What role do you see fencing coaches playing in the growth of the sport of fencing and where do you see that growth happening?
I see coaches playing critical roles in the growth of our sport and wish to give two examples of where these opportunities exist. First, having been intimately involved in the early stages of the development of a new club, almost all a club’s likelihood of success falls directly on the ability of a coach to recruit and retain new fencers. Sure, we have seen cases where a very talented fencer and their coach start a new club and that talent attracts fencers and off you go, but really, long-term sustainable growth of that club (and the sport) is done by coaches who are focused on developing pipelines of new fencers via after school programs, local community centers, county parks, and recreation offerings, schools (if allowed) or similar.
Second, I see tremendous opportunities for coaches to grow the sport of fencing by working with collegiate club programs. Most college club teams have fencers that range in experience from showing up having never picked up a weapon, maybe some members were recreational fencers to in most cases, having one or a few competitive fencers with ratings. Multiple levels of fencers with the more experienced teaching the beginners and in most cases assisted by coaches from our USA Fencing competitive clubs. In Virginia, we have 7+ collegiate club fencing programs, five of them quite active, and we all see some level of active coach-to-club relationship. Coaches offer their services to the team in most cases for free or whatever the club can afford and hope these new fencers fall for the sport, join their clubs, and become fencers for life.
Post-pandemic, I’ve taken a very active role in revitalizing the local tournament network at these colleges by organizing and running a circuit of collegiate club tournaments as fundraisers for the clubs. They’ve been very successful in generating substantial extra revenue for the clubs, which creates more competition/bouting experiences for their fencers and our division, and more opportunities for those coaches who support them.
How do you envision USA Fencing working with USFCA on the recruitment of NCAA colleges to add fencing teams? If not, why not.
USA Fencing recently formed a task force specifically to grow the number of NCAA programs our youth community has access to once they’ve graduated from high school. I’m on the outskirts of that group because of my involvement in collegiate club fencing, and I get to hear about some opportunities that are in motion - they’re working very hard and believe this work is vital to USA Fencing and other stakeholders in our sport.
It’s not an easy process because schools that are interested in adding any sport look at the opportunity as one to grow enrollment ($$$) with our student-athletes who fit their academic profile. In return, the community gets the opportunity to grow the sport for those few who walk on to the Team, but more importantly, get to provide coaches part-time if not full-time employment. I am positive there are opportunities for the USFCA network to work in partnership with USA Fencing to develop, support, and nurture leads for new NCAA programs but feel strongly that the true opportunity perhaps lies in recruitment within the USFCA coaching network for these new collegiate head and assistant coaching positions.
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?
I am and have been many things since returning to our sport in 2008. Most of them involve volunteering, all to serve stakeholders in our amazing community as best as I can. I, however… I am not a coach but sincerely appreciate all of the coaches who have helped me improve - at fencing and in life.
I support coaching education, training, continuing education, and certification. I support licensing for all US Fencing Coaches but recognize that our coaching community is incredibly rich and diverse with coaches bringing degrees or certifications from their home or other countries, and I wonder how we as an organization integrate that talent and those certifications – not just results – but in a way that supports the goals for the development of the coaching community perhaps versus a requirement in licensing for all coaches in the US.
If we cannot collaboratively figure out how that may lead to a licensing requirement that helps the entirety of our coaching community move forward together, I wonder if it becomes a detriment to some of the primary goals of our organization – growing our sport, being a dominant force globally while providing a safe and equitable environment for all of us to exist and develop in.