Fencing is one of the most mental of all sports.
It has been likened to badminton in terms of its speed, time periods,
head to head play, and high demands for balance, quickness, fakes,
mental acuity and mental agility. In short, fencing is chess on
your feet, using a weapon. The mental demands of competitive fencing
require strong control over mind, body and emotions, and any fencer
wishing to succeed under fire needs calmness, poise and mental toughness.
This article on my program The Mental Game of Fencing
gives you five mental fencing strategies I used with the Stanford
University Fencing Camp that you can use right away in your own
1. Before You Can Succeed, First Succeed In Your Mind: It
is possible to win an event if you do not believe in yourself. Athletes
surprise themselves this way all the time. However, you would agree
that it is far better to believe you can do something than not,
correct? If you go into a competition worrying about the outcome,
or believing you can't win, or worse, believing you do not deserve
to win, you are stacking the odds against you in huge ways. Better
to have an open mind and think, "I deserve to win as much as the
next person. I've worked hard to get here. Let's just see what happens".
The Mental Game of Fencing says you should keep an open mind and
give yourself every chance to succeed.
2. Where Your Breath Is, So Is Your Mind: It is amazing how
many high-level sports competitors do not pay much attention to
their breath. And I don't just mean in terms of relaxation. I mean
in terms of concentration. Everyone knows that to relax, proper
full diaphragmatic breathing is vital. Fewer athletes and coaches
know how this affects the mind and powers of concentration. The
key principle is this: If you focus on your breath, your mind stays
in the moment. When you are worried, and anxious and in a hurry,
your breathing is corrupted, and is higher, shallower and less efficient.
Learn to come back to your breath during breaks in the action, and
learn how to attach your breath to key movements you make in the
action. The Mental Game of Fencing says you should stay in close
touch with your breath at all times.
3. Time Slows Down In The Zone: With training, an athlete
can slow their sense of time down in a competition, so they play
better. Time alteration is a main feature of the zone. Time either
goes away, or slows down so much that the athlete has almost extra-sensory
ESP-like anticipation and time galore to execute. By learning a
specific centering method, the mind clears out the many filters
of self-talk, emotions, fears, doubts, strategies, self-instruction
and other self-distractions, leaving a pure, uncluttered, direct
perception of what is really taking place, without any interpretations
getting in the way. That is how time slows down. The Mental Game
of Fencing says you should learn how to calm your mind, your body
and your emotions.
4. A Tense Mind Produces Tense Muscles: One of my favorite
quotes that describes poor play is "A tense mind is a tense body".
Fencers who try too hard, "give it 110%", force the action, worry
about errors, try to hurry, and try to control the uncontrollable
suffer from mental tightness, and that produces physical tightness.
Fencers often ask me, "Why do I play so well in practice, but not
in an event?" The reason is tension. In practice they are loose
and enjoying themselves. In an event if they tense up, even ever
so slightly, those previously fine movements, with pinpoint timing
and superb balance, are corrupted. The Mental Game of Fencing says
you should only use the level of effort required for success, and
5. Focus Only On What You Can Control: Athletes tend to needlessly,
but understandably, worry about things that are truly out of their
control. Instead of creating tension within yourself over things
that either may never happen, or that are not controllable, learn
to accept these things, and put your focus and energy into that
which will pay you dividends. The Mental Game of Fencing says you
should know what you can control, and what you cannot control, and
have the wisdom and will power to focus on the right things.
I told the fencers stories that illustrate these principles, asked
them about their experiences, did demonstrations, and then had them
get into their fencing gear, and I coached them as they performed
a combination of mind techniques we learned.
Here are some of the comments made by these young international
level fencers that participated in the workshop:
Your workshop on sports psychology was very meaningful to me.
It changed my understanding of sports. It was great.
I realized that a strong mind can help an athlete improve. One can
benefit from clearing the mind and emotions.
Bill kept my attention the entire time, and it completely changed
the way I will fence now.
This workshop helped me have more confidence, and to fence better.
From learning this material, I am now closer to reaching my goals.
This is a very good program.
The most important thing I learned today was how breathing
correctly can help us relax and perform in the zone. The mental
imagery techniques were very helpful. I wish this workshop could
have been longer.
I enjoyed today's program because Bill talked about things that
should be common sense, but that are not practiced. Thank you!
I enjoyed this program because I learned how to breathe correctly
to enhance my mental approach to fencing.
I learned practical mental strategies for improving my fencing.
I will be able to perform better by using breathing and zone skills
when I compete. I really liked it, and enjoyed how Bill taught the
The Camp Director loved the program:
Bill Cole is a fantastic mental trainer, teacher, speaker and
coach. I have heard sports psychologists speak about the mental
approach before, but I have never seen someone present these concepts
and techniques in such accessible, insightful, practical and enjoyable
ways as Bill is able to do.
If you run a sports camp, sports school or sports academy you really
need to have Bill come in and present this program to your athletes.
It's awesome, and your athletes will thank you.
Stanford University Men's And Women's Fencing Teams
This mental game of fencing training program had these elements:
- ·Motivation And Goal-Setting
- Removing Self-Limiting Beliefs
- Mental Readiness: Pre-Event
- Mental Readiness: In The Event
- Turning Stress Into Success
- Controlling Nerves In Competition
- Breathing For Peak Performance
- Stopping Choking
- Finding Ideal Effort Levels
- Attention Control Training
- Getting In The Zone
- Mental Game Match Management
- Self-Coaching Skills
- Controlling Emotions
- Practicing The Mental Game
- Visualizing Success
- Thinking Like A Winner: Developing A Championship Mind
- Building Self-Confidence
- Avoiding Slumps, Staleness And Burnout
- Building Mental Toughness
As a result of undergoing this workshop on the Mental Game
of Fencing, these international fencing competitors learned
much about the often hidden part of fencing-the mind game. They
are now inspired to continue discovering how their mind can help
them succeed in bigger ways.
For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an
assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths
and weaknesses. Here is a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport
psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot.
This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and
weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating
your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program
you undertake with mental coach
Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment
would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture
about your mental game.
Copyright © 2011 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance,
mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William
B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals
achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International
Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing
the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching
worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school
alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles,
and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time
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