What role do you see fencing coaches playing in the growth of the sport of fencing and where do you see that growth happening?
Without coaches, the sport of fencing is impossible. From top to bottom, they are the constant in how we keep the sport going.
Fencing coaches often go on to found fencing clubs in places that are bone dry of fencing opportunities for youth who are interested in the sport. This is a fantastic opportunity for us, as we have lots of room for expansion.
On a personal level, as the owner of one of the largest fencing clubs in the United States, I have a vested interest in how we continue to move forward. The more clubs and fencers we have, the better the outcomes for my own students and coaches. The rising tide lifts all boats! Through my own four children, all competitive fencers on various levels, I have seen how powerful coaching can be for personal development and obviously growth in the sport.
The heart of our sport beats through our coaches. We must support their ability to make a living, improve their own skills, and have a positive work environment through a healthy fencing club and competitive culture.
How do you envision USA Fencing working with USFCA on the recruitment of NCAA colleges to add fencing teams? If not, why not.
The best way for us to increase the number of colleges that have fencing programs is to raise the profile of fencing by expanding our footprint with more coaches and fencing clubs. The more excited and internationally successful fencers we have at the competitive level, the more universities will be interested in developing, expanding, and recruiting fencers into the existing programs.
I would like to see an increase in incubation systems for fencing programs, as well as more cohesive methods of training fencers who are interested in transitioning into fencing coaching. USA Fencing can support this by facilitating conversations and reaching out to member clubs to help them develop junior coaches.
The interplay with NCAA programs is an important part of how our sport works on the highest level, and I firmly believe that we must help to foster growth here in every way possible.
Except for USA Fencing, NGBs in all major sports organizations require certification and continuing education units every year to teach in their respective sports. Do you support coaching education, training, continuing education, certification and ultimately a licensing requirement for all US Fencing Coaches? Why or Why not?
There is no question that training through continuing education through USFCA is a good thing for the growth and overall health of our sport. I am absolutely in favor of course options and various certifications being offered by USFCA as an option for fencing clubs and head coaches to take advantage of as American fencers transition from competition to coaching.
It’s also important to note that our sport is not like many other American youth sports, and it’s one of the things that makes us so special. One of the central features of American fencing’s rise has been the influx of seasoned, accomplished, and educated coaches from abroad. I even wrote a book about this subject several years ago called From Cool Runnings to World Superpower: The Rise of American Fencing, in which I detailed how the highly trained coaches from Soviet Bloc countries have helped to sculpt our fencers here in the U.S. A licensing requirement for fencing coaches would ignore the varied and valuable backgrounds of coaches across the country, many of whom come to fencing with college degrees in sports science and even in fencing in particular. Many of them came to America on O1 visas specifically for their talent as fencing coaches. There is not a need to require these coaches to certify.
That being said, I will reiterate that I support more rigorous training opportunities and mentorship for coaches through USFCA. It’s vital that we build a strong pipeline of coaches domestically who can support our athletes through the next evolution of fencing in the United States. By keeping these pathways optional, we support and value the master fencing coaches who push our sport forward while also giving the right training to our up and coming coaches who will help shape the future of fencing in the United States.