Abdel Salem

What role do you see fencing coaches playing in the growth of the sport of fencing and where do you see that growth happening?

Although some clubs in the US are large enough to have managers or other office personnel it is the fencing coach that is responsible for running most programs. Many collegiate programs and private fencing clubs are run by a head coach/owner who may have one or more assistant coaches. High school clubs and teams most often rely on existing faculty, but some are fortunate to be able to bring in independent coaching staff.

The fencing coach introduces the sport to people of all ages and identities, taking these students to all levels from recreational to Olympian. The coach is an integral part of the development and growth of the sport. We must have enthusiastic, skillful, professional, and educated coaches. In order for this to happen we must support not only the pedagogical training of coaches, but also the workplace training that will incorporate guidance for today’s world.

How do you envision USA Fencing working with USFCA on the recruitment of NCAA colleges to add fencing teams? If not, why not.

Simply put, we as an organization need to convince these colleges that fencing will attract successful students who can bring attention to their school by way of results. Many of these fencers will go on to successful careers and want to give back to the school through donations, which is good for the school.

US Fencing and USFCA can help by bringing attention to existing programs in the media. The expertise that the USFCA offers coaches should assist coaches in convincing an institution that fencing is a good sport for their business. I was the head coach at the USA Air Force Academy for 21 years. At one point, the administration was thinking about cutting several sports, including the fencing program. We put together a packet that included statistics on the success of the program and the quality of graduates the program produced. It included numerous letters from alumni about the positive intergroup interaction and confidence for success the program had given them. The Academy still has a program today.

The USFCA could produce a generic, easily modified, proposal for new programs at schools. They could also produce a template for existing schools to use if their program was being threatened. Perhaps the USFCA training could offer short courses on using the proposals or contacting donors and alumni.

3. Except for USA Fencing, NGBs in all major sports organizations require certification and continuing education units every year to teach in their respective sports. Do you support coaching education, training, continuing education, certification and ultimately a licensing requirement for all US Fencing Coaches? Why or Why not?

Of course, I support training and the continued education of all our coaches. As a past President of the USFCA I worked hard to make a uniform credentialing system. But it must not stop there. We are fortunate to have some of the best coaches in the world. We have quality clubs and tournaments. So, why can’t we also offer the best certification system that identifies professional fencing coaches. A system that will help our coaches to run successful businesses. A system to educate the coach and prepare them to deal with any challenges. A system to ensure that our athletes are at the top and that they stay on top.

To be a successful licensing requirement this must be a concise, conveniently offered certification program. Coaches can see in advance what their course requirements are and plan ahead. Sometimes coaches go through online testing, and think they have finished their requirement, only to have something else pop up in a few months. The USFCA and US Fencing must coordinate on the various expectations and get this information to the coaches once a season. I recently proposed a Coach Committee for US Fencing. Such a committee would allow coaches to feel their concerns are more likely to be addressed.

It could offer support for club development and help to fulfill the objectives and vision of US Fencing.