Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Bout Continues

It seemed on the drive to work this morning that I had a lot to write about. Now at the end of a looooonnnng day, I am having hard time remembering it all.

One thing is a problem I have been wrestling with.  The last time I fenced at a tournament, I fenced a young man who has just made the switch from fencing other kids to fencing adults. I have seen this young man grow up in fencing. He seemed to always do well. We attended a seminar one weekend together. He seems like a decent kid. I fenced him in pools twice and won. I fenced him in a DE and won. I could tell that he was intimidated by me and there was a look of almost fear in his eyes. This bothered me a bit. I don’t mind backing an adult up once in a while, but not a kid. I am not all that worried about it. I am sure in a year or two he will be wiping the floor with me. What concerned me was his father. He is very “in” to what his son is doing. He crowds the strip and coaches his son.  I get pulling for your son. Not to this degree, but I get it. He is there for him and spending time with him. It is annoying, but this is not any big deal sort of tournament, so I let it go. I was up 6 to 1 and I started listening to his father. I did not fence as hard and went for doubles. I noticed that whatever the father screamed out for the kid to do….he did it. Eventually, I was not annoyed, because he was in essence telling me what his son was going  to do. Not a good thing for the kid!

Now, do I e-mail one of his coaches and mention this to them in an effort to help out the kid or not. I know that there is a good chance that they might not think I should not butt in (or know enough to butt in) and they might be right. It may be none of my business. I could do nothing. This is probably the smart thing to do. Or I can wait and see his father the next time and try and find a tactful way to mention it. I most likely will give the most thought to that latter option. Sometimes my journal is a way to both work on a problem (no matter how small) and just to remember it.

Tuesday night I fenced in Chapel Hill. My partner and I followed Max (a 17 year old “B” fencer who has been fencing longer than I have.) I have always admired the fact that this young man’s weight is always so beautifully centered when he moves. I watched his lesson. I admired the speed of it. I looked for the mistakes that I make in watching his lesson and saw none. Henri went next and was not corrected very much. It was my turn and we went through the lesson. I flubbed a little on one part of a drill. These drills are to make us technically more proficient.  And at some point, I believe we will be to some degree. When we finished, Coach complimented us and told us what a good lesson it was. He does not hand out praise lightly. He told us that we had just done the same drill Max did and had completed it the same amount of time. Okay…I flubbed a bit, but it was close. I think this means that he did not have to stop us and have us  make corrections. The small things that Coach can see never cease to amaze me. It may have other meanings. God and Coach, they move in mysterious ways. I always love praise, but I did not think much about it. I did think as I watched other people do drills about how I can see some mistakes that others make and what they need to do correct them.

The next night I fenced at the DFC. Mostly I did drills with the kid’s class and helped a tiny bit. Then I took a group lesson. No strip time. I did well in lessons and if I have learned nothing else from fencing, I am aware that my fencing vocabulary is huge in comparison to two years ago. I know that if I had a different coach some of the vocabulary would change a bit (perhaps less French terms) or would not be what they use in that club, but I am happy with my progress in the language of fencing.

I , at this point, I am going to go back in time. It is a half an hour before the class mentioned above. Henri and I are sitting on a new park bench near the club and waiting for it to be time for class. Henri talks about how she will most likely never be a good fencer and what it is like to be tiny woman who started fencing late in life. She tells me that we should revel in small victories (not just the ones on strip). The words she speaks are not a whining type of thing, but in a matter of fact and gentle reflective way. She points out to me how Coach praised us and how we had done so well in our private lesson. She told me why she felt this was important and a small victory. I had not thought of it in the same light that she had. I told her that I was becoming increasingly aware that I will never be a very good fencer either and related to her as to why. Do not think this is a sad thing or a crying thing….it is not. You will not find many people that love fencing more than Henri and I…….and our passion for it remains unchanged even though we think we will not make significant gains in competition. Though we will ALWAYS keep trying.

Now back into present time at the DFC.

Coach, Mario and Henri and I are talking as people are packing to leave. Coach mentions to Mario about what a good lesson Henri and I had the night before. (Double praise from Coach!) To some extent he relates as to why it was good and a little about Max. Mario listens politely. Henri and I catch each other’s eye as the conversation breaks up and we head out to the parking lot. We both know we are giving each other a Coach Miller style high five.

Mario, Henri and I are planning to go to a Ref Seminar in a couple of weeks. It is my hope to become rated in epee, though I have crashed and burned a couple of times before in the attempt.

Henri and I have other goals at the seminar. We havedecided that we could do much better in competition if we were each other’s personal referee. New rules would be added and there would now be a blue card. Blue card is when the ref wants to give a point. If you are a Vet fencer fencing an 18 year old, that is an automatic blue card. Some of you may not be familiar with these rules. I suggest that you review the most current rule book. You can give someone a blue card if they are cute as well. This particular rule is somewhat more obscure than the “if you break one of Henri’s nails it is an automatic black card” rule.

We envision it looking something like this: (Henri fencing a freakishly tall male college kid and me refing.)

Freakishly tall male college kid has just scored a touch on Henri.

Me: Halt

(I look to “freakishly tall male college kid” and with my impartial and expressionless ref face and speak to him.)

Me: Sir… you are of course aware that your opponent gets three do-overs.

 (I pause long enough to make sure he is familiar with the rules and turn to Henri.)

Me: Sweetie….he just got a touch on you. Do you want to use one of your do-overs?

(I turn to look at “freakishly tall male college kid” and explain the she is using one of her do-overs and his point is annulled.)

The score is still 2-0 Henri because of her 2 blue cards.

Freakishly tall male college kid has just scored a touch on Henri.

Me looking to “freakishly tall male college kid”:  Yellow Card!  Sir, this is a warning and your touch is annulled. Please try to hold your weapon arm so that your elbow forms a cup for your opponents point to land and stick better. (A feint look of disgust on my face.) And try to move slower or preferably not at all.

Me looking apologetically toward HenriHenri….I am sorry.  (Another feint look of disgust on my face.) He doesn’t know how Coach Miller does it in drills.

The bout continues.

If all goes according to plan, this may be a successful season after all.



rdautumnsage said...

I think I would email the coaches and let them know about the kid. It puts everyone else at an unfair advantage because of the father shouting out his moves. In the end this kid will become increasingly despaired and won't want to fence anymore. With attendance already falling short, it wouldn't do anyone any good. Sounds like you and Henri have a good advantage refereeing one another. (hugs)Indigo

ncfence004 said...

I'm having a hard time visualizing you calling anyone "sweetie".  

jdobbinsjd said...

Hi Jim,  I would be really surprised if this kids coaches were there that they didn't already know about the situation.  Depends on how comfortable you are with the coach.  I'm guessing the parent will probably not want to hear it.  Good luck.  We will be gone the weekend you all are in Durham.


woodytheaxe said...

What's really funny is the fact that I haven't been to a tournament in over a year and I know exactly who you are talking about in reference to the parent being a little "too involved".

You can tell the coach, I suspect they will nod, sigh loudly and say "Yeah....".  I have no idea what to do about the guy either though.

cobaltblade said...

I'm gonna echo James on this one, I'm pretty certain their coach knows.  And I too have a pretty good idea who you're talking about.  And I doubt you're gonna do any good on this one.

I love when coaches/parents think helicopter coaching is a good idea.  It's kinda like coaching baseball and yelling, "HEY GUY ON 1ST!  STEAL 2ND!!"  Can kinda do it in sabre, and that's about it.

Codes and signals do work though and are not nearly explored enough IMO.  But primarily a strip coach's job is to:  1.) Calm your fencer down or ramp them up  2.) Help note general strategy changes (not specific) 3.) Bring the water.

Oh and: 4.) Take the black card if the director sucks... :P

Anything after that is just...well...compensating for personal failure...

fencerkath said...

I've just linked to you through the I Love Your Blog awards.  Would you like to join in?  If so, you should nominate blogs and include the logo in your post.