Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Kids Summer Camps in Pandemic

Fencing Summer Camps for Kids in Pandemic

There is movement in the right direction when it comes to the pandemic, and so we are now looking at promising possibilities for the coming summer. Last summer was tough with COVID keeping everyone at home. We didn’t even know the full extent of the virus then, and it’s hard to even remember how much fear and uncertainty there was at that time. There was no choice but to keep kids home out of summer camps and to keep them on Zoom. That made for a long, difficult time period as we know that kids need social interaction in order to thrive. What could be next and how could we go about it? It’s a topic that we have to explore. 

Prudence paired with practicality

At this point, kids MUST get out of their houses for the sake of their mental health and social development. There was a point in time where the danger of going out of the house was real, but that time is coming to a close. We aren’t quite there yet, but with the vaccine rolling out quickly and projections that every eligible adult will be able to get a vaccine by early summer, we can have some practical optimism that activities will be able to resume, even in a modified form. 

We cannot run recklessly towards any activities that might not be safe. It is always, always better to err on the side of caution than it is to go too fast and find ourselves in a bad situation. Whatever the CDC’s guidelines are, we have always believed that it was best to go at least that far and then a little further where we could as a precaution. However, there is every indication that we will be able to reopen for longer periods of time this summer safely. Not to jump too fast, but what a remarkable possibility!

It is this balancing act of deciding what is safe that every parent is trying to judge. Some kids are going back to school now, while others will be learning at a distance for the rest of the summer. It all just depends on what a family’s given comfort level is, as has always been the case. Right now, we are all ready to get back to a normal life. But how can we pair prudence with practicality so that we can do it safely?

There should still be caution, still distance, and still masks. There are new variants out there flying around, and these measures all protect against infection. There’s just no reason to jump too quickly when the end is in sight. But we can take steps towards the finish line. Last year, lockdown happened pretty much instantly. This year, reopening will happen slowly and methodically. 

Why it’s good to fence this summer

This summer is vastly different than last summer. Whereas a year ago we were canceling things left and right, now we are planning! That’s exciting.

There are lots of great sports out there that have great qualities that are similar to fencing. The thing is that tennis and golf don’t have the same thrill of poking your friends and getting away with it. Not even getting away with it, but being rewarded for poking your friends! There is the fun of getting to have contact with the sword while doing it in a protected way

After everything that we have all been through in the last year, with the loss of school time and the pressure of being home for a whole year, it’s good to reconnect. Kids need that. Kids need to be able to push boundaries and explore their limits. Fencing is a wonderful way to do this. It’s exciting, it’s challenging, and it’s a growth opportunity. 

What makes fencing summer camp so unique is the distilled nature of it. Whether a fencer is brand new to the sport and is taking an introductory fencing camp or whether they are old hat at fencing and are expanding their skill, camp is concentrated and pushes them forward. It builds camaraderie thanks to all of that time together, both with fellow kids and with adult mentors. This is a recipe for confidence in kids, and that’s more important now than ever. 

Safety is always the priority

Fencing is an excellent choice at any time, but right now it is an especially excellent choice. There are certain things about fencing that are particularly conducive to safety in a pandemic, and we have refined them in the last year so that families can be confident that they are being protected.  A fencing camp is an excellent choice because it is safe! 

“Fencing is a COVID sport: You wear a mask, you wear a glove, and if somebody gets closer than six feet to you, you stab them!” And as the saying goes, in every joke there is a portion of a joke.

This is funny because it’s true. The memes that we see all over our fencing social media are right! If ever there was a sport that was tailor-made to prevent spreading a respiratory disease, it is definitely fencing!

This isn’t just us saying this, it’s grounded in what we do. Here’s how: 

1. Distance

Fencing was among the first major sports to apply all of the distance requirements that were necessary to prevent the spread of COVID. This sport is naturally distanced, with the need for physical contact non-existent. You can be a fencer from a safe distance thanks to our swords!

2. Coaches

Fencing coaches are accustomed to and able to teach fencing without contact. In our sport, it is inherent that we give our fencers some space for safety – in regular times, not just in the pandemic. Coaches have always had to stand back to correct form, teach tactics, and offer support during bouting. 

3. Individual, low contact

As restrictions began to soften last year, individual sports like fencing were among the first that were allowed to begin again. Many other sports, especially team sports but also high contact individual sports like wrestling, were restricted severely due to safety. It’s not possible to minimize contact with some sports, and that posed a big problem for those participating. 

4. Long record

The fact that we were open and training early on means that we have a long track record of dealing with pandemic training. There is a period of trial and error with anything, a learning curve in which you have to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Fencing has had the luxury of working out the kinks in our socially distant training for almost a year now. We know what works, and we know what doesn’t. At this point, fencing effectively for COVID safety is second nature to us. Our protocols have been in place since last summer, and their effectiveness has been proven. 

5. Mask within a mask

There’s a lot of talk lately about double masking. The joke here could be that fencers have been double masking since the start of the pandemic – a cloth mask under a fencing mask! There is again truth in this joke though. Fencing is naturally masked, so this aspect of safety incorporates organically. Exercising with a mask on was a thing that scientists explored early on, and it was found to be safe. It does push athletes harder to work out with a mask on than it does without, but the extra exertion is not detrimental.  

6. The fencing community

Something that happened early on in the pandemic was information sharing within the fencing community. Through emails and zoom meetings, we figure out what worked for fencing safety protocols and what didn’t. This kind of community support is a hallmark of our sport, and so we have learned from each other how to best train without spreading the virus. 

This summer, as we are looking for safe things to get back into and as we return to something that looks more like normal, fencing is an excellent choice. Not only do kids get to train in something that they love, but parents can also feel confident that they are keeping their kids from being exposed to the virus. 

Hurray for fencing summer camp! And hurray for safe activities as this pandemic lessens its grip. 


Rick Mayer, a Veteran Fencer and Referee Talks Discipline, Training, and Persistence


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1 Comment

  1. R

    You wrote “…kids MUST get out of their houses for the sake of their mental health and social development. ” For their parents’ sake as well. 😉 N.B. I’m now fully-vaccinated and will ref this weekend’s ME A4 in anticipation of reffing April’s NAC.

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