VFA-in-Exile Bulletin
October 14, 2021

Of course, after a nice week of weather, it looks like rain is on tap for the weekend. Competitive Squad is on for this afternoon 4:30-6:30, weather should remain dry. Saturday is a different story. Looks like a cold front coming through, and that we are unlikely to be able to hold classes on Saturday 10/16. I will update you with a final decision Friday.

What about the Monster Mask 2 Tournament on Sunday? As of today, it's pretty sketchy, but I will hold off on a final decision until Friday, in the hope that the front may clear through enough by Sunday afternoon to run our events, perhaps with modified start times. But just in case, clear your calendar for October 24 (the following Sunday) and hope for better weather luck.

The final outdoor practices, weather permitting, will be Oct 21 for Competitive Squad and Oct 23 for Level 1 and Level 2/3 classes. Read on for more information about continuing indoors.

I invite all of you, including current Level 1 students, to join me for 4 more weeks of fencing this fall. I'm looking forward to not always saying "weather permitting"! Your punch cards are still good, just top them up when they run out. There are no new club dues or equipment rental fees for these classes. If you are interested, you can try epee during the All-Level classes and see if you like it.

Mondays, Oct 25, Nov 1, Nov 8, Nov 15, Cornwall Town Hall (5 miles south of Middlebury on Route 30)
7-8:15 pm All-Level Class
8:15-9 p.m Open fencing/bouting time

Tuesdays, Oct 26, Nov 2, Nov 9, Nov 16, Shelburne Town Gym (in old school building, shares parking lot with town hall, library, rec park and firehouse)
7-8:15 pm All-Level Class
8:15-9 p.m Open fencing/bouting time

Thursdays, Oct 28, Nov 4, Nov 11, Nov 18, Shelburne Town Gym
7-9 p.m Competitive Squad practice

Who can participate:
All-Level Class: Everyone except rank beginners who have never fenced before. That includes current Level 1 students, fencers who have not been attending for a while but want to come back, and everyone else (even those who did not fill out the survey to tell me they are coming - just come!)

Competitive Squad: Any adult fencer who wants to take the plunge in to electric fencing, bouting, and participating in local tournaments. Any teen fencer with a year or more of instruction under their belts, and the maturity and focus to train in a mixed group with adults. Squaddies need to own their own equipment, with electric equipment highly recommended (we do almost everything with electric equipment during these practices, as that is what we use in competition).

As we have done this fall, if you come to 2 practices in the same week, you only need to punch your card once.

Covid Safety Notes
The pandemic is not over, and moving indoors adds a level of risk. Let's work together to make this as safe as we can.
-Vaccination is required for all fencers over age 12 who participate in this. Younger children are welcome in the All-Level Classes, although I expect you to get vaccinated when your turn comes. Competitive Squad will be an all-vaccinated group.
-Masks are required for everyone during the entire practice, except for brief, physically distanced water breaks. The mask must cover your mouth and nose with a good fit so it doesn't keep sliding down. No bandanas or neck gaiters that are not designed for covid safety (some sports masks, like the one sold by Absolute, go over the neck, but they are actually masks and are acceptable). Bring 2 masks so you can change if yours gets sweaty (not only is a wet mask uncomfortable, it's less effective). Note that masks are required by town policy in the corridors and bathrooms of the town gym building.
-Normally, I welcome parents and others to watch our fencing classes, but for now, no spectators in the fencing room. The best would be if you can drop your kids off, go somewhere else, and pick them up again at the end. If you must wait in the building, there are some benches in the hallway outside the Shelburne gym (masks required). The Cornwall town hall really does not have a suitable waiting area, so please wait in your car (good evening to run your errands in town!).
-Shelburne gym has no windows (although it is a large room with high ceilings). I will bring a fan to vent out the door for some air circulation. It is an older building, and almost certainly does not have a modern ventilation system. In Cornwall (an even older building!), we can crack the windows at least until it gets too cold, and also use a fan for some circulation. There is a Zumba class in Cornwall until 6:30, and I can not vouch for how careful they are about masking. I am telling you these things in the interest of full disclosure, so you can make a decision based on your own comfort level, not trying to scare you away.
-Stay home when sick! (This applies to me too - classes may be cancelled if I get sick). Stay home if you suspect a close contact with covid, or if you have recently been in a crowded indoor space (i.e. airplane, party, etc). Get tested before returning.

If you have rental equipment signed out, you may continue to use it for the All-Level classes. If you will not be continuing, the last scheduled outdoor class is October 23 (once more with feeling: weather dependent!). You may return your rented equipment and get your deposit back at the end of class if you wish. Should that class be rained out, you are responsible for returning your equipment by Thanksgiving. You are welcome to drop the equipment off at any of the Shelburne practices, or in Cornwall, or bring it to my house in Addison. For those using equipment through November - you can return it at the end of the Nov 15 or 16 class, but should that class be cancelled for some unexpected reason, you will need to bring it back on Nov 18 (if practice is held then) or bring it to my house.

I am hoping to offer fencing again this winter, including a new round of beginner classes (see #4 below). Even if you plan to return, I need all rental equipment back by Thanksgiving. In the winter, first priority for available rental equipment will be to new beginners. If I have some left over in your size, you may rent again if you wish (note: availability not guaranteed). But if you know you are sticking with fencing, please consider buying your own (great holiday gift for the fencer in your life!). Not only will you free up rental equipment so someone else can try fencing for the first time, but you can get nice stuff like a front-zip jacket or a pistol grip weapon. There is a guide to buying equipment here, with info on sizing, what to get etc (prices may be outdated, the rest of the info is good). Ask if you have questions!

Do you have outgrown or unused equipment? New fencers are often happy to get a deal on used equipment. You can donate it, and I'll resell it for you with proceeds going to the club. Or you can let me know exactly what you have and how much you want for it, and I can advertise it in the Bulletin. I currently have 2 right-handed boys jackets up for grabs: a really nice larger one (best guess, for a 80-100 lb child) for $15, and a less pristine but still serviceable smaller one (best guess, for a 60-80 lb child) for free. Let me know if you want either of these.

Plans are very much still up in the air, and covid-dependent, but my fingers are crossed that we will avoid another complete shut-down during the cold months. Some things I have learned by experimenting with the set-up of practices this fall:
-I like teaching Level 1 by themselves, rather than combined with Level 2. I can focus on the basics with them, and am less reliant on having available volunteer assistants (although several L2/3 students have been really helpful with the newbies this fall - I'm looking at you, Eve and Miranda!).
-I like having Level 2 and Level 3 combined, as I think it pushes the Level 2 students ahead faster when they get good mentoring from their more advanced club mates. The drawbacks are a. younger students can't stay as late, which becomes a scheduling challenge for evening practices, b. advanced students may not be getting enough practice at their own level if they are mostly coaching newer folks (although...being a coach definitely made me a better fencer, having to explain and demonstrate stuff is not a bad thing).
-I like having a dedicated Competitive Squad practice that is focussed on bouting, but in a structured way. I don't know about the rest of you Squaddies, but I've been having a blast playing with you all this fall.

Charlotte group: I would like to offer two practices a week this winter, maybe something like this (not set in stone, but I think this might meet the needs of the greatest number of fencers-suggestions and comments welcome)
Tuesday 7-8:15 pm Level 1 class, open fencing for Squaddies. 8:15-9 p.m CS practice (structured games and challenges similar to what we have been doing, just for a shorter time than we currently have)
Thurs 7-8:15 p.m Level 2/3 class, 8:15-9 p.m open fencing (maybe with more CS-style structured bouting, but for everyone?)
Where? If CCS re-opens to outside users, that is where we will be, but we need a back up plan that is not a public elementary school, just in case. I understand that Vermont Commons School might be a possibility (nice to have the principal's son as one of our enthusiastic new club members!), although I haven't checked out the space yet. I still welcome help in finding a suitable large space (roughly equivalent to a basketball court) in Charlotte, Shelburne, Hinesburg, Williston, S. Burlington or Burlington.

Middlebury group: Mary Hogan does not anticipate allowing outside users at all the school year, as they host a preschool program (so even with vaccines for 5-11 year olds, they will still have an unvaccinated population). The Bridge School is available on Wednesdays this winter (although not Mondays). It's not cheap to rent, but would give us a real gym, and a space large enough to hold a Level 1 class (Cornwall is not big enough for that). In addition, Cornwall should still be available on Mondays for a smaller group if we find it works out well. I am still mulling over whether to offer fencing in Middlebury 2 nights a week or one - it really depends how the 4 fall indoor classes go, and what the turn-out/interest level is like. If we have enough fencers to do 2 nights a week, the schedule would be similar to Charlotte (except Level 2/3 on Monday, Level 1 and CS on Wednesday). If we do not have enough returning fencers committed to regular attendance, I am considering offering Level 1 and Level 2/3 classes back to back on Wednesdays (i.e. one class 6-7:30, the other 7:30-9, with some overlapping bouting time in the middle, kind of the way it has been on Saturdays this fall. The L2/3 group will probably have the later slot so that younger kids can join as beginners, but I haven't decided that for sure yet.).

Have some Halloween fun while promoting the VFA! The VFA will once again run a station for the Middlebury Spooktacular event on Sunday Oct 31. We will be stationed outside Mary Hogan School this year. Here is what is involved:
-Set up 3-3:45. Carve a jack-o-lantern (and bring a light for it) and bring any other Halloween decorations you have (living in a rural area with no trick or treaters, I don't have any, so I'm depending on the rest of you).
-Dress up in a sword-related costume (I've got a replica rapier for a Shakespearean or Renaissance character, and a claymore for a medeival costume if you want to borrow. Don has a saber for a pirate or cavalry officer). Anything from gladiator to jedi is welcome, including just wearing your modern fencing uniform. Yours truly is going as Zorro. Whatever you choose, plan for cold weather (we were all shivering by the end last year, it gets cold quickly when the sun goes down).
-Hand out candy to trick or treaters from 4-7 p.m

So far, Adam, Karen, Dmitri and Don plan to join me. How about a few more? Let me know if you can help. This is fun for those of us who are too old to trick or treat, but still love Halloween.