Becoming a Competitive Athlete- An interview with Lauren Oakman
Having struggled with the demands of competitive sport in the past, I wanted to know how joining the university fencing team has changed Lauren's attitude towards competition.
How did you get into competitive fencing?
My competitive career took off when I was selected to represent Wales at the UK School Games when I was 15. I had barely attended competitions before this, so I felt as though I had been thrown into the deep end.
How did you adjust to being a competitive athlete?
Being advised to attend ranking competitions, across the UK when I didn’t feel good enough at the sport was difficult, and there have been many times across the years that I’ve thought about quitting.
Why did you feel like quitting?
The reason I wanted to quit was because of the pressure to perform and the stress of not feeling as good as your team mates, with people expecting you to perform better than you’re capable of. I took a year off from training during year 13 to focus on exams and to reduce stress, as it was difficult to maintain work and travel to competition during year 12.
How did you get back into competing?
After taking a year off I was nervous to go back to competing due to the pressure I felt previously, so I decided to try the university team and my confidence has grown massively. I pulled ligaments in my ankle at a competition and this took a long time to recover, I attended physio for it but it did impact my performance. I think that confidence has been a bigger hindrance to performance than physical injuries, but this is something that I have worked on.
How has your attitude towards competition changed?
My attitude to competing has definitely changed as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gone from being worried about losing and thinking about what my coach would say to me, to now focusing on what I’m doing well in each match and focusing on my actoins rather than trying to win. I don’t make excuses for losing any more.
Do you have any advice for people trying competitive sport for the first time?
Try your best to concentrate on the things you’re doing well in your sport and be proud of yourself for the small achievements. Remember that you can still succeed without winning. Also don’t put too much pressure on yourself otherwise you’ll lose all the fun.
Lauren Oakman interviewed by Anna Doughty