How exactly does a tournament event work?
An event in a fencing tournament consists of two parts, the first - Pools, and the second part, Direct Eliminations, which is based on the outcome of the pools.
One of the biggest questions that new fencing families have is how long will an event take? My experience? If there are over 30 fencers, plan to be at the event all day. If there are less than 30 fencers, plan for at least three hours. There can be all kinds of delays, some small, some huge. An example of a small delay, at a small tournament, a fencer who has signed up is caught in traffic and because he has called ahead and is making all efforts to arrive on time, the organizers agree to hold the close of registration a few more minutes. A large delay? Sometimes, at larger tournaments, if there are not enough referees or strips, pools can be flighted. This means the pools will be divided into two groups. The first group will begin at the original, announced time and the second group will either begin at a later specified time, or will simply be assigned to a strip and will begin when the first pool has concluded. This past 2018 Junior Olympics in Memphis, TN, Cadet Men’s Epee was flighted, so the first round of pools started at 8:00am, and the second one at 10:00am. If you are in the second pool, you have a two hour wait.
If your fencer is a beginning fencer, chances are he or she will be nervous at the prospect of fencing in a tournament. Whether the tournament is large or small, if you can make the tournament the focus for the day, it can help your fencer feel more confident about fencing. This doesn’t mean focus on results or winning. This means try not to have other events competing for attention with a tournament, so your focus is not pulled away from supporting your child to worrying about whether or not you will be able to make the next event, etc. Another recommendation is to maybe plan a celebratory family dinner, or even go to dinner with other fencers after the event. Whether or not your fencer comes home with a medal, he or she will have new experiences to review, things to celebrate as well as learn from, and always a story to tell. Enjoy!
Part One - Pools:
Things to know before Pools begin-
How Pools Work
Pools are made up of all of the fencers entered (and checked in) in the event, with the top seeded fencers each getting their own pools.
At the end of the pool bouts, each fencer is asked to review the score sheet and then sign his or her name. Referees can and occasionally do make mistakes. Make sure your fencer really looks at the sheet before signing. I keep track of all of Stafford’s pools in Notes on my phone and then show it to him to review before looking at the score sheet just to refresh his memory. The more your fencer competes, the more he or she will remember the bout scores.
Your fencer should always shake hands with the referee after signing the pool sheet.
Scoring out of pools:
Promotion to the next round:
In Y10, Y12, and Y14 events, 100% of the fencers are promoted to the Direct Eliminations whether in local, regional, or national tournaments. This way, younger, less experienced fencers are able to fence more and gain experience in a tournament atmosphere. In Cadet, Junior, and Division national events, the bottom 20% are eliminated and do not move on to the direct eliminations.
Here are pool results for a smaller, local tournament:
13 fencers – 2 pools, one of 7, one of 6
First out of Pool #1 – Ryan Lee, who won all of his pools, scored 30 touches, and received 10 touches. So his indicator is 20 (30 – 10).
First out of Pool #2 - Tommy Wells, who won all of his pools, scoring 25 touches and receiving 12, so his indicator is 13. Remember, Tommy had a smaller pool so though he won them all, he would come in behind the other fencer in a larger pool who also won all of his or her pools.
So, seeding out of pools -
Lee #1 and Wells #2
Who came out third? Three boys had 4 victories, Wilson Zhu (ind. 6), Stafford Moosekian (ind. 12), and Zikun Wei (ind. 10). You would think from the indicator that Stafford would have come out third – but- he lost two bouts, whereas Zikun only lost one. Remember one pool was 7 and one 6. So, though they have the same number of victories, Stafford lost two, so Zikun took the third place out of pools. Make sense?
Here is another example: in the much bigger tournament, the 2017 Summer Nationals Cadet Men’s Epee Event, using Stafford Moosekian as an example:
Stafford won 4 bouts scored 22 touches, received 21 touches. By the way, V5 means he scored 5 touches. You can win the bout V1, meaning with only one touch scored, which would change your touches scored number but not the number of victories you have. Stafford’s indicator is 22-21, so +1. If he had received more touches than he had scored, the indicator would be a negative number (like Michael Mun or Nicholas Candela in this example).
Once the seeding from pools is posted, fencers have a few minutes to verify their indicator and seeding before the next round, the Direct Eliminations, begins.
Stafford came out of pools seeded at 60. You can see the two boys who placed ahead of Stafford had the same indicator, +1, but because they scored more touches, they placed ahead of him. Tristan Szapery, because he had 4 victories but his indicator, at 0, is the lowest of those who earned 4 victories, brings up the bottom of the group who had 4 victories. The boy right under him had a higher indicator, but he only won 3 of his bouts, so he will be seeded just below those who won 4.
Once pools are done, take a deep breath. Your fencer has some time to relax, anywhere from 20 minutes at smaller tournaments to much longer if pools are flighted and your fencer is in the first round of pools. He should get something light to eat. Fruit, a sandwich, etc. Be sure she hydrates, as well. Gatorade or Vitamin Water help replenish electrolytes. Also, many fencers like to change into a clean t-shirt for the next part of the tournament - the Direct Eliminations.
After the seeding is posted for the Direct Eliminations, your fencer has a few minutes during which he or she should start to warm up, do some stretches, maybe even do a warm up bout.
Next - Direct Eliminations!
One of the most confusing things to figure out, once your fencer is ready to compete, is how to find tournaments and how to know which ones to go to. Some children can’t wait to compete and some find the idea of competing intimidating at first. When the conversation turns to when instead of if, it is important that your child start competing at a level that is appropriate. You want to encourage him or her, and fencing against much better or more experienced fencers can be demoralizing, especially at first. Talk to your coach. Talk to your child.
Before your child can compete in any tournament, he or she must have a USA Fencing membership. Most clubs have USA Fencing sanctioned tournaments that take part in the USA Fencing insurance program. You will be asked for proof of membership when you arrive at each and every tournament. You will also need a proof of age for your child at a tournament, until you are able to have USA Fencing verify the age, so be sure and have a copy of a birth certificate when you go to tournaments. Individual Competitive Membership costs $75 a year. Here is the link to sign up:
This blog will not deal with specifics regarding earning points or qualifying for Summer Nationals or the July Challenge. Please refer to the USA Fencing website, as those specifics change frequently at the beginning of each year. There is a link to the Athlete Handbook at the end of this blog, for further reference.
Events and Age Categories:
(Y means Youth)
Y8 - Fencers age 8 and under (these events are uncommon; usually events start at Y10)
Y10 - Fencer age 10 and under, and so on through Y14.
Cadet – Fencers age 13 – 16
Junior – Fencers age 13 – 21
Though here I use ages for convenience sake, USA Fencing uses the birth year as a determining factor for the age groups. Refer to the USA Fencing Athlete Handbook for the current birth years for each category.
Mixed events mean boys and girls fence together.
Basic recommendations for beginner fencers:
The current best website for upcoming tournament information is AskFred.
For new fencers, local tournaments are the best place to start.
Many local clubs have “unrated” tournaments - these are typically tournaments for younger or beginner fencers. Some of the local clubs have a series of tournaments with fencers earning points each time they compete in one of the series. Those points are added together for some kind of prize at the end for the top points winner, typically a medal or trophy.
These local tournaments are great for new fencers for a number of reasons.
Fencers face a lot of pressure on the strip, even at the beginning level.
As your child begins to compete, he or she will learn a lot. He will learn how to win and how to lose. She will learn how to think on the strip and how to keep calm. If you have the option of having one of your coaches from your club come and coach, your fencer will start to learn how to listen and think on the strip. Not all coaches are willing to go to these tournaments, and they will charge a fee, so this is somewhat of a luxury, if even available. You can always ask. Whether at a tournament at this level, or at an RYC or SYC (detailed later in this blog) if your coach attends, your coach will also learn a lot about your child- how he or she deals with pressure and what has (or has not) been learned from all of those classes and private lessons.
Once your child has competed in a few local tournaments and has achieved some nice results, talk to your coach about moving up to the next level of competition. Your coach is the best source for questions like this.
Another thing to consider is the pressure your young fencer faces. Once you move up to regional tournaments (details in the next section) it will probably involve travel, whether a road trip, or a plane flight. Just the fact that you are disrupting the routine and investing in the travel, packing, etc., puts more pressure on your young fencer. Make sure he or she, and you, are ready.
RYCs, SYCs, RJCs, RJCCs, ROCs, and NACs - What they mean and what you need to know.
RYC: Regional Youth Circuit
USA Fencing has divided the US into six regions. California is in Region 4. This region includes the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah.
Fencers from any region can compete in an SYC tournament. USA Fencing will only take the top result however, regardless of how many times a fencer competes in an SYC.
SYCs are more competitive that RYCs and attract fencers from all over the US.
RJCC: Regional Junior and Cadet Circuit
These are regional tournaments for fencers who are Cadet or Junior aged. Again, the R means regional so make sure you are planning on attending an RJCC in your region.
Fencers can earn points for the July Challenge at these events, and they are very competitive.
ROC: Regional Open Circuit
This is included here, just to give a basic understanding of what a ROC is. These tournaments are open to any fencers over 13 years old. Fencers can qualify to fence in the Division II and Div 1A events at summer nationals with points earned from these tournaments. Only older beginning fencers should attend an ROC as they will be fencing against fencers of all ages who typically have a lot of experience and are very strong.
NAC – North American Cup
The North American Cup Tournaments are a series of tournaments organized by USA Fencing (Y10, Y12, Y14, Cadet,
Junior, Div I, Div II, Div III, Vet Open, Vet Age,
Wheelchair, and Cadet/Y14/Junior/Senior Team).
NACs rotate through cities across the country. You can find more info on the USA Website.
All fencers have to qualify for this tournament. Luckily, USA Fencing wants to encourage young fencers to participate, so they have made the path fairly simple. Fencers in Y10 only have to compete in an RYC. Placing first or last, the result is irrelevant. If a fencer participates, he or she has qualified to fence at summer nationals.
Take a moment to download the USA Fencing Athlete Handbook for much more detailed information on tournaments.
Fencing Competitions - Recommendations for Beginning Fencers and Parents
Once your child starts competing, everything changes. In a great way. Your child is going to start to put into action the things he or she has worked on in classes and during private lessons. Your child will gain self-confidence, make new friends, and have some fun.
Below are some suggestions to help make the experience a successful one, regardless of how your child does in the tournament. This is the first part of a series meant to help guide new fencers and families through the tournament experience. Later posts will explore how a tournament works (seeding, pools, DE's), travel tips, etc..
Being prepared helps you get out of the door and on the freeway (for some reason the tournament location always involves a freeway in California!) and helps your child focus on fencing. Typically, the calmer the parent is, the calmer the child is. Planning ahead by figuring out the route to take to the tournament and getting all of the equipment together in advance is a great way to avoid chaos in the morning, especially as events often start early.
Here is a list of what you need for a competition:
Equipment (put your name on everything! Not just your initials, as someone else might have the same initials):
The Night Before:
Once check-in is closed, Pools will be announced. This posting might be online but should also be posted somewhere in the venue. Your child should find out which strip he or she will be fencing on, and proceed to that strip will all of the equipment (that has been checked at Weapons Check) and swords, and be ready to start fencing.
The next blog will detail the structure of tournaments - seeding, pools, and the direct eliminations.