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Fencing National Points 101 – A Comprehensive Guide

Fencing National Points 101 - A Comprehensive GuideThis post will provide you with all of the answers to your questions about what National Points are, what they’re used for, how they’re calculated, and how regional competition points differ from national points, including which kinds of fencing competitions regional and national points are earned at.

It’s important to note here that USFA points are only used in the United States, but non-citizens can participate in these competitions in some non-championship events and earn US National Points, though they’re used for seeding purposes only as non-US citizens can’t earn a spot on the US national team.

You’ll notice that this comprehensive post is broken down into two sections:

We highly recommend that you start at the beginning here and read through to the end without skipping around, but do come back here to review! This is a complex part of the world of fencing competitions, but understanding it will really help you to make sense of where you’re going and what kinds of possibilities there are in competitive fencing. Many national confederations besides the United States use some kind of ranking system. I you’re not in America, we encourage you to check with your national fencing governing body to find out about the ranking system that affects you as obviously this document only relates the system for the USA.

Now for the good stuff!
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Part One: What are National Points & What are They Used For?

What are US Fencing National Points?

It’s very common for people who are new to fencing to get confused about the subject of fencing national points. That’s because it is really confusing (until you learn it, and then it’s suddenly so simple!). People talk a lot about national points in and around fencing competitions (so and so qualified for nationals automatically, so and so earned national points, so and so was seeded highest at last RYC due to his national points, even if he wasn’t the highest rated fencer, etc.), so for new fencers it’s something that you hear about a lot before you get the opportunity to understand it.

It’s important to note that you can get all of this information explained in even further detail in the Athlete Handbook. Keep in mind that this book can be quite thick to read through, and that most new fencers can easily become completely overwhelmed with it. There are so many new concepts that it can almost be scary to dig in! Don’t worry, we will try to explain it in lay terms that are easier to understand. Then you can go back and reference the handbook to deepen your knowledge if you like.

The Basics

National points are a ranking mechanism that the USFA applies to fencers performing at national or international level tournaments. Based on their final placement in a points-awarding tournament, fencers are awarded the appropriate number of points.

As a fencer participates in many points-awarding tournaments during the course of a fencing season, he or she earns points in some of them. Then there is a formula (which varies for different age groups) that is applied to all of these points. Based on this formula, the total amount of points at any given time in the season is calculated.

National points are rolling, with a sliding window of 1 year. That means that the points earned at some tournament this year will be replaced with the points earned on the same (or similar) tournament which will be held about a year from now. So yes, that means that the points change constantly during the season. (More on down the page in Part Two).

National points are maintained for each weapon/age/gender category separately and fencers are compared only within their own bracket, no matter how they stand in any other bracket. For example, a Y12 men’s foilist is compared only against other Y12 men’s foilists, regardless what his standing in Y14 men’s foil or Y12 men’s epee if should he happen to compete in those categories as well. Weapons are always kept separate in terms of national points.

The system that maintains the points standing called National Points Rolling Standing (or NPRS). The USFA database is frequently updated as the results of the latest competitions are reported. All fencers in each age/weapon/gender category are sorted out from highest to lowest national points standing.

How are Fencing National Points Used?

Okay, so now you have an idea of what national points are. Now it’s time to move on to figuring out how they’re used.

Ranking

First and foremost, national points are a ranking mechanism and thus fencers in the same gender/weapon/age group are ranked against each other on the national level. It allows fencers to see where they are.

Age Group

A fencer who is ineligible to participate in a competition in the next age group can do that if he/she has national points in his/her age group. For example, a Y10 fencer can typically participate only in Y10 and Y12 competition, but if this fencer is on NRPS in Y12 category then he/she can fence in Y14 competition.

Seeding

At national, regional and sometimes even local tournaments, national points are used to seed participants in the initial seeding prior to the pools starting. It’s important to note that only national points in that competition event will be taken into consideration. For example, if a fencer is ranked in both Y10 and Y12 in that weapon, and the competition event is Y10, only the ranking in Y10 will be taken into consideration for the seeding purposes.

National Competition Qualification

Fencers with national points are automatically qualified to fence at respective national level tournaments, such as championships or July Challenges.

International Competition Qualification

For older age categories (for example, cadet, junior, senior, veterans), national ranking is used to fill the quota of US fencers who can fence internationally. For example in international cadet tournaments that are not championships, the first 20 highest ranked fencers are automatically allowed to compete, with lower ranked fencers being on the standby list (again, in the order per national ranking) should a fencer in the ranking not be able to attend.

National Team

The national team in every age category is composed of top ranked fencers in that category. For example for the respective championships in seniors and juniors, the top 4 ranked fencers compose a national team, and in cadets top 3 will make the team.

Part Two: How Are Fencing Points Calculated?

So now you know what fencing points are and what they’re used for, but the question quickly becomes one of how are they calculated?  So let’s walk through that part – how are national points calculated.

First off, a warning (that sounds a bit ominous but it’s really not!) – this is really the most difficult part of understanding fencing national points. That really just means that when you’ve read this post and have it all figured out (which you will!) that you can feel really great about yourself. The main reason that it’s so complicated is that there is no single rule or formula for the calculation of points. Each age category has a completely different set of rules and conditions for awarding these points.

Now to dig in.

Age Categories

National points are awarded in the following age categories:

  • Youth (10/12/14)
  • Cadet
  • Junior
  • Seniors (for Division 1 only)
  • Veterans (for Veterans age groups and combined)

Let’s briefly explain how points are calculated for the youth, cadet, junior and senior categories, assuming that if you’re competing in the veteran categories that the explanation is not really needed – the fencer who is competing in those categories should be experienced and already familiar with the general concept (and anyway it’s quite similar).

As a rule of thumb, for non-senior categories (y10, Y12, Y14, Cadet, junior) all national points are awarded based on the performance of the fencers in their own age category and in one or more categories above (depending on the age).

This concept can be a difficult one for someone who’s new to wrap their brain around. You can earn points in both the age that you actually are, based on your chronological age, as well as in age categories that are above your current age. Why? The idea here is that if you’re fencing above your age category, then you’re showing prowess at a high level, as it’s assumed that those fencers in the higher categories are more experienced and skilled, which in return reflects back on your own age category.

Let’s break that down.

National points are awarded for categories

  • Youth 10: Y10 and Y12 domestic performances
  • Youth 12: Y12 and Y14 domestic performances
  • Youth 14: Y14 and Cadet domestic performances
  • Cadet: Cadet, Junior and Senior performances, both domestically and internationally
  • Junior: Junior and Senior performances, both domestically and internationally
  • Senior: domestic and international performances in Seniors

Rolling Points

It’s essential to mention here that points are awarded and calculated on a 1 year rolling basis. That means that points for the current season for this year qualifying competition will replace points awarded in the similar event a year ago. What is a “similar” event? Usually it is the same type of the event (e.g., SYC, NAC, Championship, World Cup, etc.), typically being held in a similar timeframe, that USFA has defined as replacement event. Keep that last part in mind – the USFA defines these replacement events.

For example, this year Junior Olympics Championship replaces last year Junior Olympics Championship.

There is no exclusion from this rule. For example, if a fencer was the first in his/her category last year and took a break this season for some reason and did not participate in any points awarding events, then he or she can completely lose their position since the replacement points will simply be ZERO.

Rolling Points Cycle and Age Categories

However, to add to all this a bit of further complexity (yay!) – the 1 year cycle is different for different age categories. For example, the cycle for youth (Y10/Y12/Y14) coincides with the fencing season where a year starts on August 1 and ends on July 31. However, for older age groups (cadets, juniors and seniors) the cycle is different as these ages cycles are aligned with international fencing. Why the difference?  These fencers can participate in Cadet, Juniors or Senior World Cups and Championships and thus must meet the age requirement of international fencing governing body (FIE – Federation Internationale D’Escrime).

So let’s be clear – the real background reason for the difference in the two rolling point years is so that age categories line up properly. Basically it’s based on your birthday!

USFA publishes a list of all replacement tournaments for each age group once a year at the beginning or prior to the beginning of the new season, so you can check the Athlete Handbook at the beginning of the season to see which tournament this season replaces which tournament from the last season.

Pay attention to the fact that the Athlete Handbook is a living document that defines US fencing. Every year the USFA will update it with the information such that is equivalent to the current fencing season. Such information as replacement events, qualification rules, criteria for making a team, and more. So it is important that once you become quite fluent and committed to fencing that you check this document (or at least skip through its pages) at least at the beginning of the new season.

Tournament Point Basics

Now let’s take a look at some basic for tournament points per age category.

The first thing to note here is that for different age categories and different types of tournaments, the maximum number of awarded points varies.  There are two rules of thumb here:

  • Older the age category awards more points
  • International level tournaments (World Cups, Grand Prix, World or Zonal Championships, Olympic Games) award more points that domestic events

Let’s check some examples, which will really help you to figure this one out.

  • Y10 SYC awards 100 points for the first place
  • Y12 SYC awards 120 points to the winner
  • Y14 SYC awards 200 points to its winner

See that difference? Let’s break down another example.

  • Y10 and Y12 NACs award a maximum of 100 points
  • Y14 NAC gives maximum 200 points
  • Cadet NAC will max at 400 points
  • Junior NAC will max at 600 points
  • Senior NAC awards to its winner 1000 points (and even that can change based on how strong the tournament, but this adds additional level of complexity and explanation which we will skip this time).

The thing to take away from this section is that each age category within a competition awards a different number of points.

How does this affect your child? Quite simple – a successful finish in the older age category brings additional significant benefit to the fencer in their own age category as he/she earns even more points.

Point Calculation Formulas

The next several sections will take you through the exact point calculation for each age category. This is where we do get a little more complex, but it’s really super simple! Try not to get overwhelmed by taking it one category at a time.

Youth Age Categories (Y10, Y12, Y14)

In all of these categories we find that there’s really one common thread – each one is the sum of the best 4 results. So imagine that you go to SYCs and NACs and place differently at each, only your top four placements will count, the rest don’t mean anything in regards to points. This is why it’s important to go to a wide number of competitions if you’re hunting for national points! Only the good performances matter!

Youth 10 – the total number of points is the sum of the best 4 results from:

  • The highest number of points in all SYC’s in Y10 category
  • The highest number of points in all SYC’s in Y12 category
  • Points earned in Y10 Spring NAC (also called Youth NAC, typically either in March or April)
  • Points earned in Y10 Summer Nationals
  • Points earned in Y12 Spring NAC
  • Points earned in Y12 Summer Nationals.

Youth 12 – the total number of points is the sum of the best 4 results from:

  • The highest number of points in SYC in Y12 category
  • The highest number of points in SYC in Y14 category
  • Points earned in Y12 Spring NAC (also called Youth NAC, typically either in March or April)
  • Points earned in Y12 Summer Nationals
  • Points earned in Y14 Fall NAC (aka Cadet/Junior NAC, typically held in November)
  • Points earned in Y14 Spring NAC (aka Youth NAC)
  • Points earned in Y14 Summer Nationals.

Youth 14 – the total number of points is the sum of the best 4 results from:

  • The highest number of points in SYC in Y14 category
  • Points earned in Y14 Spring NAC (Youth NAC)
  • Points earned in Y14 Summer Nationals
  • Points earned in Y14 Fall NAC (aka Cadet/Junior NAC)
  • Points earned in Cadet NAC in October
  • Points earned in Cadet NAC in November (or December)
  • Points earned in Cadet event at Junior Olympics Championship
  • Points earned in Cadet July Challenge during Summer Nationals.

Cadet, Junior and Senior Categories

For Cadets, Juniors and Seniors the situation becomes to be more complicated, as in addition to domestic tournaments there are international tournaments that award points. Plus points for cadets can be earned at all three age categories: cadet, junior and senior. And because of that the whole calculation complicates a bit since for Cadets, Juniors and Seniors there are two group values.

  • Group II is the top results in International events
  • Group I is top results in overall point-awarding tournament (minus already considered points for Group II)

One of the reasons for this is that once you graduate from youth categories you are encouraged to compete in the international arena. After all, being the best in the country isn’t enough – you need to start going to international tournaments, earning pride for your country and some points as well. The importance of international events significantly grows with the age in two major ways – the size of Group II grows (2 or 3 results in Cadets and Juniors and 5 results in Seniors!) as well as the amount of points awarded in typical international event is much higher than in any other domestic event, and definitely grows with each age category.

Now to dig in further to the points!

Cadet Points

Cadets – the total number of points is the sum of the best 2 results in Group II and the 4 results among earned in the rest of all point-awarding competitions. These 5 results are combined into what is called Group I. (Note: for some weapons Group II consists of 3 results and Group I consists of 5 results)

Group II only consists of points earned at International tournaments, while Group I can include both domestic and international results.

Group II points are the best 2 results (sometimes 3) in the following International Tournaments:
  • Points earned in each Cadet International Designated Tournament (sometimes called Cadet World Cup) – typically there are 3 to 4 such tournaments
  • Points earned in Cadet World Championship
  • Points earned in each Junior World Cup, typically there are 3 or 4 such tournaments
  • Points earned at the Junior World Championship
Group I points can be earned in following tournaments:
  • Cadet NAC’s (typically in October or November)
  • Cadet event at Junior Olympics Championship
  • Cadet Challenge during Summer Nationals
  • Junior NAC’s (typically in November and January)
  • Junior event at Junior Olympics Championship
  • Junior July Challenge during Summer Nationals
  • Division 1 NAC’s (typically in October, December and January)
  • Division 1 Championship (typically in Spring)
  • Division 1 July Challenge during Summer Nationals
  • Points from international tournaments in Group II that were not included into Group II

Junior Points

Similarly to Cadet points, Junior points are divided to two groups: Group II which counts the 3 best international results, and Group I which counts the best 4 results from the rest of the competitions.

However the major difference between cadet and junior international results is that for the cadet age only cadet designated tournaments will count while for juniors it would be international tournaments in both junior and senior categories. Well, after all, if you want to be on top of the US list of juniors you need to take more professional approach and be more competitive on the international arena.

Group II results are best 3 results from each of the following International Competitions:
  • Points earned in each Junior World Cup, typically there are 3 or 4 such tournaments
  • Points earned at the Junior World Championship
Group I – counts points from:
  • Points earned in Junior NAC’s (typically in November and January)
  • Points earned in Junior event at Junior Olympics Championship
  • Points earned in Junior July Challenge
  • Points earned in Division 1 NAC’s
  • Points earned in Division 1 Championship
  • Points earned in Division 1 July Challenge
  • Points earned in each Junior World Cup
  • Points earned in Junior World Championship
  • Points earned in each Senior World Cup or Grand Prix

Senior (Division 1) Points

Well, Seniors is the only age group when points from other adjacent age groups do not matter.

Also, in Seniors the major emphasis goes to International events, to the point that most national team members prefer to skip some NAC’s (and sometime even the Division 1 National Championship!) and focus mostly on their international fencing career.

That’s because Senior points are combined from Group I and Group II, and Group II is composed on 5 values, while Group I only from 2.

The Group II for Seniors is the best 5 results in the following Senior International events:
  • 5 World Cups
  • 3 Grand Prix
  • World Championship

Group I adds to the mix all of Division 1 point-based competitions: Division 1 NAC’s (3 times a year), Division 1 Championship and Division 1 July Challenge, but as we noted about, only 2 best results counts.

So this means for top US fencers it does not make any sense to participate in all these NAC’s and more important to focus on their international schedule, allowing themselves to participate in domestic events only once in awhile.

Of course this is really just a very basic overview of the process and the exact formula, size of the Groups and point-based designated competition might vary! But it does kind of help you to see the big picture after all of those details that you’ve gotten along the way. Understanding point calculation and the ins and outs of fencing competition is important and enriching for fencers, allowing them to take their craft to the next level by competing against better fencers in bigger venues. Plus it’s fun!

Remember, this whole process is about challenging ourselves to grow. Fencing is so much more than points! But the points are valuable in that they lead us to getting better, on and off the strip.

 

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3 Comments

  1. DH

    Thank you for this post. It is our 1st year fencing and even though I read the USFA athlete manual (yeap, all 150 pages), it was still not clear to me how NRPs were calculated for my son in Y12 & Y14. Not so now. He has won points at RYCs and SYCs and your post has clarified where our effort, time , and money should be focus on.

    • Igor Chirashnya

      Hi DH!
      I am very glad you find this material useful. Yeah, the manual is confusing at first but with your son’s progress it becomes easier to understand. For the points, pay attention that only SYC’s and NAC’s give national points, and at RYC’s they earn regional points.
      Igor.

  2. Chris Flanagan

    I have spent the last hour trying to figure out how many points my USA daughter got coming in 10th place in a field of 144 fencers in a womens cadet tournament in Austria yesterday. No luck. Can you give me the formula?

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