Curious about first-time JO experiences...

Discussion in 'Parent's Corner' started by SevenDad, Feb 15, 2016.

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  1. SevenDad

    SevenDad DE Bracket

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    Looking for parents (or kids) who were at JOs for the first time in 2016. Especially interested in those folks who may be relatively new to fencing and/or did not make the cut in their events.

    Here's why I'm interested: Recently an article quoting a relatively well known fencing personality/coach painted the JOs as a "brutal" experience. According to the coach:

    "the contingent from New York is especially annoying to deal with in the competitive environment.

    'It will be brutal,' he said. 'Junior Olympic competitors in the New York area are very spoiled rich kids who travel the world to fence. They are straight ‘A’ students who put in 30 hours a week training and they are very driven. They’ll behave horribly. If they beat you, they will scream and taunt you.'"
    ----
    I agree that the JOs can be "brutal", but not for the reasons laid out by the coach quoted in the article. Rather, I think JOs can be rough because of the caliber of fencing on the strips.

    This weekend in Cleveland, I personally witnessed kids in my daughter's pool and adjacent pools going 0-6 and scoring only a handful of touches. That's got to be tough.

    Wondering how any families with kids in this situation felt about JOs...do you think the trip and the expense worth it despite your kid not making it out of pools?
     
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  2. Warten

    Warten Rookie

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    I was at JO's for the first time with a just turned 16 yo kid (CMF/JMF) at his first national competition. I'm a Vet fencer who has been to a few NACs but never had a reason to go to JO's. As a fencer you would occasionally hear unflattering things about JO's as you describe. Our experience (I played parent, not coach) was great. His goal was to take in the whole experience of a national event on Saturday for JRS. Goal met. He met and fenced with some great kids from As to Us in warm ups. They were all polite, no taunting and I think I actually saw one show my kid how to defend against the attack that was confusing my kid in their bout. I had nice conversations with parents I did not know and realized cheering on a kid might be more nerve racking than fencing my own bout. The venue was well lit, the food decent, chairs comfortable and no flighting. All things not guaranteed at a NAC. In Juniors he did not make the cut and won only one bout. Despite this he thought it was a great day. In cadets he made the cut which was his goal for CMF. Was he upset when he lost in the first DE, sure, did it last more than a minute no. He set achievable goals. He has coaches that encourage and don't yell. Yelling is just not our style, not saying it doesn't work for some.

    We saw some melt downs, a wide variety of coaching styles, and a few kids we were glad were never in his pool. CMF had almost 250 teenagers and add in parents,coaches and flighting there are bound to be a few who behave badly. I did get one "Check out that kid!" but it was nice to know my kid recognizes bad fencing competition behavior. He had a blast and he is more committed than ever to improving his fencing. The expense was worth it.(3hr drive + 3night hotel) As a bonus on our off day we went to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Incredible Art and fun swords and armor as a bonus. Some awesome BBQ and the Aquarium where we got to watch sharks feed and pet stingrays. We hope Cleveland is a NAC location again.

    A parent and coach need to look at an individual kid and have a dose of realism about the level of competition at JOs, the kids maturity level and cost. My kid is very mentally resilient and he knew going in competition would be tough and he could lose every bout if he didn't fence well. He was ready for the challenge and it wasn't brutal it was exhilarating. Had JO's required an airline flight we might not have gone because he could have won no bouts and he probably would have chosen to spend his fencing competition budget on something else.
     
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  3. SevenDad

    SevenDad DE Bracket

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    Thanks for chiming in. Glad you and your kid had a great experience, even with not making the cut in Juniors. I think the "realistic expectations" thing is key. Whether that's "don't get bagled (in a bout or even an entire pool)" or "make the cut" or "win at least one DE" or "make the national team".

    Since you yourself are a fencer, I think you are probably in a better position than most first-time parents to counsel their kid before, during, and after a tournament like JOs. In JWE, I had a view of one family/fencer in particular (not in daughter's pool) who — from my POV across the pod — went from being happy for their kid just to be there to still being positive after her first few losses to looking pretty glum as the losses added up. I am genuinely curious what their overall takeaway was.

    It was our second time at JOs (but have done many NACs and SNs with my daughter)...and we thought the venue (once I could find the parking lot!) was great...pretty much a brand new facility. We kept comparing it to the extremely dated venue in Memphis. On our free day, we made it to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and really enjoyed it. Local restaurants were great, too.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2016
  4. NNR

    NNR Made the Cut

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    I am a fencing parent whose fencer has aged out of JO's several years ago. She fenced at JO's between 13 and 19 and both she and I reminisced this past weekend how nice it was NOT to be at JO's! She is a NYC fencer --- please don't make generalizations about NYC - we have our share of good/bad kids and parents and coaches - who traveled (and continues to travel) the world to fence. I always thought JO's were brutal - weather always bad, cold and flu season and kids always sick everywhere, and there is a huge gap between the best trained fencers and those kids from non-fencing centers who come for the experience and/or putting "Junior Olympics" on their CV. I saw several bouts where my daughter's opponent didn't get to put their weapon up before she scored a touch - kids looked like deer in the headlights at being at the mercy of a fencer who was long trained by a maestro and had years and years of experience even as a young teen. I think that the comment about managing expectations is the key - although I am sure that it is very difficult for kids who don't really know what's out there.
     
  5. SevenDad

    SevenDad DE Bracket

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    Thanks for sharing your story and POV, NNR. And don't worry, my daughter is NYC-area fencer too...so you'll get no generalizing from me!

    "Weather always bad, cold and flu season and kids always sick everywhere" — OMG, I had somehow forgotten about these two aspects of JOs. Though how could I forget last year in Richmond (our first JOs), after staying an extra (unplanned) night because JWE was the last day and the same day it snowed 2 feet on a Southern city ill-equipped to handle that much snow in such a short time. And the kids being sick — saw/heard plenty of coughing, sneezing, etc. in Cleveland. Perhaps JOs should institute the "elbow bump" in lieu of the customary post-bout handshake.

    "A huge gap between the best trained fencers and those kids from non-fencing centers who come for the experience and/or putting 'Junior Olympics' on their CV." — love this, because it's true. I saw a car in the parking garage that had "Going to Junior Olympics" (or something similar) written on one of the windows in the same way high school graduates might decorate their cars around graduation season.

    "Several bouts where...kids looked like deer in the headlights" — saw a few kids like this in daughter's Cadet and Junior pools. Though sometimes those less experienced kids can be tough to fence as they don't react (or move) in the same way a more experienced fencer might.
     
  6. Allen Evans

    Allen Evans Podium

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    I remember a fencer a number of years ago coming up to my student at JO's and chirping how excited she was to be there, since it was her first tournament (only two people showed up for her Division qualifier so they didn't actually fence to qualify). Under that sort of scenario, JO's indeed can be "brutal".

    I read the article in question. Certainly I've seen poor behavior from competitors at JO's, but the percentage of those fencers hasn't seemed (to me) to be any higher than the percentage of poor sports I've seen in other events.If New York/New Jersey and California have appeared to have been over represented in exhibiting poor behavior, it might have something to do with the preponderance of fencers from those areas.
     
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  7. chrisoplum

    chrisoplum Made the Cut

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    I think the JO's were a great experience for my son (he fenced in the CME). This was his first Junior Olympics and we come from a small club in Maryland. While I have seen a few of the "bad sport" type fencers over the 3 years he has been fencing, we didn't see anything but good sportsmanship during his event (regardless of where they were from).

    Being the only kid from his little club, we didn't have a sign or "camp" set up like the big clubs, but we were right next to one of the big clubs and the kids and parents were very friendly. I was pleasantly surprised with the atmosphere. I have seen way worse behavior at the Capitol Clash (perhaps because they are a younger sets of kids?)

    The only "arrogance" I really noticed really only hurt the kids who assumed they'd move past the first couple DE's easily. There were a lot of underdogs that their opponents underestimated!
     
  8. SevenDad

    SevenDad DE Bracket

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    @chrisoplum: Glad to hear that your kid also had a good first JO experience. Thanks for sharing.
     
  9. chuckathon

    chuckathon Rookie

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    My son and I traveled up to JO's in Cleveland this year. This was his first JO and he is a 14 year old sabre fencer. He fenced both Junior and Cadet sabre. We are from the Louisiana district, that is still recovering from Katrina. The fencing scene is starting to grow back slowly. We had decided before we left the house that this was all about getting the experience under his belt regardless of how he does. We both enjoyed the experience. I loved how organized everything was and how smoothly the days went. We had no issues with other fencers or teams. In fact when my son jammed his finger against the guard and was in obvious pain his opponent asked him a couple of times if he was OK. Exactly the kind of class I expect from fencers.

    My son didn't fence like he can. I think he had a bit of the deer in the headlights look. That is OK because now that he has one JO under his belt next time he can get better control of his nerves. It was also good for him to see all types of styles and moves.

    The only thing that was an eye opener for us was the way coaches try to influence the directors. We had not witnessed that before in our area. Some of the coaches are quite aggressive with the directors. I am not sure if they sway decisions or not but they sure as heck try.

    If he qualifies again in the future and we have the funds I am sure we will travel again to the JO's.
     
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  10. SevenDad

    SevenDad DE Bracket

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    Thanks for sharing, chuckathon! Hope that Cleveland isn't you/your son's last JO.
     
  11. ilovelilcats

    ilovelilcats Rookie

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    Anyone has been to any european competition? I noticed only top 20 fencers get picked and it's pretty much the same names each year. I would like to give my daughter some international competition experience and she is currently not in the top 40 list and will not be able to make the cut. that means there is no way she can ever take part in some euro competition since US fencing only picks the same top 20 each fencing season. Appreciate feedback.
     
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  12. Inquartata

    Inquartata Podium

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  13. ReadyFence

    ReadyFence Podium

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    There are a couple of options. I assume your daughter is a cadet fencer, because only cadet teams send 20 fencers- juniors and seniors send 12. Early in the season, it is true that many if not most of the top 20 fencers will sign up for a tournament, but keep an eye on the tournament sign-ups as the deadlines approach- it is possible that your daughter could qualify to fence in a tournament later in the season. In our own experience, our fencers were able to travel to at least one tournament each season while still out of the top 20 on the points list.

    Another option is a non-designated european tournament. While US Fencing only designates three european cadet tournaments for national points per season, US fencers are free to compete at any tournament they wish (they may receive EFC/FIE points but no US points). If experience is all you are after at first, it's a good option. You can find all of the tournaments on the EFC website here- http://www.eurofencing.info/

    Feel free to ask more questions, happy to help if I can :)
     
  14. SevenDad

    SevenDad DE Bracket

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    Seconding what ReadyFence says. Last year, daughter was outside the top 20 but made the 20-person squad for the final event of the year...I think there may have been someone not even on the points list who also made the travel squad. I had considered going to a non-designated event, but thought it would be better to have a larger US cadre for familiarity.

    The experience itself was great. Daughter did not place all that well (at least in DEs), but we felt it was worth the trip. Interesting to see the different styles of the international fencers, and fun to cheer on the US kids we know who made it deeper into the DE bracket. We plan on doing at least 1 this year, possibly 2.
     
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  15. paulfriedberg

    paulfriedberg Rookie

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    Better to go to tournaments where your daughter can get experience, so JOs sounds too difficult for her now. Recommend going to events where she will be able to win 4+ bouts in pools to have shot at 1-2 DEs min. Otherwise, send her to a camp or two during summer, winter. She'll get chance to fence many others and learn more about different techniques and strategies. Competitions are tough, no matter where anyone is from, NY or otherwise.
     
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