Do you have a hopeful swashbuckler who’s inspired by books, movies, and video games to fight with swords? Whether it’s the intrigue sparked by watching Princess Bride on repeat or an Olympic interest in the sport, fencing is just plain cool. Turns out, it’s also a great way for teens to develop self-assurance and begin the transition to adulthood.
Fencing spans far beyond just sport. That deep-rooted desire to be a hero, and engage in daring adventure lives in all of us. We asked Benerson Little, Instructor and Co-Director of Huntsville Fencing Club, for more info on this unconventional sport.
Who Should Fence?
If your child has expressed an interest in fencing, Ben recommends that fencing is ideally suited to teenagers who:
- Are independent and capable of critical thought
- Prefer individual sports
- Love to read
- Prefer activities out of the ordinary, mundane, or highly popular
Ben tells us that traditional fencing clubs support youth fencing as an important step in laying the groundwork for adult fencing. In a well-run club, adult fencers serve as behavioral role models to the youth fencers, demonstrating a sense of camaraderie, fair play, and sportsmanship on the strip.
My Teen is Interested in Fencing. Now What?
For parents whose teens suddenly express an interest in starting a new sport, typical concerns might include:
My child hasn’t played any sport until now and I’m afraid it’s too late.
My child has no coordination and is… er… awkward.
Not so with traditional fencing. While ball and dance typically encourage extremely young starting ages, 12 to 13 is the ideal age to be introduced to fencing. And to those whose kids have no athletic ability, Ben says, “The fact that a teenager is awkward is no reason not take up fencing, for the sport is an excellent means of developing balance, coordination, speed, and critical thought under pressure.”
Have a gaming enthusiast? If your child’s interest in fencing stems from game play, Ben cautions not to think of fencing like a video game: “It’s not. Like life, it’s far more complex — and that’s what makes it so much fun.”
The Elephant in the Room – Is It Safe?
Ben explains that fencing is by far the safest combat sport. “Provided safety rules are strict (ours are), there is little risk of injury. The most likely possibility of injury stems from horseplay with swords while not wearing masks. Such behavior is strictly prohibited and violators will be dismissed from class or membership. In twenty years we’ve never had a serious injury and never have had any student or member engage in dangerous horseplay.”
What to Expect
Depending on your level of involvement and the club you join, fencing can be far less expensive than other sports. Some newer fencing clubs promote youth travel and tournaments and cost more, while the traditional ones, such as HFC, are about a quarter of the price and do not include a separate youth program. All in all, Ben explains that fencing can be very affordable, especially for the recreational fencer who primarily fences locally and regionally.
Want to hear one youth fencer’s personal experience? A younger member of HFC, now an adult serving in the US Navy, wrote this excerpt in a letter as a child: “Whenever I get to fence I enjoy it and the time flies. Fencing helps me sleep because it wears me out. I always look forward to Tuesdays and Fridays.”
Fencing Clubs in Huntsville & North Alabama
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Kelli Pavlovec writes as a hobby and as a career. She loves running in the rain, old British TV shows, reading fantastic literature, and all things nature. She’s taking a course on Fiction Writing this semester and hopes to finally write and publish some books which she’ll post at kellipav.com.