Bulletin for the week of January 20, 2020


Attention Middlebury fencers: Due to MLK holiday (Mary Hogan school is closed), we will meet tonight at the Bridge School, 6:30-9 p.m (1469 Exchange St, Middlebury, VT, looks like a large barn with blue roof, on corner with route 7). There is a dance class in the gym until 6:30 there, so please wait quietly in the library until they finish. Equipment bags should be kept in the library, as the gym is quite small. We will be back at Mary Hogan for Level 3 on Wednesday, and for next Monday's classes.

Used equipment for sale:
a. 2 pairs Absolute fencing shoes, in almost-new condition. One euro size 40.5 (approximately mens 7.5 or womens 8.5) and one euro size 40 (approximately mens 7 or womens 8). $40 each (nearly $80 new).
b. 3 plastic chest plates for women. 2 size small (for a tween, teen or very petite woman), 1 size medium (fits most adult women). These are the unpadded kind, legal for all epee competitions, for practice and for unsanctioned (i.e. youth) foil competition. To make them legal for teen and adult foil competitions, you can purchase the padding to stick on (it's very easy to do). $15 each, offer much better protection than the small cup style protectors that go in jacket pockets.
Please let me know if you want to try on any of these items.

This is a big week for all of our Level 1 newbies. At the end of class we will go over the rules of foil fencing and the new students will fence their first real bouts. I will email all the Level 1 students a handout with notes on the rules, either before or after class (that depends how organized I am this afternoon…..). You can print this out to hang on your fridge, or just look it over a lot in the coming weeks to remind yourself of all the rules. Be especially sure to read it if you are missing class this week.

From now on, Level 1 students should be considered full members of the club, available for bouting during open fencing times. Some weeks we will play a game to get everyone used to fencing with eachother, but other weeks I will just declare it open fencing time and leave it up to you to find partners to practice with. Here are some reminders, which I give every term, and which still hold true:
a. Bouting is an important part of learning to fence. If you just come to class and do drills, you never apply what you are learning or learn to improvise. Besides, most people consider bouting the most fun part of practice. So Level 1 students, please make an effort to stay after class for as long as you can and participate in bouting. Whether you can stay 5 minutes or until closing time, the more you fence, the better you'll get.
b. No-one in the club is too good to fence with beginners. It is a time-honored tradition in every successful fencing club that the better fencers take the beginners under their wings and help them to improve. I expect experienced fencers (including - no make that especially- the Competitive Squad) to find a little time each Monday or Tuesday to work with beginners, either by fencing with them or refereeing them as they fence eachother. I deputize every experienced fencer as my assistant coach, so go ahead and give beginners helpful tips and pointers (in a nice, constructive way of course, and try to focus on correcting just one or two things at a time). Beginners, don't be shy about asking anyone to fence with you. Also, if you are curious about epee, you might enjoy asking an experienced epee fencer to show you some basics and experiment with it a little. When you get to the Level 2 class, you may do either foil or epee.

Do you want to keep our club dues affordable to all? Have you ever used club equipment? Do you want a club that is well supplied with working equipment for all to use? Do you believe the VFA should offer scholarships to those who can't afford the full cost of classes, or to those advanced students who volunteer their time to help teach beginners? Do you believe our club should offer a Competitive Squad program, with a professional coach, for advanced students? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, now is the time for you to step up and help with the fund drive. Yes you. All of you!

Sponsorships: In 2019, we had 32 sponsors for a total of $2675. In 2018, we had 37 sponsors for a total of $2590. This was down a little from $2915 in 2017 and a record high of $3230 in 2016. The trend in recent years has been for a smaller number of sponsors, and especially fewer business sponsors, with more people opting to simply donate rather than hit the streets and solicit sponsors. I'm very grateful to the VFA fencers and families who have given (and given generously - in 2019, $1900 of the $2675 raised came from 12 "big donors" who gave $100 or more, with all but 1 of the these donors being either families of fencers or businesses owned by families of fencers). However, I worry about us increasingly depending on a small number of generous donors to keep the club afloat. I would like to see those who can afford to make a generous donation continue to do so (thank you so much!), but I would also love to see us get back into the community and sell those $25 and $50 ads to independent local businesses and civic organizations. I believe this raises our profile and helps the club with publicity (you never know when someone you approach is going to say "my daughter has always wanted to try fencing"!). It gives less affluent members of the club a way to participate in the fund drive, and it creates a buffer against a larger donor dropping out of fencing or moving away. Finally, many of our raffle prize donations come from businesses who are unable to donate cash, but who are happy to give a gift certificate or item from their store. If we don't approach those businesses, we don't get as many good raffle prizes.

As of today, only 1 sponsorship has been turned in to me, and very few other people have used the GoogleDoc log to indicate that they have approached any potential sponsors. I will remind you again:
-Deadline to get sponsor names on the t-shirt is Feb. 13. That is only 3 weeks away.
-Sponsorships are the most important part of the fund drive. If we do not raise at least $2500 (preferably more!) through sponsorships we are in trouble.
-I am relying on every one of you to get (or be) sponsors. Please do not assume someone else will do this. Every member of the club benefits from a well funded program with affordable dues.
-You can download the sponsorship form here (or just ask me to email you one if that makes your life easier):
-Although I am happy to have surprise sponsors, it's helpful if you would post your potential sponsors (whether or not they come through) on the log here, to avoid duplication (and reassure the nervous coach that you all are indeed making an effort):

The other main way to get involved in the fund drive is to volunteer. We need one or more people to serve as Raffle Czar (or czarina). I would like to get underway with selling raffle tickets, so the sooner someone steps up to take charge, the better. The Raffle Czar's (or oligarchy's) job includes
-Collecting raffle prizes as they are donated (if you have something to donate, bring it to me and I can give it to the Czar)
-Collecting tickets and money as fencers bring them in (again, you can turn these it to me and I'll give them to the Czar)
-Choosing something to purchase as a grand prize (typically we have chosen an electronic gadget, not fencing specific, of interest to all age groups, available for under $150). Reimburse yourself from raffle proceeds.
-Running the raffle at the Middlebury Open.

As soon as we have someone (or several someones) volunteering to be in charge of the raffle, I will send everyone a link for downloading and printing raffle tickets. We also need donated prizes - lots of them! Gift certificates, handcrafts, fencing-related prizes (which are guaranteed to go to fencers), and general nice stuff anyone would want (no white elephants please). So if you have something to donate to the raffle, you can bring it to me any time. And as soon as I make the tickets available, get out there and start selling them. Tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5, winners need not be present at the drawing on March 15.

I get this question a lot from newer students. The short answer is (almost always) yes. Here is the long answer:
Being "good enough to compete" is rarely about your technical ability. If you have a basic knowledge of fencing moves and enough understanding of the rules to know what the ref is talking about, you are "good enough", at least to enjoy our local unrated, E-under and youth events. Most people reach this stage about half way through the Level 1 course. You do not have to be an expert fencer or a cut-throat competitor to enjoy and benefit from participating in our local tournaments.
So, instead of asking yourself (or me) "am I good enough?" the real question is "Am I ready for a new challenge?". Do you have the emotional maturity to take winning or losing in stride, to know everyone starts from somewhere (and that somewhere is generally near the bottom of the heap), to approach competing as a learning opportunity and an adventure rather than worry too much about your scores and where you placed? For nearly all adults and most teens, the answer to these questions is yes. Less mature teens and youth fencers may need parental guidance to get past anxiety about losing bouts, or (especially for the youngest kids) may need to wait a little to grow into the emotional maturity needed to handle competing in an intense individual sport where the target is your own body.

Teens and adults need to make an additional financial commitment to compete, in that it costs $65 to upgrade from a noncompetitive to a competitive membership (required for fencers born 2006 or earlier, not required for youth fencers born 2007 or later in local youth events). There are two excellent opportunities coming up for newbie teen and adult competitors:
Feb. 1. E-Under events at the Groundhog Open in Burlington. These events are only for E and unrated competitors (if you don't know what a rating is, you don't have one).
March 14-15. Unrated events at the Middlebury Open (separate male and female if we have enough competitors).
Really, you don't want to miss the Middlebury Open (our 27th annual blow-out celebration of fencing!). So if you're thinking about going for it, why not make the upgrade sooner (since all memberships expire July 31) and get in on the Groundhog Open as well? There are additional fun events in the spring (like the Foil-Epee Doubles, and the annual outdoor epee at Fort Ticonderoga).

Next tournament: Groundhog Open, Saturday Feb 1, UVM (indoor track in the Gutterson field house). For teen and adult fencers (youth born 2007 or later-your next event is the Middlebury Open).
9 a.m: Open (senior mixed) foil, E-under Epee
12 pm Open saber
1:30 pm E-under foil
2 p.m Open (senior mixed) epee.

Note to unrated fencers: You are very welcome to participate in open events (as well as E-under) for added experience, if you wish (skilled competitors do not look down on newbies, we were all beginners once). Or, if you enjoy fencing both foil and epee, sign up for both E-under events. But please do not sign up for 2 events that start within a half hour of each other. Loaner equipment will be available for those who need it, as long as you sign up several days in advance so I know you are coming. But really, it's much better if you sign up by Jan. 27 - you get a discount on your entry fee, and it really really helps the organizer plan for the tournament.

Entry fee if registered on AskFRED by midnight Jan. 27: $15 for your first event/$5 per additional event. If you sign up after Jan. 27, it's $20 for your first event/$10 per additional event.

For information on the Groundhog Open (event schedule, directions, who else is signed up), and to register:

New to using AskFRED? Directions are here:

Despite attendance being a little reduced by the threat of snow, we had a fun tournament in Middlebury on Saturday. Everyone pitched in to help keep things running smoothly, several saber and epee fencers volunteered to fill in the foil ranks when others were no-shows, four VFA fencers made their tournament debuts, there were good attitudes all around, and the classy new GMD medals were awarded for the first time (thank you to Adam Glazer for the design). Congratulations to all the finalists of the 2020 Midwinter Melee!

Open Epee (20 competitors, B1 event)
1 Rivait, Birk T SC
2 Wolosinski, Peter VFA
3 Schuppe, Ray VFA
3 Bolduc, Patrice SRN
5 Lussier, Jesse VFA
6 Walting, Paul PVFA
7 Crocket, Anne SC
8 Kane, Garrett VFA

Open Saber (7 competitors, E1 event)
1 Nguyen, Thanh BSC-NY
2 Pawlowski, Matthew SC
3 Evans, Aaron SC
3 Walting, Paul PVFA

Open foil (16 competitors, C1 event)
1 Howard, Michael BOSTON FC - earned C rating
2 Hogan, Benjamin VFA
3 Yee, Charles BOSTON FC
3 Fox, Viveka VFA
5 Howard, Alexander BOSTON FC
6 Nguyen, Thanh BSC-NY
7 Bailly-Hall, Isidora VFA
8 Schuppe, Ray VFA

Youth foil (9 competitors)
1 Gallagher, Miranda VFA
2 May, Ciaran VFA
3 Biancosino, Kirin VFA
3 Fetterolf, Indy VFA
Spirit Award: Merren Hoerner

Youth Epee (5 competitors)
1 Fetterolf, Indy VFA
2 Hanna, Torrey VFA

Performance of the Week: A stalwart departs, a legend returns....It has been my pleasure to coach Isidora, and watch her grow from a skinny little 10 year old into an accomplished young woman with an elegant fencing style all her own. Over the years she has evolved from a student into one of my main training partners, has re-earned her D several times (because of the demographics of the Green Mt Division, it is harder for a female foilist to earn higher ratings than it is for a male epeeist), and has been a superb role model for younger girls in the club. On Saturday, Isidora spent the entire morning reffing youth foil (the event could not have happened without her). She went on to compete well, missing out on a medal by only one point, in a really nice DE bout against a skilled adult male opponent (formerly a C, a coach, with many years experience). The hallmark of her fencing is her smooth, insistant marching attack, and her ability to switch between first and second intention as the situation requires. She fell behind at first, when her opponent scored a number of parry 4 ripostes. But Isidora worked her way back into the game by changing her target and varying between first and second intention actions, to bring the score to 14-14. Although her opponent scored the final point, it was a bout that could have gone either way. Isidora leaves this week for a semester abroad in France (bon chance!), and will be off to college in the fall. She leaves behind some big shoes to fill! About 10 years before Isidora, another skinny little 10 year old walked into my Level 1 class. Until Ben was about 15, we focussed on how to defeat taller opponents. Then, seemingly overnight, we had to shift his training to focus on how to beat shorter opponents. The result was an adaptable fencer with a large bag of tricks, who, before he left for college in 2010, was a 4-time Champlain Cup winner, a multiple time Junior Olympian, and the first (of only 2) VFA fencers ever to earn an A rating. That skinny little kid now looks like a Viking warrior, and despite no opportunities to train (living in Lake Placid, with a job, a fiancee and general adulting to do), is still capable of picking up a foil and thrashing everyone in his pool. He also retains the ability to be fencing with fierce intensity one moment and joking with everyone around him the next. After winning all his other bouts handily, Ben found himself in the gold medal bout with a fast and aggressive young fencer (because when you are at the top, the ambitious up-and-comers are gunning for you). He was caught by surprise as his opponent forced a fast-paced bout from close distance, and fell behind 9-2 in the first period. He made a good adjustment in the second period (mainly by focussing on hitting his opponent from long distance rather than when distance was collapsing), and significantly outscored his opponent, although not quite enough to win. With typical Ben panache, his comment was "Do you think next time maybe I shouldn't wait until I am behind by so much to change my tactics?" It's great to have Ben back, and I hope we will see more of him the rest of this season. Now might also be a good time to mention that Isidora and Ben both have moms who followed them into fencing because it's more fun than sitting around, and who became skilled fencers in their own right, reliable refs and meet managers, and invaluable assistant coaches - so thank you Leslyn and Deb!

Honorable Mentions: Three cheers for first-time competitors Rob, Peter C, Theron and Madi, all of whom learned a lot and fenced with gusto. Needless to say, they all crushed my legendary first-tournament record (Rob and Peter both notched up some wins as well as points scored in most of their bouts), although Madi left it until her first DE to do so (and then did better against the formidable Ben Hogan than almost anyone else). Ray has been performing consistantly well this season, re-earning his C in epee for the second time on Saturday (including losing a semifinal by only 1 point to a B rated fencer young enough to be his son), and re-upping his E in foil while he was at it. Peter W also had a strong showing, going undefeated in his pool, and scoring a lot of nice touches (especially with his signature second intention ripostes) in a hard fought and fast paced gold medal bout. It was a pleasure to ref the youth and see how they are all learning and improving with experience. Miranda dropped 3 pool bouts, but she didn't let that freak her out in DEs, despite being an intense competitor. She met 2 of those 3 fencers again, made some adjustments, and beat them both on her way to the gold medal. Indy was also able to regroup after being upset by Ciaran in foil DEs, and went undefeated in his main weapon of epee.