British Fencing does away with U-10 Nationals

Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by dogimus, Jul 10, 2018.

  1. NipperDad

    NipperDad Made the Cut

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    Having been through the Y10 parent wringer, they should 100% drop it. I'd probably keep Y12, but no championship, RYCs and SYCs, maybe a NAC. I'd also change the age breaks for Y12/14 to February to match Cadet and Junior.

    But they'll never scrap y10 - why give up the revenue when parents just view it part of the cost of getting into Harvard? And while some flavor of RYC/SYC is probably still economically viable without Y10, it'd be much harder to host without Y12 as well. I guess we'd end up with a RJCY14C series replacing SYCs and RJCCs.

    The revenue thing also probably applies to coaches and clubs as well. You can charge people more sooner by pushing the nationally competitive age lower.
     
  2. Alex Martin

    Alex Martin Rookie

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    Just out of curiosity: those who believe US fencing should follow British Fencing's example, can you be more specific as to what you believe the negative impact on US fencers fencing y10 nationals is? There are a lot of words being thrown around but few specific details. Could you agree that the problem might be that parents or coaches send kids who are not ready to compete to these events? Is your problem more with the idea of competition in general, i.e. the prioritization of Olympic medals/results over some form of personal development (this is a fair position, just asking)? We all know US fencing is immensely more successful than British fencing at all ages, and that the current US Mens foil team which is dominating the SR world circuit grew up in this model. If it ought to be changed, there should be compelling reasons.
     
  3. ReadyFence

    ReadyFence Podium

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    As a parent, I am the final arbiter of what my young children do and don’t do. Not the NO, not some coach looking to cash a check. Me.

    My kids had a good experience with Y10and Y12 at all levels. I can’t speak for anyone else. But I sure don’t see the NO scrapping Y10. Hell, I see Y8 events up and down the east coast...
     
  4. ReadyFence

    ReadyFence Podium

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    And is Team GB really the gold standard? They defunded their fencing program, after all, along with sports they actually medaled in...
     
  5. Purple Fencer

    Purple Fencer Podium

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    Y8 and 10 locally and maybe even RYC yes....but having a national championship for a 10 year old might be a bit too much pressure.
     
  6. Zebra

    Zebra Podium

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    It's not just Team GB and their fencing NGB. Several other countries' Olympic organizations have developed long term athlete development (LTAD) programs on the general principles of age-specific training and competition and promoted them to their sport NGBs. USA has, Canada has, GB has, Australia has; and you're seeing it applied in everything from baseball to swimming. USA Hockey has seen a significant increase in their retention rate of players in the Y10-Y12-Y14 age categories since they adopted the American Development Model.
     
  7. Zebra

    Zebra Podium

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    • It puts a lot of pressure on kids who are not ready to handle it yet. Yes, some of those Y10s outwardly look like they're thriving in it, but how many of them are putting on a brave face because they want to please the adults around them?
    • It brings out the worst in parents and coaches: both in their behavior at tournaments and in their approach to nurturing and teaching the kids.
    • It unnecessarily discourages the kids who go to a big tournament and get blown out. Plus those kids compare themselves to the ones who have fancy equipment and intense coaching and think "I don't belong here."
    • It creates a false sense of accomplishment among the kids who have started earlier and thus fence better then the ones who are just beginning. US Figure Skating Association has found that a surprising number of skaters who make it to nationals end up leaving the sport shortly after, either because they and their parents feel that once they've gotten that medal, there's nothing more to put the work in for; or because they don't do as well the next year as the less-experienced kids start catching up.
    • Ditto for the parents: once they have the "my kid won a national medal" brag, what's left to motivate them? Parents burn out just like the athletes.
    • National competition is a big hit on family budgets, which can discourage the parents as well as taking away from resources for lessons and cross-sport training.
    • It distorts competition patterns as families work on chasing points instead of training more and fencing local events.
     
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  8. ReadyFence

    ReadyFence Podium

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    Wow. If I was an outsider reading this, I’d think youth fencing was one big tortuous round of child abuse, parents getting felony charges, evil corporate overloads making money off the blood of children and all sorts of other evil. Believe me, this sport has plenty wrong with it, but I just haven’t seen the carnage some people are describing :(

    Is the US Hockey comparison apples to apples? Being a concussion-heavy sport like American football, I completely see the advantage to cutting the younger levels in terms of injury prevention and long term health.
     
  9. Strytllr

    Strytllr DE Bracket

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    The bigger issue is youth athlete retention. By pushing and promoting such high level, high pressure tournaments on youth, are we creating an earlier burn-out rate? Those numbers are hard to quantify because it's nearly impossible from this side of the fence to count the number of fencers we might have kept if those pressures were turned off.
    But if you don't like the hockey comparison, you can use soccer or baseball instead. They're all doing this. In nearly every other youth sport that I've been paying attention to, they are adapting these kinds of age appropriate rules and limitations, always with the goal of skill development and enjoyment and less pressure on winning at any cost.
    And of course, in all of those sports, groups also concurrently developed 'select' teams in which coaches or parents who think their children can handle higher levels of pressure and want to push their youth further toward some larger goal. The rules are still often the same for the various age categories in both groups, just that the emphasis changes.
     
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  10. Allen Evans

    Allen Evans Podium

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    This is an interesting question to me (there is actually a rather long discussion of this on my Facebook page). I've publicly doubted why we fly 8, 9 and 10 year old kids across the country to compete when there seems to be growing evidence that early competition hurts long term skill development in sport. Many of us also have stories about some of the things we have seen in Y10 fencing that leave us troubled, though these hardly count as "evidence" against youth fencing. The counter-argument has been that the "model" is working (note our results in men's and women's foil), that fencing is different than other sports, and that we have to grab kids earlier when so many other sports have the chance to capture and hold the attention of our potential athletes. There is also a competing narrative about kids who have been excited and inspired about fencing at the Y10 level.

    I don't think this question is going to be easy to answer without real numbers. It would be valuable for US Fencing to devote funds towards slicing and dicing our membership numbers to answer questions like this. How many Y10 members compete nationally? For how long? What is the highest level they reach and how long do they stay in the sport? We know so little about who is actually participating in our sport and what they are doing that it's pretty embarrassing.

    Too often I think we in fencing rely on "gut instincts" on both sides of a question. The fact that there are two competing (and different) narratives here seems to indicate that there is a lot more going on than can be explained by a thread on Fencing.net, and there might be yet a third, more complex story going on here.
     
  11. Gav

    Gav is a Verified Fencing ExpertGav Moderator!!

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    Challenge anyone who says Fencing is somehow special compared to other sports. It's not. It's a sport.

    We may love it more, we may love it's history and unique aesthetic but it doesn't mean that our sport is somehow "uniquely different" [in some esoteric way]. You can all argue about that if you want but it seems very clear in all the reading and experience from within the sport that "thinking you're unique" leads to blinkered vision. When you cut away the BS patterns do in fact emerge.

    If you want some numbers here's a couple of articles:

    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00913847.2017.1313077?scroll=top&needAccess=true
    http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/late-specialization-is-recommended-for-most-sports

    The big difference between the US and UK? Money*. That's really it.

    *Perhaps also numbers - although I've always thought this was an excuse.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018 at 11:03 AM
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  12. Zebra

    Zebra Podium

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    No it's not a perfect comparison, but not for the reasons you surmise.
    The mite half-ice mandate (the most controversial part of ADM in USA Hockey) isn't about checking or injury risk--that age group was already no-check and the actions our NGB took out of concern for concussions and other injuries mostly affected Y12s and up.

    The change I'm talking about was a major simplification of the game for the youngest players; analogous to taking right of way out of foil and fencing with #2 blades. From a refereeing standpoint, there's not a lot to do: throw the puck out there, let the kids skate and pass and shoot, and retrieve the puck when it goes in the goal.

    Furthermore, the competition structure at our lowest level saw significant change. While there are still travel games in local leagues, the number of games was cut so the practice/game ratio could be increased. Tournaments were done away with, and replaced by "jamborees" where teams still travel to an away event and play several games in a day, but there are no standings or medals, just a chance to skate and compete somewhere new. And national-level competition was deemphasized until you get up to the higher age groups.
     
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  13. Zebra

    Zebra Podium

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    That's because kids are naturally resilient (thankfully--we parents make a lot of mistakes along the path of raising our children). We may not be permanently harming them by pressuring them to perform at a level they're not developmentally ready for, but we are sacrificing the development of their skills (some of which can come from doing sports and activities other than fencing) and putting them on a path to get burned out.
     
  14. Alex Martin

    Alex Martin Rookie

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    Thanks for your comments. Though this topic is undoubtedly complicated, I think that your response illustrates that the problem is not necessarily with the competitions themselves or the format, but rather how the agents involved behave. I'm not saying I'm right, this is just how I see it.

    Of course at every competition someone gets their butt kicked. Personally, I try not to encourage any of my kids to enter a competition, let alone get on an airplane to fly to a competition, if I think they will have a bad experience like you describe. Of course, competitions are unpredictable and sometimes a kid gets his/her butt kicked anyways. I think that as long as the coaches and parents do a good job of rewarding effort and reinforcing goals outside of just winning that this can be turned into a good experience. There are absolutely, 100% kids who are not ready to handle competition. Some of them are 15. I see dealing with this as the responsibility of the coach, not the tournament format.

    Ditto about behavior of parents and coaches. We should all know to be on our best behavior during the y10 event. The kind of parent who is yelling at their kid for the result of the y10 event is probably prone to yelling at them outside of the context of fencing for other things. I think the blame falls on other factors than the fencing tournament.

    I don't think winning a medal is ever a false sense of accomplishment. I think it's a real accomplishment. Usually at least in fencing it seems to make the kid want more, not think he/she ready for retirement. Is it the same as winning the Olympics? I dunno. Same financial reward, probably. On that given day, that kid fenced well. She or he should get a high five, praise for what he/she did well and a couple of things to work on. Should a coach or parent decide that if a kid wins a medal in a tournament, they have to get hardcore about fencing and start memorizing the rankings and birthday of every kid in the country? Definitely not.

    As for parent burnout, well, in some cases I wish the parents would burn out and leave their kids alone, lol. Mostly kidding.

    As for kids burning out, it's a huge question about what the role of fencing is in each individual's life, how much of that is up to them vs society vs their parents, and how early they should be thinking about that stuff. Some of my students get recruited in 11th grade and don't want to fence that much anymore. I don't blame them for it, in fact I usually applaud them for it if they tell me that fencing is fun but they are starting to like X more and they'd rather just focus on studying. Fencing for life is not for everyone. Some of them want to continue pursuing it and it makes me super happy because those are usually the ones who love fencing and have great potential in it, but I don't necessarily know that the people who slow down at 17 "burnt out" so much as they never really liked fencing that much to begin with/found other passions.

    As for budgets, I see it as everyone's choice how they spend their money. Objectively there is no need to be on the y10, y12 or y14 points list. Therefore if one believes that these competitions are a waste of time and money and detrimental to development then he/she shouldn't spend money on them. If we coaches believe that it is within our scope of influence to share that view. We should educate students on the pros and cons of competition for each individual child but ultimately the decision is up to the individual agent/parent, at least I think.

    This whole discussion reminds me of discussions over things like cigarettes, caffeine, sugary food, alcohol, drugs, etc. Alcohol is a substance that can have some health benefits and be lots of fun, or it can make people spend stupid amounts of money and spend lots of time yelling, crying and getting kicked out of places, just like fencing. If one does not restrict the amount of Moon Pies one eats, he/she is much more likely to die young of a variety of health complications. Some people believe it is the parents' responsibility to limit access to Moon Pies, some people think it's the government's responsibility, some people think it's a question of education.
     
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  15. Zebra

    Zebra Podium

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    Maybe so, but a national-level tournament with championships and medals for Y10s creates the incentives for that bad behavior. Changing the nature of the event will reduce those incentives, reduce the stress on the kids, and make a more rewarding experience for the majority of the competitors. That in turn will help keep more kids in the sport and strengthen the pipeline that creates winning national teams at the senior level.
     
  16. Mac A. Bee

    Mac A. Bee is a Verified Fencing ExpertMac A. Bee Podium

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    Especially if they drink before fencing.;)
     
  17. piste off

    piste off Podium

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    In my experience, long-term thinking is not part of a lot of the fencers, or at least parents' calculus. The game is peak at 17, since it is all about college. I've actually been laughed at by parents, some of them with kids at the highest levels, when discussing anything long-term.
     
  18. Mac A. Bee

    Mac A. Bee is a Verified Fencing ExpertMac A. Bee Podium

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    Sadly true. My state's scholastic league has 50+ programs. Figuring at least one senior per blade per gender means ~300 yearly grads. I doubt if more than 10 continue. Depresses me about all the energy we put into them without a longer-term outcome.
     
  19. Inquartata

    Inquartata Podium

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    The Y-10 fencers?!
     
  20. Purple Fencer

    Purple Fencer Podium

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    Sugary drinks...LOTS of them.
     

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