This post idea inspired by a question from Redditor /u/skeletortuga, which is an awesome username…
I remember the optimism I had heading to my first Junior Olympics. I had won my Central Florida division qualifier in dominating fashion. I had been faring well in local open competition. I trained hard, I was in great shape.
I showed up, lost every pool bout, and didn’t make the cut to eliminations.
It turns out that Metro NYC Division eats Central Florida for lunch. Who woulda thought.
I would not be deterred. I showed up to another NAC a few months later, and won two pool bouts. But I didn’t make the cut, again.
I was lost, but desperate to improve, because I enjoyed Fencing and wanted to excel at the national level.
I sat down with my coach upon returning from my second ass-whooping and tried to dig deep into what the crux of the issue was. We watched some tape of the New Yorker wizardry that was causing me to get my clock cleaned in every bout. I came away from that conversation thinking that my coach at the time didn’t have any answers, and that the repertoire of moves he imparted upon me were antiquated in contemporary Fencing. Worse– there was a stubborn insistence that his way was the perfect way, and that it would work.
I loved my Coach deeply, but knew that in order to fulfill my goals in Fencing, I needed a fresh perspective.
So I took a step back and looked at the Fencing landscape in the rest of the state. I wanted to know a few things, and you might find this advice helpful too:
- Who is producing students that are obtaining national results?
- Which club has the kind of fencers that will push me in practice to be a better Fencer? Do they operate with a team-first mentality in an individual sport?
- Does this club have a coach who communicates in a style that resonates with me?
- Does the culture fit my desired Fencing goals? (More on that in this article)
I opted to begin working with Aleksandr Gromov over at Florida Musketeers in Orlando. While it was a hike to get there, I found myself enjoying the style of his students, and saw they were beginning to obtain results at a national level. It was well worth it.
Gromov completely overhauled my Fencing style, focusing more on taking advantage of my speed and strength, overhauling my footwork, and tailoring a style of Fencing that fit me. One year later, I started to make a few top 32’s (nothing earth shattering, but a vast improvement over where I was before).
I would still make it to my old coach’s club once a week. It wasn’t a harsh separation. He was a wonderful person and loved the sport more than anyone I’ve ever worked with. There were no hard feelings. That’s the best advice I can give those thinking of switching: do it was class, do it with grace, because your coach invested his/her heart into you, and while you may have separated, if you do it respectfully, they might continue to be your biggest supporter.
And do the conversation in person like an adult. Just as you wouldn’t break up with a lover over text, email, or ghosting them (I hope), you should be able to have that conversation honestly and candidly with your coach.
Some fencers may be so lucky to find a coach who can guide them from the moment they pick up a weapon for the first time all the way through their highest aspirations. But for those who don’t, it’s okay to say goodbye.