This past weekend I directed epee for the GA Division Junior Olympic Qualifiers. It was an ok time, but very tiring. Floors designed for fencing shoes feel like hell when you are wearing boots. The benefit was that I got to hang out with my clubmates and friends, and see some very good fencing.
At the same time, I ended up coaching some of my female clubmates while our coach was with the men in DEs. The women's events were small enough to guarantee there would be no ethics issues with me coaching and directing. We have some quality up and coming fencers - but it seems that there is a fundamental difference in how young men and women mature in this sport. With the boys, they get the fire to win before they have the skill to make it happen. With the girls, they don't start developing confidence and fire until winning is almost unavoidable.
That little difference makes women so frustrating to coach. I am used to giving guys advice on how to beat unfamiliar opponents, "feint-disengage; draw the attack, then parry-sixte-riposte," etc. With the girls, it's stuff like, "eye of the tiger; don't be nice; win inside before you can win outside!" There was one phrase in particular - my fencer was in thrust distance, and needed only extend her point another inch to make an easy touch; yet she kinda hung out there in distance and got hit with a beat attack! I asked her what happpened in my patented concerned-but-the-anger-boils voice, and she simply said she couldn't do it. She knew she was close enough, my fencer just assumed the girl was better than her and it didn't occur she might have the upper hand, albeit briefly.
I know kids are supposed to have fun - but the girls are happy when they win and sad when they lose, so they are invested. How do you turn that investment into a fiery passion to win? Honestly, for a couple of them - that passion is the last piece of the championship puzzle.