A Brief Post On Unsolicited Criticism in the Sport of Fencing

Susie Scanlan. Photo credit ©startribune.com

Susie Scanlan. Photo credit ©startribune.com

A student once told me a “horror story” of a time when Olympic Bronze Medalist Susie Scanlan came to fence at his university. Following one of her practice bouts, a club team college fencer with no more than two years fencing experience proceeded to approach Susie and provide an unsolicited critique of her fencing. They quickly shot him down in embarrassment, as Susie’s mouth was agape over this surprising rudeness.

Similarly, a few months ago, some poodersnout showed up at DCFC and felt compelled to have a discussion of my form after every single touch (I was putting on a whooping). I finally said “dude, less talking, more fencing.”

Having a constructive conversation about tactics following a bout can be a great way to improve strategy. No one’s denying that; and in fact, I often will ask for my teammates’ opinions on things to improve upon following a bout. But there has to be mutual trust and respect for such a conversation to occur. To simply walk up to someone following a bout under the assumption that they care for your opinion is presumptuous, frustrating to the recipient of the criticism, and rude. Do not provide unsolicited criticism in the sport of fencing. Don’t be a foondanglin’ poodersnout.

9 thoughts

  1. If I’m watching a bout involving one of my students, I’m clearly inventorying the faults of the opponent. But it’s not my place to coach them. However, if their coach is standing there with me, and we start talking, I might make a comment to him.

    On the other hand, if the fencer asks for my opinion or critique, then I will give it. Just as I will often ask a respected fencer to critique my student, particularly if they had just wiped the floor with them. I’ve found that often hearing the same criticism from a fellow fencer, rather than from “Coach”, will help the process.

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