When contemplating a sport for your child, why not consider fencing? After all, what kid wouldn’t be excited by sword fighting and all that goes along with it? For parents, knowing it’s also a safe sport can provide peace of mind. It’s also a great activity for building physical fitness, mental acuity and friendships.
“Fencers are true athletes,” says Paddy Murphy, former MN State Team Fencing Champion and coach with the Youth Enrichment League (YEL) Fencing Club who also has a Bachelor of Science in Sports Management. “They're doing ladders and hurdles, and they're sprinting. It's also very technical. There are a lot of moves, like in a video game, to memorize and learn, and just the way it all goes together is different because there's so much strategy involved.”
Fencing also increases hand-eye coordination as well as footwork skills. “Footwork is super important, but really quick thinking is probably the biggest benefit, and all these skills help children, not just in fencing, but in everyday life,” he says.
Explains fencing mom Christina Snead of St. Louis Park, “When my son Caden found fencing in second grade, we also learned that he was dyslexic. I told him reading was going to be a struggle, but there were going to be strengths along the way that dyslexia was going to bring him. After a couple of years of fencing, one day he said, ‘Mom, my dyslexic brain really likes to think like a fencer.’ So, while anybody can do it, for kids that have different processing, fencing seems to be something that helps them.”
It's also fantastic for kids who may not be into team sports. “Fencing, compared to most sports, is an individual sport and a lot of people really appreciate that,” says Paddy. “Of course, we encourage being a part of a team - our club is very friendly – and they're all definitely teammates. But, at the end of the day, they rely on their own individual skills, especially in competitions.”
There are four types of competitions, or tournaments - local, regional, national, and international - and six different events in each competition with the three different fencing weapons - foil, epee and saber. While children make friends with their local teammates, they also often make lifelong friends with other participants throughout the country and the world.
“Kids meet in different competitions and that’s really cool,” says Christina. “My other son, Kai, who just recently started fencing, is my social kid. He loves hanging out at the club and being amongst everybody.”
Since youth fencing, especially under age 12, has exploded in Minnesota, YEL is now renting a dedicated space in Hopkins. Christina wanted to be able to help them set up this new space, so she and Caden, who designed a really cool fencing logo that personifies a fencer in action, decided to start making T-shirts to raise some money. From there, it just grew.
"We started creating fencing designs for T-shirts, but then it turned into hoodies, hats and more," she says. "Along the way, we realized that more diversity was needed on merch and wanted to represent both female and male fencer forms. We started a collaboration with an artist in the Philippines to help us. It’s been a fun project and we are excited to launch our new website and help our club grow.”
YEL has many different fencing packages available for all different skill levels and ages (the generally accepted minimum age is 7 years old). Adult classes are available too.
“For so many people, once they try fencing, they're just hooked,” says Paddy. “It's a lifelong sport once you get into it.”
YouthEnrichmentLeague.com | (800) 959-9261