Fencing has a reputation for being an expensive sport. People often think that it is an elite sport that is too far out of the reach of many families. It’s one of the aspects of fencing that holds it back from becoming more mainstream.
This reputation is not necessarily well deserved, but then information is power in all things. And so I decided to write a blog that gives parents and fencers a good perspective on the expenses roadmap.
It is incredibly important to note that these are general figures that are based on our research and experience at the time of this writing. Every fencing club is different, and prices will vary depending on the cost of living where you are and what the fencing marketplace looks like. Clubs have a range of offerings and structures, so you will want to speak to your local club about what their requirements are. In general however, this is a guideline that will give you an idea of what you can expect: now as you enrolled into fencing, and down the road, when you reach a high competitive level.
The cost of fencing training
Let’s break down the line item costs of fencing so that we can make sense of where the money is or isn’t going.
Introductory course – $100 to $200
Many clubs offer an introduction to fencing program for a lower cost for those who want to dip their toe in the sport but aren’t sure yet. These programs often involve borrowing equipment so that families don’t have to invest before they make a decision. They are often optional, as fencing clubs generally offer some kind ongoing beginner course.
Equipment – $400-$650
This is an upfront cost that is necessary to get started in fencing, however it’s not as simple as that. The price varies based on the brand and the quality of the gear your purchase. The cost of equipment is amortized over several years, because fencing equipment tends to be well made and able to last over several years.
Let’s be conservative and say that the initial fencing equipment will last for 2 years. That amounts to $20-$30 per month. So while the cost initially is high, over time it is not as expensive as it first seems.
There are also cheaper options to purchase equipment when you start, in particular you can try to find a second hand equipment either on eBay or from your fellow club mates who have outgrown their gear.
Group lessons – $10 to $30/hour
Classes are the backbone of fencing training, especially for beginners but also for experienced fencers. Group lessons offer fencers the chance to bout against opponents of a similar level and to build camaraderie.
At our club, beginners start out with an hour and a half of fencing group lessons each week, taught in a single session. Lessons scale up in length and number per week from there, with the highest level (competitive fencers) attending four group sessions per week at two hours each for roughly eight hours per week total.
For adult fencers, expect to have two hour long lessons two nights per week. There are not levels for adult fencers in most clubs like those you will find in youth fencers, but there is nonetheless lots of room to grow.
Note that most schools charge a registration fee ($40-$100) when you begin classes. Fencing lessons per month cost anywhere from $200 to $600 total depending on the level that a fencer is training and competing at.
Private lessons – $120 to $200/hour
This cost seems like a huge expense when you first see it. However it’s not exactly as it seems. In fencing, private lessons last for only twenty minutes as a standard. That’s more like $35-$50 per lesson.
How many lessons a fencer takes per week will determine how much they spend on lessons per month. Beginner fencers take one lesson per week, while high level competitive fencers might take two double lessons per week. In a month, a fencer could then spend anywhere from $140 to $400, depending on the level that they are at and the cost per lesson.
Open fencing fees $20-$50/session
Many clubs offer open fencing times for practice. This is especially true in areas where there is a concentration of the sport, like New York metropolitan area, as fencers from any club can come and try out their skills with fencers that they would not normally fence against in their clubs. This is great for increasing skill and giving valuable experience, but note that it is not a requirement.
Clubs with this option generally offer both a drop in rate that is higher in price as well as a monthly or yearly fee that covers access to all open fencing activities.
Fencing camp – $200 to $800 per week
Summer camps and school break camps can be a great component of fencing training. These are intensive, multi-day opportunities to grow fencing skills, and for competitive fencers they offer a boost right before major competitions.
Introductory fencing camps often give new fencers their first foot in the door to the sport. Intermediate fencing camps help to push fencers to a higher level. Competitive fencing camps are for athletes competing on the regional, national, or international level and can involve guest coaches or other experts in fencing. Though fencing camps are not required and are not offered at all clubs, they are worthwhile for fencers of any level due to their unique immersive nature.
Club membership fees – $600 to $1000 annually
Many fencing clubs will charge a membership fee that is paid annually, or sometimes broken down into a monthly pay model. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $200 per month for a club membership, depending on where the club is located and how competitive it is.
USA Fencing membership – $10 to $85 per year
Membership in the governing body of fencing is required for most fencers to participate in club activities. These fees are set by USA Fencing and are static – ten dollars for non-competitive fencers and eighty-five dollars for competitive fencers.
Competition fees – $50 to $350 per competition
Each competition, whether it is local in the club or international, will charge a registration fee and a fee for each event that the fencer competes in. For example, regional competitions like RJCCs and RYCs can charge $35 for registration and $45 for each event. Expect to pay double that for national competitions. Local competitions are much less, more like $15-$20 to register and $20-$30 for each event.
Note that all of these fees go up if you wait to register. Every event will charge a premium if you miss the early sign-up window.
Strip coaching – $35 to $300 per event
Strip coaching is when a fencing coach stands at the side of the strip and gives the fencer input on what they are doing during the match. They also pull the fencer aside between bouts to offer instruction and insight.
Some clubs require strip coaching for their competitors, and rarely clubs will include it in the group class fee. The wide variation in expense for strip coaching has to do with travel and the level of competition. These fees are there to cover both the salary of the fencing coach as well as the travel, which is another reason that they vary from competition to competition. Expect strip coaching for regional, national, and international tournaments, and sometimes also for local tournaments.
Travel expenses – $0 to $3000+
As with any sport, the higher you go the more travel is involved. Local competitions have no travel expense. Regional competitions might involve a drive in the car and a hotel for a night. National competitions can last for several days and require a flight and a hotel for multiple nights. International competitions are obviously going to require airfare and accommodations in the country where they take place.
So, what is the answer then – is fencing an expensive sport?
All in, fencing can cost anywhere from around $2500 per year if you are a non-competitive fencer to upwards of $20,000 for internationally competitive fencers. That range is massive, but it doesn’t just jump. Fencers start off small, with lessons and an investment in equipment, then progress over years to get to that high level of competition and cost.
Comparatively, fencing costs about the same as other individual sports like gymnastics or tennis. It all depends on the level that you want to be at. Because fencing is more niche than these sports (ie smaller), it can be harder to find places to train, which lends itself to the mystique of the sport being out of reach and therefore expensive.
The bottom line is that if you want to fence, there is an accessible way for you to do it! Start at your level and see what works for you, and most of all enjoy the sport for all of the great things that it has to offer.