We ran into some confusion last month at a Men’s Junior Olympic Qualifier that resulted in red cards and damage to fencers’ uniforms, and it was all due to an inaccurate rule enforcement! The rules in fencing are often very strict because of the sport’s noble beginnings, but in this case, the tournament organizers and referees were mistaken. It was a good lesson in that the people in charge are not always right.
For those newer to the sport, you may have seen some fencers with their last names professionally stenciled on their jackets or lames. However, most beginner fencers don’t need to worry about this because, according to the Athlete’s Handbook, it’s required only at national tournaments: all levels of NAC, Junior Olympic Championships, National Championships, and Wheelchair National Championships.
Nonetheless, near the end of November I received a call from a non-national competition telling me that fencers were being red carded because their fencing uniforms were not labeled. Half of the participants in this tournament were relatively new to the sport, did not have any national-level experience, and thus did not have their names on their uniforms. You can imagine the frenzy this created as the fencers started to panic that they would also be red carded, which leads to a penalty touch being awarded to the fencer’s opponent. Not to mention younger fencers (and sometime older fencers too!) may get upset by the idea of being in trouble or doing something wrong.
I knew immediately that the rule enforcement was incorrect, so I looked up the appropriate rule in the Athlete Handbook to clarify the situation. Here’s a post from Fencing.net, a very reputable source, explaining the rule in more detail. The tournament organizers agreed quickly, but some damage had already been done.
In the confusion and in an attempt to help the situation, the tournament organizers had given fencers permanent markets to write their names on their uniforms and avoid the red cards. An odd choice because at tournaments where names are required, the rules are very strict on the size, color, and spacing of the letters. Scrawled permanent marker doesn’t quite meet the requirements. Nonetheless, being new to the sport and of course just wanting to fence without stress or penalties, the fencers used the markers to write their names. I didn’t know about this until some of my fencers returned to our club and I saw their hastily written names scrawled on their uniforms.
I wanted to share this story so that more people are aware of the rule and can avoid similar situations in the future. If the competition is not a national championship or NAC and you are told the name is required, you can dispute the tournament directors with this information. Our fencers weren’t clear enough on the rule to feel comfortable questioning it. Now I see some of our fencers with their names messily written on their uniforms and I’m hoping we can find a way to remove permanent ink so they can stencil their names properly. Apparently it is not only important to know the rules to avoid red carding, but also to eliminate any possible material damage.
For those who want to review the official rules about names on jackets, you can find it in the Athlete’s Handbook. An easy rule of thumb: if you signed up for the tournament on askFred, your fencer doesn’t need their name on their uniform. If you signed up on USFencing.org (an official USFA site), then the tournament falls into the category of events that require the name. Simple as that.