Sometimes, you just have to stand back and let the man do his thing. That was the lesson that I learned the other day, but the man happened to be a 10-year old boy.
Here’s the deal. My son is into fencing. That’s right, we let our kids play with swords.
Last weekend, we drove down to Sharon, Vt., a place we are very familiar with as we spend one weekend a year in South Royalton for a Father-Son Campout at Camp Joseph, for a fencing tournament.
Once he was signed in, changed and warmed up, he started the preliminary rounds, where he faced six other opponents, looking both to score points and get wins.
In an effort to help him, I tried to offer some advice, having watched his practices and picked up pieces of the sport here and there (my parents did not let me play with swords when I was young after they saw what I could do to a playpen without one).
The advice was either to be agressive or be conservative and wait for the other fencer to attack. No matter what the advice was, it never worked. Like, ever. He didn’t win a match, the closest he came was 5-3.
The disappointment on his face was very obvious. He sat in the corner of the Sharon Academy gym after his last match, wondering what he had to do. He might have even felt a little defeated emotionally, seeings how he had been a lot defeated in the preliminaries.
Then came the eliminations rounds, or D.E.’s, as they are called. He was ranked 13th in a field of 13, facing off against the fourth ranked fencer in the first round.
Before his match, I had an Ah-ha moment and changed my tone.
I said soemthing like, “Alright, I’m done talking, you go out and do what you do best. Don’t listen to me. This is your sport and you know how to play it. Remember, everyone loves to see an upset.”
A pat on the backside sent him into the first in a best-of-three match, where he lost, 5-4, however, he was smiling when he came back to me.
“I figured it out,” he said.
“Great, but don’t tell me. Your the fencer, use it,” was my reply. “This could be your last match of the day so make it count.”
Two 5-3 matches later with a “could be your last match,” talk in between, and he was onto the quarterfinals with an upset win. That round started the same way, with me saying, “you know what you’re doing, so just go out and do it. One round is an upset, two rounds is a Cinderella story.”
5-1, 5-2. Onto the semis
We changed nothing in the semifinals (after all, when you are in sports there are superstitions), but the first match was a 5-0 defeat.
“He’s really good,” my son said as he came to his corner. Another 5-0 match and the day was over, but not without the 13th seed in the tournament finishing with a bronze medal.
So the moral to the story is this - sometimes the kids know enough to do it on their own. It can be tough to relinquish that control and dependence that they may have once had on you, and in turn you on them. It very well could take an ah-ha moment like I had at a fencing match, but sometimes you just have to realize that in a situation where they are ready to take the lead themselves, that is just what they need to do. I still gave him all of my support, but also let him know that it was his world and his call.
I think the results speak for themselves.
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