Everyone has big feelings about school starting in the fall. Kids. Parents. Teachers.
Should it start online? In person? A hybrid?
What about the spring? What about sports? What about after school activities? What about learning? What about socialization? What about parents? What about work? The “what about”s get flung all over the place, and almost to a person we are all feeling like the rug of life has been pulled out from under us. These are tough things, and we have to face and talk about tough things.
We can all agree on this though – kids have been out of everything for too long.
Every single one of us knows that this is the case.. There is a lot of anger and fear, but honest engagement about it is not easy to come by. The rational dialogue has gotten lost in the swirl of emotions. That’s something we understand – we are emotional too. Exploring and working it out, this is the way to stay grounded.
What is truly controversial is the question of who is responsible for getting our kids back on track now that they have been out of everything for too long. That’s a tough question with a very simple answer.
There are many people asking the important question of whether to mask during exercise or not. It’s a valid question, because once again we are in uncharted territory in this new era of coronavirus.
There are articles and advice on the subject all over the internet. It’s an important subject, and it’s one that there are not clear answers to just yet. There is still good information out there.
Our take, which is still yet to be tested, is below. We aren’t experts in this subject. We have seen many other fencing clubs start to do lessons with masks, and we’ve talked to many club owners. Masks are also what we require. It’s an evolving topic! We expect it to continue to be an evolving topic.
The science indicates that if everyone wears a mask, it will drastically reduce the spread of the virus. We all want to reopen, and wearing a mask is the path to reopening as safely as possible. Wearing a mask is not mainly about protecting your health, it’s mainly about protecting the health of others. Since people without symptoms can be active spreaders of the virus, wearing a mask prevents you from breathing the virus into the air if you are asymptomatic. If you have any symptoms, please stay home!
Things are starting to open back up from the long shutdown to in-person activities, but only a little bit and very cautiously. Make no mistake – the coronavirus is not gone. It is very much still here. In fact, the numbers are not great for anyone who is looking at them.
What has changed is that we have a better understanding of how to prevent the spread of the disease. There are things that we know we can and should be doing, steps that make it safe enough to reopen some fencing schools in a limited capacity. Training does not look anything like it did. The swords are the same. The coaches are the same. The clubs themselves are the same. What’s different is how we are acting.
In-person fencing training has to be different now. It’s necessary. This is not just wearing a mask (though that’s part of it), it’s also changing the methods that we use to teach fencing. The core of what we’re doing will stay the same, but the trappings will be different. Necessarily so.
COVID-19 in-person fencing training regimen
We’ve outlined here a fencing regimen to help guide clubs and coaches, as well as to inform fencers about what to expect for in-person training during this time. Please keep in mind that we are not experts in coronavirus. These are based on our own experience, thinking and on the guidelines set out by healthcare authorities.
What we are being told again and again is that this is a respiratory virus that is spread through droplets that come from the mouth and the nose. Everything that we are doing is targeted to minimize those droplets and their spread from one person to another.
This regimen is broken down into eight parts. Notice the consistent themes and adapt these ideas to your own needs and per guidelines from your local health authorities!
We’ve written a lot about cleaning fencing gear over the years. In normal use, gear gets all kinds of stuff on it. Sweat, tears, more sweat, bits of fluff from the floor of the club, more sweat, etc. Fencing is a hugely physical sport, which means there are all of the normal things that you’d find with any sports gear.
These are not normal times though. As fencers start to look towards getting back into clubs for socially distanced and safe fencing practice, cleaning fencing gear takes on a new significance. It’s not just about maintaining your fencing equipment anymore, it’s about preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
The good news is that fencing gear is easy to clean. In an age where we have gotten to the point of washing our grocery bags, cleaning fencing gear will seem like a simple thing!
Note that these are our recommendations. We’re not health experts. We have read lots of guidelines from lots of experts. We obviously know our way around fencing gear already. These guidelines are what we are recommending to our fencers and their families as we reopen physically. Best practices. These guidelines are comprehensive, with instructions for every facet of fencing equipment that requires attention for cleaning, which is pretty much everything.
Some things might seem like they’re repeated. That’s on purpose. We want to emphasize that this is important, and that cleaning every piece of equipment needs to become a habit for the foreseeable future. We want you to be sick of reading the cleaning steps instead of actually getting sick.
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
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.