A Cut Above Fencing Singapore High Performance
TSL speaks to Fencing Singapore about the High Performance challenges and finding the best balance with the current best practices not only from around the world but also from other local sports associations.
Congratulations on the achievements and results of the 28th SEA Games! What were some of the biggest challenges faced regarding High Performance?
One of the biggest challenges faced by Fencing Singapore was the need to find the best balance and to be updated with the current best practices not only from around the world but also from other local sports associations. I believe this is important because some sports are more successful than others because they manage to find/develop a system by adopting best practices and adapting it to the needs of our unique Singapore sports culture and sport.
One of the key items we focused on in preparation for the 28th SEA Games was to have a periodised plan which went as far back as January 2015. Inevitably, some issues cropped up along the way but we managed to stick as close to the plan as possible. Together with the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI), we drafted the plan which included sports science support, strength and conditioning, psychology, nutrition etc. incorporated into the athletes’ training and competition programme. We included all the components (albeit a shortened version of periodisation) - general preparation, specific preparation, pre-competition, competition and tapering into the plan and I think it paid off to a certain extent.
Given the quick turnover between the 28th SEA Games and the Asian Fencing Championships (AFC), what were some of the high performance lessons learnt?
There were many lessons learnt from the SEA Games and the AFC. One of the key things we learnt was how to perform multiple peaking cycles within a short period of time. We adhered to a periodisation plan for our athletes and tried to manage the short break in between, but our feel is that we did not prepare enough and essentially did not know how to create a plan or programme for our athletes to be able to peak twice within short periods. This is critical as we move towards the Olympics qualifiers which require athletes to essentially peak within short periods of time i.e. 2 weeks to fight for world ranking points.
The other aspect is that we must recognise that performance is not absolute, i.e. performance targets should be within an acceptable range and not an absolute figure. Because as mentioned in the above point, there is no way we can expect our athletes to perform with an absolute target. We must also look at how to manage this range of performance targets. Fencing is a combat sport so it is cannot be based on absolute figures unlike sports which are number based i.e. score based or time based.
We will conduct an internal debrief of the 2 games and assess how to develop or modify the high performance systems to ensure more knowledge transfer. SSI has been very supportive to us over the last year and we want to continue to work together with more flexibility and authority given to the NSA for decision-making, especially with regard to funding issues.
What are the plans for Fencing as an NSA for the future – from the perspective of High Performance (HP) and capability development as an organisation?
Fencing Singapore is in the process of internal assessment. Working together with the community, we are looking to update our current systems to prepare to meet the needs of the sport in the next 10 years. That requires support and dialogue with all stakeholders within the ecosystem. Before we talk about HP, we need to build on the base of each NSA i.e. the people within the sport. The base of any system needs to be strong, updated with subject matter experts. By building these capabilities, knowledge can be transferred to future generations of sports managers and provide continuity in HP planning.
With the success of the 28th SEA Games how did you think it has boosted i) Fencing as a sport, and ii) Fencing for the Nation?
Fencing as a sport is definitely gaining momentum. We were one of the first few events which tickets were sold out. Through the 28th SEA Games, we saw and forged a strong belief that the community is united as a sport; and cheering on Team Singapore. The success of the 28th SEA Games, particular in Fencing, reminded everyone in the fraternity that all the efforts from the clubs, parents, coaches, schools and all the other stakeholders have contributed to an extraordinary games. 13 medals - 3 golds, 3 silvers, 7 bronzes and every athlete returned with a medal. So, yes! We believe we did the Nation proud!