High Performance in Fencing: The Elements of Success
What does it take to achieve consistently high performance in fencing? Mohit Ashwini,
international fencer and fencing coach at Sports Authority of India lays out what’s necessary for a fencer to succeed at every stage in their career. He cautions against seeing athletes as finished products, and using his experience on both sides of the arena to detail how coaches and support staff can continuously back their athletes with feedback, data, and analysis as they grow in their game.
Mohit Ashwini was part of the inaugural edition of the High-Performance Coach
Development Program conducted by ELMS Sports Foundation from July 2022 to
“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.” Nelson Mandela
We want to maximize the amount of value that we get out of anything we do. It’s not about forcing anyone to fit into some sort of box that will make things work out right. It’s about helping people figure out what’s working and what doesn’t, and how to fix it.
Athletes must also be developed with the intention of succeeding in fencing. Early on, the emphasis should be on overall fitness and using the muscles that will be used for specific tasks. Student performance varies depending on their physical makeup, body type, and rate of mental and physical development.
That’s why we need to view coaches as educators in the context of sports. In truth, we frequently discover that the best coaches have training in teaching and are proficient in this field of talent and knowledge. No matter how skilled they are already in their sport, athletes shouldn't be seen as finished products when they join your program. Instead, every coach must confront the difficulty of instructing their athletes in order to improve even the best of them.
The role of the coach is to instruct. If you want to be a great instructor, you must give your athletes a sports learning environment. With the advantage of a sports learning environment, your athletes are probably going to get better. They will become mature enough to make decisions throughout training and competition as a result.
1. Creating an athlete
Athletes who are still in their formative years are considered developing athletes. They lack
specialized expertise and experience in the sport they have chosen. The coach is in charge at this stage of the athlete's journey, overseeing their training and instructing the athlete.
For the typical family of young athletes, Jon Hellstedt's model outlines three primary stages of athletic development:
Phase One: Exploration or Sampling
Phase Two: Commitment or Specializing
Phase Three: Proficiency or Commitment
2. Planning effectively as a coach
A thorough assessment of the athlete's strengths, limitations, and skills in relation to her goals is a prerequisite for effective coaching strategies. Finding out why the athlete is having trouble or what resources or abilities he lacks that would be necessary to compete are also crucial.
3. Coaching Philosophy
During your bout's downtime, a fencing instructor will "strip coach" you, offering advice or
guidance. It's about quality, not quantity, in good strip coaching. The course of the fight can be completely altered by a single piece of feedback given at the correct moment. With a few words, the greatest fencing instructors can make the most of this time and guide you in the proper way.
You are not guaranteed to have a coach at any particular bout. It's possible that your club is
competing in several events at once and does not have enough coaches to go around. Your coach will probably not spend much time coaching you during your breaks if you are winning all of your fights. Since fencing is an individual activity, it is up to you to succeed.
4. Role of nutrition and energy source
Sports performance can be improved by a proper diet. The majority of an athlete's vitamin and mineral requirements should be covered by a well-planned, nutrient-rich diet, which also includes adequate protein to support muscle growth and repair. The diet should be built around foods high in unprocessed carbohydrates, such as whole-grain bread and cereals.
5. Managing the workload and improving strength
Workload influences an athlete’s exposure to external injury risk factors and potential events, promotes changes in fitness level - which involves positive adaptations to training that may lead to improved performance - and/or stimulates fatigue, which leads to negative effects in the body that may increase the risk of injury and negatively affect performance. The total workload influences injury risk, but acute changes or spikes in external and/or internal loads appear to have the greatest impact. Strength and conditioning coaches and physiotherapists must both understand the definitions of strength and power, as well as exercise prescriptions in order to maximize these qualities.
6. Psychological wellbeing
Along with the coach, the psychologist will assist the individual in greatly developing their thinking and understanding. The models for working and reasoning that are used and developed through coaching can even create a positive behavioral spiral that transforms the person being coached daily life.
7. Performance coaching and analysis
Performance analysis can improve coaching by providing visual feedback via video analysis and objective statistical analysis via data analysis. For example, video analysis provides lapse time feedback to help understand and improve tactics, and tech techniques movement, among other things.
8. Harnessing Technology for Performance Analysis:
There are multiple ways in which coaches can use technology to understand and better
performance. This includes using machine learning to analyze body action personal training, tactics, and strategy selection when facing different styles of players. Digitization, namely filling in data elements into a relational database, and providing real-time feedback and in-depth (complex) reports from data mining can generate valuable insights. Both OpenPose and OpenCV methods should be able to be used to mark the videos. This can be accomplished by having machine learning peruse the footage twice or by combining the positions at the database level. This will help identify and categorize fencers' "fighting styles" by learning tempo and tactic habits. The data can be used to determine which action or reaction has the best chance of scoring, and fed into coaching accordingly.
9. Adaptive and regular Performance Management Strategies
Strategies are essential for aligning individual performance with the goals of the organization. Make regular review sessions a priority for your coaches and managers. Establishing your vision with your staff allows it to permeate throughout the organization via performance reviews. Message delivery should be the focus of your performance management strategy. Coaches and athletes must know that reviews are two-way conversations. Create performance evaluations that highlight key discussion points. Then, coaches must know how to convey feedback. Encourage athletes to talk about themselves at all times. Coaches frequently use rating scales to evaluate an athlete’s performance, but they are meaningless unless the scale is defined.
In his book - The High-Performance Athlete - Dr. Jason Winkle says, “What separates good athletes from the best in the world is the ability to achieve excellence in high-pressure, high-stress situations”. High performance, therefore, is the product of an intentional approach to training, a mission-focused mindset, and the ability to consistently achieve peak performance.