National Academy (Scotland) Summer Camp Report

This summer, at the sportscotland Inverclyde National Sports Centre in Largs, Scottish Fencing ran the National Academy (Scotland) National Training summer camp event which also incorporated Scottish Fencing Coach Education Workshops and Scottish Institute of Sport Psychology Workshop.

 

Background

Last year saw the revival of a Summer Camp for Scottish Fencing’s youth, with a week at Inverclyde House that was well received by the membership. The combination of dedicated staff, young fencers with a good attitude, an excellent venue and substantial subsidy from Scottish Fencing was a winning formula that ensured a bigger and better event this year.

Since last year’s camp Scottish Fencing has Partnered with British Fencing’s National Academy, and this year’s event benefited by being a National Academy (Scotland) Training Camp. National Academy branding includes provision of dedicated Team Managers and S&C Coaches as well as advanced videoing equipment. By including Scottish Fencing’s Coach Education Workshops and a Sports Psychology Workshop provided by the Scottish Institute of Sport, the scope of the Summer Camp has grown and fencers and trainee coaches benefited from the integration which also brought economies for the administration.

This year, 40 young fencers (compared to 28 from last year) and 7 trainee coaches enjoyed the efforts of 12 qualified members of staff.

 

The National Academy Camp

Once again our venue of choice was SportScotland’s excellent Inverclyde House in Largs. As well as being set in beautiful grounds, the venue provides good accommodation and very good sports facilities all within a few minutes’ walk.  The only factor that we couldn’t improve upon from last year’s camp was the weather!

There were considerably more young fencers at this year’s camp than the previous one and they included some athletes from England, Northern Ireland, Italy and the USA. Each weapon was provided with dedicated coaches, Jamie Miller taking the Epeeists (a group of 9) and Phil Carson the Sabreurs (of which there were 10), but the biggest increase in uptake was in Foil (a group of 21) and this was reflected in the fact that Foil training was provided by no fewer than three coaches. Ken Rose was the main Foil Coach, but he was assisted by Don McKenzie (Lead-Coach for National Academy (Scotland)) and our guest Italian Coach Serena Pivotti (also there in a Coach Education role), who worked with Scotland’s more advanced foilists. There is now an established link with Italy and some of our top foilists had previous experience of working with Serena. British fencing’s Project Manager Neil Brown was also at the camp providing assistance with the videoing and Neil also delivered a presentation to the fencers on the completion of Training Diaries. S&C was provided by Jon Cree and Wes Fox working with one weapon at a time. Staff also included two dedicated Managers who were responsible for looking after our youth outside of training times, allowing the coaching staff to concentrate on their training plans and providing them with the space to participate in ‘peer review’ feedback sessions.

The Programme saw each day start with a general Warm up lead by S&C staff followed by games organised by one of the coaches. After this, fencers worked in weapon specific sessions falling into three categories; S&C (lead by S&C staff), Footwork & Themed Sparring (lead by the weapon coach) and Technical Training (lead by the weapon coach and including video feedback). Thus whilst fencers from one weapon were doing S&C, another would be doing footwork and sparring and the other weapon would be involved in technical training. This format was one of the biggest changes from last year’s programme and lent itself very well to the larger groups.

Given the scope of the camp and the number of fencers, we were very pleased that there were no serious injuries, health problems or discipline issues. We coped with a couple of minor issues including a sore ankle, some blisters and some pre-existing niggles.

Provision of Tea & Toast in the dining room from 21:00-22:00 provided a useful focus for trainees and staff in the evenings, as well as a venue for the now established Quiz Night. Time was also found in our busy schedule to organise a walk into town for Nardini’s Ice cream – an important part of the ‘Largs experience’. The overall feel of the camp was an excellent combination of hard work in training and a good social atmosphere enjoyed by everyone.

 

The Coach Education Workshop

This event had an Italian flavour with Maestra Serena Pivotti demonstrating the Italian method.  Her lessons and explanations fascinated not only the trainee coaches but were of equal interest to our established coaches, and there was a great deal of enthusiastic conversation following the demonstrations. The two Workshops were run over an evening and the following day. The opportunity to interview Serena was not wasted and a transcript appears on the Scottish Fencing web site. The event was timely as weeks after the workshop, Italian fencers dominated Foil at the 2012 Olympics, and the Olympic Silver Medallist at Women’s Foil (and Gold in Teams) - currently World No.1 - is from Serena’s club.

 

Institute of Sport Psychology Workshop

The camp also included an Institute of Sport event, being an ideal opportunity to get almost all of our Supported Athletes together. Laura Carey ran a Workshop on the Tuesday after taking the opportunity to get a feel for our sport by watching and asking questions. Following this Laura carried out some one-to-one sessions on Wednesday and her work will be continuing with some of our youngsters.

 

Conclusions

This year’s camp was bigger and more ambitious than last year’s and was a good example of the way that Scottish Fencing’s partnerships with the National Academy, The Scottish Institute of Sport & SportScotland and with our friends in Italy can be coordinated to deliver quality training. We were delighted to play host to our SportScotland Performance Manager, Colin Robertson who recognised the evolution of our delivery and was pleased with what he saw.

The camp should now have a good reputation outside of Scotland and it is to be hoped that the international nature of the event can be built upon.

 

Don McKenzie

National Academy (Scotland) Lead Coach

August 2012

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