Are you getting the most from your fencing coach?
The answer depends on two things. It partially hinges on the coach. Having a knowledgeable fencing coach who you get along with is crucial. But it also depends on you: How you engage with your coach during your lessons determines what you get from them.
And if you’re not getting the most out of your fencing coach, what’s the answer? Do you get a new one or change the way you do things?
Swordplay LA is here to help you answer that question. We’re going to talk about what you can do to strengthen your coach-student relationship — which will mean more winning and learning — and what to look for when hunting for a new coach.
Let’s start with what you can do.
It Starts With You
Even if you feel dissatisfied with your current fencing coach, don’t trade them out yet. You might not be getting results because you don’t understand what you need or want from your coach. It could also be that you haven’t been communicating clearly with them. Let’s explore those possibilities.
1. Know Yourself
Getting the most from your fencing coach requires self-knowledge. You need to be clear about your fencing goals, your specific strengths and weaknesses, and how you learn best.
For instance, it could be that you’re not getting what you need from your coach because you want to be a competitive fencer, but they don’t usually train their students for competitions. Or maybe you two are on the same page concerning your goals, but they don’t know how you learn best. Perhaps they mostly provide verbal explanations, but you need a combination of kinetic and visual teaching.
In short, you need to examine yourself. Figure out what makes you tick as a fencer and as a student, and tell your coach what you need from them.
Your coach gains insight into your game by fencing with you, but they’re not a mind-reader. What they think you need and what you think you need might be completely different things. While it’s important to trust your fencing coach’s opinions, it’s just as important to tell them what you want to work on.
For instance, if you feel like you need to work on parry ripostes for a while, tell them that. If you don’t feel well, you’re tired, something’s upsetting you, or you feel like your body is being pushed too hard, tell your coach. Coaches prefer to tailor their lesson plans to their students and your input can be vital to that process.
Observe & Test
Let’s fast-forward a little bit: You’ve done all that and you’ve still come to the conclusion that you need a new coach. That’s 100% okay, but don’t pick your new coach arbitrarily.
You need to do your research, and that doesn’t just mean reading coach bios. An instructor bio, however important, won’t tell you anything about what it’s like to work with them. You need to observe your fencing club’s coaches while they’re fencing or teaching. You should also take a couple lessons with each one of them.
In short, you should pick your new coach judiciously. Let’s discuss the factors that you should pay attention to as you search for a new fencing coach.
What To Look For In Your Coach
There are five attributes you need to consider when hunting for a new coach: availability, personality, teaching style, fencing style, and experience. You’ll have to consider each one of these simultaneously, but none of them are intrinsically most important. Each factor’s significance depends on your goals, learning style, and whatever else matters to you.
With that being said, let’s dig into the five essential attributes of a compatible coach.
Obviously, your schedule needs to be compatible with theirs. You can’t take lessons with a coach whose schedule doesn’t match up with yours.
Of all the factors you need to consider, this is the one where most people can be flexible. Depending on your fencing goals and how important fencing is to you, you can consider modifying your schedule to make it compatible with your chosen coach’s.
How well you get along with your coach influences how much you learn from them. Consider how your desired coach interacts with you and their other students when teaching.
If you get too hung up on something your coach says or does, you’re probably not going to learn much during that lesson. Or maybe you don’t necessarily need to get along swimmingly with them, but just be able to tolerate them enough. It depends on you.
For instance, some students thrive under a strict coach who has a “tough love” attitude when teaching. Other students do well under a coach who’s a little more relaxed and encouraging. Still others need something in between. Ultimately, it depends on what’s important to you.
5. Teaching Style
Your learning style matters when it comes to selecting your coach. For instance, you should have a coach who teaches through demonstrations and explanations if you learn best through a combination of auditory and visual learning. But there’s more to fencing instruction and coaching than visual, auditory, and kinetic methods.
Some coaches prefer to teach by using plenty of games, exercises, and drills. Other coaches prefer to have their students do a lot of fencing and provide advice in between touches and after bouts. Some coaches might do a little bit of both. The only way to discover which method works best for you is to observe how your club’s coaches teach and take a couple of lessons with each one of them.
6. Fencing Style
Characterizing someone’s fencing style in general terms can be difficult. It can change from bout to bout because you need to do certain things to beat certain fencers. Nevertheless, each fencer has their own idiosyncrasies: hand and foot positioning, go-to techniques, level of aggression, and other such habits. No matter who you take lessons with, you’re going to adopt some aspects of their style, whether because they told you to or through gradual emulation.
Perhaps you’re a naturally aggressive fencer, and you want to strengthen your defensive game. Consider taking lessons with a coach who seems to fence defensively more often than not. Or perhaps you want to start using flicks when you fence. In which case, take lessons with a coach who uses flicks often and expertly in their bouts.
Last but certainly not least, you need to consider your potential coach’s experience — both the type of experience they have and how long they’ve been fencing.
If progression is important to you, pick a coach who has plenty of experience. If you want to compete, make sure you get a coach who has a level of competition experience that correlates with your ambitions. Do you want to compete at a national level someday? Get someone with that kind of experience. Are you okay with just competing regionally? You’d probably be satisfied with someone who only has that level of experience.
If you just want to fence for fun, your fencing coach’s experience probably won’t matter as much to you — and that’s great! What matters at the end of the day is what you want.
Are you getting what you need from your current coach? Do you need to get a new coach? At the end of the day, the answer to those questions partially depends on you. Do what you can to clarify what you want as a fencer and tell your coach as much. If you still don’t get what you need after doing that, it’s time to judiciously choose a new coach.
And remember: You’re not obligated to take lessons from only one coach. After observing and test-driving different coaches, you might find that you like different coaches for different reasons. If that happens, that’s great! The more people you can learn from the better.
Remember that Swordplay LA has plenty of experienced and versatile instructors who would love to work with you. After you’ve done your homework, schedule a private lesson with one or more of them to find your dream coach (or coaches)!