How to Strategize Regional Path Qualification in Fencing

Regional path qualification for Fencing Summer Nationals is an important path to the big competition. It’s a path that offers what I think is one of the most accessible ways to get to Fencing Summer Nationals, and it’s a way that I encourage my fencers to pursue.

Strategizing for regional qualification is important! To make it to Fencing Summer Nationals is no easy task, and it’s one that requires thinking ahead. If you plan things out smartly and with the help of some good advice, well you can make everything not only possible, but a lot easier. 

Age is a factor

Basically, there are different qualification requirements for each age group. They are similar in a lot of ways, but they are still distinct. I encourage fencers to have a handle not only on the number of regional points that they need for their own age, but also for the other age groups ahead of them, especially for more advanced fencers. Having at least a quick understanding of what the differences are has a way of making it all a lot more clear.

Even those of us who have been doing this for a long time need to start with verifying how many points are needed to qualify for each age group at Fencing Summer Nationals.

  • Y12
  • Y14
  • Cadet
  • Junior

This is going to give you your goal. You know that the age group that you’re in will require a certain number of points. Keep in mind that you also want to look at the age ahead of you, as for Fencing Summer Nationals it is possible to qualify in the age group ahead of you. You might choose not to go for that higher level qualification for any number of reasons, but I’d say you need to know what’s possible either way. 

Check Yourself

Now you need to find out where you stand. This is simple to do through the USFA, where you can always look at the running total of your points online. Check out the number of points you had and how many events you had to fence at in order to earn those points. 

Once you know this, now estimate how many points are needed from how many competitions. 

Knowing the number of points that you have is so critically important! You have to get a handle on what you are starting with in order to figure out where you are going. It’s tempting to just assume that you have a certain number of points to go. After all, you (or your young fencer) was at every single competition right? But oftentimes fencers go have a look and discover that their numbers are not what they thought they were! Points are not the same as medals or podium appearances – they are much more abstract. You probably don’t know the exact number, even if you think you do. 

You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t have a map! Now that you have both your starting point and your destination, well you can create a path to get where you’re going. 

Make your plan

Now you know how many points you have and how many you need. With this important knowledge, you can make your plan for how to attack the regional qualification. 

Check how many regional tournaments there are for your age group, then go look up where they are. Look inside your region only – there’s no need to look elsewhere. You’re going to sit down and evaluate which ones you can easily attend. For example, you might choose to go after those regional competitions. 

If there is a competition that awards regional points within two or three hours’ drive that does not require a hotel stay, well that’s a no brainer to attend! It’s nice when it’s very easy for this to happen. Depending on where you live, the local regional competitions that you can get to easily can go a very long way to filling those point gaps. 

Once you’ve chosen your competitions, now you want to put them on the calendar. Yes, you can just put the date of the tournament itself. No, that’s not the best way to do it. This goes especially for those competitions that require overnight travel

So how do you plan? Well, here’s how. You need to start with putting four dates on the calendar. 

  • Regular fee registration deadline
  • Late fee registration deadline
  • Withdrawal and refund request deadline
  • Event dates

With each of these dates, set a reminder for one day before. This will notify you of what’s going on so that you have time to take care of anything you need to take care of before the actual day. This will hopefully allow you to plan ahead enough to avoid late fees as you’ll be able to register before the regular fee deadline. If you think there’s a good chance you’ll travel to this competition, that’s important! Those regular fee deadlines represent a significant savings. 

All regional competitions will refund event fees before the withdrawal and refund request deadline. Take that to heart, because it’s incredibly important. I recommend signing up if you think there is a big chance that you will participate. Signing up does not mean you are locked in for sure going to that competition. With a calendar reminder for the date of the refund request, if your child does qualify for Fencing Summer Nationals before that date comes up then you’ve got the opportunity to go ahead and cancel. The registration fees will not be refunded, and typically this is thirty or forty bucks, but you’ll get the competition fee refunded. This is a cost that’s well worth it in my opinion, as it’s always better to have too many things planned than too few! That’s my perspective. 

When those notifications pop up for the withdrawal deadline, now is the time to go in and check your points to see where you are in terms of qualification. You’ll now know whether there is a chance he/she will not qualify and so you’ll find out if you really need to go. Remember, plans are best when they are adaptable! You have to be able to change things when necessary in order to adapt. Otherwise everything gets very stressful. There’s no need for that. 

Here’s an example:

  • My fencer earned 110 points in the two best RYCs for Y14, but she needs another 40 points to qualify. I’m going to make a major effort to attend the next RYC to let them have another shot at qualification.

When it comes up that there are only a modicum of points between a fencer and qualification for Fencing Summer Nationals, that’s a tough spot to be in if you have this idea that it’s all buttoned up. It’s much better to have an extra competition or two planned in there that you can cancel than to have too few points and not be able to make them up, or to have to scramble for competitions. 

Planning makes everything easier and less stressful! Absolutely everything.

Travel considerations

When it comes to travel, obviously everyone has different strategies and life hacks for this. Definitely take my advice, but talk to other parents too! There are so many options and important ways to make travel easier, more affordable, and less stressful. Regional fencing competitions are structured so that they are easier to get to for fencers, who hopefully don’t have to travel as much . 

With travel for competition planning, things might happen and the trip might be cancelled. There are truly negative reasons for that, like sickness happening suddenly on a day of travel. There can also be other, very positive reasons that you need to cancel you trip. For instance if your child qualified via other means (for example, either gained enough regional points or earned national points). If that is the case, then travel to this competition is not required anymore.

If you know that it’s a possibility that you might have to cancel, well then you’re going to think of things a little differently. Maybe a lot differently. Also, if you are not an experienced traveler then you might not have had much experience with pulling out of a trip that you’ve planned. 

I personally am not that advanced travel hacker, so my strategy involves three standard decisions in planning:

  • Pick the right airline. The most obvious one is this to book Southwest. They allow you to cancel and save your money for another flight for a year. If your local airport carries reasonable Southwest flights, this is definitely worth consideration. Airline fares are the biggest expense in traveling, and losing those can hurt. 
  • Insure it. The next one is regular advance booking with insurance – the ticket cost will be lower if booked much in advance, lower enough that you can often make up the cost of the insurance. It seems like wasted money until it isn’t.
  • Last minute. This isn’t a fair strategy, but it is an unfortunate reality. This is one of my frequent and unfortunate habits. Book at the last minute, when I desperately need to find a flight, and then find myself paying a lot more for it. 

What you’ve got here is a major mix of planning ahead but planning contingencies. Qualifying for Fencing Summer Nationals via regional points is something that you have to be willing to make changes to at the last minute, or if not at the last minute then at least after you’ve made plans! Be willing to change, just like fencers must be willing to read their opponent and change when necessary. 

Goal Driven

The bottom line here is that if it is important for your child to compete at Summer Nationals, if they are putting this as their goal for the year, then you of course want to help them out. 

I encourage you to have your child, no matter what age they are, to sit down and plan with you. These processes do not need to happen totally out of the ether, and kids need to know how much goes into them. Your child might even have some suggestions as to how to make the whole thing go more smoothly.

It’s always going to be up to the parent to monitor things closely as far as points and logins and that kind of thing, but they should know about the process and the planning. If you monitor their qualification path closely and plan ahead of time for where to go, you can prepare effectively to avoid late fees and high fares. 

Don’t let this be hard! Regional qualification is a perfect way to get to Fencing Summer Nationals for many fencers. 

Good luck and see you at Summer Nationals 2020!