Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Jon Rhodes’s FAQ’s

This article will allow us at Eltham College Fencing to offer best practice to our fencers, parents and our website followers.

My son trains 3 times a week – is this enough?
YES! There are two prominent ways a fencer drops out – injury from overtraining and/or burnout. Twice a week is perfect for fencing training for children in the junior school (U11). In the senior school we aim for three times per week. We hope the fencers play other sports too. Being a multi-sports player will help with coordination, physiological development and athleticism.

Will my son develop a big front leg and forearm from fencing?
Fencing is an “asymmetric” sport and there may be muscular developments on prominent sides. However this is due to incorrect training. Our aim is not just to make your children into fencers, but we aim to make your children into athletes first. We recommend your children play other sports too – swimming is probably best to physiologically develop.

My son doesn’t eat or drink during competitions – is that normal?
Yes, very normal but don’t panic! Eating small amounts will help with energy levels – but remember that there is enough energy (fat/carbs/protein) in your body to run a marathon without eating for around 2 weeks!!! The most important factor is HYDRATION. A 2% (per Kg of body weight) loss of sweat will result in a decrease in performance. A sports drink will have carbohydrates inside; so will provide as much energy as a sandwich. As you are fully aware, fencing clothes SMELL – and children will often lose (around) 1 litre per HOUR! The best investment you will ever make is to buy your child a water bottle, saving £1000’s per year.

Will caffeine help my child?
Caffeine is a stimulant so will provide some benefits to fencing. Red Bull contains Tourine which is currently on the banned substance list, thus cannot be taken for sport – although it is very unlikely your child will be tested for drugs unless they win an International event. I always try to ensure our fencers train like they compete so the best way to equip a lunch box is to just keep doing what you are doing – ensuring there is a water bottle present.

Which fencing shoes are the best?
Whilst Psycho wears Hi-Tech squash shoes with lots of grip when doing footwork, Trout wears Nike Ballestras which provides stability when recovering. Elf has recently been wearing Adidas D’Artagnan which are specialised for lunging and Rabbit wears New Balance trainers which he assures me are very comfortable! I didn’t know the answer to this question so I asked an expert! I have been informed that it is best for “youngsters” (U21) to wear a shoe that has lots of grip for lunging and recovery during footwork. “In the 16 years I have been fencing the best shoe is the AdiStar which provides sufficient grip and is comfortable”. At the time, the World top 10 fencer was wearing the Leon Paul Hi-Tech Scimitar shoe on his front foot and an Adidas AdiStar shoe on his back foot. I asked him “was it dark when you got up this morning?” and he replied, “I slide my back-foot and the AdiStar allows me to do so effectively…the Leon Paul provides grip when I explode into a lunge”. The solution may be to wear odd shoes, but for our fencers it’s best to go for grip!

My child gets nervous before he competes, how can I control this?
Nerves are good! Butterflies are a physiological indication that you are going to have to behave in a certain way – this will allow the fencer to prepare for performance. However, as all psychologists know, too much anxiety can be perceived as a “catrastrophy to performance”. The parent and coach are performers too – let me explain. If you panic over your child they will panic too – “mirroring”! If you are calm they will mirror you and their anxiety will drop. It is the parents/coaches Performance that impacts on the fencer. It is the job of the sport psychology consultant – me – to provide your child with tools to deal with anxiety and maintaining focus. Excellent ways of controlling nerves are music, positive self-talk, imagery, performance routines, goal setting and training diaries – all of which your child knows about.

What age should my child be going to the gym?
Every week EC Fencing dedicates 20 minutes to technique development. We practice back squats, front squats, overhead squats, lunges, scapular retraction, PNF stretching and plyometrics. It is our aim to make your children athletes, not just fencers! These exercises are completed with no weights. It is most beneficial for children to start weight training after puberty to ensure bone growth is maximised. Cardiovascular exercises can be completed throughout childhood and we provide an intense cardio workout during Sunday training. Plyometrics are completed on rubber/spring flooring and kept to 50 bounds per training session – although fencing is a plyometrics exercise.

Please leave comments below if you would like other questions discussed.

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