Have fun; Be authentic, always be yourself.
"Winning coaches" by D.Becker and S.Hill
"Shakespeare, the coach" by R.Charlesworth
"Scherma" by A.Di Ciolo
"The fencing coach" by A.Perez Reverte