Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

What to Expect at Your First Fencing Competition

Head of Bout Committee makes an announcement to fencers about tournament

Head of Bout Committee makes an announcement to fencers about tournament

A new fencing season is upon us and that means it’s time to start preparing for a fresh round of competitions! The first SYC (Super Youth Circuit) in Texas and the first Y10MF Bay Cup tournament (Youth Under 10 Men’s Foil) are both coming up in just one month. Some of you may be getting ready for your first year as a competitive fencer, and we couldn’t be more excited for you to get started. For the novice parents heading to competitions for the first time, you may be a bit unsure of what to expect and how to prepare. This post should help and you can also find more information in our book.

  • How early do you need to be there?
  • What do you need to bring?
  • How do you check in?

Nothing adds stress to an exciting day like being late, not being sure where to go, or leaving something important at home … and on top of that, your young fencer is probably nervous about competing. This post will tell you what to expect, where to be and when, and all the basics you need to know before heading to your first competition so you can avoid the stress and focus on the fun of the day!

Okay, it’s the night before your competition, what do you pack? Here are the most essential items:

  • Full gear (including knickers, socks, and at least 2 sets of working weapons and body cords)
  • 3 t-shirts
    • 1 to start
    • 2 to have fresh shirt going into DE
    • 3 to take off wet shirt before departure
    • Warm-up jacket
    • Water
    • Food

We’ll cover more on food in a later post, but you can find some info today in our book. Here are some other really good things to bring:

  • Screwdriver (especially important for epee)
  • Wrench alley if your child uses a pistol grip
  • Tape for foil
  • First aid kit
  • Band-Aids
  • Icepack

The night before the event you’ll also want to find the registration close time so you know when to leave in the morning.

Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before registration close for a local competition. The bigger the competition, the more time you should allow. This cushion will give you time to find parking, register, gear up, go to weapon check, and warm up.

When you arrive, find the registration area so you can check in. The group here is also called the “bout committee.” They will check that you are paid, confirm your USFA competitive membership is current, and possibly accept payment (depending on tournament, you may pay the day of or in advance). They may also check your child’s equipment, so bring everything with you to registration.

After registration closes the bout committee will know all who is truly attending and can announce pool assignments. The committee will have one location to post information throughout the day. At a smaller tournament, it will likely be easy to find. You’re looking for a wall, whiteboard, or perhaps a TV monitor. If you can’t find it, just ask! Other competitors, experienced parents, or any coach will be happy to help.

Once pools are posted, head to this information area to check for your child’s pool assignment. Your child will be assigned to a pool and will fence each person in the pool once. If you’ve been watching the FIFA World Cup lately, this may sound familiar! You can read our book if you want to understand the ins and outs of how pools are assigned. Each child will have 3-7 bouts in pool play. Each pool will typically compete on one strip with one referee, so as soon as you find your assignment, locate your strip and become familiar with the schedule for the day.

Pool play will start when the referee calls the first two fencers to the strip or notifies the next fencers that they are on deck. Fencers are called by name or number, so listen for both. When it’s your child’s turn to fence, he or she should head for the strip with all equipment to show the referee. Again, you can refer to our book for details on what the referee will check for and how.

During pool play, each bout is either the first to five touches or when three minutes of competition time expires … whichever comes first! You can expect each bout to take up to six minutes or even longer! When all fencers in the pool have competed against each other and the pool is finished, the referee will ask the fencers to verify the scores and sign their names. If your child is young, help them look over the scores and sign! Referees are human and can make mistakes. If you find one, or think you have, politely point it out to the referee. Most often the referee will remember the bout and either agree or disagree quickly. After signing the pool sheet, have your child thank the referee and shake hands—a small “thank you” goes a long way!

After pool play, your child will most likely move on to Direct Elimination (DE). If it’s your first competition, it’s likely that 100% of fencers will continue to DE regardless of their performance during pool play. You’ll probably have a bit of time between pool play and the start of DE, which is a good time for a small meal and a t-shirt change!

During the break your child will be seeded in a playoff bracket for DE. We’ve included more information on how this seeding is done in our book. From this point on if you win, you stay and if you lose, you’re finished. You don’t need to check out. Of course, just because you’re finished fencing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to head home!

DE is followed by the awards ceremony. If things go well, your child may be awarded, or you can take the opportunity to cheer on other fencers from the club that have done well.

We hope this post takes away some of the stress of your first competition! The most important thing is to get a good night’s rest and be ready to support your child, win or lose. Competitions are a fun day for everyone if you’re prepared!

Update – October 2017: In one of the best fencing blogs on competitive fencing, Will Spear (Olympic Silver Medalist) wrote a great article about first international competition. While it focuses on international travel, most of the things apply to domestic travel as well and it is definitely worth reading!

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