FM Fencing Club



From "www.dominionfencing.org":


What follows are a list of questions most frequently asked of Division Officers in the USFA. The answers are current as of the Spring of 2004. As always, the USFA Operations Manual, Rule Book, and qualification paths put out by the USFA are the final say in any question. These answer are presented here in an easy to find format. The original document was authored by Mary Anne Walker, past president of the Capitol Division of the USFA.

 

My son or daughter wants to compete, what do they need?

My son or daughter is under 12. What do they need to compete?

What is FIE equipment? Does my fencer need it to compete?

What Kind of Tournaments are there?

What Are Classifications and How Does One Get Them?

What does "Division" mean?

What do Division Officers do?

How does one qualify for National or Regional tournaments?

My child cannot compete in the qualifier event, but they'd still like to fence at Nationals, can we petition?

What are Regional Youth Circuit events?

What is the bout committee at a tournament, and what do they do?

What is the standard format for a competition?

What is repechage?

What should parents know about bouts?

What is the role of the referee?

The referee is terrible/is cheating/is making mistakes; what can we do?

Another parent or coach is being disruptive; what can we do?

My child just fenced, and they are telling him he has to fence again immediately. Doesn't he get a break?

My son's or daughter's equipment is not working. How do I fix it?

What is the role of the coach at a competition?

I am not happy with my coach/club, can I switch?

What is the role of the parent at a competition?

What about fencing in college?

Why should we join the USFA?

What about summer camps?

Approximate dates for important events

Resources on the web

 

My son or daughter wants to compete. What do they need?

Fencing has a reputation as an expensive sport. However, with some thoughtful shopping, the amount of equipment a fencer needs to compete at local tournaments is really quite modest. The first thing an competitive fencer needs is a membership in the United States Fencing Association. This is the fencer's "license" to fence. Proof of USFA membership is required to be shown for registering for any local tournament run by the Division or Section. If your child is fencing in a club run tournament, USFA membership may not be necessary.

Membership forms are available at most competitions (if the competition is sponsored by the Division) and the fencer can join the USFA at the tournament. A parent or legal guardian must be available to sign the waiver, if the fencer is not 18 years of age, or older.

With that said, the things a fencer MUST have with them AT THE STRIP during a tournament (these are minimum requirements):

 

  1. A clean jacket in good repair (For National tournaments, the jacket, lame, or knickers MUST display the last name of the fencer).
  2. A mask free from rips, tears, holes, or dents.
  3. A glove.
  4. Fencing knickers (sweat pants, warm-up pants, jeans are NOT acceptable).The jacket must overlap these knickers by 10 cm.
  5. An underarm protector (sometimes called a plastron).
  6. Tall socks that overlap with the bottom of the knickers.
  7. Shoes (do not have to be fencing shoes, but some sort of athletic shoes.
  8. At LEAST two body cords.
  9. At LEAST two working weapons.
  10. For foil and saber: a lame in working order (the metal jacket that goes over the fabric jacket).
  11. For saber: a metallic over-glove (sometimes this is built in to the regular glove).
  12. For saber: at LEAST two working mask cords.

 

Things a fencer SHOULD have with them at a tournament, probably somewhere near the strip:

 

  1. bottle of water or some type of Gatorade-like drink.
  2. a towel for sweat.
  3. some sort of warm-up suit or track suit or sweats, esp. at National events, which are generally in very air-conditioned buildings.
  4. light, healthy snacks.
  5. tightening tools for their weapons (outside hex wrench, allen key or inside hex wrench, or flathead screwdriver, generally. Ask an experienced fencer or a coach to show you what this tool looks like.) Sometimes grips get loose and need to be tightened during a bout. Time and focus gets lost when trying to scramble to borrow one in the middle of a bout.
  6. a note pad for keeping track of their bouts and the bout scores; a writing utensil to go with it.
  7. a book or game or something to do between rounds.

Things a parent should have:

  1. one of those cheap, collapsible camping chairs (real chairs are often valuable commodities).
  2. something to read….there’s a lot of "hurry up and wait" that happens at tournaments, even the best run ones.
  3. something to eat.
  4. something to drink.
  5. patience, enthusiasm, and a generally positive attitude.

 

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My son or daughter is under 12. What do they need to compete?

The requirements for very young fencers are the same as for their older counterparts (as listed above) except that fencers under the age of 10 are required to fence with blades sized "2" or shorter.

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What is FIE equipment? Does my fencer need it to compete?

When fencers speak of "FIE equipment" or simply say "FIE" they are speaking about equipment that has been certified by the Federation International d'Escrime, the world governing body of fencing. While ALL fencing equipment must meet certain standards of safety, FIE equipment has been certified by the Federation to meet very exact standards. Uniforms and masks are reinforced with materials very resistant to puncturing (usually a strong ballistic nylon or kevlar), masks are reinforced and have very strong bibs, and blades are treated and processed so that they will flex a large number of times before breaking.

None of this equipment will guarantee absolute safety on the strip. However, many fencers swear by this equipment and will use no other. FIE equipment, however, comes with a significant price tag. A full FIE uniform complete with mask can cost upwards of $1000 dollars (US) and FIE blades often run in 90-100 dollar (US) price range.

FIE equipment is required only for domestic and international World Cups and some tournaments in Canada. It is not required for any domestic United States competitions.

With all that being said, many people feel that they should pay for the best protection available. If your son or daughter is just beginning in the sport, we would recommend NOT buying FIE equipment until you are certain that your child will continue. If you are to buy anything certified by the FIE, start with purchasing an FIE mask.

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What Kind of Tournaments are there?

There are a wide variety of tournaments in the local fencing area (the "Division"). They vary in size, strength, and restrictions on who can enter. Some local tournaments are restricted by classification. Some tournaments may only be for one of the three (foil, epee, saber) weapons, and may be restricted by gender or age group.

The local division newsletter or web page will list a schedule, usually in the fall, for the tournaments for that "season" (August to July).

Your child's first tournaments should be age or classification restricted. Many areas have "novice" or beginner tournaments for those fencers who have not been fencing very long, or have yet to earn their first classification.

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What Are Classifications and How Does One Get Them?

"Classifications" (often called "ratings") are loosely equivalent to the belt system one might find in karate or some other martial art. There are six levels of classification: U (or un-rated), E (the lowest earned classification), D, C, B, and the strongest, A (roughly equivalent to a black belt). The classifications are really just a rough guide to help tournament organizers sort competitors into pools, and to help the national office ensure national competitions are an appropriate strength. The classifications are not intended to be an indicator of knowledge or skill. Some great coaches and referees have never had a classification, or never earned a particularly strong classification; it doesn't mean they have any less to offer. Junior fencers and novice fencers often fail to grasp this point, and spend a great deal of time trying to acquire a classification, rather than improve their overall fencing skills.

Earning classification comes by doing well at tournaments that meet certain standards that attempt to describe how strong the field is. Is a significant portion of the field of competitors equivalent to the University of Connecticut in basketball? Then the tournament has a higher strength, and more classifications and higher classifications will be awarded to the top finishers. Is it a really big field of competitors, but none of them have been fencing longer than a month? Then the number and strength of the competition will be lower.

For a more exact breakdown of what determines the strength of tournaments and the classifications awarded go to the following URL to see the classification chart:

Ask Fred Classification Chart

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What does "Division" mean?

"Division" is used in two ways in American fencing. In one usage, it is a geographic/administrative region in which your child fences, for example, the Capitol Division is the District of Columbia, Prince George's County, and Montgomery County. Maryland Division is all of the state of Maryland except for Montgomery and Prince George's County. Virginia Division is the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. Some divisions, because of the number of fencers locally, may be defined as a city, for example Philadelphia is a division in and of itself.

"Division" in the other usage refers to a hierarchy of tournaments and skill sets. In this use, it is roughly a categorization of the skills of the competitors. There are four of these types of divisions: Division 1, Division 1A, Division 2, and Division 3. These divisions are related to classifications. Division 1 is the strongest and is intended to roughly correspond to fencers with an A classification, along with some strong B level fencers. Division 1A is generally intended to roughly correspond to fencers with A or B classifications and some with C level fencers. Division 2 events do not allow A or B fencers to compete, only unclassified fencers or fencers with C, D, or E classifications are allowed to participate. This makes the competition less strong than Division 1A. Division 3 events do not allow fencers with A, B, or C classifications to compete. Only fencers with a D or E classifications, or unclassified fencers may fence in Division 3. This makes the competition less strong than in Division 2.

Definitions of classifications (or ratings, as they are often described) and how one obtains them is explained under "What are Classifications and How Does One Earn Them?"

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What do Division officers do?

Division officers are responsible promoting fencing, and administering to local fencers. At a minimum, they, as a group, are responsible for organizing qualifying tournaments for national events. Generally, they set the competition schedule for the local area, and often hire officials. A Division may organize some events, and leave other events up to the individual clubs. The Division (through the Division Officers) are the ones responsible for making sure classification changes and the names of qualifying fencers get submitted to the National Office. A Division Officer is often the first person to turn to in the case of appeals and questions about US Fencing policies. Division officers may not have the answer for you, but should be able to direct you to where you can find the answer. Different divisions have different expectations of what other responsibilities the officers should do. Bear in mind that all division officers are volunteers; most also work full-time jobs or are full-time students, in addition to often being athletes and/or referees.

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How does one qualify for National or Regional tournaments?

Generally, qualifying to a national event involves fencing in one or two specific events. Qualification is through a variety of methods or "paths". These paths can be very confusing. Essentially a qualification path consists of placing in a qualifying tournament at a local or regional level, or achieving consistent results at National tournaments which earn national points.

If your child has obtained a place on one of the national rolling points standings lists, he or she may be an automatic qualifier to a variety of events, which may allow he or see to skip some local or regional qualifying events (you see what we mean?). Gaining a place on one of the rolling points standings lists involves competing at designated national-level competitions. This information is available on the Web inside of the Athlete Handbook, available at:

http://www.usfencing.org/content/index/3812

What follows below is an outline of the qualifying paths for various National events. Participation in any of these events listed below require a full competitive USFA membership. Your membership will have to say "Competitive" (e.g. "Senior Competitive") to fence in a USFA tournament.)

To fence in:

Junior Olympics - the child must meet the age criteria for the Under-20 event and/or Under 17 event and must place sufficiently high enough in the Division-sponsored Junior Olympic Qualifying event.

Junior Sectionals - the child must meet the age criteria and must be a member of a division within the section he or she wishes to fence in. For fencers in Maryland and DC, the child must first fence in the Division-sponsored Junior Sectional Qualifying event (it doesn't matter where they place in this event, they must only participate and not get ejected from the event), then they must fence in, and place high enough, at the Junior Sectional event. For VA Division fencers, there is no qualifying event to Junior Sectionals, any fencer in the correct age range may enter. If a child places sufficiently high enough at Junior Sectionals, he or she is eligible to fence in the U-19 event at Summer Nationals.

Senior Sectionals - the child must meet the minimum age criteria for competing and be a member of a division within the section he or she wishes to fence in. For fencers in Maryland and DC, the child must first fence in the Division-sponsored Senior Sectional Qualifying event (it doesn't matter where they place in this event, they must only participate and not get ejected from the event). This event is also referred to in DC as the Divisional Championships. Then they must fence in, and place high enough, at the Senior Sectional event. For VA Division fencers, there is no qualifying event to Senior Sectionals; any fencer who meets the minimum age requirement may enter. If a child places sufficiently high enough at Senior Sectionals, he or she is eligible to fence in the Division 1A event at Summer Nationals.

Junior Team (Summer Nationals) - Clubs must qualify a team. These teams qualify at a Division-sponsored event, usually held in conjunction with another qualifier event. Team members who compete at the National tournament will be chosen by the owner or head coach of the club. The members who fence at the National event may or may not be the same individuals who competed in the qualifier tournament.

Senior/Open Team (Summer Nationals) - Clubs must qualify a team. These teams qualify at a Division-sponsored event, usually held in conjunction with another qualifier event. Team members who compete at the National tournament will be chosen by the owner or head coach of the club. The members who fence at the National event may or may not be the same individuals who competed in the qualifier.

Division 1A - to fence this event at Summer Nationals, the fencer must meet the minimum age requirement of 13 years. They must compete in the Division-sponsored Sectional Qualifying event (if a member of the Capitol or Maryland Divisions) and then compete again in the Senior Sectional Championship. At the Sectional Championship, the fencer must place in the top portion of the event, or win the U19 Sectional qualifier, if the fencer is eligible for that age-restricted tournament.

Recently, US Fencing has added Regional Open Circuits to the qualifying path for Division IA. Placing in the top ten percent (minimum of four) of this tournament qualifies the fencer for the Division IA National Championship.

Division II Summer Nationals – Fencers must meet the minimum age requirement. They must then fence in the Division-sponsored qualifier, and place high enough. If they do so, they are eligible to fence at Summer Nationals in this event. They must be unclassified, or have an E, D, or C classification. Fencers with A or B classifications are not eligible to compete in this event, or in the associated qualifier.

Division II North American Cup (NAC) - Fencers must meet the minimum age requirement. They must be unclassified, or have an E, D, or C classification. Fencers with A or B classifications are not eligible to compete in this event. There are no qualifying competitions that must be competed in prior to registering for this event.

Veteran North American Cup (NAC) - There are four categories of Veteran events: Veteran 40, Veteran 50, Veteran 60, and Veteran Combined (all veterans). The only requirement to fence a NAC is meeting the age requirements for a particular event. To fence the Summer Nationals in a Veteran category, the fencer must have fenced in a Veteran NAC that season, or qualify by fencing (but not necessary placing) in the Division 2/3 qualifier, or at their Sectional Championships.

Division III (Summer Nationals)s - Fencers must meet the minimum age requirement. They must then fence in the Division-sponsored qualifier, and place high enough. If they do so, they are eligible to fence at Summer Nationals in this event. They must be unclassified, or have an E or D classification. Fencers with A, B, or C classifications are not eligible to compete in this event, or in the associated qualifier.

Division III North American Cup (NAC) - Fencers must meet the minimum age requirement. They must be unclassified, or have an E or D classification. Fencers with A, B, or C classifications are not eligible to compete in this event. There are no qualifying competitions that must be competed in prior to registering for this event.

Under-19 Summer Nationals - the child must meet the age criteria and must be a member of a division within the section he or she wishes to fence in. For fencers in Maryland and DC, the child must first fence in the Division-sponsored Junior Sectional Qualifying event (it doesn't matter where they place in this event, they must only participate and not get ejected from the event), then they must fence in, and place high enough, at the Junior Sectional event. For VA Division fencers, there is no qualifying event to Junior Sectionals, any fencer in the correct age range may enter. If a child places sufficiently high enough at Junior Sectionals, he or she is eligible to fence in the U-19 event at Summer Nationals.

Junior NAC - Other than meeting the age requirement for the tournament, there is no qualifying path to these events, usually held twice a year. They are only restricted by minimum and maximum ages.

Under-16 Summer Nationals – The child must meet the age criteria and must be a member of the division through which he or she wishes to qualify. The child must fence in the Division-sponsored U16 qualifier. If he or she places high enough, then the child is eligible to fence in the Summer Nationals in this category.

Cadet North American Cup (NAC)- Other than meeting the age requirement for the tournament, there is no qualifying path to these events, usually held twice a year. They are only restricted by minimum and maximum ages.

Youth-14 Summer Nationals - The child must meet the age criteria and must be a member of the division through which he or she wishes to qualify. The child must fence in the Division-sponsored U16 qualifier. If he or she places high enough, then the child is eligible to fence in the Summer Nationals in this category.

Youth-14 NAC- (information forthcoming)

Youth-12 Summer Nationals – Any fencer who competed at any Regional or Super Regional Youth Circuit competition in that fencing season in that age category and weapon.

Youth-10 Summer Nationals - Any fencer who competed at any Regional or Super Regional Youth Circuit competition in that fencing season in that age category and weapon.

Regional Youth Circuit events - Other than meeting the age requirement for the tournament, there is no qualifying path to these events, usually held twice a year. They are only restricted by minimum and maximum ages.

Super Youth Circuits - The USFA provides a series of youth tournaments for the Y14, Y12, and Y10 age categories to provide more competitive opportunities for younger fencers. Super Youth Circuit (SYC) events allow athletes a chance to earn national points. Fencers may participate in more than one SYC tournament, however, only the competition where the fencer earns the most points will be included in the point standings. These events are part of the qualification paths for both Summer Nationals and Youth 10 and 12 events at North American Cups.

For more information about youth fencing:

http://usfencing.org/about-tournaments/youth

Wheelchair Summer Nationals - Any fencer who is eligible to represent the United States at the Para-Olympic Games.

Wheelchair NAC - Any fencer who is eligible to represent the United States at the Para-Olympic Games.

Division 1 National Championships – The ways to qualify for Division 1 National Championships:

  •  
    • All fencers on the National Senior NRPS (National Rolling Point Standings).
    • The top eight on the National Junior NRPS on March 1, of that year.
    • The top four on the National Cadet NRPS on March 1, of that year.
    • The top eight finishers in the previous years Division I-A Individual National Championships.
    • The top four finishers in the previous years Division II Individual National Championships

Division 1 Team - (The criteria for this event has changed and will be updated) Team members who compete at the National tournament will be chosen by the owner or head coach of the club. The members who fence at the National event may or may not be the same individuals who competed in the qualifier tournament.

Division 1 NAC – The fencer must have an A, B, or C classification, and meet the minimum age. Other than that, there are no qualification requirements.

World Cups – Generally, unless your child is on a Rolling Point Standings list in that age category, your child will not be eligible for these, at which point, permission from the USFA National Office will be required before your child will be allowed to compete. Permission is easier to obtain for World Cups held in this country than for those in other countries.

Olympics – Very long and complicated process, boiling down to this: If your child is not qualified for Division 1 Nationals, then they are not eligible for the Olympic qualifying process.

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My child can’t compete in the qualifier event, but they’d still like to fence at Nationals, can we petition?

Generally, yes, for a non-refundable fee.

If your child wants to fence at Sectionals to try to qualify for Nationals, but missed the Sectional qualifier, they need to contact the Section chair for the forms, the amount of the fee required, and the address to which the petition should be sent.

If it’s an event where the qualification path is directly from a Division-sponsored event, contact the USFA national office for that information.

For petitions to the USFA, a letter is often required from a Division officer. The best thing to do, in that case, is to draft a letter citing your child’s reason for missing the qualifier and citing some of their best past results. Give that draft letter to the Division officer for them to edit, sign, and submit, and the chances that they will get it in to the National Office in a timely fashion are vastly increased.

Petitions usually need to be submitted within a couple of days of the qualifying event, so it is important to take action on this as soon as possible.

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What are Regional Youth Circuit events?

These events are to provide greater competitive experience for younger fencers at larger tournaments than they would most likely be able to participate in locally, without the same overwhelming scale and cost of national events. These events are intended to be an important developmental step for young fencers to gain experience, first locally, then at RYCs, then at national events.

More information can be found at:

http://usfencing.org/about-tournaments/youth

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What is the bout committee at a tournament, and what do they do?

The bout committee is the organizer of a competition. The committee (even if that is one person) is responsible for registering the competitors, arranging the fencers in the format of the competition, and conducting the competition until all final places have been fenced for.

The bout committee is also the last "court of appeal" for any infractions committed by fencers or spectators at the tournament. Even so, they have limited power to overturn the decision of a referee.

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What is the standard format for a competition?

Formats may vary, depending on what the organizers have decided will be most appropriate for the event. Generally, however, the following format is observed:

The entire field of fencers who have entered a tournament are divided into groups, called "pools." Pools are balanced as much as possible in strength of competitors (that's where classifications come in) by the bout committee – the organizers of the tournament. The first pool and the last pool, in theory, should be about the same level of difficulty, with some variation. If you want to know the finer points of how seeding works, the Operations Manual explains it in greater detail. Or you can volunteer to learn to meet manage, and learn all about it.

Pool size varies between 5 and 7 fencers per pool, depending on the size of the field. Each fencer fences all of the other members of the pool. The bouts last a maximum of three minutes (start-and-stop time, not continuous time), or until one fencer scores 5 points. If time runs out, and the score is tied, the referee will flip a coin or otherwise randomly select one fencer to have "priority". One minute of overtime is added to the clock and the fencers fence one minute of "sudden-death" overtime. If one fencer scores a point, he or she wins the bout. If time elapses, and no point has been scored, the fencer with priority, as randomly determined at the beginning of the one minute, is given the victory.

Once all of the bouts in the pool have been completed, the referee counts up all of scores. The referee lists the number of victories each fencer has earned, the number of points each fencer has scored in all of his or her bouts combined, the number of points that were scored against each fencer in all of his or her bouts combined. The final calculation that the referee determines is the differential between points scored by and against each fencer. This is the number of touches scored by Jane Doe minus the touches scored on her by everyone else. This last number may be a positive or negative number, depending on whether Jane scored against people more times than her opponents scored against her. These sets of numbers collectively are often referred to as indicators, although really, the differential is technically the only part called indicators.

These sets of numbers are used to determine the "seeding" of fencers into the Direct Elimination (DE) table (also referred to as the bracket or tableau). The DE table is very similar to the brackets used to show the progress of basketball teams throughout the course of March Madness. Fencers with the highest percentage of victories are seeded highest. It is important to note that it is the percentage of victories used, not the actual number of victories. The win-loss percentage is calculated by dividing the number of victories earned by a fencer, divided by the number of bouts he or she fenced.

If fencers are tied, based on their percentage of victories, the tie is broken based on the "indicators" or differential between the number of touches scored and touches received for each fencer. A more positive number means a higher seed.

If fencers are tied on percentage of victories and on indicators, the tie is then broken by whomever has the highest number of points scored. If there is still a tie after this point, the fencers are considered tied for that placing.

Once the seeding has been completed, and the bout committee has arranged the fencers on the DE table, the next round of fencing will commence.

DE bout lasts for three three-minute periods, with a one minute break in between the first and second periods. If one fencer reaches 15 points, that is also the end of the bout. Sometimes bouts end because time has elapsed, but more often they expire because the score has reached 15. If all three periods expire, and the score is tied, then the same overtime procedure takes place as was described above.

In a standard DE table, if a fencer has lost, they are "out" of the competition. If they win, they advance to the next round of DE bouts, until eventually a winner is reached through this process of elimination.

For certain National events, there is a slight variation on this format, called repechage, which is a type of double elimination system with 15-touch bouts. This will be explained later.

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What is repechage?

Repechage is a special kind of format for the elimination rounds of a tournament. Check with the tournament committee to find out if it applies. Essentially, it means that, once a certain point in the tournament has been reached (the field has been whittled down to 32 fencers, or another power of 2), fencers get a second chance if they lose one bout. If they win, they advance, just as in a regular format. If they lose one bout, they get to keep fencing until they lose a second bout or win the entire competition. When fencing a competition with a repechage format, it is absolutely essential to pay attention to the referees and the bout committee announcements, in order to make sure your child is at the correct strip when their next bout is called.

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What should parents know about bouts?

During the one-minute breaks in DE bouts, only one person is allowed to approach the fencer. Usually, that is the child's coach or a knowledgeable team-mate who can give advice, in which case a water bottle and possibly a sweat-towel should be very near the strip where the fencer can reach it without leaving the strip.

Coaching from the side lines, while not necessarily encouraged, is permissible, so long as the referee does not deem it disruptive.

Parents may cheer, so long as the referee does not deem it disruptive. It is safest to cheer only after a touch has been scored, not while fencing is actively going on. Needless to say, it is never appropriate to boo the opposing fencer, or make comments concerning their fencing or conduct.

Some children like having their parents audibly engaged, but some children fare better when their parents hang back and watch from a distance. Find out which helps your child more.

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What is the role of the referee?

The referee’s main objective is to facilitate the bout. They start and stop the bout, and, in the priority weapons (foil and saber) determine – under the rules – the priority of the attack and the awarding of the touch. In epee they award the touch, or touches, if both fencers are scored against.

They are empowered to penalize anything that impedes the smooth running of the bout over which they are presiding. If something interferes with that, then they can award penalty cards to the fencers or to spectators (and anyone who is not officiating or competing at that moment is a spectator, including coaches). The best referee is often the one least remembered at the end of the day. The fencer is well within his or her rights to ask the referee to clarify the situation, so long as they do so politely. The referee is obligated to treat the fencers equitably and politely. The referee is not a coach, however, and is not obligated to explain (particularly in foil and saber) why that was one person’s attack rather than the other person’s parry-riposte. It is the job of the fencer and the coach to know or discover that. Frequently, though, if the official has time after the pool or the bout, and if the fencer has been polite, officials can be asked for greater clarification of why they were making a call in a certain way.

Referees are often retired fencers or coaches who continue to volunteer for the sport that they love. Please remember that the best referees in the world are often paid less than the wage of a good dishwasher at a high end restaurant, and are not fed as well. They do make mistakes, sometimes glaring ones, but like in any sport, the officiating is part of the playing field.

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The referee is terrible/is cheating/is making mistakes; what can we do?

Technically, the only person allowed to address the referee are the competitors. Coaches and parents are not entitled to explanations or responses during a bout.

There are two kinds of calls that a referee can make. One type of call is a "matter of fact." Calls that are considered to be purely factual are items such as: Was that a parry or a beat? Was the fencer on or off the strip? Was that an attack or a counterattack? If the referee appears to be making these kinds of errors, there is no way to appeal those calls. They are a matter of the referee's judgment and perception. If a fencer feels strongly that the referee is making incorrect calls, the only recourse that a fencer has is to ask (or have mom, dad,or the coach ask) the bout committee to have the referee observed by another official, if one is available. (at national tournaments, the observer is usually a member of the Fencing Officials Commission). If the referee is deemed to be making mistakes, they will most likely be removed at the end of the pool or the round of DEs. It is possible, although unlikely, that they will be removed at the end of the bout. It is against the rules to replace a referee in the middle of a bout unless that referee is injured or indisposed.

The other type of call a referee makes is a "matter of application," that is a matter of how a rule is being applied. If the referee incorrectly applies a rule, then that can be appealed. If, for example, a referee penalized a fencer with a black card (expulsion from the tournament) for failing to have a second weapon present with them at the strip at the beginning of a bout, that can be appealed. If a fencer retreats off the end of the strip and the referee acknowledges the fencer did so, but does not award a point to the opposing fencer and return the fencers to the starting lines, the fencer (and only the fencer) can appeal.

If a fencer wishes to appeal an application of the rules, he or she needs to tell the referee that they would like a bout committee to be called to rule on the matter. It is important that the fencer be certain that he or she is right, because the fencer may be penalized if the referee's call is upheld. Every fencer has the right to call for a Bout Committee ruling on the application of the rules, but the Bout Committee cannot rule on calls of fact, and a request from a fencer on a matter of fact call will result in further penalties for the fencer without an appeal to the Bout Committee.

It is worth noting that in all of these instances, it behooves the fencers and parents to be polite, because you never know when you will see these people again, and referees have long memories for the people who are impolite.

It is also important to note that any requests for a bout committee or any questions about a bout MUST be resolved during the bout. Once a fencer has un-hooked from the scoring equipment, or signed the score sheet, the bout is over and no appeals or protests may be filed.

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Another parent or coach is being disruptive; what can we do?

"That coach is screaming at people and using foul language and insinuating that there is cheating going on!" Okay, that may be a little extreme, but...Generally, it is up to the referees to maintain order and decorum around them. The tournament, or bout committee also has the power, though, to enforce it as well. The key is that a member of the tournament committee or the referee sees the disruptive activity. If an official sees activity going on that is unsportsmanlike or that disrupts the smooth flow of the competition, the offender can be awarded warning (a yellow card) or excluded from the tournament immediately (a black card). These cards do NOT have any bearing on the fencers who are students/children of the offender. A yellow card to a spectator is the official's way of saying, "You're pushing the limits of acceptable behavior; knock it off." A black card means that the recipient MUST leave the venue immediately, and remain away for the rest of the day. Most frequently, a card is given to a coach who is engaging in a confrontation with a referee. If you see something that you think is really over the top, point it out to a referee or a member of the tournament committee.

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My child just fenced, and they are telling him he has to fence again immediately. Doesn't he get a break?

A fencer is entitled to a three-minute break between pool bouts and a ten-minute break between DE bouts. If that much time has not yet elapsed, politely point it out, because the officials may not be aware that your child has just fenced. At local tournaments, this rule is often "bent" in order to finish tournaments in a timely manner, and the bout committee will always appreciate those fencers who can be flexible.

Please note that if your child is fencing multiple weapons, no break is required between bouts of two different weapons, and if bouts in a pool have been skipped to allow your child to fence another weapon on another strip, the child is assumed to have waived his or her right to a 3 minute break between bouts.

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My son’s or daughter’s equipment is not working. How do I fix it?

Fencing equipment is relatively simple to repair, fix, or replace. The fencer’s equipment has not changed much since the 1930’s and a few simple tools and some know-how is sufficient for any repairs a fencer might need to make. However, with that said, there is not enough room to describe all the repair procedures here. We recommend Rudy Volkman’s Electrical Fencing Equipment: How it Works, What Goes wrong, how to fix It. As an easy manual on electrical gear. It is available for $10 mail order, and often clubs have a copy lying around. The manual covers repairs to all three weapons.

At larger tournaments, the tournament armourers may repair equipment after the initial technical inspections of the morning are through. They are always happy to help, and will charge a reasonable fee to diagnose and repair equipment.

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What is the role of the coach at a competition?

It is the coach’s job to prepare his or her athletes for competition, mentally and physically. The coach is the one to whom parents should address questions and concerns about whether a child should stick with fencing a type of weapon or should change, about which events a child should enter, and the like. Concerns about whether your child is progressing "normally" is another topic to be discussed with a coach, especially because each child is going to have different rates of development, and you and the coach are in the best position to ascertain this.

At the competition, the coach has the least effect on the outcome. If the child has not been training regularly for several months before a big event, it will be difficult for the fencer to have a good result.

Remember that large clubs often send many fencers to a competition, and the coach will not be able to be by the side of the strip for every bout. Make sure, before going to a tournament, that you and the coach have an understanding of what his or her role will be at the tournament and how much time will be spent actively coaching your child.

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I am not happy with my coach/club, can I switch?

Naturally, a fencer may fence for any coach or club that they wish. However, a fencer may not represent, at an official USFA competition more than one club in a season (August through July) unless there are extenuating circumstances, which must be approved by the USFA. Some of these circumstances include the permanent relocation of a fencer, the original club permanently closing, or any other factors that prevent the fencer from returning to his or her original club. The fencer may switch clubs at any time, but may not compete in official team competitions for the new club until the next season arrives. There is no limit to the number of coaches a fencer may have at one time, or in a season.

When deciding to switch from one coach to another, the best guideline is communication with the coaches involved. This transition can be difficult. It is important that the decision be made to move to a new coach for the right reasons, and not simply because the parent or fencer is looking to a new coach to provide a "magic bullet" for the fencer.

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What is the role of the parent at a competition?

Support. Cheer leading. Playing go-fer. Staying positive. Writing checks. Some kids like having mom or dad loudly cheering at the end of the strip. Some kids do better when mom and dad fade into the background. Find out which works for them. The one thing a parent should not do is to berate their child for losing or failing to perform fencing actions correctly. Sometimes the opponent is just better, sometimes things just aren’t working. This may be self-evident, but after watching some parents at competitions, it does bear repeating.

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What about fencing in college?

There are three main ways to fence in college, and they all have different benefits and detractions.

1. Fence at a local club based in the community, not the university. This is pretty much the same thing as what your child is doing now, but they will have to provide their own transportation, etc. They will be responsible for coaching and club fees, as well, though often a club will have a student rate for membership, and even lessons.

2. Fence with an intramural club team. The intensity level of fencing on a club team can vary widely, from a very casual, social atmosphere, to a near varsity-like environment. Some clubs have "real" coaches, some have experienced fencers who share their knowledge with team mates, and some have no coaching at all. Some club teams compete mostly in USFA tournaments, some participate in fencing leagues, such as the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association or the Mid-Atlantic Conference Fencing Association (both of which are loosely analogous to conferences like the ACC or SEC, but allow club teams and varsity teams both to participate).

3. Varsity teams. In fencing, the distinctions between Divisions 1, 2, and 3 (yes, yet a third use of the word "division" in fencing) are considerably less relevant than they are in football or basketball. In fact, Division 1, 2, and 3 schools all share the same National Championships. Generally, varsity teams have some paid coaching staff (and often some unpaid coaching staff). Fencers can use their own gear, but often gear is provided, also. Trips to NCAA competitions are generally paid for by the team, including food and hotel. The intensity level is often considerably higher, and balancing academics can be more difficult. This is the level where scholarships are sometimes awarded.

Most parents, though, want to know about NCAA varsity option. The truth is, very few fencing scholarships are actually available, and those usually only go to the most elite fencers who are on national teams or who have won major national competitions.

Fencing can be an asset for admissions; however, this varies. Coaches are generally given a small number of admissions slots, whereby a would-be student who might not quite have the academic qualifications can still be accepted. Fencing coaches usually get very few of these slots, and are generally wary of using them too freely. A student lacking the academic qualification will likely have to convince the coach that they’d be able to succeed at the university, despite not meeting the institutional criteria. Bear in mind that not all universities and not all coaches may have this option.

For the fencer not seeking to be on an NCAA team, fencing may be an asset in admissions by making them stand out a little from the crowd, by doing something a little unusual, and having an extracurricular sport, theoretically showing that they are a well-rounded person.

If opting for the NCAA, some important points to note: NCAA has very strict guidelines that coaches must follow when interacting with prospective student-athletes. Before July 1 of the summer between a student’s junior and senior years, a coach is not allowed to interact with a student who might want to fence at their institution. Coaches are limited at all times in the number of times they can interact with prospective student-athletes, and what types of materials they can give out. There is also a black-out period in late fall/early winter, where they are not allowed to interact with prospects at all. If you or your child is trying to obtain information about a varsity program, and feel that the coach is not responding, it may well be that they are not allowed to return calls at that point, or the phone call did not leave the coach with sufficient information about the athletes age for them to feel comfortable returning the call. Your best bet is to not rely on coaches to call back, but for you or your child to follow up with them instead.

An absolute must-read for fencers and their parents thinking about varsity college fencing programs is the NCAA guide, located at:

 

www.ncaaclearinghouse.net

 

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Why should we join the US Fencing?

It’s a requirement to be a member of US Fencing in order to compete in most competitions.

It puts you on the mailing list for receiving information from your division, and gets you a subscription to American Fencing magazine, which has increasingly improved and expanded content for the parents of fencers.

You can sign up for a family membership, which allows you to have up to two competitive fencers in the family for less than the cost of two regular, individual competitive memberships.

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What about summer camps?

American Fencing magazine usually lists a number of advertisements for summer camps in the late spring. If you are thinking of a summer camp, and finding it difficult to make a choice, we suggest that you first ask yourself(or your fencer) a number of questions, and look hard at the answers. Some ofthese questions are:

1. How far away is it? Does it involve an easy drive or a long plane flight? Is the fencer old enough to fly by him or herself? How comfortable will the fencer be at a camp that might be quite far from home among strangers? The beginning fencer, for instance, may get more enjoyment out of a local camp with many familiar faces than a boarding camp with a high pressure coach or group.

2. If the camp is advertised for "competitive fencers", is my fencer that competitive? Fencing a local tournament once or twice a year is NOT what most camps have in mind when they advertise for a "strong competitive camp".

3. If the decision is made to attend a competitive camp, is your son or daughter physically ready to train 4-6 hours a day? If not, some pre-conditioning might be a good idea before attending.

4. What is the real goal of this camp for my son or daughter? Many competitive bouts? Lesson time with a top coach? A no-pressure situation to enjoy a new place or check out a college? Knowing what you want out of the camp is the first step in making a decision about WHICH camp to go to, and helps guide further research.

5. And finally...is this something your fencer wants to do? There is nothing worse than attending a camp with someone who doesn't want to be there. Make sure you have outlined some of the difficulties and challenges to your fencer before sending them off for 10 days (or more).

Once you have answered these questions, and know what your needs and expectations of the camp are, contact two or three of the camps and ask questions. Outline your expectations for your son or daughter. Ask if there are fencers in the area that have attended this camp previously that can relate previous experiences with the camp and the coaching staff. Some of these questions to consider are:

1. Are all costs included in the camp? Are there any extra costs for food, lodging, or entertainment?

2. How is the camp divided? Will there be an emphasis on group drills, or will there be one-on-one lessons? How much bouting will be done? How much lesson time will the fencer get?

3. How are the fencers supervised when they are not in the fencing hall, or undergoing other training?

4. How much free time will the campers have, outside of fencing, to see local sights?

5. What equipment is required?

It is difficult for Jill and I to assess summer camps and recommend one over the other. We are more than happy to give you our personal experiences with the coaches we know, but obviously, we have not been to many of these camps, and can not relate first hand experiences. If any parents or students at Dominion Fencing DO have experiences they would like to share with us, we would be more than happy to hear them.

Of course, if you decide to attend a camp, we would like to hear your opinions upon your return.

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Approximate dates for important events:

  •  
    • Junior Olympic qualifiers are usually in the late fall/early winter.
    • The Junior Olympics takes place during the President's Day weekend in February.
    • Qualifiers are anytime before mid-May, although usually they are in February-April.
    • Summer Nationals are usually the first week or two in July, over the 4th of July weekend.
    • Division 1 Nationals are often held in conjunction with Summer Nationals, unless it’s an Olympic Year, in which case they happen in the spring sometime.
    • Deadlines for national tournaments are usually about 6 weeks before the event.
    • Petitions are usually due within days of the event for which a petition or waiver is being requested.

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Important web sites

The USFA - www.usfencing.org This has a huge amount of information. The most likely portions that you will use are "Information for Members" and "Competitions," which are links on the far left side of the home page. There is also a search box under those links.

Capitol Division of the USFA – http://capdiv.usfencing.org This is the home page for the Capitol Division. News, schedules, and results for events in the Capitol Division are found here.

Virginia Division of the USFA – http://va-usfa.org This is the home page for the Virginia Division. News, schedules, and results for the Virginia Division are found here. There is also an online forum where feners and parents can ask questions and discuss issues with other fencers in the area.

Maryland Division of the USFA – www.maryland-fencing.org This is the home page for the Maryland Division. News, schedules, and results for events in the Maryland Division are found here.

DC Fencer’s Club – www.dcfencing.com This site is the home of a very helpful tournament database, listing tournaments all around the Mid-Atlantic region, all in one nice, tidy package. If you see an event that looks interesting, be sure to double check the Web site for the host division or club, just in case any changes or cancellations have been made since that event was added to the database.

Regional Youth Circuit - http://home.satx.rr.com/foilcoach/RYC/RYC.htm is the home to the information on the Regional Youth Circuit events.

MidAtlantic Section - http://midatl.usfencing.org/mas/mas.nsf/Pages/Home Not the most helpful Web site ever, but it is the first place for Maryland and Capitol Division fencers to look for information about Junior and Senior Sectionals.

SouthEast Section - www.sesfencing.com/forum/ The first place Virginia fencers should look for information on SouthEast Sectional events.

NCAA - www.ncaaclearinghouse.net This is the Web Site for the NCAA Eligibility Clearinghouse, and has the information you and your child need to start looking at NCAA varsity fencing programs for college.

Additional resources:

http://parents.usfencing.org/ParentGuide.pdf is the home to the USFA’s Parents Committee guide for parents of fencers. It is an EXCELLENT resource.

http://www.va-usfa.org/etc/tips.html is a very concise, handy tip sheet of things to know before you go to your first national tournament, written by Diane Ferguson.

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