Start Up Info for Returning Fencers
September 1, 2022

I look forward to seeing you again very soon, and to meeting those of you recently transplanted to Vermont. I am still awaiting final schedule confirmation from Charlotte Central School (Mary Hogan School is confirmed) but am going ahead and sending all the details out on the assumption that we will be able to start practice as planned. Lots of information here, including some changes, so please read through this for anything that applies to you.

1. START UP SCHEDULE FOR RETURNING FENCERS
A "returning fencer" is anyone who is not a rank beginner, including those of you brushing the rust off after some time away from the sport, those joining the VFA from another club, those who took Level 1 classes last spring, and everyone else. Returning fencers get a two week head start before Level 1 classes begin.

September 13 and 15 in Charlotte (7-9 p.m), and September 14 in Middlebury (6:30-8:30 pm): Preseason Week. Free work outs for returning fencers of all levels and all ages. Yes free, you don't need a punch card, it's my gift to the club. We will do a lot of footwork, some basic technique drills, a few non-electric bouting games, and of course the perennial favorite, high intensity interval training.
Tues Sept 20 (7-9, Charlotte): First Competitive Squad practice of the season. This is the one chance for me to give you Squaddies my undivided attention, for us to brainstorm together and make plans for what CS practices will look like, and for prospective Squad members to come check it out and learn more before committing to membership. See below for more about the CS program. Bring your electric equipment!
Wed Sept 21 (6:30-8:30 pm, Middlebury): First Level 2/3 class of the season, followed by open fencing. Level 2/3 classes are for all returning fencers, from those who completed Level 1 in the spring, up to our most skilled competitors.
Thurs Sept 22 (7-9 pm, Charlotte): First Level 2/3 class of the season, followed by open fencing. Level 2/3 classes are for all returning fencers, from those who completed Level 1 in the spring, up to our most skilled competitors.

Schedule for remainder of the fall session:
Charlotte Central School (tentative, awaiting confirmation)

Tuesdays, Sept 27 to Dec 6
7-8:15 pm Level 1 (beginner) Class, with concurrent self-directed practice for Competitive Squad
8:15-9 p.m Competitive Squad practice continues, open fencing time

Thursdays, Sept 22 to Dec 8
7-8:15 pm Level 2/3 Class
8:15-9 p.m Open fencing/bouting time

Mary Hogan School, Middlebury (confirmed)

Wednesdays, Sept 28 to Dec 7
6-7:15 p.m Level 1 (beginner) class
7:15-7:45 p.m Bouting time for everyone (Level 1 students should plan to stay, and Level 2/3 to arrive in time for this)
7:45-9 p.m Level 2/3 class

Membership in one branch of the VFA is membership in the other. You are always welcome to visit the other group for some extra practice or if it is more convenient for you from time to time.

2. FEES FOR 2022-23 SEASON
Since we last ran a complete season of practices, our gym rental fees have tripled and our insurance cost has increase by about 40%. Based on a season of roughly 100 practices, I calculate that our operating budget (just rent and insurance, this is not including equipment costs) will be nearly $10,000. Club dues have only ever covered a portion of our operating costs, with the rest made up by fundraising. Nonetheless, I feel we have no choice but to significantly raise club dues so that everyone contributes a bit more (and a bit more fairly) to the cost of renting our gyms. Here are the new club dues, per session (so due in September, January and April if you fence all 3 semesters):
Level 1 students: $15
Level 2/3 students: $25
Competitive Squad members: $50
While a major increase from the $10 per session we charged for years (especially for Squaddies, who practice twice a week), this is still less than the membership fees of most private fencing clubs in New England and less than joining a gym or health club.

Punch cards: $65 for 5 weeks (up from $60). This is a slight cost-of-living adjustment for me, and the only part of the increased fees that goes into my pocket. Old cards will still be honored until they are used up. And anyone who comes to fencing more than once a week still only needs to punch their card once (all the more reason to join the Competitive Squad, or to occasionally visit the other group).

If there is anyone for whom the new fees are prohibitive or a significant deterrent to participation, please talk to me. I don't want anyone to stay home because of cost concerns.

Even with these increased fees, I anticipate that we will need to get our fundraising game back in high gear, especially in the winter leading up to the Middlebury Open. At the moment, we have a comfortable $8000 in our bank account to start the season, but we will no doubt spend down quite a bit of that.

Equipment: I encourage students moving up from Level 1 to Level 2 to purchase their own basic equipment (mask, jacket, glove, underarm protector, weapon) as soon as possible. Rental equipment is really intended to give beginners a chance to try fencing without making an investment. From now until Sept 10, priority for rental equipment goes to new Level 1 students. After Sept 10, if I have equipment left in your size, I may allow you to reserve it (or maybe not, if it is a popular size, I'm running low, and still have room in my classes for more newbies). Rental fees remain the same ($20 per semester, plus $100 refundable security deposit). Need advice on buying your first set of equipment? Look here (outdated prices, but advice should still be good):
http://www.vtfencingalliance.org/old_posts/EquipmentBuyGuide.htm

3. SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THE VFA
The VFA grows mainly by word of mouth, so please tell your friends about our upcoming Level 1 classes and encourage them to get in touch with right away. Here are a couple of other ways you can help:
a. Front Porch Forum. I will post to the Vergennes forum, but can not post to other FPFs. If you are willing to post for me, let me know and I'll send you a blurb you can just paste in. I especially need folks who can post in Middlebury, anywhere else in Addison County, Brandon and Rutland County. Less critical but also nice would be Charlotte and neighboring towns (Shelburne, Hinesburg etc).
b. Posters. Deirdre Goldenbogen (with help from Adam) has prepared a nice poster in the form of a pdf that can be printed out and hung up, or shared electronically. Let me know if you want one forwarded to you. Again, the critical areas for postering are Middlebury, Brandon and surrounding towns.

I'm fairly confident we will have a good turn out of beginners in Charlotte, judging from the number of folks that have joined my mailing list. Of course, it's always fun to have your friends in the club, so do tell them about it.

The Middlebury group has in recent years fallen below critical mass and is in danger of fading away. That would be sad, as it was the original location for the VFA (the Charlotte group started out as an outpost) and home base for many of our most successful fencers in the past. I would love to see the Middlebury group grow back to the point where we could go back to twice weekly practices there, with a full Competitive Squad program. For that to happen, we need lots of new members, especially teen and adult members who could develop more quickly into competitive fencers (compared to the young children we have mostly had in our Middlebury classes last season -although of course, kids are welcome too!). I am relying on those of you who want to see fencing continue in Middlebury to help me out with this!

4. RENEW YOUR US FENCING MEMBERSHIP
Our insurance requires that every single person who comes to fencing practice be a member of US Fencing, no exceptions. Please do not come to any practices, including the free preseason week, until you renew your membership. The only exceptions are:
a. Life members
b. Those who started fencing in the spring, or who upgraded from noncompetitive to access or competitive status after April 1. If you fall in this category, your membership extends through this season.
c. New Level 1 students who will be signed up for a noncompetitive membership at their first practice

Not sure if you are currently a valid US Fencing member? It's easy to check. Go to usfencing.org. Click on "Membership" and select "Current Member List". You can either run a search for your name (make sure you enter it exactly as when you registered) or use the drop-down menu to select Green Mt Division and click on "Allez" to get a list of current GMD members, then search for your name. If you are on the list you are all set.

How to renew your membership:
Go to usfencing.org, click on "Membership" and "Join or Renew". Log in to your US Fencing account, and you will be able to renew your membership on line. Don't know your user name/password or membership number? The easiest way to renew is with a phone call to the national office at 719-866-4511. They can take your credit card over the phone, as well as reset your user name and password so that you will be able to make future upgrades or renewals on line.

When renewing, list your club as Vermont Fencing Alliance (or you can list it as your secondary club if you wish to represent another club as well), and your division as Green Mountain (even if you live in New York).

All types of membership meet the insurance requirement, so it's up to you to decide which level to renew at. You can always upgrade later in the season by paying the difference in price. All memberships (except life) expire July 31. Membership levels:
Noncompetitive ($15): Good for beginners, kids born 2010 or later (Youth) who only plan to compete locally, or anyone who does not want to participate in any tournaments.
Access ($25): For any fencer born 2009 or earlier who wants to compete only in divisional level tournaments (includes neighboring places such as NH, NY and MA, as well as all Green Mt Division tournaments), as well as youth who want to compete out of state
Competitive ($90): For any fencer who wants to compete in regional (ROC, RYC, RJCC etc) or national (NAC, JOs, Summer Nationals) tournaments. I don't know for sure, but suspect you need this for Canadian tournaments as well.
International Competitive ($90): For citizens of other countries who want to fence in all US tournaments

Now would be a good time to take care of renewing your membership. Please please please: don't wait until the night before practice starts, or come to practice without doing it, or make me nag and remind you.

4. COMPETITIVE SQUAD PROGRAM
The Competitive Squad is a core group of teens and adults who love fencing, enjoy competing, and want to train hard and play hard. The Squad is the heart and soul of the VFA - the fencers who lead by example. Squaddies train twice per week (or 3 times, if you have the time and inclination to drive to the other town for some extra practice). On Tuesdays, the Squad does a self-directed practice during the time I am teaching Level 1 class. This consists of some peer-run footwork, and a series of bouting games or competitive challenges I assign you, generally using electric equipment. Once Level 1 class ends, I will join you for the last 45 minutes. On Wednesday (Middlebury) or Thursday (Charlotte), Squaddies participate in Level 2/3 classes plus get in some additional open fencing time. While the Tuesday CS practice is in Charlotte, the program is open to both Charlotte and Middlebury based fencers.

We are always looking for new Squad members! Maturity, motivation and genuine love of fencing are more important than your current skill level. There are no try-outs, anyone who meets these criteria is welcome to join:
-Age 13+, with a few exceptions by invitation (youth fencers, don't ask me - I'll ask you if I think you are ready)
-Able to attend regularly twice a week (of course you will have occasional absences for schedule conflicts, illness, etc. but for the program to work, everyone needs to rely on each other to show up for practice)
-Intending to enter most of the Champlain Cup tournaments. In addition, I encourage the more experienced Squaddies to seek occasional out of state tournament experience at what ever is an appropriate level for you. Fencing in "away" meets is not only a great way to stretch your skills and challenge yourself against different opponents, but also helps forge bonds with neighboring divisions and encourages their fencers to visit our tournaments.
-Able to maintain focus and practice with self-discipline without the direct supervision of a coach
-A positive attitude, resilience, good sportsmanship, a genuine desire to learn, and the recognition that mastering fencing is a lifelong journey.
-Own a full set of competitive equipment, including electric (or willing to buy it soon); willing to learn armory skills needed to maintain your own equipment.
-Willing to give back to the club as your skills develop. This can include mentoring/coaching less skilled fencers, learning to ref and reffing at tournaments (a critical need in the GMD!), and helping with tasks like tournament management, equipment maintainance and fundraising.

The only additional cost Squad members pay is the higher club dues per semester. If you fence more than once a week, you only need to punch your card one time, so you won't use your cards up any faster than fencers who just come once a week.

Interested in joining the Squad? Intrigued but not certain? Want to check it out and learn more before committing to it? Have suggestions regarding Tuesday evenings, things you would like to do more or less of based on how practices went last winter or spring?
Come to the first practice on September 20!

5. CHAMPLAIN CUP TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
The Champlain Cup is the Green Mt Divisions' fun and friendly league, with monthly tournaments. You earn a point for every event you enter, plus bonus points for high placement depending on the type of event and strength of the field. After a 3 year suspension, we hope to run a full tournament schedule this season, with trophies awarded in May to the top 3 fencers in each weapon, best youth fencer (born 2010 or later), best veteran fencer (born 1983 or earlier), rookie of the year (for a new competitor) and Leader's Sword (for the person with the most combined points). You do not have to be a cut-throat competitor to enjoy our local tournaments. We value fun, sportsmanship, and learning, and love to see newbies out there giving it a try.

Event categories:
Open (also called Senior Mixed): for all fencers born 2009 or earlier
Veteran: for fencers born 1983 or earlier
Youth (also called Y12Y10): for fencers born 2010 or later
U or E-Under: for unrated, or E and unrated fencers, ideal for less experienced competitors including first-timers

We are still working on booking venues for the tournaments but here is a provisional schedule so you can at least mark your calendars (in pencil - dates are subject to change if we can't get a venue)

Sat Oct 15, Middlebury: Open foil, epee and saber, veterans foil and epee
Sat Nov 12, Middlebury: Open foil and epee, E-under foil and epee
Sat Dec 3, tba (Middlebury or Charlotte): Open foil and epee, Youth foil and epee
Sat Jan 14, tba: Open foil and epee, Unrated foil and epee
Sat Feb 11, tba: Open foil and epee, Youth foil and epee
Sat Mar 3, tba: Open foil and epee, E-under foil and epee
April 15-16, Middlebury: 28th annual Middlebury Open. Open foil, epee and saber, youth foil and epee, veteran foil and epee, unrated foil and epee
Sat May 6, tba: TBA
Sat May 28 (raindate May 29), Fort Ticonderoga NY: 23rd annual Ticonderoga Challenge outdoor epee tournament

As soon as venues are confirmed, we will open tournaments for registration on the AskFRED.net website. New to using AskFRED? Click here for instructions on how to create an account and sign yourself up for events:
http://www.vtfencingalliance.org/old_posts/HowToUseFRED.htm

Most of our events are all gender (a.k.a. "mixed"), although we occasionally hold separate male and female U events, primarily to allow newer female fencers the enjoyment of fencing each other.

Entry fees have gone up a little this year to reflect increased gym rental prices. The entry fee is now $20 for your first event of a tournament, plus $10 per additional event. There is a $15 penalty for late registration (less than 5 days in advance). All fees are payable at the door.