Yelling teachers

Sometimes i feel ashamed of my job. It always happens when i see fencing teachers screaming and humiliating their athletes during a competion. And i am sorry to say that the excuse that they do this in order to get the best out of their athletes is absolutely false; as much as i don’t believe that some of these atheletes actually need to be badly treated in order to give their best. It certainly is true that each athlete is different, and there is the one who prefers to have a more discreet teacher, and the one who, instead, would rather have a more authoritative leader; yet between authority and proper verbal aggression there is a big difference. And i think this difference lies in a very basic concept. The athlete, even more if quite young, is not there to demonstrate how good i am at teaching; his successes don’t have to feed my personal ego. I, the teacher, am at his service and not the other way around. This doesn’t mean that the athlete, whatever age he is, doesn’t have to be committed and put an effort in what he does. Indeed, our job is also to teach these kids to maximize their work towards a goal and to concentrate on a certain purpose. But we should never do this through humiliation; or even worse, guilt, when after a defeat the teacher projects all his frustration onto the athelete. Rather, when athletes don’t give their best, our job is, or at least should be, to ask ourselves why this happened and, while looking for the reasons behind it, sistematically work together in order to improve. You can never improvise in a competition, even less you can scream nor humiliate an athlete.

Neitheir is right to have a biased behaviour towards certain athletes, those kids who were given something more, that extra quid by mother nature. Continue reading

At the bottom of the platform, behind you

I am here, right behind you. Usually i stand, sometimes i sit on the floor, and when i can find it, i sit on a chair. And i look at you.

When i started coaching i thought i wasn’t going to be able to properly see from there, and that i wouldn’t have been able to help you from that position. After all, during the one hundred lessons we had i was always in front of you, and when you practiced in the gym, i used to be right next your fencing platform, in order to have the best perspective so that i could correct every single mistake you made. Now i am behind your shoulders and i can barely see the weapon. It took me a little while, but then i understood: I don’t actually need to see well; i know by heart the way you move, and i know all the movements you make, i taught you that way, i saw you doing it thousand times, to a certain extent those movements are also mine. Behind you seems to be the best position for me after all. The best position to let you know that when you turn around i am there, to reassure you every time you look for me, to tell you that the scoreboard doesn’t count. Regardless of everything else, i am there behind your shoulders, exclusively concentrating on you.

I’ve told you many times that on the fencing platform you are alone; that you are the only one behind that fencing mask. And indeed it’s true. I told you so because i strongly and truly believe it, and also because i don’t want you to think you have disappointed me in case of an unlucky last thrust; and i told you so also because, i have no intention of stealing any of your credit and your happiness in case of a rather succesful last thrust. My merits, our merits, we know them, we have built them together, spending time caressing each other’s blades, Continue reading

Parents and fencing

And here they are: the parents. Whoever works in sports will know that this is the most surprising and insidious categories of people in a coach’s life.

I’m going to play it safe by saying first of all, that most of these parents are certainly a pleasant and fundamental part of the whole picture. They take their kids to the gym, often getting by their thousands of daily life errands, and they give up on going out or resting in order to go around Italy to watch their kids competing. They entrust us and give us the privilege to contribute to the growth and education of their kids. They support them in their commitment, because they consider sports as a significant and educational step of their kids’ life. They are the first to cheer for those kids, and they celebrate victories as much as they comfort them in their defeats. And last but not least, they pay for their kids to play sports, also helping out sport clubs in their profession, as most of sport societies’ income are based on registration fees.

However, sometimes we have to deal with parents who don’t realize that by behaving in a certain way, they could actually damage their kids.

Amongst these “tough” parents, the most common type is probably the “champion’s parent”: his son is the best (which sometimes is indeed true) and he/she becomes the perfect manager; the kid’s life practically revolves around trainings which the parent cautiously supevises from outside. He constantly asks to speak to the coach, and when he does, he constantly tries to suggest and explain personal theories on how to improve his son’s skills, presenting himself as an expert based on his Wikipedian knowledge of fencing. I saw parents clocking their kids while making notes and Continue reading