Frequently Asked Questions
A Guide to New Fencers
Please read this page carefully, as it will save a lot of confusion getting ready for a competition, and prevent situations where the fencer isn't properly prepared to fence and have a good time. Also see the very nice guide by Sam Signorelli, of H.O.M. Fencing Supply
You must be a member of the USFA in order to compete in NJ Division events. It is best to obtain your membership well in advance of the beginning of the season. Memberships are due for renewal in July. You can find a link for the USFA membership application on our forms page.
If you choose to obtain your membership shortly before a competition, you must remember to get a confirmation from the USFA (fax or e-mail) or bring the cancelled check or credit card statement showing the transaction. Nobody may fence without proof of membership -- if you don't have it, you will be required to fill out another membership form on the day of competition.
USFA rules stipulate that in order to be a member of the NJ Division, you must either 1) reside in one of the counties included within the borders of the NJ Division; 2) be a member of a club within the borders of the NJ division; or 3) attend college within the borders of the NJ Division. If you cannot answer affirmatively to any 1 of these 3 questions, then you need to designate a Division appropriate to your situation on your application form.
Valuable information is available in the Athlete Handbook
On the USFA membership application, you have the option for up to 2 club affiliations. The first one is for the club you wish to compete under. The second one is for your school affiliation. For the college season, the NCAA regulations provide that the college student must compete under their college team. For the NJ Division events, we use the High School affiliation as a secondary resource of information when seeding the pools so that we separate team members from being in the same pool.
Once you compete under a club, you are bound to compete for that club for the entire membership year -- the USFA only accepts that you declare 1 affiliation for the season -- upon renewal is the only time you can change your affiliation. If you do change clubs mid-year, when you register for all subsequent competitions, you must identify that your affiliation is "Unattached".
Age category information can be found on the USFA website. click here. For a detailed explanation, click here for the Athlete Handbook.
Last minute information
Prior to an event, there might be last minute information that you need to know. The place to look is http://www.njfencing.org -- if there is last minute information, you will see a flashing message that will give you that information if it is short, or that you should check current news for more details, if that is required.
It is highly recommended that you check the website the day before the competition to confirm location and start times -- this is the vehicle of communication by which we can reach everybody. In addition, you should sign up for the Division e-mailing list through the message board.
Changes in venue and start times can be caused by inclimate weather, venue unavailability, or due to events beyond our control.
There are several special large events in the NJ Division that require pre-registration (JO Under-20 qualifier; JO Under 17 qualifier; Div II/III Summer National qualifier; Under-19 Summer National qualifier; Youth -14-16 Summer National qualifier; Denise O'Connor High School Championships; Denise O'Connor Youth Championships).
The pre-registration form is located on the website from the forms page and schedule. The pre-registration form must be postmarked by the published deadline prior to the event. If you fail to pre-register, you may register at the door, but you will incur a penalty of a substantial at-the-door fee, which will be documented on the schedule page.
Any event on the Division schedule that has the word "qualifier" in it means that it is a necessary step in the qualification path for a National event. Your coach or other parent in your club should be able to explain this to you. However, if you would like an explanation, a member of the Executive Committee explain the qualification paths and operations of competitions of the USFA. Contact the board by emailing the Chair or Vice-Chair - their names and e-mail addresses are shown in the About the Division page. Gladys at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some parents, due to lack of knowledge of either qualification paths or operations, wind up asking questions of the bout committee during a tournament. This is a totally inappropriate time to ask such questions, since during the progress of a tournament, the bout committee members are very busy with running the tournament. Distractions such as these are disruptive to the running of the events. If you have any questions, e-mail the board, individually or to invite a member of the Executive Committee to your club for a parent question-and-answer session.
In addition, if you would like to become involved with helping run the competitions, please e-mail the board to facilitate training -- we can always use more volunteers, since running our large competitions are on the same scale as a National event, and we don't have the same availability of manpower. You can even earn a free entry to the event for yourself or your child by volunteering.
The NJ Division lists all times for events as the close of check-in. This means that you have between the 1/2 hour before this time and up until this time to present yourself to the registration table to let us know that you are present and ready to fence. Please note that the fencer is required to check-in -- not the parent.
As soon as check-in closes, all competitor's cards are sent to the bout committee for seeding and the drawing up of the pool sheets. This process takes approximately 1/2 hour to perform, so you can expect fencing to commence approximately 1/2 hour after close of check-in, depending upon strip and referee availability.
Also, a word to over-eager parents and the problems that you can cause to a competition. The most important thing that you can do to not be the individual solely responsible for the delay of the competition is to abide by the check-in protocols specified above. Again, to re-iterate, you can only register 1/2 hour before the close of check-in for your event. We have many events going on, and the check-ins are staggered and controlled for each event. We have had in the past an eager parent who registered their child early into an event that was not their event. This one parent's eagerness caused the whole competition to come to a standstill, as that event had to be stopped and re-seeded. The call-back for the pools already in progress when the problem was uncovered and the re-seeding for that event took 1 hour to complete. The downstream impact to referee and strip availability caused further reverberations, so that subsequent events were delayed by as much as 2-1/2 hours.
Please, if you are a parent reading this, educate the other parents in your club about all the information on this page.
USFA rules require that you come to the competition with knickers, plastron, jacket, mask, 2 working weapons, 2 working body cords, and a functioning lame if applicable. It is your responsibility to maintain your equipment. You can ask your coach, a clubmate or access the Usenet group rec.sport.fencing and obtain its FAQ to learn how to maintain your equipment in working order. You will receive a yellow card for non-functioning equipment (or a red card if you already had a yellow card) as well as delaying the competition for everyone.
Depending upon the time you arrive, before or after you check-in, you need to go to the armorer's table and have your equipment tested. In order to compete, you must have an inspection mark from the armorers on your equipment. If you report to the strip without inspection marks, you will receive a yellow card.
If your equipment fails, you have 3 options: 1) borrow equipment from a clubmate; 2) purchase equipment from the vendor onsite (if there happens to be a vendor available); 3) if the armorers have time, ask them if they can fix your equipment -- you will have to pay them for parts, and should also pay them for their service.
During the competition
Be aware, pay attention and listen to all announcements. The first announcement will be when a member of the bout committee will call all fencers for an event -- they will give the pool assignments, and they will tell you the format on how the competition will proceed (how many pool rounds there will be, how many will get eliminated each round, and how many will proceed to the DE). It is your responsibilty to listen to this information. If you didn't listen when this information was given, you cannot rely on asking officials -- many times referees and other bout committee members may not know -- they have other duties that they are responsible for -- it is not their job to know everything, rather, it is your responsibility to listen to all announcements.
You can expect all subsequent rounds to begin approximately 1/2 hour from when the final pool sheet from that round has been brought into the bout committee. Keep in mind that some pools finish earlier than others -- a pool of 5 fencers finishes in approximately 1 hour, and a pool of 6 fencers finishes in approximately 1-1/2 hours. In addition, it is sometimes necessary to double flight the pools -- what that means is that the pools are send out in 2 sets -- the first set will come back in 1 to 1-1/2 hours, and then there will be another 1 to 1-1/2 hours for the second set to be completed. The DE round cannot start until approximately 1/2 hour after the second flight of pools have been completed. What is happening in that 1/2 hour is that the bout committee is verifying the pool sheets, recording results and re-seeding for the next round. Fencing is not like soccer or baseball -- there is a lot of math and paperwork involved.
The importance of listening to all announcements cannot be stressed enough. If you fail to check in by the time registration is closed, we will announce your name and you need to report to the registration desk immediately to check in. If you do not, you will be scratched from the competition. If you fail to report for your first pool bout or a DE bout, we will announce your name to report to the strip. That is your first call. If you still fail to report to your strip, we will announce your name again. That is your second call. If you still fail to report to your strip after 1 minute after your second call, you will be Black Carded from the competition.
Each fencer is required to check their scores and sign the pool sheet before they leave the strip for that round. Any questions that you have at the time are to be resolved by the referee and your fellow fencers. click here for a graphic on how to read a pool sheet. Keep in mind, that one of the things that slows a competition down is a fencer who does not check and sign their score sheet at the completion of the pool rounds. If a fencer lodges a complaint after the DE seeding is posted, it will take the bout committee approximately 1/2 hour to resolve and re-seed the DE tableau.
Jason Henderson has created a nice score sheet booklet for parents to record the pool information while they watch their child. At some of our competitions you will find that he has these available for sale. It is a very good tool for parents to help their child by recording results, because it not only keeps you busy during the competition, but it also serves as a good record so that you can discuss with your child their results afterwards, and it could be a very beneficial tool for their progress.
HOWEVER, I have to convey a word of caution to parents who use this booklet. The referee, or their designated scorekeeper is responsible for the official scoresheet. The rules have clear set protocols and the referee knows how to deal with withdrawals from competitions appropriately on the scoresheet, as well as protests (there are provisions in the rules on the manner in which things need to be handled, and by your intervention, you might unknowingly invalidate the process of appeal). We have had instances in which parents were trying (albeit, unknowledgable in the rules and truly trying to just be helpful) to correct the scoresheet for this. Unfortunately, the parents in question were exercising their authority as a parent to dictate to the referee -- we have many qualified and certified referees that are Under-20 in our Division, and parents need to be aware of this and be cognizant of the referee's authority. If you, as a parent, have a discrepancy with what you have recorded in your booklet with that which is recorded on the pool sheet, you need to come to the bout committee and get one of the bout committee members to resolve the situation -- you cannot resolve this situation on your own. If you fail to use this mechanism of recourse, and instead choose to alter the official pool sheet on your own accord, you will be Black Carded.
NJ Division Competitions
The NJ Division offers a variety of competitions to help your child progress and grow. Our Open competitions are precisely that -- they are open to all age levels. In these competitions, adults also fence, lending their years of experience as a challenge to our youth.
For our developing youth, we also offer Division II competitions and Under-16 competitions. In Division II competitions you will also find some adults, but they are more recreational and interested in helping develop our youth. In these competitions, we also develop our referees. Your child might be asked to partake in helping referee the competition -- be rest assured, it is part of the learning process -- they will be observed, and will learn the rules of our sport through the process. By refereeing, it can only help their understanding of the sport, and in turn, their own skills in fencing.
In the Under-16 competitions, you will find the truly new fencers -- most have very limited competitive experience -- but what better place to start. In these competitions, we have a dedicated referee, who is also there to help with any question you or your child might have.
The USFA provides a rating structure for competitors for the SOLE purpose to help in seeding the competitions. All the ratings do is to give a starting point for the bout committee in order to seed a competition. It is your results in the pools that will determine your DE seeding placement, and that is all that really matters. Parents putting pressure on their kids to achieve a rating are doing a great disservice to their child -- you are putting too much pressure on them to obtain results, when you should rather be encouraging them to devolop at their own speed and have enjoyment in sport. The details of the ratings and how they are earned in competitions can be found at this link.
Many kids also view these ratings as a sign of achievement that attests to their progress. There are a few things that you need to know as a parent about the ratings. The first is that only those individuals rated "C" and higher are eligible to enter the Division I National competitions. As a junior fencer (Under 20), they are eligible for very many national competitions where a rating is not required. The second thing, is that by entering many competitions, the probability that you earn a rating increases. And lastly, for when your child gets discouraged, remind them that the ratings are a function of who attends the competition -- if they do well, but 1 person doesn't show up who would have enabled a rating to be given out under the rules, it doesn't diminish their effort; conversely, if they fenced well against a very strong field and didn't earn a rating, that doesn't diminish their effort either. In the end, it just boils down to them being in the right competition at the right time.
Of course, your child should read the rule book -- you would be suprised, but the fact is, that the vast majority of fencers have never read the rule book. As a parent, it would probably be a good idea to acquaint yourself with the rules of fencing. As a spectator, the rules even make provisions for you -- and the referees can even penalize you (and we have had instances in which parents have been Black Carded).
Even if you are a non-fencing parent, you too can learn to become a referee -- it would make the competitions more fun for you, and if you referee at our special events, your child will be entitled to a free entry.
Download the official, current USFA documents from the USFA website.
Remember, you can always contact the board to arrange for an Executive Committee member to come to your club for a Parent's Question-and-Answer session.
If you are a parent who wishes that your child has long term progress in this sport, all these documents are important to read and understand. This is alot of information to digest, and it will take some time, but at a minimum, you should first at least read the penalty chart -- it is only a 2 page document, and it basically effectively summarizes the rules -- after each penalty, they give the article in the rule book as to where you can find the details for the rule infraction.
Independent High School Students
If you are a High School fencer who does not have a High School team on which you can compete, you can still have an opportunity to be part of the NJSIAA State Championships.
Here's what you need to do:
Any independent fencer should go to the NJSIAA webste (www.njsiaa.org) in early January. Click on Tournaments, then click on Winter Season. Then scroll down to Fencing. There are 2 documents that you need to download - the first is the rules for dual meet competitions. The other is the entry information for Teams and Independents. You should print out the sheet for Independents and do everything it says (board approval, assigning a coach, etc.) Then fill out the form - sometimes they forget to include the Independent form, so the Team form will do (it has all the required signatures). Then send the form to Marianne Pratschler with a check for $14 for each fencer by the stated deadline.