The core values of the Fencing American Development Model are as follows:
- Developmentally appropriate training and competitions for fencers
- Encouraging, supporting and promoting fencers participating in multiple sports and/or activities
- A fun and engaging learning environment
- Quality coaching
- A focus on development over results and success through personal growth.
Let’s look at some research and background that support these core values.
1. Developmentally appropriate training and competitions for fencers
Did you know young fencers are not just smaller adult fencers?
- While it seems obvious that young athletes are not mini-adults, it is not uncommon to train and interact with young athletes as if they are mini-versions of adult athletes. Kids are different from adults; they are different physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially, and coaches need to factor this in when interacting with and training young athletes.
- An IOC Youth Consensus paper (2015) stated that youth athlete development is contingent on an individually unique and constantly changing base of normal physical growth, biological maturation and behavioural development, and therefore it must be considered individually.
- Kids, unlike many adults, are still trying to figure out movement and physicality – how to run, throw, jump, etc. Young athletes need to be taught this physical literacy as doing so gives them the skills, ability, confidence and motivation to be physically active and the foundational skills upon which fencing skills can be learned.
2. Encouraging, supporting and promoting fencers participating in multiple sports and/or activities
Did you know that over 70% of Olympians (2000-12) were multisport athletes?
- In a survey of Olympians from 2000-12, it was found that, up to the age of 14, athletes (n=299) participated in three sports (Riewald, 2014). Even between the ages of 15 and 18, these Olympians averaged just over two (2.2) sports. Eighty-eight percent of these multisport Olympians felt doing so was valuable to their athletic success.
- John O’Sullivan (2016) points out that kids who specialize in a single sport have a high incidence of overuse injuries, are 70-90% more likely to be injured, tend to become more inactive as adults and have a higher rate of burnout from stress.
- Many of USA Fencing’s athletes were multisport athletes. For example, two-time Olympic medalist Alex Massialas swam and played basketball in high school and two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis played soccer her first three years in high school.
3. A fun and engaging learning environment
Did you know that a primary reason kids participate in sport is to have fun and a primary reason kids discontinue sport is because it is no longer fun?
- Research related to reasons for participating in school and non-school sports found both boys and girls rate “to have fun” as the top reason for participation (Ewing and Seefeldt, 1989).
- Recent research (Visek) asked kids to define fun. Young athletes tell us fun is not just about ‘playing tag’ but being with friends, competing, learning skills, getting compliments from a coach … so much broader than what we as adults might assume.
- By creating a fun, engaging environment, athletes will be motivated to continue to fence and clubs will have more success retaining fencers.
4. Quality Coaching
Did you know coaches have an influence on athlete enjoyment, satisfaction, development and desire to continue?
- Effective coaching is critical to successful athlete development, whether it involves instilling love for the sport, providing motivation, teaching skills or periodizing training.
- In a survey of Olympians, athletes consider coaching to be important throughout their entire athletic development, rating importance of coaching across stages between 3.6-4.5 on a scale of 1-5.
- One study found that 95% of athletes who played for trained coaches (Coach Effectiveness Training) came back to the sport program versus 74% of those that played for untrained coaches.
- It is important that coaches working with our fencers have an understanding not only of how to teach technique, tactics and strategy of fencing but also how to effectively work with and develop young athletes.
5. A focus on development over results and success through personal growth
Did you know that winning is not everything? And, do your actions align with this?
“Compassionate coaching is an important part of my approach to teaching fencing. There is so much failure inherent in the sport, from having a bad practice, to losing a touch, to losing a bout, that it is critical to keep your athletes focused on the process of improvement and finding the positive in everything. If the drive to succeed can come from positivity, rather than a negative place filled with fear of losing, fear of disappointing yourself, your coach or your family, then better results and higher self-esteem will follow.” –Dan Kellner, 2004 Olympian and Owner of Brooklyn Bridge Fencing Club
- A long-term approach to athlete development places a focus on development, progress and improvement as opposed to winning today.
- Research finds that athletes who focus on outcome goals (winning) experience greater anxiety and lower confidence than those who focus on process goals (improvement relative to oneself).
- While winning is important, it is not a primary motive for participation. Young athletes want to improve their skills, socialize with friends, have fun, etc.