AFM Safe Shield - Returning to Training Guidelines & Plan

The “AFM Safe Shield” Returning to Training Guidelines are based on CDC health considerations and tools for operating during COVID-19, California schools’ guidelines, CDC Considerations for Youth Sports and Summer Camps,  and Santa Clara County’s Public Health update and restrictions

Fencing is traditionally about swords, but now we are in a time when we need to act as a shield for our fencing community.

The last several months have been a whirlwind of change for everyone. Lockdowns, quarantine, social distancing, and a hefty dose of everyone feeling trapped and overwhelmed. Reopening is something that we all want to do, but we also want to do it safely. 

The problem is, most of us in the fencing world aren’t health experts. The good news is that we don’t have to be. There are a whole host of guidelines and structures that have been published to help businesses create safety plans that will make reopening fencing clubs as safe as possible. 

We’ve pulled information from the CDC, the government of California, and the Santa Clara County Health Department to create a plan for reopening fencing clubs, adapting it to the specifics of the fencing club training. Of course, there is always a risk and no system is perfect. However we have worked with experts and expert advice to come up with procedures that will minimize the risk of spreading the virus while also creating an environment where fencing training can continue. AFM is only working in clear accordance with the safety procedures laid out by Santa Clara County, all governmental restrictions and guidance, and what has been set out by Santa Clara County Schools. 

AFM continues to keep the wellbeing of our fencers, their families, and our coaching team as our highest priority. 

Flexibility, input, and accommodation 

Safety is what matters, whether it is in small groups classes or in private lessons as we move towards a new normal. The AFM Safe Shield Plan brings together the power of leading experts, parent’s suggestions, and the shared responsibility between us all.

AFM is adopting the hybrid approach for training our fencers. Members have several options for training with AFM. 

  • Small group training with precautions
  • Indoor or outdoor classes and private lessons
  • Zoom training
  • Any combination of the above

Everyone has their own considerations for safety and their own concerns about exposure. Whatever decision each family makes about their training, we support all of them. Accommodations and flexibility from us are a central tenet of our philosophy, especially now. Whatever we can do for fencing families, whether it is within these policies or not, we would love to hear it. All fencers deserve to have individual goals for training in fencing, no matter if they are in the club or training remotely. Growth is possible and still so important!

The input of families is a critical part of this process. This is a living document. 

Detailed protocols for reopening fencing clubs

This is a detailed protocol for everyone involved in the in-club training of fencers. We want to be ahead of the curve in our preparation, ready to open once the authorities give us the green light.

These procedures are not static. We will update and improve them as we get feedback from AFM members, our fellow club managers around the country and readers of our blog, and as new information becomes available, and as we see how they work in the field and in real time. 

  • Unless otherwise stated, these procedures are applicable to both AFM locations.
  • All related parties MUST strictly adhere to the set of guidelines and procedures outlined for the safety of others. Moreover, we would like to encourage all of you to bring to our attention anything additional we should or could do in that regard.
  • Fencing, unlike all other combat sports, is a non-contact combat sport with no skin contact during training. However, fencers do share the same facility and thus we must provide adequate policies for the time being to help minimize and prevent any potential risk of spreading COVID-19.

Returning to Training – Reopening Procedures

Reopening is a phased process. Patience and focus are key. (Just like in a fencing bout!)

Timeline

AFM will reopen only after the local health authorities allow it. All in-person classes and private lessons will follow social distancing and health protocols.

  • Stage 1 – (currently) All classes and private lessons online through Zoom
  • Stage  2 – (Day 1 of California Phase 3) In-person private lessons and Zoom classes
  • Stage 3 – (+2 weeks after Day 1) In-person small group bouting and private lessons, Zoom classes
  • Stage 4 – (TBD) – Back to normal

It means that with official California’s Phase 3 AFM will start with private lessons for about 2 weeks prior to moving to small classes.

Note that there is no plan yet to return to normal full occupancy fencing classes. We are carefully taking this one step at a time. Stage 3 is what we expect to be in for the foreseeable future. If things change in regard to the pandemic, it is possible that we could have to go backwards to previous phases. (Let’s hope not!)

Revisions to the timeline will be made as new information becomes available. 

Returning to Training – Logistics and cleaning procedures

Social distancing and cleaning guidelines are the core of safety during this pandemic. The following are the logistics and cleaning procedures that we will be following.

These procedures are set for all of our facilities.  

Facilities

  • Doors and windows are opened for increased ventilation, as much as possible with the outdoor temperature. 
  • Clear signage for precautionary measures will be installed in appropriate areas.
  • Foot traffic flow patterns marked throughout the building. 
  • Temperature checks for coaches, students, and anyone else entering the building. 
  • Hand sanitizing stations at each entrance and exit, close to training areas, and at offices. EVERYONE must sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting the club. No exceptions. 

Entry

  • The AFM parking lot is closed to vehicles 
  • The parking lot is designated for fencing bags. No fencing bags are permitted inside the building to allow for adequate social distancing.
  • Suit up/down occurs in the parking lot.
  • Fencers must come to the club wearing fencing knickers and fencing socks. 
  • Fencers must come to the club with street shoes and change into fencing shoes ONLY prior to the entry to the club from the parking lot. Street shoes should be kept with the fencing bag outside. 
  • Fencers who came without fencing knickers, long socks or who did not change their street shoes to fencing shoes will not be allowed to enter the building.
  • Only fencer that is scheduled to participate in the club activity (e.g., class or private lessons) is allowed to enter the facility. There is no waiting inside for classes and a fencer will be allow to enter not earlier than 15 minutes prior to the scheduled private lessons for a warm up.
  • NO parents are allowed to enter the parking lot, under any circumstances. Drop off occurs along the street or in official lots nearby. All fencers, regardless of age, must carry their own fencing bags and suit up or down independently. Families are asked to please practice this prior to coming to the club. (Instructions of how to gear up can be found in this graphical post.)
  • Everyone must sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting the building. 

Cleaning

  • Between each class, cleaning will include the disinfection of:
    • Door handles
    • Light switches
    • Bathroom doors
    • Bathroom faucets
    • Toilet facilities
  • Deep cleaning will occur regularly when the club is closed in the mornings prior to opening. 
  • All lost & found items (with the exception of jewelry, watches, cell phones, iPads, computers, keys, and wallets) will be disposed of after each day. 

Individuals

  • AFM coaching and administration staff will wear face shields or covers at all times except when giving private lessons or wearing a fencing mask. 
  • All visitors on campus must wear a face cover and register in the office.
  • Dressing rooms will be closed for usage to restrict fencers interaction or contact. Gearing up will happen in a parking lot.
  • No food is allowed inside the fencing facility. 
  • Water fountains will be turned off. Every fencer must bring his/her own bottle with a CLEAR name on it. The bottles must be disposed of or taken back after each class. Unclaimed bottles left after the class will be thrown away.
  • Fencers, coaches, parents, or anyone coming to the fencing club should come directly TO and FROM the club. For example, fencers should not visit restaurants before coming to the club.

Equipment

  • Coaches and fencers should not leave their equipment in the club. Equipment should be taken home and washed after every single use.
  • Personal equipment including the following should be washed after each training.
    • Gloves
    • Jackets
    • Pants
    • Socks
    • T-shirts
    • Shorts
    • Towels
  • Personal equipment that cannot be washed should be disinfected after each use.
    • Weapons
    • Masks
  • No club fencing gear may be used. Fencers who forget their gear cannot participate in the fencing part. No exceptions.
  • Additional gear such as jump ropes, tennis balls, and yoga mats must be brought by each fencer for every training and labeled clearly with their name.  
  • Face towels are the responsibility of each coach and fencer to bring.
  • Every fencer should bring their own hand-sanitizer as an extra precaution.

Class Structure

  • Classes are all shortened by 15 minutes to allow time for safety procedures and cleaning. 
  • All classes are conducted in small groups based on social distancing guidelines until all restrictions are lifted.
  • Class groups will be formed based on level and skill of fencers first, then with consideration to time options. 
  • Fencers must use a sanitizing station and clean their hands prior to the entrance to the building and at exiting. Including after changing into fencing gear! 
  • Fencers are asked to sanitize or wash hands during breaks, per explicit instruction from the coach.
  • After each class, machines and reels will be disinfected. 
  • While we will not require a second glove for a non-fencing arm, it is highly advisable in order to minimize the touching of the reel. An alternative might be that fencers bring their own small hand sanitizer to keep near the real and use it after reconnecting.
  • No handshakes or other physical contact during class between students or coaches.
  • Fencers are separated on strips, using an empty strip to maintain six feet of distance. No two fencers may do any exercise sharing the same strip at the same time, with the exception of bouting or pair drills.
  • No shared objects during warm-ups or classes – including balls, relay batons, etc. All games are canceled.
  • Warm-up running and warm-up exercises will be limited to each individual strip, similar to the way they are done in competition venues. This is to preserve social distancing at any time of the warm up.
  • Any tag or similar touching games between the kids before or after the class are disallowed at this moment.

Required disclosures

  • Individuals showing any signs of sickness will be sent to the office and home. The individual will be re-admitted only with a negative corona test, doctor’s approval note, or after 2 weeks of self isolation following the incident. Classes for the fencer will be available only via Zoom during this time.Parents MUST contact the office the next day to confirm the child’s health status.
  • If any member of a household travels outside of the San Francisco Bay Area counties, the family must let the office know and self-isolate the fencer for 2 weeks. Classes for the fencer will be available only via Zoom during this time. This is a huge responsibility for our community. 
  • Kids or parents with allergy need to bring a doctor’s letter confirming the symptoms are allergy related.
  • Full disclosure of possible illness from families, the coaching team, and staff is required. It is a parental responsibility to disclose any signs of illness in fencers or family members to the office and move to Zoom classes immediately.
  • Fencers who may be at higher risk for severe illness, such as children who may have asthma, diabetes, or other health problems must notify the office and take no risk participating in in-person training until restrictions are lifted. 

Returning to Training – Code of Conduct

MEMBER CODE OF CONDUCT

  • Do not breathe heavily next to someone close in proximity. Do not allow others to breath heavily close to you in proximity
  • Disinfect your fencing bag and handles often.
  • Disinfect your phones frequently.
  • Keep your belongings close by your bag.
  • Do not leave your equipment in the club after training to dry off. 
  • Equipment should be taken home and washed after every single use, including gloves, jacket, pants, socks, t-shirts, shorts. Equipment such as weapons and masks cannot be washed, but they should be disinfected after every single use.

COACHING TEAM  CODE OF CONDUCT

  • AFM will frequently provide a structured, thorough training to staff on new cleaning and safety protocols to coaches. 
  • Temperature testing for staff will be taken daily.
  • Coaches will wipe down all used reels after each class.
  • Coaches must take home workout clothes, PPE, and supplies in a closed bag.
  • Coches must stay at home if they are coughing, sneezing or are displaying signs of symptoms of a respiratory infection. Coaches must report if they feel first signs of sickness to the administration. 
  • No contact of any kind is permitted. All staff must maintain six feet of distance at all times.
  • Coaches must immediately report potential contact with the virus

PARENTS CODE OF CONDUCT

  • Remind your kids about good hygiene etiquette
  • Help your kids clean their fencing equipment after each use.
  • Equipment such as masks and weapons must be wiped down with disinfectant, both inside and outside.
  • Give your kids a water bottle labeled with their name
  • If possible, drive them to their club and back instead of allowing them to take public transportation.
  • No parents are allowed in the club. All meetings except urgent or emergency situations will be available via Zoom immediately upon request. 
  • Meetings with coaches or administration in the club is allowed only in urgent situations, such as if a child needs to be immediately picked up.
  • Communication with the club is encouraged to go through email, phone calls or Zoom meetings – all of these will be accessible with very short notice every working day. 
  • Parents must pick up their kids immediately after the class or private lesson. Waiting inside the facility will not be allowed.
  • Parents must let the administration know about travel of their close family members and self quarantine before fencers can re-enter in-person classes.  
  • Everyone should maintain a distance of 6 feet.
  • Do not hug, shake hands, high-five, or touch anyone.
  • Stay at home if you are coughing, sneezing or are displaying signs of symptoms of a respiratory infection. Parents that see the first signs of sickness, please stay home and do not drive your kids to the club on that day for observation. Please refer above to know what is required to return to in-person training.
  • Prior to starting in-person training, fencers or their legal guardians must confirm understanding of these guidelines.

Additional Online Training

Please give us feedback on what you’ve read here – in comments to the post itself, so we will have a consolidated feedback. We want to know. 

We’re all in this together! By working together and being flexible, we can make this transition as easy and safe as possible. We all want to be back together, and we miss our old days of being together with hugs and handshakes, but those days will come again. For now, we must be careful and cautious to keep everyone safe.

We’ll see you on Zoom or from six feet! 

Appendix 

  1. CDC Considerations for Youth Sports
  2. CDC Considerations for Youth and Summer Camps (May 19, 2020) 
  3. CDC GUIDANCE FOR CLEANING AND DISINFECTING PUBLIC SPACES, WORKPLACES, BUSINESSES, SCHOOLS, AND HOMES. 
  4. CDC Guidance for Reopening Buildings After Prolonged Shutdown or Reduced Operation
  5. Workplaces Considerations for Reopening During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  6. Prepare your Small Business and Employees for the Effects of COVID-19
  7. Child Care, Schools, and Youth Programs – Plan, Prepare, and Respond CDC recommendations
  8. Resilience roadmap  – Covid19.CA.Gov 
  9. California State Officials Announce Latest COVID-19 Facts
  10. Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 CDC
  11. Handwashing Guidelines CDC
  12. How to Protect Yourself & Others CDC
  13. Symptoms of Coronavirus: CDC