Last night at practice we celebrated Reghan’s success in the Division 2 event at the Richmond NAC. As all the SabreCats in attendance applauded and cheered her accomplishment, I was struck by an (uncharacteristic) desire to make a speech. In the middle of a circle of mostly 10 to 12 year-olds with a sprinkling of teenagers, the high point was when I held up her Bronze medal and said: “Know what this is? It’s a physical representation of HOURS of sweat and hard work.” It was a moment worthy of a highlight reel, something out of Miracle or Hoosiers.
At least in my mind.
But it’s true: a medal isn’t the result of one “good day” on the strip or a series of lucky events. It can only come after lots of practice, trial and error, and failure. Lots of failure. A fencer needs to be willing to take risks and fail during practice before they can develop new techniques. Do you know how many times Reghan had to practice her jump-Parry 2 before she could pull it off not once, but FOUR times in her round of 8 DE? Hundreds, at least. Maybe thousands.
It’s also a manifestation of teamwork. We say this over and over to the fencers at our club: individuals don’t win medals, TEAMS win medals. We are in a sport that celebrates individual victories but let’s never forget that those victories can’t come to pass without good teammates. A good fencer is not created in a vacuum. They need different people with different fencing styles to practice against. They need a support system in place to cheer them when they do well and help pick up the pieces when they don’t. Reghan wouldn’t have been able to learn her jump-Parry 2 without all of us trying our best to hit her every time she tried it. We hit her. A lot.
Not so much anymore.
Until she works on a new aspect of her game. Then we’ll hit her a lot again. For a while.
And that’s how the cycle goes. You do it over and over until the new skills become old hat. You accumulate enough moves until they finally all add up into the pretty, shiny manifestation of your effort hanging around your neck. Then you start again with a new technique. Then you go back and clean up one that’s gotten sloppy. That’s the fun part about fencing and what keeps it fresh and new, even if you’ve been doing it for a while.
To me, a medal = hard work + diligent practice + positive support system.
What would your “formula” for a medal look like? What does a medal represent to you?