Samantha Auty proudly sponsored by Fencing Imports Australia

Monday, 26 January 2015


This was an interesting experience for both me and Helen. Finishing in 107th place I knew exactly what my student was feeling because I had been in the exact same position before, one win and cut before the direct elimination rounds. All in all I’d say that coaching is similar to fencing in that the more that you are organised the less you have to worry about on the competition day and the more time you can spend focusing on your student.

The handy hint I would have for traveling as a coach is to always have an alternative mode of transport to the hotel if taxis are not available. Although I'm trying to make my favourite thing something other than food my favourite thing about Dourdan has been the cheese.


I put this first because it is really all an athlete cares about while they are traveling, when they have arrived at their destination, and after a competition.

·         Bring travel snacks and keep your athletes hydrated. It is the day before a competition and by the time you check in for a two hour flight, land and then catch a two hour train ride you have spent 7 hours traveling, even if you get lunch on the way athletes need snacks to keep fuelled the day before a comp.

·         Check where the nearest supermarket is to the hotel before you leave. The quicker you can get bottled water and snacks the day before a comp the better. Same with nearby restaurants.

·         Tell your athletes to buy bottled water for the venue. Even if tap water is drinkable you never know if there is a place to fill up at the venue. The only place to fill up in Dourdan was the bathroom taps which were pretty unclean.


·         Do weapons check the night before. Most international comps will have weapons check at one of the official hotels the night before the comp.

·         Double check that the stamps have been done correctly on your students equipment.


·         Know where the warm up facility is. The warm up or training venue is usually separate to the main fencing hall where the finals piste is, it is good to find out where it is as soon as possible.

·         So that it is easier to prepare your students it is good to find out the poules allocation as soon as possible. In Dourdan this information was not released until 8:55 and the comp started at 9. If you know this may be the case sometimes it is better to prepare your students generally or coach them in between poule bouts.


Organisation is probably the key to being able to coach well during a competition but I would like to focus more on deciding on the specific types of advice to give during a competition because I think this is the hardest thing to learn and really requires you to know your student well.

Technical vs strategic advice:

Technical advice such as ‘Use smaller steps’ can be limiting in a poule bout because under pressure your student can focus on that one aspect of their fencing instead of controlling the bout and fighting. I found that it was better to give more ‘strategic’ advice in these short bouts because when Helen started losing hits because she was holding her arm back on the attack she fenced better when she started using her opponents reaction to this to her advantage instead of trying the same attack and extending her arm faster.

Strategic advice is advice more like trying to take advantage of your opponent’s reactions or technical deficiencies. This is better than technical advice in most cases because technical advice gets your student to focus on their own deficiencies rather than using it to their advantage. I think that technical advice is only useful if you know that your student does not usually display that particular technical deficiency such as using really big steps instead of small ones.


The toughest advice to give is mental advice because it relies so much on what your student is reacting to. In this particular competition Helen knew that this comp was bigger than the previous world cup she had fenced and told me she was excited about how many fencers were there. In reality I think that she was too excited about it and it made her nervous. I was able to pick up on this because I know Helen well, I have seen her compete a lot and when she is focused she is very hard to distract from the competition. In Dourdan she was extremely hyperactive prior to the poule starting and this led to her being overly deflated when things did not go to plan. The hardest thing for me as a coach in this case was to know whether to try and pump her up so she could become focused or try and calm her down to stay focused. I think the advice that worked the most was strategic advice because it got her focused on the next match rather than on her previous performances.

Mental advice is all about experience, how well do you know your student’s reactions to pressure? And do you know whether it is better for them to be calm or do they fence better when they are pumped up?


I found that a lot of coaches in Dourdan prefer to debrief their students’ right after the match regardless of whether they have won or lost. I think this is only suitable in the case of a win and that debriefing after losing should be done a while afterwards, unless your student asks you directly.

Immediately after losing most fencers emotions are caught up in their willingness to improve and fence better. I find that you are generally not able to take on constructive feedback as well as when you have calmed down. This is because this feedback may be still linked with the negative feeling a of a poor performance and therefore seen as negatives eg thinking ‘I was stupid for doing that’ as opposed to ‘ok so I can fix that if I finish to a different line’.

After the competition Helen was despondent, particularly given she had previously finished in the top 16. It was important that any feedback about her performance waited until she had space to clear her head. Sure enough about an hour later she was asking about what she needed to fix technically and strategically to get better.


·         Be Organised: know where you are going, transport timetables, and have copies of everything.

·         Have spare money in case students need to borrow it. We had a situation where the morning of the comp Helen didn’t have enough cash to pay the entry fee.

I hope this gives an insight into what coaching at an international competition is like. I think Australian fencers tend to be really disconcerted in their performance at these large competitions and it is important to be able to manage those doubts as a coach. I also think that the ability to be flexible is crucial. Flexibility is the advice you give, the situations you have to respond to and other people’s disorganisation is very important. The more you are able to do this, the more your student can focus on their performance.
Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


Hi All,

My first post is an analysis about my performance in the satellite tournament in Turkey. Satellite tournaments are smaller than World Cups and FIE points are only awarded to the Top 4 places with 4 points awarded to first place. They are good competitions for those who feel that they are not ready for World Cups or need practice beforehand.

I placed 19th, which for me was a disappointing result. I fenced ok in the pools and should have finished in the top 16 at least. At the end of this analysis I have included two bouting exercises that I think will help improve my fencing in some of the areas I identified as an issue in this competition.

Day 1- Pools
5-1 victory over Bell, DEN
5-4 victory over Bunyatova, AZE
5-3 defeat against Acar, TUR
5-2 victory over Incekara, TUR
5-4 defeat against Cheung, SIN

Technical Analysis:
Need to finish attacks properly and move off engarde line earlier.
When I lose hits in defence it is because I am unbalanced and too far away.

Felt rested and was fired up at the start but I lot focus during the pools.

Day 2- Round of 32
15-13 defeat against Lee, SIN

Technical Analysis:
Did not feel that I could trust my attack and its length.
Still not close enough in defence to stop an attack.
I was not fired up at all. I was trying to relax too much and ended up focusing on technique and not pushing myself. In the end it resulted in me hesitating in going for hits.

Technically- I need to start earlier off the engarde line and improve the length of my attack. In defence I need to work on being closer to getting someone to finish their attack.
Mentally- I need to be able to trust my offensive actions. I need to learn when to fire up as in the past I have been more about relaxing.
Exercises to practice:
-Every hit in a 5 touch match is different
-You have to get four hits in a row to win the match.
To finish this post, I would like to add to each blog a handy hint for travel and what my favourite thing has been so far.
Handy hint: Use a filter bottle. If you are unsure about water quality this will allow you to drink tap water. I use a Bobble bottle which are easily purchased at major supermarkets.
Favourite thing so far: The fact that there was Doner kebab everywhere in Istanbul. Of course my favourite thing is food :)
My next post should be in a couple of weeks about coaching at Junior World Cup, stay tuned!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Welcome to 2015! and travelling as an elite athlete take 2

Hi All,

I have decided to continue writing the blog that I started last year when I was overseas training and competing in Europe. Whilst I will be going into post competition analyses and the details of what competing and training at a world level entails this year will be a bit different for a few reasons.

First of all, this year I will also be coaching one of my students, Helen Phillips, at a Junior World Cup in Dourdan, France. I hope to be able to write a blog on what it is like coaching at this level as well as competing. This is also an entirely new experience for me.

Secondly, I will be finishing my trip in Abu Dhabi as a candidate sitting for the FIE Refereeing Sabre examination held before the Asian Cadet and Junior Championships in March. This will be followed by me undertaking my epee observation test to become an FIE B referee by refereeing the Asian Cadet competition. I will be writing a post based on my experiences sitting both the exam and the observation test, which I hope will help to give other Australians thinking of following a refereeing pathway an idea of what is required to be qualified as an FIE referee.

Thirdly, a lot has changed throughout 2014. When I returned from my last trip in March I came home to no job, moving out of home, and two and half weeks later my father was in hospital. At the start of this year I am in a much better place financially, with a home to come back too and with a lot more experience about dealing with grief. I am also coming off the back of my best every fencing season, having just won my third national title in a row and completing a clean sweep of the national competitions this year.

What this means is that this year I am more prepared than before and will be able to offer you as readers more insights into travelling, training, competing, coaching, and refereeing. My first post will be a post competition analysis for my satellite competition in Istanbul, Turkey.

Enjoy :)

Sam Auty