In moments of widespread fear of pandemic and misunderstanding, the best course of action is to stay calm and make intelligent choices. That’s what we’re working to do here, and we feel as though this is where the fencing community is right now as well.
Right now, the spread of the coronavirus is on the top of the minds of everyone. We recognize that public spaces like fencing clubs have a responsibility to make things as safe as possible. For everyone.
To that end, we are taking many precautions to ensure the safety of our members and our staff as much as possible. This is a constantly changing situation, so things may change rapidly! We thought we would share these precautions with our readers as well, as they can perhaps be helpful for others.
Much of what we are doing is enforcing the rule of social distancing, which is enforced by every coach in every class at our clubs. We have published a set of guidelines that instruct our coaches to follow a specific set of procedures to ensure that social distancing between any two students is strictly enforced.
This is possible in fencing as it is already a no-contact individual sport. With an additional set of procedures, we can eliminate any necessity of social contact. This is patently different than many other sports, which necessarily have physical contact as part of the practice of their sport. You cannot have a wrestling match without touching, and soccer is impossible as well. Gymnastics involves shared equipment, and players have to touch in football. Tennis is an example of another sport that can be no contact. Most sports, especially youth sports, involve some kind of contact at some point. In this sense, we are lucky to be fencers!
Some of our most important procedures are:
- No handshakes or other physical contact during class between students or coaches.
- Fencers are separated on strips, no two fencers may do any exercise sharing the same strip at the same time on the same side. Everyone will use their own strip all the time, with a distance of at least 1.25 meters (four feet) between them at all times in our club.
- Fencers must wash hands before class, during breaks, and after class. Coaches will explicitly send fencers to wash their hands during every significant break, such as the time to change the gear or to start the class.
- Fencers who do not wash their hands will not be admitted to class until they do so, and will be instructed to wash their hands after class is done.
- No shared objects during warm-ups or classes – including balls, relay batons, etc.. All games will be canceled
- No club fencing gear may be used. Fencers who forget their gear cannot participate. The only exception will be done with a very few beginner fencers for the first weeks of their training with us. In their case it is easy for us to contain and separate their used gear and sanitize between uses.
- In every class, coaches will divide the class into small groups that first will be sent to wash their hands and then gear up. Only a limited number of fencers may use the locker rooms at one time.
- Anyone showing any sign of sickness will be immediately sent home
- Coaches and staff have been advised of additional precautions.
Also, every day we spend more a significant effort in each location thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing every contact surface – from doorknobs, restrooms, tables, and other areas. This is a very important step and one that we are putting a lot of manpower into.
In addition, the AFM RYC as well as most USA Fencing national and regional tournaments that were supposed to happen in the next few weeks, have been postponed to a future date. While we are sad about this, it is a measure that had to be taken per the advice of health officials. Gatherings are a tough one to cancel, however it is necessary. Many other clubs are doing the same right now.
Beyond the club
It is not just the fencing club that plays a part in keeping everyone safe of course, as fencing families are important participants and allies.
We are asking that the fencing families in our club take some actions as well, in the effort to keep everyone safe.
- Keep personal hygiene in mind. Handwashing is critical!
- Parents, please don’t stay at the club. We ask that you drop off your child and pick them up instead, to minimize contact. Kids who don’t know how to suit up will be aided by coaches. Here is an infographic that explains how to put your fencing gear on, so you can train your little fencer at home
- Parents who do enter the club are asked to wash their hands as soon as they enter.
- Make sure you bring your gear. We can order anything for you if you are missing something.
- Add a jump rope to your fencing bag, as club ropes are now off limits.
- Anyone who has traveled abroad or been in contact with a person who traveled abroad to stay away from the club for two weeks.
Some of these precautions are small, and some of them are significant. Notice that it all comes back to social distancing and washing hands. Those two things are what the health officials are asking us to do, and we find these to be the best ways to go about doing those things!
Have we missed something? Though our list of precautions is thorough, we very well have missed something, and we ask that you let us know! Your input is valuable! Even if it is something small, it can make a difference to fight the pandemic.
This is a situation that we are monitoring very carefully. We expect to have further updates to share as things progress, and we will of course share whatever we know about cancellations of tournaments. This pandemic is expected to peak before it begins to improve.
We are trying our hardest to keep everyone safe. The health and wellbeing of our fencing families is our number one priority! With that in mind, we do ask that we all stay as positive as we can. With conscientious action, this outbreak will subside in time. It is very serious right now, but in a few months we will hopefully all be back to normal.
Thank you to our readers for your support and your continued feedback! We are giving you all air hugs and high fives for your support, even if we cannot give you real ones for some time. Sometimes, the space of the internet helps us in more ways that we know.
Stay safe and happy fencing!