National Championships and July Challenge Canceled Due to COVID-19

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(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, USA Fencing has announced the cancellation of the National Championships and July Challenge, which was scheduled to be held in Louisville, Ky.

Originally scheduled for June 28 – July 7, the tournament, which draws nearly 5,000 participants ages 8-80+ over 10 days of competition, was previously postponed with the potential of holding the event in August.

“Summer Nationals has become the largest fencing tournament in the world and the culmination of the season for athletes of all ages over the last 30+ years. But the tournament is more than that. For athletes and their families, coaches and tournament staff, Summer Nationals has become a tradition and an opportunity for the fencing community to come together every year,” said USA Fencing Senior Director of Sport Operations Christine Strong-Simmons. “We worked with our partners at the Louisville Sports Commission as well as the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Kentucky Division over the past two months regarding dozens of possible scenarios and contingency plans to hold the event in August or September. However, the health and well-being of our members is the most important thing to consider at this time and now we will focus on preparing for what fencing competition looks like in the upcoming season.”

At this time, the state of Kentucky is not allowing gatherings of more than 50 people until July 1 with the timeline for when the state will open for large events still unknown.

On May 15, USA Fencing sent out a survey to all competitive members as well as tournament officials to receive feedback regarding what safety measures the community would like to see put in place when events resume as well as the likelihood that competitors and staff would participate in an upcoming event such as Summer Nationals.

With more than 3,000 respondents participating in the survey, only 35% of those who previously planned on competing at Summer Nationals described themselves as “likely” or “very likely” to compete at a national event held in August with 38% responding in the same manner for a national event in September. Accordingly, only 35% of tournament officials responded that they would be likely to volunteer to work a national event an August with the number increasing to 41% in September. Additional surveys will be conducted in the coming weeks.

View Summer National Event Survey Results

“We appreciate everyone who took the time to share their feedback. While canceling this event for the first time in the history of Summer Nationals was a challenging decision, we will be doing everything we can to work on how to structure future tournaments in a manner that helps protect all participants,” said Brandon Rochelle, chair of the Tournament Committee. “With states around the country still under orders such as stay at home or safer at home, one of the challenges this tournament presents is when athletes will be able to return to regular training in order to be in proper condition to compete at a national level event. We all want to return to competition as soon as possible, but we also need to ensure that athletes have time to prepare for such an event.”

On April 29, the USA Fencing Board of Directors made the decision to allow the sanctioning of non-competitive fencing activities in locations where clubs are permitted to operate or reopen by local and state laws, regulations, executive orders and other legal mandates regarding COVID-19. 

Although the sanctioning of local and regional events has not resumed, USA Fencing released Return to Fencing Guidelines on May 26 to help athletes, coaches, club owners and division officers prepare to return to lessons, practice and training as states begin to reopen and allow such activity.

“Club owners and coaches around the country have been extremely innovative in order to keep fencers engaged in the sport throughout the last few months. As clubs begin to reopen throughout the summer, we know fencers will be excited to return to the sport. Although we are all disappointed at the cancellation of Summer Nationals, we encourage fencers to return to practices, lessons and camps in preparation for a return to competition at all levels as soon as we can safely do so,” said USA Fencing CEO Kris Ekeren.

Athletes will age out of their current age categories on July 31. As announced in April, classification degradation will take place on Jan. 1, 2021 rather than Aug. 1, 2020.

Additional information will be provided on or before June 18 regarding the National Points Standings. The National Office will work with the Sports Performance Resource Team, Tournament Committee, Veterans Committee, Parafencing Resource Team, Athlete Advisory Committee (AAC), Youth Development Resource Team and National Coaches in order to determine the impact of the cancellation of national events due to Covid-19 on National Points Standings.

Any details regarding future event dates will be released at www.usafencing.org.

Athletes who previously requested that registration and event fees from the March and April North American Cups or Division I National Championships be transferred to Summer Nationals will be contacted by the National Office regarding refunds.

Additional details regarding events that were scheduled to take place during the National Championships, including the 2020 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony as well as the 2020 All-Academic and All-American Receptions, will be posted in the coming weeks.

If you have questions regarding the event, the refund process, etc., please contact nationalevents@usafencing.org.

Letter to USA Fencing Membership from CEO Kris Ekeren

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Dear USA Fencing Family,

First and foremost, I hope that you and your family are safe and healthy during this most difficult time. Everyone at USA Fencing is thinking of our members, clubs, coaches, officials, volunteers and others in the fencing community.

The USA Fencing Board of Directors continues to hold meetings every 2-3 weeks which are open to any member who would like to call in and listen to the meeting. In addition, USA Fencing will host a Town Hall meeting on May 19, 2020 at 7 pm ET.  Questions from the membership can be submitted to BoardQuestions@USAFencing.org.

For both clubs and events, we are faced with the fact that parts of the country will lift restrictions on athletic activity, including fencing, more quickly than other areas. USA Fencing decided and announced following the April 29 board meeting that it would resume sanctioning club fencing on a rolling basis.  We are still considering when and how to resume our sanctioning of competitions and will provide an update on June 1st.

At its April 29, 2020 meeting, the USA Fencing Board of Directors approved the re-sanctioning of in-person activities (excluding competitions) at member clubs in locations where the clubs are permitted to operate or reopen by local and state laws, regulations, executive orders and other legal mandates regarding COVID-19. Sanctioned activities will be covered by USA Fencing insurance, subject as always to policy terms and conditions.

We are concerned with the number of clubs that are struggling to remain viable and again would encourage club members to support your clubs in any way you are able. USA Fencing is also exploring ways that we can assist clubs with insurance, marketing assistance and other membership items as we go into the next membership year. 

The scheduling of sports events around the nation, including competitions, conferences and conventions, remains a challenge. Sports governing bodies, leagues and teams have been working with government officials to determine when such events can resume safely. Subject to USOPC guidelines and our Board’s approval, USA Fencing is tentatively planning to sanction local events first, followed by regional events and finally national events. To assist with building local sanctioned events, USA Fencing is adding the benefit of fencing at one local event to all non-competitive members to encourage competitive opportunities at the local level. 

I know that a great concern to many is whether Summer Nationals will be held this year and we will make a final decision by the end of May. While we know everyone is looking forward to competing again, our first priority is making sure the progressive launch of competition opportunities is done in a manner that is as safe as possible for participants and is consistent with local, state and federal guidelines. 

Finally, we will be sending out event surveys this week to all athletes, parents, referees and tournament officials to better gauge the interest and comfort level of the fencing community as we evaluate the Return to Fencing options.

Financial Information
With the loss of two national events, a large regional event and the current postponement of Summer Nationals, the financial situation for USA Fencing is extremely challenging. We will end the membership year with a significant financial loss and dip heavily into reserves that have slowly built up over the past few years.  The National Office staff size has been reduced by 22% and we will consider other overhead reductions in the upcoming weeks.

USA Fencing has focused on diversifying revenue streams over the past few years, which is a challenge faced by many National Governing Bodies of similar size. Progress has been made on philanthropic efforts; however, there is much work to be done on securing sponsorships for the organization. The current world situation will require creativity and dedication to secure additional funding.

Strategic Direction
Shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic, USA Fencing was in the final stages of completing the strategic plan for 2020-24 while looking towards 2028. Volunteer, athlete and staff leaderships are currently working on a Recovery Plan for the next 12-18 months with the goal of transitioning to the 2021-24 strategic plan as soon as possible. The updated plan focuses on many initiatives around athlete and member wellness, growing the sport, coaches and education and diversifying revenue.

Many of you have questions on how USA Fencing, our clubs and coaches and the sport of fencing will recover from this crisis. While we don’t have all the answers as we face many uncertainties if you have questions or feedback, please reach out to me at k.ekeren@usafencing.org.

I remain confident that the fencing community will once again rise to the challenge of not only surviving, but thriving, by working together and honoring the core values of the organization – excellence, respect, teamwork, inclusion and passion.

In Sport,

Kris Ekeren
USA Fencing CEO

USA Fencing Update on Sanctioning of Online Lessons and Classes by Member Clubs and Coaches

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Due to the disruption to normal fencing lessons and practices caused by COVID-19, USA Fencing has been in frequent contact with our insurance providers concerning the availability of coverage for online training offered by member clubs and coaches. Today, our insurers advised of their following updated position: Until such time as in-person practices can resume, our general liability coverage will extend to online lessons, classes and other training sessions. Accordingly, USA Fencing is now sanctioning such activities, effective immediately, April 20, 2020.

Please note that all virtual training/coaching/instruction/meetings must be conducted under the same terms, conditions and rules applicable to in-person training. Among other things, clubs, coaches and participants must all have appropriate levels of USA Fencing membership. Those offering the online sessions must supervise the participants. All interactions involving minors remain subject to requirements of the Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies (MAAPP). Some helpful recommendations from the U.S. Center for SafeSport regarding digital communications can be found here.

As announced during the club and division calls last week, USA Fencing will be discussing possible re-entry scenarios for other sanctioned activities at the April 29, 2020 USA Fencing Board of Directors meeting. 

We know that our clubs are facing many challenges and are hopeful that the online sanctioning will assist during these uncertain times. We will provide further updates as circumstances evolve. 

USA Fencing Sanctioning Update (4/16/20)

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Due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation and the world, USA Fencing Member and Affiliate Club activities will remain unsanctioned through at least April 30Unsanctioned activities will not be covered by USA Fencing’s insurance. Neither USA Fencing nor any of its divisions will be sanctioning any competitions until at least May 11.

At its next meeting on April 29, the USA Fencing Board of Directors will be reviewing sanctioning dates as well as discussing long-term plans for resuming competition and training in a manner that provides a safe environment for all participants in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control as well as state, local and federal governments. 

USA Fencing Summer Nationals Postponed Until Late July/Early August

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USA Fencing is postponing the 2020 USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge to late July or early August in order to protect the health and well-being of competitors, coaches, tournament staff and spectators.

USA Fencing is working with our partners at the Louisville Sports Commission and Convention and Visitors Bureau to assess venue availability for the tournament that was originally scheduled for June 28 – July 7.   

Decisions will be made in keeping with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control as well as local, state and federal regulations and other applicable epidemiological guidance.

Due to the postponement of qualifying tournaments for the National Championships and July Challenge, qualifying paths also are currently being reassessed. 

We understand that tournament participants, members and clubs also are attempting to plan ahead for upcoming tournaments and resuming practice and we are working to provide information as soon as possible while still putting procedures and timelines into place that are in the best interests of the health of the USA Fencing family. Further details, including dates for the opening of tournament registration and deadlines as well as the release of updated qualifying criteria, will be published in the coming weeks.

USA Fencing Updates: No USA Fencing Activity NOW Through April 20

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As of today, more than 223 million Americans in 24 states, 74 counties and 14 cities are under orders to stay at home, shelter in place or avoid non-essential activities, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the number of reported cases across the nation continues to rise sharply on a daily basis. 

Accordingly, USA Fencing Member and Affiliate Club activities will remain unsanctioned through at least April 20 (previously April 6). Unsanctioned activities will not be covered by USA Fencing’s insurance.

USA Fencing will not be sanctioning any competitions until at least May 4. The National Office is working with organizers to reschedule regional events that were to take place between March 18 and May 3. The updated regional events schedule is available at www.usafencing.org/coronavirus.

The USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge are currently still scheduled to take place from June 28 – July 7, in Louisville, Ky. Due to the schedule changes for regional and national events this spring, the National Events staff and Tournament Committee are examining any potential changes to qualifying paths. An update will be made on April 9 at www.usafencing.org. Online registration for the National Championships and July Challenge will open on April 16. Any additional updates regarding Summer Nationals will be posted at posted on www.usafencing.org

USA Fencing Statement for Clubs, Affiliate Clubs and Coaches Regarding COVID-19 – UPDATED 7PM 3/17/2020

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Dear USA Fencing Club Owners,

We understand that right now is a challenging time for everyone in the nation and around the world as we attempt to navigate the current circumstances created by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Over the past few days, many of you have chosen to suspend classes at your clubs and, although we know these decisions were heart-wrenching, the fencing community as well as the local, national and international communities at large, becomes a safer place the more precautions we take to protect each other from this disease.

In order to protect the health and safety of all of our members – including athletes, coaches, staff and their families – clubs should suspend practices, lessons and gathering for the next three weeks. This applies to any club activity, including group sessions as well as individual lessons. In consultation with our insurance carrier, we will not be providing insurance coverage for Member Clubs beginning March 18 and continuing through at least April 6. Coaches at Affiliate Clubs will not have liability insurance coverage for the same period of times. As you all know, this situation is continually evolving and we will keep you updated with any changes in the coming weeks.

This was not a decision anyone came to lightly. The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control has been that social distancing is necessary to prevent the spread of the disease and that asymptomatic individuals can be carriers. We know many clubs have put social distancing practices into place in order to keep access to the sport open for your members during these challenging times; however, with schools, universities and workplaces suspending classes and creating virtual working environments to protect everyone, we are asking you to follow suit.

We will revisit this timeframe within the coming weeks; however, please note that the Centers for Disease Control is calling for no mass gatherings of 50 or more individuals for eight weeks which means that, when fencing resumes, classes and events are to be restricted in size until May 10.

We know that our nation’s fencing clubs are the heart of the sport, but also that we must do what is necessary to protect everyone within our fencing family.

UPDATE FROM 7:00PM: As a point of clarification regarding the email sent out this morning, in order to protect the health and safety of all of our members, and in consultation with our insurance carrier, Member Clubs and coaches should suspend practices, lessons and gatherings at this time. Accordingly, beginning March 18 and continuing through at least April 6, USA Fencing will not be sanctioning such activities, and insurance coverage will therefore be unavailable for those activities during that time.

If you have any questions, please contact me at B.Bodor@usafencing.org.

Bob Bodor
Director of Member Services

April NAC, Div I and Parafencing National Champions POSTPONED

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The April NAC, Div I and Parafencing National Championships have been postponed. USA Fencing is working with the St. Louis convention center regarding a reschedule date.

Virginia Division Extends Non Sanctioning Policy Through May 1

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Following the decision by USA Fencing to not sanction any events through April 6th, the officers of the Virginia Division has decided to take the extra step of not sanctioning any event prior to May 1.  

Rescheduling of events postponed due to COVID-19 will occur only when USA Fencing and the VA Division deem it to be appropriate and not put more people at risk of infection.

The Virginia Division also requests that fencers, parents of fencers, coaches and clubs take the additional step of not attending or offering classes, camps, lessons or club tournaments while the extent and duration of the risk for our community is unknown.  

We cannot tell clubs to shut down, and we cannot tell parents or fencers not to go, but there is significant evidence that COVID-19 spreads exponentially and one of the simplest ways to avoid the spread of it is to practice “Social Distancing” and stay home.

Please be safe, be well, and look for more updates over time.

USA Fencing Announcement Regarding COVID-19 – (as of March 13)

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Dear USA Fencing Divisions,

Over the course of the last seven days, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has prompted unprecedented changes within the world of sport.

In prioritizing the health and wellness of all our members, USA Fencing will not be sanctioning any local, regional, national or international tournaments from March 16-April 6. 

Divisions are directed to postpone all sanctioned competitions across the country through April 6, 2020. 

In order to allow participants from postponed tournaments to still be eligible to compete at the National Championships and July Challenge, the deadlines have been extended as follows: 

Division Qualifying Forms Submission Deadline: June 1Petition Deadline: June 3Regular Fee Deadline: June 3Triple Fee Deadline: June 12Withdraw Deadline: June 12
Classification Deadline: June 12
Check-In Times Posted: June 8 Please provide this information to clubs within your Division.

Tips for Fencers, Coaches, Staff, etc. 

  • Stay home from practice or competition if you feel sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer with 60-90% alcohol when restrooms are unavailable. 
  • Avoid direct physical contact with others (keep a six-foot distance when possible). 
  • Salute or elbow bump competitors, coaches and referees rather than shaking hands. 
  • Do not touch your face during a bout or training session. 
  • Do not share water bottles.
  • Do not put your mouth on water fountains. 

Tips for Club Owners and Tournament Organizers

  • Make sure to have hand sanitizer and tissues in high traffic areas throughout the training or competition space, including near bout committee tables, water dispensers, score tables, etc. 
  • Wash all shared gear and use sanitizng wipes on weapons in between uses. Read tips on how to wash masks.
  • Keep sanitizing wipes near reels and other frequently touched equipment. 
  • As always, make sure restrooms and locker rooms are properly cleaned on a frequent basis. 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly.

The CDC recommends preventative actions regarding respiratory illnesses, including:  

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Everyone is encouraged to seek further information using the CDC and the WHO websites:
Questions or personal concerns regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) should be directed to your local healthcare provider. This remains a dynamic situation and we will update our decisions and recommendations on a regular basis both via email and at www.usafencing.org/coronavirus

Bob Bodor
USA Fencing Director of Membership