Your child starting fencing lessons, or attending his first competition can be confusing for us parents that did not grow up around this sport. For starters, all parents should download and read the Parent’s Guide to Fencing that is available for free from Fencing.Net. It is a short and concise summary of the sport, written for parents. What follows are some helpful tips specific to competing in Virginia.
What time should we arrive at a competition?
Generally speaking, you should plan to arrive at the venue no later then 30 minutes before the close of registration.
What happens at a fencing competition?
After registration closes, the fencers will be broken into pools of 5-7 fencers each. Your child will fence each person in his or her pool in a 5 touch bout. The results from the pools are used to create a NCAA basketball style single elimination bracket that is called the Direct Elimination round. In the DE round, bouts go to 15 touches (or best 2 out of 3 five touch bouts for the younger fencers) and you keep fencing until you lose a bout, or win the competition!
How long should we plan on being at the event?
That really depends on how many fencers are competing that day. The bout committee always strives to get started on time, but events out of their control do sometimes conspire to make that impossible. A rush of last minute registrations, or a referee calling in sick can cause things to get behind. If your child is fencing it is safest to to not plan anything else that day! At a minimum you can expect to be at the fencing facility for about 3 hours. If it’s a well attended event and your child wins a few bouts it can easily be a 6 hour day.
What should I bring to a competition?
In addition to all your child’s fencing gear, a cooler stocked with Gatorade, water, and snacks is a good idea. Seating can be at a premium so lawn chairs are useful. There can be significant downtime between the pool and DE round, as well as between DE bouts. So books, iPods, etc are not a bad idea. Most VA fencing venues provide free wifi, so feel free to bring your laptop to catch up on work, or Facebook. A change of clothes for the young fencer is also a good idea.
What are the venues like?
Most private fencing clubs in VA are located in the industrial / warehouse parts of town. The venues tend to be large open spaces that err on the cool side, so have a sweater or light jacket available. Most will have limited concessions available. (soda, water, Gatorade, snacks, hot dogs, pizza by the slice, etc.) Fast food is usually available within the general neighborhood, but rarely within walking distance. Most clubs will also have a limited stock of equipment available if you forget something or damage something during competition.
Can I take pictures of my child fencing?
You can try 😉 Fencing is an incredibly fast moving sport, and fencing venues are warehouse type spaces with warehouse type lighting. Flash photography is absolutely forbidden during the competition. If you have a high end camera and know how to use it, you can get good results. If you have a point and shoot digital camera good photos can be a challenge. For a point and shoot camera, put it in manual mode, set the fstop as low as it will go (probably around 2.4), set the shutter speed for 1/90 or 1/125, and set your ISO as high as you can (probably 400 or 800), and then take a lot of pictures. You’ll get a few action shots that are worth saving. Also, be aware of your surroundings and do not interfere with the referee in any way.