Friday, May 6, 2022

Basic Strip Coaching Guide for Parents and Fencers


          It can be really helpful to a fencer to have someone in their corner during a competition. We've all seen boxers and MMA fighters, either in real matches or in movies. They go to their corner and their coach helps keep their head in the game and reminds them of things they know but aren't thinking of, or maybe gives them insights about their opponent that they aren't thinking of on their own.

          Ideally, at a big tournament, your coach will be with you. This is a lot easier to have happen at local tournaments. But, schedules running classes and tournaments might not allow your coach to go to events with you, or your coach might be working the event. For events involving travel, it may be up to the fencers to cover the costs of the coaches traveling to the event and the fee for the coaches' time at the event. If an event is far away and few of your team mates are going, the costs for this can be prohibitive.

          We put this email together for our fencers and their families so parents could have some basic strip coaching advice. Getting specific advice for your athlete from their coach before going to a big event may be worth it if your athlete will respond well to a parent giving that advice. Team mates can help each other if they're at the same event, so this is a good article for athletes to review too.

          The first segment is stuff athletes need to do in order to check in and warm up at an event. The second segment is about how to help coach your athlete at an event if the coach isn't there.


Things your fencer may not think of, of which you can remind them:

*Remember the fencer needs to check themselves in, and they will also need to take equipment to the armorers to be checked. Parents should be able to do the equipment check for the fencer if necessary. Vendors will be on site to sell gear if anything fails or breaks. 

1. Warm up with your routine from practice, strip runs, a couple sabre sprints, stretching and some foot work practice. Grab 1 or 2 warm up bouts.

2. Drink a little water between pool bouts, even if not particularly thirsty.
3. Sit down and rest a bit when not fencing, when you're on deck, stand up, move around and stretch a little so you're warmed back up before your bout is called

4. You get three minutes between pool bouts, the clock for that begins when the final touch is awarded in your last pool bout. They can ask you to hook up before the three minutes is over because the time should expire when they first say "Fence!" for the new bout, not before you hook up. If asked to fence before your three minutes is up you can request to be given your three minutes.

5. Between DE bouts, you have 10 minutes, it works the same way as the time between pool bouts.

6. Spare cords and weapons need to be with them when they go to their pool or their DE strip

7. Watch the other fencers in the pool to preplan your approach. If you have the opportunity to watch your next DE opponent do the same.


Basic Strip Coaching


*Youth athletes often get frustrated when parents try to give sport specific coaching if the parent doesn't also do the sport...but there are still useful things you can say to help them out.


1. Remind them to stay calm and in control

2. If they're well ahead, tell them they're doing well, to keep up their same plan, but be ready to adjust if their opponent adjusts

3. If it's close in either direction, tell them they're doing well, they can win, just to stay focused, make good choices, and watch for their opponent to adjust

4. If they're far behind, remind them that the bout isn't over, they can still adjust and come back, and whatever happens if they do their best and don't give up they've done well


5. They should drink some water on the break while you talk to them. Drinking water, and providing encouragement, keeping them calm are the main things


6. "watch your distance" if they're either missing because they're too close or too far, or getting counter attacked


7. "keep your balance" if they seem out of balance, or moving erratically


The big thing is making them feel encouraged, and keeping them calm enough to feel ok, but still focused and aggressive enough to stay in the bout.


Some kids won't respond well even to just reminders to be calm, or encouragement, even if they respond well to that normally, it might not be what they want during a competition. If they seem frustrated by it, just give them their space.


*Only one person should call things out to the fencer during the bout if anyone is doing so. It can be overwhelming having multiple voices calling at you. During the break in the DEs only one person is allowed to approach. Everyone can cheer for them and shout encouraging things though.

Thanks for reading!

For more updates like this, and ideas, thoughts, and items of interest for fencers, coaches and parents, follow us on Facebook and please share us with friends and team mates!

You can also support us through Ko-Fi. We appreciate you reading!

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Not Enough Tournaments

           People's reasons for going to tournaments or not going to tournaments will vary. I think for youth athletes, even some adult athletes, and parents, a lot of the factors at play might not be immediately evident. I want to talk a little briefly about why you should be going to tournaments as part of your training, and how holding off on going can just mean missed opportunity.

          There are four fencers on my mind at the moment as examples...and several others who I hope get the message in this post.

          The first example is my best friend. He earned his A in epee. He was about 30. He was very excited about it because he won a Regional Circuit event, hosted by the college club where we both started fencing. It was held in the gym where we hosted collegiate championship events while we were in school. He beat a handful of fencers he'd been aware of throughout his time fencing, and he had me, his best friend, there strip coaching him. He looks at this as one of the most meaningful events of his fencing career.

          In the four years following that, he only fenced 8 events. He made it to the finals in three of them and the semi-finals in two. He's always been a strong fencer with good results, but he never competed much. In the 14 years where he competed he averaged 2.9 tournaments per year. He could have very easily re-earned his A if he competed more regularly. More tournaments would have given him more opportunities for success. More experience competing in tournaments would have helped him learn to adapt to the tournament setting. He was a very strong fencer. Making adaptations to finish a close or important bout was not in his skill set, and he readily admitted this. When he switched coaches to work with me, this eventually became a tactical focus, but by that time life and having kids meant no more time to compete. In part, because of shifting demands on his time, he lost the opportunity to use the tactical skills he was developing to reach the goal of re-earning the A, but in part, that kind of adaptation and adjustment, is something we hone in the tournament setting. We need tournaments because we need the pressure, having the win at stake, and the variety of different fencers who are also developing separately from us in order to train winning in those conditions.

          My second example is a current student. He is also an A rated epeeist. He puts in the time to train multiple nights a week. His gym wouldn't let him weight train until he was sixteen, but he's adding that to his work out schedule this summer. He runs for his school to get his cardio in. He was holding his own against A rated fencers in practice while he was an E, because COVID took away all the tournaments his first season of senior, and his first season of serious training, he was delayed in increasing his rating. When tournaments resurfaced he went to as many as he could. Went to NACs and came close to picking up points. Went to a regional event with a goal of getting enough regional points to fence the various Summer Nationals Events he wanted to fence. He got the points he needed across four events in two days. He took 3rd place in his first event (Y14), upping his E to a D, then that afternoon took 3rd place in his second event (Div1A) upping his E to an A.

          He has again decided on some goals, and so he is going out to every tournament he can to meet those goals. He's finding success. After this past weekend he should be on the top 10 if not top 8 for Junior and Cadet for our regional points list. He's acquiring the points he needs for the events he wants to fence which will help situate him for two of his long term goals. He's doing the work in club, he's doing the work athletically, and he's traveling to as many competitions as he can because he knows he needs those competitions to get access to the events he wants access to. He's also traveling to competitions where he can't get points because he knows he needs to practice events at that level, and practice competing in that context against the types of fencers he will be up against at important events. We have a stellar line up of epeeists in our club, but he understands the value of fencing a diverse group of people, and also the people who will be fencing the competitions he is competing in. Regardless of where you fence, you can only get that by doing tournaments regularly.

          My third example is a former youth student who is now one of my assistant coaches. He is a very good, very promising fencer. Some of his performances get in the way of him seeing that consistently. He wasn't very serious about fencing as a youth athlete, and got serious the year he turned 18. He started training a lot, but still wasn't competing much. Within about a year and a half of getting serious he upped his E to a D, then a C, and finally to a B. By that point he had only ever fenced two regional events and was about to go to his first Junior NAC, after 5 years of fencing. He was a B, he was going to age out of Junior in a month, and would be stuck only being able to fence Div1 Senior Events with only ever having had 3 circuit events under his belt.

          His first five years of fencing he averaged 4 tournaments per year. He developed the skill, through putting in long hours of lessons, to earn his B. Not having fenced a variety of tournaments, he doesn't have the experience to adapt to a variety of fencers. The type of decision making he needs to make in a competition setting is less evident. Adapting to different styles of refereeing is less familiar. Once he got serious about competing (half the tournaments in that first five years were fenced in a single year), it took a year for him to figure out how to properly prepare himself in terms of eating and resting in order to make it through an event successfully.

          For him, learning the skills that going to competitions helps teach was missing and held him back some. Coaches can tell you these things, we can set up scenarios in lessons, in drills and in scrimmages that mimic some of this. To really internalize a lot of these elements you need competitions. In his case, being a B means he can't fence most local competitions. The National Office has decided that our region only needs 3 regional senior competitions next year, so he won't have those to fence, and this season barely had any he could do. There are many more regional Junior, Cadet and Youth events, but he is too old for those. So his options for increasing his experience in competition are severely limited because he waited. It's not impossible for him at this point, but it will be a harder more grueling process. If you start young, you can get those experiences in Y14, maybe even in Y12, and keep honing your capabilities through Cadet and Junior. You'll be in competitions with a peer group who are physically developing just like you are, and whose motor control and skills are developing along with yours. If you miss those age brackets and start as an adult, you can develop your skills and experience alongside each other in Div III and Div II with other developing lower rated fencers. In Div I you can only fence C, B and A fencers. Most of them will be developed, experienced, senior fencers, or Cadet and Junior fencers who are exceptional and can hold their own in senior. It's a much more difficult, and therefore more frustrating context in which to try and gain experience, in addition to simply being less available.

          Add to that being a 22 year old, there is less of a support structure to afford travel and competition fees. Being limited to higher end competitions means he's limited to more expensive competitions. Youth, Cadet, and Junior fencers have parents invested in helping them achieve goals who will pay for travel, maybe turn competition trips into family vacations. They will pay tournament entry fees. In my experience working with college fencers, this support structure often vanishes or severely diminishes for college age athletes. The lack of funds can make developing tournament experience almost necessary. (I was very lucky in that my parents supported my fencing through, and a little after college, monetarily. I wish more college athletes had this support.)

          This fencer always tells our youth athletes not to make his mistake. He encourages them to get out to as many competitions as possible. Gain the experience, have fun doing it. Enjoy being able to do it in more comfortable skill and age categories with support from your parents and without the stress of having to drive yourself on long trips early in the morning before competing (this will usually also wreck performance). The youth athletes don't really internalize the warning. Hopefully seeing it laid out will help parents understand and maybe help youth athletes grasp it.

          My last example is another really promising fencer. He was recently frustrated at missing a rating increase by two touches. Experienced competitors know that sometimes, that's just how it is. Sometimes the other person figures something out or is just a hair stronger or you're having an off day or they're having a great day. Experienced competitors also know that isn't always a matter of it just being how it is. Sometimes we need to be able to knuckle down, make an adjustment, and make a choice to score in a way we know we can absolutely make happen. It takes patience and commitment to controlling the scenario and building the moment we need to make our action happen. How do you do that against an unknown competitor? You read what they've been doing, and adapt and make choices and adjustments. You can't do that though when you're primarily used to fencing your teammates.

          This fencer won his first Y12 competition, fenced one more Y12, and then nothing else until a year later when he won his first senior competition and earned his E. He has averaged 6 events per year over his 3 years of competing. This is a little better than some of our other examples, but still about half of what I'd recommend as a minimum. With the exception of two circuit events he's never fenced anything above a C1 event. This means he generally hasn't fenced anything which would give a lot of ratings, or where he had to fence very strong fencers. 27% of his events he's finished first place, which seems pretty exceptional. He's earned his E four times in 3 years despite COVID taking away one of those years. I have no doubt that if a couple things were tweaked for him, and if he started competing regularly, then a C would be on the table as a short term goal.

          More competition would make a big difference in reaching this goal though. For one, more competitions would mean more opportunities for ratings increases. The more times you try, the more chances you have to succeed. Fencing, not necessarily much bigger, but at least stronger competitions would also mean more ratings available to earn, and increased chances. It would also mean more opportunity to encounter stronger fencers and develop from that competitive experience. As we mentioned with other fencers it would help in building the type of thinking needed to adapt and adjust in competition.

          For a younger fencer competition is also important for building a competitive mindset, both in terms of how to think while competing -- how to understand your movement, how to assess opponents, how to balance your emotions, and how to make decisions; but also how to think after competitions -- how to analyze what you did and what your opponents did, how to walk away from a loss, how to appreciate a win. Younger fencers also benefit by getting a more realistic picture of their goals, and what goals are possible by attending competitions. They learn what work they need to do to be as successful as the people who are succeeding. We often highlight in practice how people who go to their first big competitions see successful people doing the things we say to do, and the fencers are often a little amazed after their first high level competition. That amazement comes with a recognition that what those people are doing is in their grasp because it's the result of the same kind of training they are given, and the same advice they are given about athletic and physical development.

          To summarize:

                   - Competition exposes us to fencing a variety of unfamiliar fencers


                   - Competition exposes us to competing in a competitive scenario


                   - Competition teaches us to adjust to referees and other elements of the                           fencing environment


                   - Competition gives us opportunities to meet goals

                   - Competition helps shape our awareness of goals and of fencing


                   - Competition provides developmental skills for how we think about                              challenges, successes, and failures which can apply to all areas of life

                   - Competition provides experience which is necessary for success

                   - Competition experience is harder to get if you wait 'til you're older or                           more highly rated


                   - Opportunities decrease the longer you wait, costs and stress factors go up


                   - Competition success provides access to additional opportunities at higher           levels


                   - Colleges use higher level competitions to evaluate who to scout


                   - A purely recreational fencer should do a few competitions a year, 4 to 8


                   - A moderately competitive/locally competitive fencer should do about 12                      per year, or one per month


                   - A serious competitor will depend on age categories and goals, but might                       have two to three in a month, or sometimes more than one event in a                              weekend

                   - Even for serious competitors breaks are necessary

Thanks for reading!

For more updates like this, and ideas, thoughts, and items of interest for fencers, coaches and parents, follow us on Facebook and please share us with friends and team mates!

You can also support us through Ko-Fi. We appreciate you reading!


Saturday, November 20, 2021

Learn The Game

I refereed an unrated foil tournament today. Sometimes refereeing offers opportunities to think about fencing, things to bring up with students or to talk about more generally - but often, you're too busy to commit your thoughts firmly enough to memory to really address them later. My thoughts today about understanding the game were both simple and impactful enough to stick in my head.


Game play comes up a few different ways when I coach. The most basic concept around game play is that fencing is a sport. Like all sports, it is a game with rules. Even a "combat weapon" like epee has rules for game play, those rules are just more naturalistic and reflect what works and what doesn't rather than reflecting convention. As a result, we don't see changes to epee game play like we do as rules interpretations shift in foil and sabre. For all three, you need to think of it as a sport, not as sword fighting, and learn the rules that build successful strategies.


Recognizing it's a game and knowing how conventions, rules, and normal reactions to situations play out, is how we make choices. We know why we were successful or why we weren't. We know why our opponents were successful, or why they weren't. As a result we can adjust and anticipate their adjustments.


We can even long play and assume how the shape of play will evolve based on choices and responses to choices. We can be tactical if we understand how we approach the game and how our opponent is playing the game.


Another element of thinking about game play is not to try to play the game with people who don't know it's a game.


Sometimes fencers will come up and do something erratic. Sometimes they'll make choices that show they don't know what actions have an advantage, or what choices will likely be successful.


When up against a fencer like that, trying to use complex tactics or strategies, or setting up actions that require them to respond the way someone who knows the rules would respond, is going to lead to failure. You can't fence someone who isn't fencing.


Against a fencer who doesn't know it's a game, don't play the game. Walk forward and hit them. Be athletic, be fast, be clean, be unassailable. Which is, still kind of based on playing the game, just the simplest version of it.


I talked about these things in a class yesterday.


What I didn't talk about regarding game play was what I noticed today.


You can kind of know how to make some actions, and button mash those actions, and score against weak opponents, and still not know how to play the game.


You can also be pretty clean, have some good skills and techniques and a lot of potential, and lose because you aren't playing the game.


These two are pretty related. They're both basically the reverse perspective on our first point. Understanding the rules and the game play lets you make choices to win. If you don't understand you're just doing random things and probably not understanding why it isn't working. Maybe you just assume the other person is just performing actions better than you, or maybe you are lost as to why the touch isn't yours.


I think we often assume that people who just don't get it are new. We assume you can recognize it from their bad posture, bad form, clumsy actions.


That isn't always the case. I've run into it a bunch but hadn't really thought about it. You can drill a bunch of things. You can be really clean, or maybe even just consistent in an awkward but acceptable execution. You might be able to do alright against other people doing random things, being refereed in a context where no one really knows what's going on.


When you get to a context with actual fencers, you'll probably be confused or lost.


Maybe you're in a context with actual fencers, and they get the game and you don't. So you assume they just win because they're better. Then you go somewhere and fence people on your level and still lose and wonder why.


Learn the game.


Sometimes that component - an understanding of what's happening, why it's happening, and why that is what wins - is what's missing rather than the conventional elements we drill on the strip and cover in lessons. A good lesson, a good teaching program, will incorporate those elements. Sometimes they'll be explicit, sometimes they'll be naturally woven in. It's easy to miss realizing you need to teach them if you've never thought of it though, or if you had to learn it naturally by competing. It's also easy for people to miss it when they train in recreational contexts with no one who gets the game, or no one who knows how to teach it.


So it's no wonder it's a component that might be the gap between someone who can make some attacks and some parries, versus someone who can make some attacks and some parries and win against other beginners.

 Thanks for reading!

For more updates like this, and ideas, thoughts, and items of interest for fencers, coaches and parents, follow us on Facebook and please share us with friends and team mates!

You can also support us through Ko-Fi. We appreciate you reading!




Friday, August 6, 2021

Alphabet Soup - Your Decoder Ring for Fencing Abbreviations

For a lot of people, when you start a new job, or move to the DMV, you have to acquaint yourself with the local flavor of alphabet soup - or the use of abbreviations to refer to everything. At my previous job we had ROMs, BOMs, ROCs, ABMs, RICs, FCs, RBs, CSRs, NOMAD, RMs, other RMs, ASMs, BSAs and an endless host of other sets of letters to describe things. You had to jump in and learn what everything referred to. All the people, the manuals, the solutions offered to clients, everything was an abbreviation.

          Fencing isn't quite as bad, but there are a ton of terms, equipment, and concepts that will be unfamiliar to the average person. After you start to get a grasp on those coaches will start casually tossing around references to things described by a handful of letters expecting you to know what they mean.

          This is not going to be a comprehensive listing and explanation but it will cover some of the basic ones.


1. Club names


Clubs will usually have a name that has some word or name, and then "fencing club" or "fencing academy" "fencing association" "fencing alliance, or something like that. Some might be "Salle" followed by a name or "Academy" followed by a name. Some clubs people will refer to by their name and some people will refer to by their abbreviation, but on askFRED (itself an abbreviation for Fencing Registration and Event Database) abbreviations will usually show up.


Parents don't really need to learn these, but for athletes it might help you with assessing who is attending events you're looking at. We can't really give a guide to those...but askFRED will also let you click the abbreviation and see the name of the club.


2. Ratings and Rankings


When looking at events you might see "E and Under" or "Open" or "Div 1A." Your athlete might start talking about how they need to get a ranking or a rating. Or they might say "that guy over there is a B so he's really good."


Rankings are a system used in the USA and internationally, in which certain tournaments award points and fencers who place high enough get a "ranking" or a placement on the points lists associated with that event. In the USA we have national and regional points lists. The points lists are then broken down by weapon and gender and by category. The categories are either based on age or rating. So you might have the National Senior Men's Epee list, or the Regional Junior Women's Sabre list. The National Points Lists get their own abbreviation "NRPS" or National Rolling Points System, because they are on a 12 month rolling point cycle. The Regional Points are reset when the season changes.


Ratings give us more letters in the soup. All fencers start out as a U or an Unrated fencer. If a fencer places highly enough in the right tournament they get a rating. The ratings start at E as the lowest, and move up to A as the highest. A fencer might earn an E by coming in first in a tournament with 6 people, or they might earn a D by winning a tournament with 15 people, four of whom have Es.


Events get letters and numbers which tell you how strong the event is expected to be and how many ratings it gives out. For example, an A4 event will have at least 64 people, and 12 As, 12Bs, and 12Cs. It gives out 48 ratings, with the top 8 people earning As, and the next 8 earning Bs. For more examples of how the event ratings work you can look here.


If an event is labeled as Div I then that means all fencers participating must have a rating of C or higher. Div II means they must all be a C or lower, and Div III means they must be a D or lower. Div 1A is the same as an Open which means all ratings may participate. Some events will be labeled as a letter and over, like a "D and Under" which is the same as a Div III or an "E and Under" which means only E rated and Unrated fencers may participate.


3. Event labels


We talked a little about how events have categories based on ratings. At a tournament the sheets will be labeled with an abbreviation telling you which event within the tournament you're looking at.

X - Mixed Gender

M - Men

W - Women

SR - Senior, or 13 and over

VET - Veterans or 40 and over

JR - Junior or over 13 under 20, also represented as U20

CDT - Cadet or over 13 under 17, also represented as U17

F - Foil

S - Sabre

E - Epee


So your athlete might compete in SRXF, or Senior Mixed Foil, or JRME, or Junior Men's Epee, or CDTWS, or Cadet Women's Sabre.


4. Circuit Events


Circuit events refer to events that are part of a series of events which maintain a points list. You can have local circuits which are informal and are coordinated by the clubs/event hosts. Regional Circuits are presented by local clubs or tournament organizers but are approved by USA Fencing. National Circuits are both presented by and approved by USA Fencing.


Regional Circuits include:

RYC - Regional Youth Circuit. These events are for Y10, Y12, and Y14 fencers. Y10 is roughly 8 to 10 year olds, Y12 10 to 12 year olds, and Y14 12 to 14 year olds. Depending on the birth year you might be 7 or 11 fencing Y10, or 9 or 13 and still able to fence Y12, or 11 or 15 and able to fence Y14. The eligibility shifts at the beginning of the new season, so depending upon your date of birth you might be a little below or a little above the normal ages for that category. On the regional level, fencers must compete within their own Region to earn Regional Youth Points in an RYC, but you can compete outside of your region, you just won't earn points.


RJCC - Regional Junior and Cadet Circuit. These events are for U17 and U20 fencers. Like the RYC events you can only earn points in your region, but you can still compete outside of your region. These events also have a little wiggle room based on when your birthday is, but essentially Junior is 13 and over, but under 20 and Cadet is 13 and over but under 17.


ROC - Regional Open Circuit. These events are for senior fencers, so 13 and over. There is no upper age limit. Some ROCs will be Div1A events which means they are open to fencers of all ratings. Some are DivII events meaning fencers C and under may compete. Some have VET events, meaning fencers 40 and over can compete. Unlike the Youth and Teen regional events, the ROC events allow you to earn points at any ROC even if it is hosted outside of your region.


SYC - Super Youth Circuit. These are National Circuit events for Youth fencers. So Y10, Y12, Y14 but they provide points on a National Points List and you don't have to compete in region.


SJCC - Super Junior and Cadet Circuit. These are a newer category. They are National Circuit events for Cadet and Junior fencers. They provide National Points List points and you don't have to compete in region.


NAC - North American Cup. These are National Circuit events. They may include events in Y10, Y12, Y14, Cadet, Junior, Div III, Div II, Div I, and VET. There are generally not Div 1A NACs aside from the Div1A championship. NACs may also have team events in the Junior, Senior, and Vet categories.


JO - Junior Olympics. National Championship event for the "teen" categories, Junior and Cadet. Usually hosted in February.


5. USFA, FOC, Coaches' College


The main one's you'll need to know are the ones we've listed in items 2 - 4.


The one's we've listed in 5 are ones you might run into that don't exist anymore. Below we'll provide what they've been replaced by, as well as some other governing bodies.


USFA - United States Fencing Association. People still say this all the time, but the organization has been USA Fencing for several years. USFA is a different non-fencing organization at this point. Prior to being USFA it was AFLA, Amateur Fencing League of America...but no one still says that one. USA Fencing is the Governing Body for Fencing in the United States.


FOC - Fencing Officials' Commission is the oversight body for referees. Or it was. Now it is the Referee Commission. They organize the testing and rating and development of referees


Coaches' College - not an abbreviation but another thing that no longer exists. It was an educational program for coaches that was run at the Olympic Training Center each summer. Now, USFCA, United States Fencing Coaches' Association is the body that does training and certification for coaches.


USOC - US Olympic Committee. They oversee sports leadership bodies for sports which compete in the Olympics. USA Fencing falls under the oversight of the USOC. It's international counterpart is the IOC or International Olympic Committee.


USCSS - United States Center for Safe Sport. With the USOC, the USCSS oversees Olympic sports in the United States and provides rules and training for adult participants to protect athletes from abuse.


IFA - Intercollegiate Fencing Association. I'm not sure whether this exists or not anymore, it was the conference for Ivy League college competition. The IFA had a pool format for teams that is relatively unique.


NCAA - National Collegiate Athletic Association. Oversees varsity sports in colleges in the United States, including varsity fencing. NCAA Style refers to a team competition format in which teams compete to see who gets the highest number of bout victories out of 9 bouts between two teams in one weapon, or best out of 27 across a match between two schools with all three weapons. Some local collegiate conferences model their meets and rules off of NCAA fencing rules.


USACFC - United States of America Collegiate Fencing Conference. This conference oversees the national championship event for non-varsity collegiate fencing in the United States. They host one tournament per year. Their event combines IFA format and NCAA format competitions.


FIE - Federation Internationale D'Escrime. The International Fencing Federation is the international governing body for the sport of fencing. The rulebook followed by USA Fencing is based on the FIE rules.

Thanks for reading!

For more updates like this, and ideas, thoughts, and items of interest for fencers, coaches and parents, follow us on Facebook and please share us with friends and team mates!

You can also support us through Ko-Fi. We appreciate you reading!

Thursday, August 5, 2021

7 Reasons Why Fencers Should Become Referees


If you are a TriWeapon Fencer, one of the obvious reasons for becoming a referee is because our program requires that you get a certification in something to graduate. The Coaches' Association and the Referee Commission have done the best job at creating straight forward certification processes, so those are the two best options. Refereeing will give you the most opportunities to use your certification and get something out of having it, so it is the most popular one for people to go for. If you're not a TriWeapon fencer, there are still lots of reasons to take a referee clinic or become a referee.

 Since we have a pretty high level referee coming soon for aclinic I figured I would present some reasons why fencers should consider taking a clinic.


1. It will help you understand what is happening in your bouts.

 Fencers acquire a lot of "knowledge" of the "rules" from hanging out in their clubs and talking to other fencers who don't know better. Then they start competing, or going to more serious clubs and are confused when they encounter the actual rules and actual conventional applications of them. Studying for the referee exam and taking a clinic is a good way to disabuse yourself of the accretion of incorrect knowledge.

 Even if you haven't learned a ton of incorrect rules and application, if you don't know the rules or how they're applied, you may be confused in tournaments by how stuff is called. If you're confused you can't do much about it, but if you understand the rules and recognize what you're doing isn't scoring, then you have a better sense of how to adjust to get the touch.


2. It will help you fence better.

 This is kind of similar to the last one, but not quite the same. Knowing wrong rules, or not knowing the rules might leave you confused and unable to understand why you're losing. Knowing the rules can let you make choices to help you win. If you understand what actions are likely to score because of how the rules work, you know what actions to prioritize. If you know what referees look for to recognize an action then you know how to tweak your execution to make sure referees will see what you're trying to do.


3. It gives you something to do when you can't fence an event.

If your rating is too high to fence Div III events or Div II events but your team mates or siblings will be attending them refereeing gives you something to do so you can go along and participate. If your club is hosting events you can't fence in but you still want to support the event, refereeing gives you that opportunity. If you're going to a ROC and fencing the Div1A on Friday afternoon, and can't fence the Div II on Saturday, but you're sticking around because you're fencing the Junior in the concurrent RJCC on Sunday, then referring Saturday gives you something to do.

4. It gives you another way to be involved with the sport of fencing and the fencing community.

If you really love fencing, you love going to practice, you love going to competitions, you love everything about it; refereeing is one option to deepen your exploration and learn more about it from a different perspective. Going out and refereeing will let you look at different elements of how fencing works and different actions people make and the ways they make them. It will let you see a different element of competitions. It will also allow you to make connections with competitors, referees, and tournament organizers outside of your club. Your club and other local clubs also probably need people to referee for them, so this is a great way to give back to the fencing community.  


5. It will give you perspective and an understanding of your rights as a fencer.

 Fencers are frequently salty about how referees call things, especially in the right of way weapons, but also in epee. Sometimes it's fair to be mad about a call, but sometimes you didn't do things the way you thought you did. Refereeing will help you understand the referee's perspective and what it's like to have to observe and interpret the fencers' actions and then communicate them as a call. Having some understanding of the other side can help you with moving past the frustration and focusing on making actions that get the calls you want.

 Sometimes referees make mistakes, and sometimes we think they do when they don't. Fencers don't always understand what things they can question and what things they can't, what the method for questioning is, and how to do it effectively and politely. Learning to referee and working as a referee can help you understand these better so you can navigate the experience better as a competitor.


6. There are monetary incentives.

 If you're an adult fencer with a good job then maybe making extra cash by refereeing is not much of an incentive. Even with a good job, you can always take the extra money and use it as fun money, or money to fund fencing expenses.

 If you're a teenager, or a college student, or an adult who is sorting out what they want to do, refereeing can be a nice extra source of income. You won't make a ton of money refereeing, but even without an especially high rating, you can make enough in a weekend that it's worth it. Especially for high school and college students, refereeing might give you enough extra cash that you don't need to pick up a job to make money to go do things with your friends.

 Refereeing might also cover travel expenses for tournaments you want to attend. If you want to go out of town to a ROC or a NAC and you can get on the radar of the people who hire for it, you might be able to get your travel and or hotel covered by going to referee. That might be the difference between being able to attend the event and not being able to.


7. You might enjoy it.

 Some people really enjoy refereeing, some people make a lot of friends through refereeing and have a fun time seeing them at all the circuit events. So in the end it could be that you end up sticking with being a referee because you enjoy it.


If you think you might be interested in refereeing, there are clinics that happen routinely, it's just a question of when one will be in a place close enough that you're willing to go to. If you're reading this post around the time it's being posted and you're local or local-ish to here, we will be hosting the Vice Chair of the referee commission (former Vice President of USA fencing, and a referee who has national and international experience and has lead the referees at several national circuit and championship events) to run a referee clinic here in Catonsville September 26th 2021. If you're not around here, or you're reading this too late for that clinic, check out the clinic section of askFRED and you'll see when clinics are being offered.

Thanks for reading!

For more updates like this, and ideas, thoughts, and items of interest for fencers, coaches and parents, follow us on Facebook and please share us with friends and team mates!

You can also support us through Ko-Fi. We appreciate you reading!

7 Reasons Parents Should Attend Referee Clinics

 One of the most common things I hear said by both beginner parents and parents who've been around for awhile is "I'm not really sure what's happening when I watch them fence." A lot of parents would like to be able to follow along more and know the rules so they know what's happening. To help with that, I'm hoping to do a sort of "understanding fencing" clinic for parents at some point in the not too distant future. A common way for parents to expand their understanding though is to go to a referee clinic or possibly become a referee. There are some additional reasons why this can be a good idea, and since we have a pretty high level presenter coming to do a referee clinic at our club soon I figured I'd share some reasons why parents might consider it.


1. Helps you understand what you're watching when you watch your child fence


The clinic will talk about the rules and how the referees decide who gets a point or who doesn't get a point. It might not really teach the skill of watching for all those things, but if you're used to watching fencing and just don't really feel you comfortably understand the  rules, this will explain them.  


2. It gives you another way to connect to fencing.


 I've seen parents who became division officers, or who became office managers for clubs, referees and tournament managers because they really liked supporting and being involved with their child's sport. Sometimes I've seen parents who continued these things after their child went off to college or was more or less done with fencing as they entered the adult world because the parents enjoyed the fencing community and being around the sport. Refereeing can be a way to explore connecting to the sport and give an option for involvement.


3. It might give you something to do at tournaments or subsidize the tournament experience.

 Tournaments can be long, and big events might be several days. Some kids like being watched by their parents as they compete and for some   it can be an added source of stress. Whether you're watching your kid fence or not, if its a larger tournament you'll likely be there for a fair amount of time. If your kid referees then it might be even more time without the option of watching them fence. For larger tournaments that involve travel, you'll be stuck there through that. There will also be tournament fees and travel costs.

 If you are a referee then you'll have something to do in those situations if you are hired as a referee at the tournament. Referee income can cover the tournament registration expense, and the tournament will likely reimburse the travel. So refereeing can make    traveling for your fencer to fence larger more important tournaments a lot more tenable.  

4. It may allow you to support your child in a competition better.

 If your athlete isn't getting actions called in their favor either because the referee is making a mistake or because your child is making a mistake in how they do the action it can be frustrating and confusing both for them as the athlete and you as the parent watching. If you have learned more about the rules and gotten some practice refereeing    you may be better equipped to help them understand either what mistake they are making that the referee is seeing or how to adjust to what the referee is calling if the referee is consistently calling in a weird way. This might help your child adjust during the tournament, alleviate some of their confusion and allow them to have a better          event.


5. It may allow you to advocate better for your child in a tough situation where rules aren't being followed.

 Referees are human and make mistakes. There are a lot of rules to remember, and depending on their experience they might misapply or forget a rule. If a referee doesn't make the call you expect because   they see the action differently, or because they don't see an element of it, you can't appeal that. If they apply a rule incorrectly or don't apply  it uniformly then you can appeal that and have it overturned.

Fencers won't usually recognize when this is happening in the moment and won't know when or how to advocate for themselves in that situation. Having a spectator on their side who knows the rules can  help make sure they're receiving fair treatment when little  unintentional mistakes happen. It also helps you as a parent feel empowered to and have the knowledge to advocate for your child in those super rare cases where a referee really steps across the line. When that happens fencers and parents usually feel like there isn't    anything they can do. Knowing the rules will help you know who to approach and how to approach them for assistance if an unusually difficult situation arises.


6. The fencing community needs referees.

You wouldn't usually be able to referee your child in a tournament, but local tournament organizers are always looking for referees. The more quality referees we have in the local community the easier it is for tournament organizers to organize good events that your child can attend.


7. You might like it.


Personally, I became a referee because it used to be required to get certified as a referee before you could get certified as a coach. It's also interesting to me to know the rules and how they are applied, and it's useful for me as a coach to be able to explain those things to my students. I referee routinely because it's helpful to the local fencing community, but it's not the thing I enjoy focusing on because I'm much more naturally suited to coaching.

 I know other people who are very suited to refereeing and some who enjoy it quite a bit. Some people like the experience and like studying and exploring the rules. Some of them like the referee community and make friends there and enjoy hanging out with them at large tournaments. It may be the sort of thing you might have fun with and may be an arena in which you can find new friends with a shared interest.

 If you think refereeing might be for you, the clinic is the first step in checking it out. 


            If you think you might be interested in refereeing, there are clinics that happen routinely, it's just a question of when one will be in a place close enough that you're willing to go to. If you're reading this post around the time it's being posted and you're local or local-ish to here, we will be hosting the Vice Chair of the referee commission (former Vice President of USA fencing, and a referee who has national and international experience and has lead the referees at several national circuit and championship events) to run a referee clinic here in Catonsville September 26th 2021. If you're not around here, or you're reading this too late for that clinic, check out the clinic section of askFRED and you'll see when clinics are being offered.

Thanks for reading!

For more updates like this, and ideas, thoughts, and items of interest for fencers, coaches and parents, follow us on Facebook and please share us with friends and team mates!

You can also support us through Ko-Fi. We appreciate you reading!