Introducing Casey Jones! This inspirational youth athlete is a national fencer. We caught up with parent Christelle and Casey to dig into the tactics, techniques and mindset. Hopefully, he will inspire many others to pursue their dreams of rising to the top.
First we spoke to parent Christelle,
YSN: What are the challenges faced in supporting your teenager?
Christelle: Competing on the national and international circuit can be very expensive and nearly impossible for most parents. Fencing is one of the few sports currently no longer in receipt of National Lottery funding, and the little funding that are available, is not available to anyone not fencing on the Adult or Veteran circuit. It is therefore a constant battle to work out how to get them where they need to be and how to afford it. There are currently no sponsorship available for young athletes as its hard to find a product that will be beneficial to young kids, without breaching ethics or promoting something unhealthy.
YSN: How to you cater for their nutrition?
Christelle: This can be a hard one as he is a very fussy eater. I try focus on cooking healthy meals that provides everything a teenager needs who are still growing and developing. However when they take part in a sport that burns a lot of more energy in 90 min than most adults burn over a 3 hour period in the gym, you have to find food that provides energy and encourage growth. I try to always have a lot of fruit and nuts available for snacks.
YSN: How many hours a week do you devote to supporting your teenagers sporting career?
Christelle: Roughly 10 hours a week not including travel. Most matches are in city’s like Manchester, Newcastle, Northampton, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Durham, Canterbury. This does not include travelling to Poland, Sweden, Iceland, Hungary and France which are the regular Internationals. Its not just the getting him there and back, but the travel plans, searching for cheap deals and actual planning. I think I have earned my stripes in Travel Planning.
YSN: What is your proudest sporting moment?
Christelle: My proudest sporting moment was when he was selected to represent Wales at Challenge Wratislavia in Wroclow in Poland.This is one of the biggest Youth International Fencing events in the world. I was equally proud when he got up on the podium to take his Gold Medal from the Mayor of Nuremburg in Germany after becoming the Bavarian Youth Champion.
YSN: When did you first hear of Youth Sport Nutrition?
Christelle: I first heard of YSN after searching for months online looking for something that was age appropriate as there does not seem to be a market for young athletes. Certainly not under 15. I was not looking for something that could be added to his daily food intake, but something that he could drink/eat that will tie him over in the period between school and training. At his age, he knows the healthy choices but don’t always make them as he claims there is no time, or I forgot. Boys are quick to grab junk food as its easy and quick to eat. However this provides no nutritional value and often mid way through training they have a total energy crash. This product fits in perfectly with his routine. He has access to milk and water at school, simply add what he would like on the day to his bottle, shake it and drink it whilest we travel to training.
YSN: What are your objective thoughts on Youth Sport Nutrition designing PRO-TEEN®?
Christelle: So far I have been very happy. I have a very fussy eater, and struggle to get him to eat on any given day. We have the strawberry shake and he loves it. It is designed not just for young elite athletes, but for young growing teenagers. It’s the perfect on the go nutrition.
YSN: When did you start using PRO-TEEN®?
Christelle: We started using this about 2 months ago and still going strong! Blending fruit into it, turns it into a super smoothy and its gone in seconds.
YSN: How has PRO-TEEN® and / or YSN helped your situation?
Christelle: I think it has been a godsend. Not just to help him tie over the initial gap between school and sport, but also helped avoiding the stress of rushing out of the office, trying to pick him up, get him to eat on public transport which is less than ideal, and then getting him to training etc. Some kids walk around with their bag of crisps and sweets in their book bag, ready for the afternoon. He has his YSN sports bottle, measured amount he needs, ready to add water or milk.
Next we had a chat with Casey,
YSN: How did you get into your first sport, and how old were you?
Casey: I was about 7 when I went on a playdate with my friend and his mom forgot that he had fencing. I just tagged along and as I was just sitting on the side watching, when the coach said I could join in for a bit. It was amazing and so much fun. The best thing about it was we got to hit each other with swords without getting into trouble. There is no better sport than fencing.
YSN: Did you have any key idols or role models that you looked up to and wanted to replicate, and if so, why?
Casey: My role model and fencing hero is Paolo Pizzo. He is a two time World Champion Epeeist, and bronze medal winner at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He always works hard and defeat is not an option. He believes in the future of our sport and the future of young athletes. I was lucky enough to go train with him for a week in Italy last year and would like to do the same again this year. My other role model is Park SangYoung from Korea who won Gold at the Rio Olympics. He was losing by 5 points and told himself to never give up. Not only did he catch up but he won the Gold. Its never over until the clock runs out.
YSN: Let downs and injury are a common feature of being a professional athlete, can you tell us how you motivate yourself and what keeps you going through major incidents or tough circumstances?
Casey: I have been lucky to not have had any big injuries, but I have had plenty of setbacks as all athletes do. Sometimes I try my hardest but someone else was just better, more focused or tried harder that day. This is a big lesson in life and sometimes failure can be hard to process, but I have a very supportive circle of friends and we are lucky to all motivate and support each other, even if we become competitors on the piste.
YSN: What advice would you offer to youth athletes facing similar obstacles? What tools, tactics or strategies do you use to combat adversity? Any recommendations?
Casey: I don’t think I have any tools or tactics for combating adversity. I think life has a lot of setbacks but also a lot of triumphs. I try to focus on what I have and can do rather than what I don’t have and so far this has worked for me. My mom taught me the 5 P’s. Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. I just need to learn to apply it in a school a bit more.
YSN: As a very successful youth athlete, how often do you train, and how has this changed depending on your sport?
Casey: I roughly train twice a week at Leon Paul Fencing Centre for around 2 hours a session. I also go running and swimming as I have free access to gyms around the country as part of my Greenwich Leisure Limited Sporting Achievement Award. During half term I attend fencing camps both in the UK and in Europe. A camp is normally a week long, hosted by current Olympians and we do many hours of fitness training, foot work and sparring.
YSN: What does it feel like to win competitions? Describe the emotion and senses involved during and afterwards.
Casey: Just like any other athlete it feels good to win, it feels like your hard work finally paid off. When I won the Bavarian Youth Championship in Nuremburg in Germany I was very nervous to go on the podium. I was very happy that I won and very exited, but also nervous. It was very different from in the UK. They played ceremonial music and did not speak much English until they awarded the Gold medal and then switched to English. I was even more nervous when I found out that I would have to meet the Mayor and was kind of happy when it was all over. When I went to go sit outside I cried because I only just realized that I am going back to England with the Gold Medal and the German title. I showed it to everyone on Ryan Air.
YSN: What are your future aspirations?
Casey: I would like to represent Wales and earn a podium place for them at the Youth 5 Nations Cup and the Common Wealth Games. It would also be so amazing if I could qualify for the Olympic Games one day.
YSN: What is your favorite quote or inspirational quote?
Casey: My favorite quote is from Muhammad Ali and if you meet me you will see why,
“float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”
I am often under estimated because I am small. Small means fast, so watch out, Im coming for you.
YSN: What does your ‘internal chatter’ look/sound like in the run up to your event time? What strategies do you use to calm nerves and remain focused?
Casey: This is a very interesting question. I have a lot of internal chatter as I talk to myself to remind myself to stay focused. I tell myself “you can do it” and “one more point” a lot. This is what Park Sang-Young said to himself during his 1 minute break when he was losing 14/10 against Geza Imre from Hungary, fencing for the Gold at the Rio Olympics. In two minutes he made up 5 points to beat Geza when all Geza needed was one point for Victory. I will never forget this. My internal chatter stays with me the whole match, mainly I think because I have ADHD and I use it to keep my mind focused on what I need to do. With fencing you need to think tactics, strategy and speed and you need to change it very quickly as your opponent does not always do what you think they will do.
YSN: What advice would you offer to Parents of youth athletes regarding their training, the pressure to perform (academic and sporting) and catering for nutrition?
Casey: The only advice I can give is to always keep encouraging us. I know we tell you to stop cheering, and not clap so loud as its embarrassing, but we don’t really mean it. This is what drives us. Your voice, not just the coach. I can hear my moms voice encouraging me even if there are a thousand people shouting.
YSN: Any tips for balancing training, academic studies, competitions/games and a social life?
Casey: For this I have no advice really as its still hard sometimes. I do sometimes miss a party or a movie night out with my friends, but some of them knows my schedule and plan it so I can go with. I am lucky to have a super organised mom who draws up time tables. As long as I know where the time table is, I know I will be ok. I spend most weekends at competitions and I really love it. Its almost like having my own family and my fencing family. At my club we even have a homework room as school is very important. Jon from Leon Paul once said I have this job because I studied hard at university and not because I was World Champion, so I have to balance things. My mom however always makes sure I have time for Fortnite and when I’m not fencing I get to choose how I want to spend my downtime.
YSN: When did you first hear of Youth Sport Nutrition?
Casey: I first heard about it when my mom showed me how this can help me not get so hungry before fencing as there is not a lot of time between school and training. If I eat to much I feel sick during training, but when I have this I feel full, I have energy and I can focus.
YSN: How do you cater for your sports nutrition? How has this changed since working with YSN?
Casey: I no longer grab a bag of crisps and biscuits before fencing. I drink my shake, grab some grapes and train. It helps me focus to because the natural thing for me to want to do is eat sweets for energy which is the worst thing I can do.