10/01/2019- Articles

The athlete development programme (ADP) offers opportunities for young fencers to develop and progress in fencing, through a series of training camps and supportive programmes designed to encourage growth in all areas of athleticism.

As part of the trust and confidence we instil in our young ADP fencers, we encourage them to feedback and communicate about their own development and experiences, not just to the programme leaders, but to parents, peers and coaches. However, we are aware that a number of fencers are not yet ready to feed back to their personal coaches about the ADP programme and they have their own reasons for this.

In an ideal world there are three point dialogues between the fencer, the programme and the personal coach. All three should be ‘in the loop’. Often, one is left out, reducing communication and creating a disconnect. In the December 2018 camp, former top 16 world ranked fencer Georgina Usher presented an interactive workshop to the fencers about the actions, behaviours, skills and knowledge that are included in this dialogue.

As one of the elements of the programme is about creating independent fencers, how do we encourage these young adults to have the confidence to feedback to all coaches (as well BF staff), without speaking for them?

This is a challenging time for young people. They’re dealing with the transition to adulthood, physical and social changes, juggling multiple life demands, and managing pressure points, (preparation for GCSEs being one such example). The impacts of all these factors are being recognised more and more in the mental wellbeing of young people.

It’s also recognised that hormones and growth spurts knock the adolescent brain into overdrive. Sleep patterns are affected and quite often coordination needs to adjust due to growth spurts.

Meanwhile, some coaches continue to default to a stereotyped description of their young fencers, describing the slouched posture of a moody teen with a monosyllabic response.

We agree communication can be problematic. However, there are times when young people are very articulate, and fencers at the camps have provided some great feedback and insights when asked.

So as a coach with a young fencer on the ADP,  this is a great opportunity to explore the Coach – Athlete Relationship as well as the Environment and Climate that is created within your coaching programme.

In terms of Coach – Athlete relationship, it is worth looking at Professor Sophie Jowett’s research, in particular the Relational Coaching Environment, where she talks about the Closeness, Commitment, Complementarity. You can read her research here:

Are we ready to challenge perceptions of our young fencers? Can we create independent young athletes and overcome these communication barriers by changing ourselves, rather than criticising them? Here are some reflective questions.

  • What are the conditions where your fencer opens up?
  • How can you create a non-judgemental space for feedback?
  • How are you keeping the communications open? Face to face may be too confrontational. Sideways conversations are one method. As an example, if you are both watching a bout, it could be a good time for that conversation.
  • If they have changed, how could you change your approach?

Let’s create a dialogue that meets our young fencers where they are, creating confidence and giving them the space and responsibility to communicate.

Here is more information about the Athlete Development Programme

Photo by: Jan von Uxkull-Gyllenband

Join the conversation. Share your stories using #BritishFencing on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

Our Partners

  • Our Partners