(Excerpted from an article of the same name written by Richard Cherry for the USFA magazine, "American Fencing." Coach Cherry served as the Junior Olympic Chair for the Oregon Division and coaches young fencers.)
"Fencing is a skill sport. It requires a special kind of athlete who can satisfy the physical and psychological challenges of head to head combat.
"Fencing is one of the few sports where boys and girls compete against each other on equal terms, no special concessions granted.
"Fencing demands self-discipline. Win or lose, the fencer alone is ultimately responsible.
"Fencers forge friendships with their opponents off the strip. After all, they frequently train together.
"Fencers learn to accept authority. Referees (directors) are always "correct," even when a "bad call" eliminates an athlete from a tournament. At the same time, fencers learn to respectfully question authority.
"Fencers acting as referees (directors) learn to make decisions with confidence. They learn to explain their decisions intelligently and control the action on and off the strip, all the while under the critical eye of their peers and an audience.
"Fencers learn to share. They share equipment and knowledge. A winning fencer will often share what went wrong with the losing fencer's game. More experienced fencers will share previous successful strategies against specific fencers, even though this knowledge may lessen their chances for victory.
"Fencers develop the ability to establish long-term goals. In fencing, an athlete doesn't have to win to be successful. Many young fencers know they don't have the knowledge or the experience to beat a particular opponent or win a tournament; but they learn to set personal goals for themselves, one touch against each opponent for example.
"Fencers can, and do, learn to be winners before they ever get a medal at a tournament."