Finding the right fencing club is a big process, and it’s one that matters for success in the long term. For families who are just starting out in this sport, knowing how to choose the right fencing club can be a major challenge. What matters? What doesn’t matter? What are red flags that you should look out for?
We receive such questions all the time from people in different areas of the world. People ask us for recommendations, whether we know of a good club in their area, and if we don’t the want to learn how one can evaluate a fencing club to find the right one.
We’re going to walk you through and help you answer these questions.
The more qualified and experienced the coaches at your club, the better support and guidance they’re going to offer you. Fencing is taught in both group and private sessions, so you need to consider both aspects. The coaches don’t necessarily have to be international superstars, but you do want them to have a successful track record that instills confidence in you. I recommend that you go to the club and see the coach in action.
If championship fencing is your end goal, then you’re going to want to find coaches with a track record of helping competitors win.
Note that this doesn’t have anything to do with the age of the club. A relatively new fencing club can have a great deal of highly qualified coaches who have previous experience, and of course well established clubs might have a lot of impressive competitive results over the course of years.
Practical concerns to think about
Budget and schedule are practical considerations to think about. Facilities matter as well. This is a practical issue in terms of safety, in terms of comfort, and in terms of success. Clubs don’t have to be big to be great, but the facilities should be well maintained and kept up. Style is a negotiable issue, but maintenance and safety are not.
Fencing can be a financially imposing sport, it’s just a reality. There are lots of ways to make things work financially, but it’s something that you definitely want to be thinking about.
Getting to and from the club is a practical piece that you can’t ignore either. Don’t look just in your town for a club, branch out to the cities around you to find out what clubs might be available. You might have to drive a bit (read the story about Dolly Lampson’s USFA nomination), but as long as it’s not too unreasonable for you, getting a good club is worth it. Look around for a carpool to help you negotiate getting to and from the club. Clubs often offer ways for parents to connect with one another for these kinds of things.
We’ve seen it many times that fencers love our beginner fencing camp, only to find out that financially or logistically they can’t make it happen. That’s a big problem! Evaluate how this is going to fit into your life in the overall sense, then make a decision with real world knowledge and eyes open.
There’s just no way around this one- reputation matters! Be thorough about checking on the reputation of the club you’re looking into. Check their Facebook reviews, their Google reviews, their Yelp reviews, and talk to families who are training with them. A good club is going to have a good reputation. There will always be one or two people out who might give a negative review, but if the overall response is positive then you can be sure that there’s something good going on there.
There are many aspects of reputation, one of them is club success. Does the club have the amount of success locally, regionally, and nationally that you’re looking for? Again, it depends on what you’re wanting out of the club.
You’ll learn so much about a club from talking to people who have trained there! This is hands down the best way to evaluate a club to find out if it’s the right fit for you.
Club values and goals
The values and goals of the club are another area that you should be thinking about. What is your end game with the fencing experience? Are you super competitive? Not competitive at all? The club’s goals need to align with your own in order for you to be a good fit. Ask the people in the club what their goals are and what they value. Be open – come right out and ask.
Of course the other way to find out the club values is to go in and observe classes, talk to coaches, and engage with parents. If you can, check them out at a local competition to see what their competition culture is all about. Usually, coaches in competitions have their guard down – they are under stress and oftentimes you will see the true face of the coach. Check how they interact with kids – on and off the strip, in class, in private lessons and in competitions. Talk to parents. Is it overly harsh? Do people seem happy? Are they constantly frustrated or burned out? There are so many ways that you can look at a fencing school. To see what they are, and it’s not always what people say. You’ll get a lot of insight if you just watch and see for yourself!
The most important thing is to feel out whether you like it there and can see yourself fitting into the culture of the club. You’ll know when you find it whether it’s the right fit for you!