Thinking of participating in fencing divisional qualifiers (inspired by Roden's statue of thinking man)During the next two months, fencing divisions around the country are holding qualifiers for Summer Nationals 2015 in San Jose. The tournaments cover categories Y14, Division 2, Division 3, and Veterans. Are you on the fence (no pun intended) about going? Whether you think you’re too much of a beginner or you’re a very good fencer who has auto-qualified for nationals, I’d like the chance to convince you that it’s best for you and for U.S. Fencing if you attend.

First, I truly believe that the more people that have a chance to fence at Fencing Summer Nationals, the better it is for our sport. Going to Summer Nationals is a unique opportunity to fence against the best of the best—in the U.S. and sometimes the world!

When a young fencer attends a national tournament with all of the excitement and prestige that comes with it—can you imagine how this might positively affect a young fencer? Not just with respect to fencing, but also confidence, self-esteem, social skills, and of course creating a memory they will carry into adulthood. Then all of these young fencers who have been bolstered by the experience of nationals bring that positivity and confidence back into their clubs across the country—and U.S. Fencing as a whole is better for it.

Here are three reasons to sign up for your fencing divisional qualifier!

1. It’s always good to compete.

There’s no such thing as not being ‘ready’ for qualifiers or Summer Nationals. If you’re a beginner and you think you’re not good enough to go, skip this thought. Sign up, fence, and enjoy learning from others in a competitive environment. And who knows, maybe you’ll qualify!

It’s not just the best of the best that qualify; fencers with relatively modest experience can work their way to this competition and share an arena with an impressive pool of talent. Compare that to a more mainstream sport like swimming or gymnastics. In these sports it’s much harder to qualify for national championships and typically requires starting at a very young age and training non-stop for years. Not so with fencing.

2. You’ll help more fencers get to Summer Nationals.

In short, the more fencers that compete in qualifiers, the more fencers that qualify. Since qualification is based on a percentage (top 25% qualify), the number of qualifying spots goes up when more fencers sign up. So whether you don’t think you have a chance to qualify or you’ve already qualified elsewhere, merely showing up creates more chances for other fencers to make it to nationals.

If you’ve already auto-qualified and are worried you’ll take someone else’s spot by going to divisional qualifiers, you don’t need to worry. Any fencer who has auto-qualified is skipped over when determining who qualifies from the current competition. But those fencers ARE counted when calculating the number of top spots; so again, your attendance only helps the other fencers!

If that’s not clear, here’s the longer version from the Athlete Handbook, followed by an example.

2.7.4 Determination of Qualifiers

Fencers qualify by finishing in the top 25% of the Division qualifying competition…In determining the number of qualifiers, the number of competitors is the total number of fencers who competed in the qualifying competition who are eligible to fence in the Championships. Once the number of qualifiers is determined, those who have already qualified to the Championships through either National or Regional paths in that weapon and category are skipped in determining those who have become qualifiers in that competition. For example, if there are 20 competitors in the qualifying competition, of whom four have already qualified for that particular championships event, and if those four are among the group who would qualify, those four are skipped in determining the five qualifiers from that competition. So, if the ones who have already qualified are 1st, 3rd, 6th, and 7th, then the qualifiers are those who have placed 2nd, 4th, 5th, 8th and 9th.

To extend the example a bit, if auto-qualifiers participate in the qualifier event, then five people will qualify, while if the auto-qualifiers do not participate, only four people will qualify (25% of 16 participants = 4 people). That means that one additional fencer will have a chance to compete at national

3. It benefits your fencing division.

This last reason is mainly geared towards the auto-qualified fencers. Do not think that you are “above” going to a qualifier if you have already auto-qualified. A divisional tournament should have its best fencers in attendance for the best possible level of fencing at the competition. You might easily cruise to the top of the podium, but you’re creating a huge benefit to others by upping the level of competition—the more they fence against good fencers, the better they will become. So by participating in divisional qualifiers, you serve your community well.

Bottom line, if you are eligible to compete, do it. Don’t wait! Go to askFred or your division’s website, check the dates for respective qualifiers, and sign up. You will serve yourself and your community well!