Right now, the everyday domestic vocabulary of American fencing is in the individual context. No one who thinks of fencing in any context thinks of it as being a multiple-player sport, at least not anyone in America.
This is different in other places. In European fencing competitions, the team component is highlighted and embraced. The shorthand of fencing is that it’s an individual sport and a team sport. It’s just built into the way that sport is carried out in Europe.
In America, on the other hand, we seem locked into the individual way of doing things. In fact, when we imagine folding team competition into American fencing, it seems like it’s a burden being placed on our system every time we add the team competition in. A square peg in a round hole. An extra thing that we do out of obligation instead of the enriching expansion that it really is.
It shouldn’t be this way. Team fencing should be a great support to our fencing culture, for many reasons, including the way that it extends camaraderie and how it helps fencers better develop their skills. If our goal is to support the growth of fencers in skill and happiness, and if we also want to better position ourselves on the international stage, then how can we think of team fencing as a burden when it’s such a big part of international competition and when team fencing so beautifully supports personal and athletic development?
Team fencing needs to be expanded, and soon
We need to move on expanding team fencing in the United States, and we need to move on it soon. There’s every reason for us to have this kind of expansion in place next season, because our fencers deserve the kind of holistic development that team fencing gives them.
Right now, we have almost no team events. When they do happen, they are a side note and people complain about them. That’s a tough mentality to push past, but I am saying here that it’s so worth getting past those limitations.
It’s understandable that fencers prioritize the individual events over the team events, because I can see how you would extrapolate that team fencing is not a big deal because our fencers are not doing it now. If it isn’t broken, why would we want to fix it?
I think that this mentality is totally, totally wrong.
Many of our most important events for giving fencers the skills they need for international competition, events like Div 1 and others, rarely offer the opportunity for team fencing. In any season, we have one Senior, one Junior, one Div1 team event, one Vateran, and this season there was one Cadet team event. One team event per age group. Because we don’t offer them, then fencers don’t train for them, and because they don’t train for them, no one participates in them. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps us locked out of one of the best fencing development paths we have.