Youth fencing brings with it youth referees, an aspect of our sport that’s good all the way round.
As a fencing father and a fencing event organizer, I’ve watched as beginner and young fencing referees work their way through calling matches. They start officiating at tournaments at a very young age, down to age twelve and sometimes even to age ten! That’s a fantastic thing as it develops referees, it develops fencers, it instills confidence, and so much more. Handing over a match to a young fencer shows them that the adults in their life trust them to make smart, level headed decisions.
Making mistakes is a part of life. Refs at the national level make mistakes. Refs at the Olympic level make mistakes. However a lack of experience means that young refs make more mistakes than those veterans with years of calling matches under their belt. What’s more, young refs tend to make the same kinds of mistakes again and again. While we can’t instantly give our young fencing referees years of experience with a snap of the fingers, we can teach them how to remedy their most common mistakes by mastering fencing referee skills.
Note that when we talk about these important fencing referee skills, we aren’t talking about the details of technical decisions and rules. Those are aspects of being a ref that young fencers should go to their coaches and mentors to deal with. Instead these are guidelines for all of fencing refereeing that exists outside of the technical aspects of the sport.