Last weekend I got to compete in two veteran women saber events at the NAC in Richmond, Virginia. *Yay! The slump appears to have abated! Although it appears that my focus has changed. More on that at a later time.* It was so great to see everyone and to get to hang out for a while with my peers in fencing. I chatted with women from all three weapons and from all age groups.
As we were sharing the life events that have occurred since we last saw one another at Summer Nationals back in July, I kept hearing a common theme: lack of respect at clubs toward Veteran fencers.
I heard stories of how the teenagers won’t fence them or, if they do deign to face them on strip, will fence halfheartedly or poorly or disdainfully. I was told the coaches will not coach them, or will push them aside when there are more (perceived) lucrative opportunities with the younger fencers. One Veteran had finally managed to convince a teenager to fence her, only to have the teenaged referee wander off midway through the bout for no apparent reason except that he was “bored”. Time and time again I heard of a feeling of not being respected or appreciated at one’s fencing club. These stories were not solicited; it was pretty obvious these were topics that were weighing heavily on these ladies’ minds.
Here’s my take.
If treated properly, adult fencers can serve as a solid cornerstone for any fencing program. Kids come and go – they will hopefully graduate someday, after all – but the adults are the ones who maintain consistency in a fencing program thanks to their continued attendance over a long period of time. They also help keep the rambunctious and sometimes cruel nature of adolescents in check. Coaches cannot see everything or be everywhere in the club; pairs of adult eyes can find and root out potential problems before they grow into huge issues. And they serve as role models for the younger set: who better to demonstrate ruthless determination than an adult who has to juggle a career, family, house, and hobby? Kids need to be shown early in life that it’s never too late to do something you enjoy and that it’s admirable to strive for success at any age.
What do you think? How should fencing clubs treat Veteran fencers? Are we really a nuisance, something to be tolerated? Does anyone have a club that values your life experience?
Your comments are, as always, appreciated and requested.