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Ruminations on Returning to the Strip

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Coaching Fencing

Back to the strip. 

In the summer of 2017 I shepherded a small group of FAP athletes to the Solti training camp in Hungary.  Earlier that summer I had suddenly realized how overweight and out of condition I had become over the last ten years and I started on the road to better health and returning athleticism (I hoped), returning to regular exercise and more mindful eating habits.  During the trip we walked all over the area of Budapest where we were staying prior to leaving for camp because nobody wanted to wait for tourist busses, so I was able to keep my activity level up even while traveling; at the camp itself I continued my walking explorations, now around the city of Szombathely. In between giving lessons to our athletes on the trip I went from venue to venue on the campus to visit our athletes at their training sessions and was particularly impressed with the sabre coach at the camp.  I had long been interested in improving my sabre skills to better coach my athletes and behold! here was a coach who was as exacting as I would be and took the time, even giving lessons to athletes he didn’t know and probably would never see again, to really teach, not just stand in front of his student and have them do a bunch of actions.  I immediately resolved to come back the next year to do the sabre section as an athlete and see if I could take lessons with him.  

Fast forward to the Solti Camp 2018.  I was not where I wanted to be physically but decided to train as an athlete at the camp anyway, made braver by the fact that one of our vet (age 40+) sabre women, Aubrey Keegan, was also on the trip so I knew I had someone I would be able to train with.  At the camp I was able to take lessons every day with sabre coach Zsolt Nemcsik, (Athens silver medalist and many times world team champion for Hungary), who greatly improved my skills and understanding of modern sabre.  I wasn’t very good at sabre yet, but I was having a great time.  I remembered why I used to do this, it is so much fun! We had such a fabulous time at the camp that we came home full of plans to train and enter the Cincinnati North American Cup (NAC).

The best laid plans often go awry.  

After our return life as usual took its toll on our grand fantasies of training 3 days every week and arriving at the NAC ready to take names and kick butt.  Aubrey returned to school and I had to fit myself back into the teaching routine at FAP; we weren’t always able to train because one or the other of us was unavailable, work demands interfered, we were too exhausted or too ouchy, then the holidays started;  and so, financially committed but grossly under-prepared,  we went to the NAC anyway.

It was great fun.

Competition as a more mature adult is no less intense than in our younger days, but maturity provides a layer of acceptance. We want to win just as much, but it no longer ruins our day when we don’t.  For the most part, we have acquired enough life experience that our disappointment at losing is tempered by the knowledge that we are successful in many other areas, and that it’s just a tournament, neither the first nor the last we will ever do.  We are able to see clearly what we skills we need to sharpen and we greet old friends and nemesis’ alike with happiness at being there, able to fence.  I greeted one of my opponents in the Vet 50 with “Didn’t we do this twenty years ago in foil?”  and we had a good laugh before trying to beat the tar out of each other.  So, in spite of still not feeling completely like an athlete, and not preparing for the event the way I was used to, I’m still happy I went.  I’m happy that I rediscovered fencing for myself.   I’m happy that it gave me a reason to work at staying fit and being a better coach because I can compete sometimes.  Fencing, it makes me happy.

One of the most important things we can do as human beings is to have fun doing the things we enjoy doing.  It keeps us active and interested in our lives, makes us happy (even if only briefly) when we are stressed or cranky, and makes us much better company for the people we care about.  It even makes us much better company for ourselves.   Whatever age you own to, get up and move, find something you like to do, work at achieving mastery of something. The rewards are limitless.

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