skip navigation

Taking a Step Back

12/19/2017, 7:00pm CST
By Suzie Riewald, USA Fencing SafeSport Coordinator

    Spectators please remember:

  1. These are kids
  2. This is THEIR game
  3. Coaches and officials are human
  4. This is for FUN
  5. Positive cheering is encouraged

I saw this sign posted at an ice rink and thought it simple yet impactful, and it dovetails nicely with our SafeSport mission: “USA Fencing is committed to creating a safe and positive environment for athletes’ physical, emotional and social development, and to ensuring that it promotes an environment free of misconduct.”

Signs like this are sometimes necessary as it is easy to get caught up in the heat of competition and get so focused on winning this bout that we momentarily lose sight of the big picture – the big picture being that sport and competition are about having fun, improving skills, learning lessons and that there are many other competitive opportunities from which to grow and learn.

You know what I’m referring to about getting caught up in the moment, right? The parent who yells at the referee for a seemingly incorrect call; the coach who has a look of disgust after her fencer’s performance; the comments about opponents, referees or fencers that criticize or degrade, to name a few.

I get it, I’ve been there. There have been several times when watching my kids play hockey where I would like to yell at the ref for missing a call for tripping or offsides. I have had to mentally step back and remind myself that it is a game and the refs aren’t perfect ... then allow myself to enjoy watching my son or daughter play and marvel at what they are doing on the ice. 

Fencers and others that are there to enjoy the competition deserve a positive, supportive environment. We need to remember the message of the spectator sign as we all work to “take care of” the environment in which our athletes are competing (and practicing). We – the USA Fencing community of members, athletes, referees, coaches and family – can and should play an active role in supporting our SafeSport mission. 

Below are some action steps to implement the message:

  • Be clear on your role in the competitive environment:
    • Parents: support and encourage your child.
    • Athletes: focus on yourself and your performance; be the best you can be on a given day.
    • Coaches: provide positive support to your athletes and allow them to learn.
  • Have a “gut check” before walking into the venue: remind yourself of the key points of the sign that resonate most with you (or that challenge you the most).
  • Focus on building up, not tearing down: Years ago, I heard a coach tell the parents on his team: “If what you say and do on the sidelines isn’t building up the athletes, keep it to yourself.”  Sage advice.
  • Ask your fencer why they fence and support his or her reasons. Research tells us most athletes are going to say they are in fencing to have fun, be with friends and/or learn new skills. A positive, supportive environment is sure to emerge if we as parents and coaches focus on reinforcing these motivations.
  • Print off the sign. “Knowing” and “doing” are different. It is one thing to know appropriate, positive and supportive behavior. It is quite a different beast to DO this. So, print off and display the sign as a visual reminder or yourself or those in your club and commit to monitoring your behavior.

Tag(s): SafeSport