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Safe Sport Blog: National Mental Health Awareness and National Physical Fitness & Sports Month

05/20/2016, 9:15am CDT
By Kim O'Shea, USA Fencing Safe Sport Coordinator

May is National Mental Health Awareness and National Physical Fitness & Sports Month: what a great combination of topics for USA Fencing!

Think about most other sporting events, the competitors are trying to out-race, out-skill, or out-maneuver one another (running, swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, archery, skating, etc.) In fencing, all the athleticism is involved, plus a weapon is aimed at the competitor! Fencing demands a different level of focus and intensity from other sports.

How do we help our athletes strengthen the mental side of their athleticism? Each coach and each parent have to figure out what works best for each athlete.  Some athletes are more affected by the rah-rah speeches or motivational quotes to build their egos and confidence, whereas others want quiet time before competition, listening to their favorite psych-up music. Some want to get their adrenaline pumped up and be active, and others want to explode from a sense of calm. Some need to be reminded of all the prep work they’ve done in workouts and lessons, while others gain confidence from the challenge and thrill of competition.

Adults can do so much for children by teaching, guiding and giving the tools that help them be independent. Showing kids how to learn from failure (every competition should be viewed as a learning experience), how to overcome adversity, and how to handle success humbly are skills that will benefit them for a lifetime. If everything on the athlete’s path is smoothed out before them, how will they be able to tackle obstacles?  Sports and life are full of obstacles – give your kids the tools to overcome them like a champ!

It’s ok to have to learn from a missed point or lost bout. Coaches will work on technique and fitness. Do the athletes need more agility training or strength? Do they need to learn new footwork? New bladework? Do they just need more experience? This is all part of the coach’s season plan….and they should be sure the athletes understand the growth process, setting goals and committing to the work to improve.

Parents can encourage effort, listening to the coach, and not quitting when it gets tough. Watch your kids for signs of frustration, and give them ideas on how to handle things. Do they need to “suck it up, buttercup” and try harder? Do they need to take a break/walk away/regroup? Do they need to try something from a different angle? Are they rattled by “smack-talk” on the strip? Do they need to change their self-talk? Helping the kids strengthen their attitude and approach in each of these areas makes them more confident.

All of the above fit into Mental Health Awareness and Physical Fitness & Sports Month….way to tackle two at once!

Tag(s): Blog