VFA Bulletin
November 6, 2023

Schedule for rest of fall:
This week (Nov 7-9) and next week (Nov 14-16), all practices as normally scheduled.
NO fencing the week of Thanksgiving (Nov 21-23)
Nov 28-30 and Dec 5-7, last two weeks of fall session (making for a total of 10 Level 1 classes, and 11 Level 2/3 classes).

Winter break Dec 8-Jan 3
Thurs Jan 4: Competitive Squad practice (open fencing) in Charlotte. I will not be there (flying to CA that day for Veteran NAC), so will need to arrange transfer of electric strips in advance. This one is a freebie (no need to punch your card), just an informal chance to get back in the fencing swing of things after the long winter break.
Full winter schedule begins Jan 9-11. I anticipate the same schedule as for the fall (except see note for Charlotte).

Charlotte fencers note: Every year from December through February, Charlotte town rec has the right to reserve the gym as late as 7:30 p.m for their youth basketball programs. Some years, they do use the gym until 7:30, pushing our practice times back to 7:30-9:30 (yes, I know that is late for many people, but there is nothing we can do about it, it is not unreasonable for town programs to take precedence over us, as the town taxpayers fund the school). Other years, they wrap up earlier or don't use the gym on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays. It all depends on the parent volunteers who coach the hoops program and the numbers of kids who sign up. Often they don't know until the program starts what the schedule will be and it may take a week or two to become clear, so please be patient if you arrive for a December practice and have to wait to enter the gym a time or two. I will try to find out the plans and keep you informed, but it can be a challenge, sometimes I just have to wait and talk to the basketball coaches. If we do get pushed to later practice times by basketball, we will return to 7-9 as soon as they are finished.

Winter session runs from January through late March. We will start a new round of beginner classes in January and are always looking for new club members. The VFA grows largely through word of mouth, so please tell your friends to get in touch with me (sooner rather than later, I will be traveling from Dec 10-28) and encourage them to come visit one of the remaining fall classes to observe and learn more.

The Stick Season Stab (see more below) will be an entirely self-reffed tournament. That means those of you who are developing your ref skills will get some opportunities to use them. Who should develop ref skills? Why everyone, of course! Knowing the rules, and being able to accurately observe a bout and describe what just happened, are important skills for all fencers. With that in mind, we are going to do a little ref development the next two weeks:
Tuesday Nov 7: Competitive Squad will hold an informal mock tournament doing a lot of reffing for each other
Wed Nov 15/Thurs Nov 16: Level 2/3 class will be about observing and describing fencing actions (known in the trade as "phrase reconstruction"). This is the thing most new refs find hardest and most intimidating (and yes, epee fencers need the same skills and language that foil fencers do, even if you don't traditionally say it out loud every time when you ref). This is an activity I come back to 2 or 3 times a year because it is so important both in your individual growth as a fencer, and for the good of our club and division.

What happens to current Level 1 students in the winter? That depends!
-If you are age 13+ and attended regularly this fall (i.e. made at least 7 of the 10 Level 1 classes), you are ready to move up to the Level 2/3 class (although you don't have to, if you would like to repeat Level 1, you are welcome to)
-If you are 9-12 years old, I usually recommend you take a second lap through Level 1 to consolidate your basic skills before moving on. Ditto for any age if you had a lot of absences (i.e. attended fewer than 7 classes this fall). Not sure where you stand? Ask me!
-If you are completing your second lap through Level 1, you are probably ready to move on (although sometimes the very youngest kids, or those with special needs, might benefit from a 3rd round of Level 1)
-A good option for many people is to take a second lap through Level 1 simultaneously with starting Level 2/3. There is no extra charge for attending twice a week (or staying the full 3 hours in Middlebury) and I definitely encourage that.

All rented equipment is due back to me by December 8, even if you are hoping to rent again in the winter. I will clean and re-issue it (so repeat renters might not get the same set - I will need to see how best to distribute my limited stock according to the size needs of incoming Level 1 students). The easiest way to return rental equipment is to turn it in at the end of your last class in December. It is fine to turn it in unwashed, I will take care of that. If you know you are not going to make the Dec 5/6 classes, or if you have already decided you are not going to continue, it is okay to turn it in any time, just email and let me know when to bring your deposit for the return. If you do not turn it in at one of the final fall classes, you will need to deliver it to my house in Addison.

All students in Level 2/3 classes are required to have their own set of basic equipment (mask, jacket, glove, weapon, plastron). If you are moving up, you should plan on purchasing a set (generally less expensive if bought as a starter kit, rather than piece by piece). There is a posting on our website with advice for first-time equipment buyers here:
Prices may be a little outdated (I updated them in September) but you will find out what to buy, how to size it, where to order it, etc. Ask if you have questions!

Those who are repeating Level 1 will have the option to sign up for another session of equipment rental when I open registration for winter classes in December. Although if you can afford it, I do encourage you to go ahead and purchase your own as soon as possible in order to free up more gear for brand new students. If you get your own, you can get a front zip jacket, a pistol grip (try them out at practice in the next few weeks!) and a plastron (comes with most sets).

By the way, teen and adult newbies (born 2010 or before), I notice that quite a few unrated fencers have signed up for the open (senior mixed) foil tournament in S. Burlington this Saturday. I think it will be fun and reasonably beginner-friendly (in that it won't just be you versus a whole bunch of very experienced competitors), so if you are looking to take the plunge into tournament fencing, go ahead and sign up (today, so that I know you are coming and can bring electric equipment for you to borrow). See #3 below for more info.!

Saturday Nov 11, Vt Commons School, S. Burlington, Stick Season Stab
10 a.m Veteran Epee, Open (Senior Mixed) Foil
1 p.m Veteran Foil, Open (Senior Mixed) Epee

Veteran events are open to fencers born 1984 or earlier (because everyone needs to play with kids their own age from time to time). Open events are open to fencers born 2010 or earlier. Veterans, please do not sign up for two events that start at the same time. You may choose one morning and one afternoon event if you wish. Unrated fencers, including first time competitors, are welcome in open events as long as you are not frustrated by fencing with more experienced opponents.

To register, get directions, and see who else is coming:

Entry fee: $20 for one event or $30 for two. Add a $15 late fee if you do not sign up by midnight tonight. Entry fees are collected at the door, exact change or check payable to VFA (no credit cards or phone apps)

Always arrive at least 30 minutes before your event start time (more if you need to borrow club electric equipment, or you like a long warm up, or if you are helping out- see below).
Always bring your USA Fencing card (or an image of it on your phone) in case there is any question about your membership.

If you sign up and then find you need to withdraw (thank you for not coming if you are sick), there is no penalty. Sign in to AskFRED and go to "My Dashboard". In the box that says "My next tournament" click "edit registration" and then, next to your name click "edit registration" again. Uncheck any events you are withdrawing from. Please take the time to do this if you can, rather than just ghost on us. The tournament organizers may also provide a cell phone to text on Saturday morning for last minute withdrawals.

Tournaments do not just magically happen. It takes a large team of volunteers to organize and pull off a good tournament. The VFA (and especially Competitive Squad fencers, who I rely on for leadership) is the host of this one. Thank you in advance to organizers Matt and Emily, who have already done a lot of work to get this set up, and to meet managers Deirdre and Genevieve for volunteering to keep things running smoothly on Saturday. As for the rest of you Squaddies, here is how I expect you to help:
-If you are fencing in Veteran Epee or Open Foil, please arrive at 8:30 a.m to help set up. Do not reward Matt and Emily for their hard work by strolling in at 9:30 and expecting them to have everything set up for you!
-If you are fencing in Veteran Foil or Open Epee, please stay after you are eliminated and help clean up. Do not reward Matt and Emily for their hard work by leaving early and making them do all the clean up!
-Throughout the course of the day, please step up and ref within your pools and DE brackets (foilists especially-we have a lot of newbie competitors coming, which is a great thing, and they need all of you with some reffing skills to help them have a good time)
-If you are a parent or partner of a fencer (but not competing yourself), take some time to train with our crack meet management team and learn how to run our tournament software, collect entry fees and the like. We need to develop a deep bench of capable meet managers so that we are not burning out the same few folks by expecting them to do all the work every month. Just go over to Deirdre and Genevieve and ask how you can help.

Roughly once a year (actually it's been more than a year now), we place a group order for club sweatshirts and warm up jackets. I am currently working with our supplier to get updated pricing (unsurprisingly, prices have gone up) and find a replacement jacket (because the sportswear companies have the annoying habit of discontinuing every design we select, or discontinuing offering it in our club colors....). I am guessing that by the time we get our order in, it will be too late for these items to be under the tree on Christmas, but we shall see. As soon as I work out what items we are going to offer, I will start an order form. So be on the look out for more information coming your way later this week.

The season's first (of 4 or 5) events for kids born 2011 or later is coming up fast. Our youth events are age appropriate, supportive, fun and excellent for young first-time competitors, including kids who are currently in Level 1 classes (and of course, all of Colton's Crew and the Middlebury Level 2/3 youth fencers....).

Dec. 2, Vt Commons School, S. Burlington, Holiday Open and Youth
10 a.m Youth Foil, Open (senior mixed) Epee
1:30 p.m Youth Epee, Open (senior mixed) Foil

Youth events are open to kids born 2011 or later, Open events are for fencers born 2010 or before.

Youth events take far more work to organize and run than open events, as the kids require a lot of support, and many volunteers to ref, help them with equipment, and help them learn from the experience. Best way to show your appreciation for these dedicated volunteers? Sign up (early!!!) and show up.

To register:

Sign up is via a website called AskFRED (FRED is the Fencing Results and Events Database). New to using it? Instructions for creating an account are here:
Note: this blog was created for the old AskFRED. It may have changed a bit since the site was updated this summer. Also, if you used AskFRED last season but this is your first time signing in since the update, you may be prompted to change your password.

Rob, Karen, Michele and I all attended the New England Division Veterans Tournament in Worcester yesterday. For Rob, it was his first out-of-state tournament (welcome to the travel team, Rob!) and he did a great job, defeating the two unrated fencers in his pool and one of them again in his first DE, before losing to the A-rated eventual winner of the mens epee event. Karen posted 2 pool victories and finished 2nd of the 5 E and U fencers in the strong field (actually, she beat the one who finished one place above her, and tied in indicators, but had fewer touches scored). Michele had one victory, but it was a surprise upset of the eventual winner. The womens foil events was very strong, with 4 2023 world championship team members and 8 or 9 serious medal contenders in the field of 17. I felt a little lackluster, beating the less experienced fencers but not doing anything brilliant enough to break into the final 4, and finished 7th.

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