Summer Newsletter, 2018

I hope everyone is having a great summer. The new fencing season is just around the corner! Read on for lots of news and information. I will be on a wilderness trip from Aug. 24 through 31, so if you have questions, want to reserve equipment, etc, leave me a message (email, or call 802-759-2268) and I'll get back to you when I return. If you are no longer fencing and do not want to receive the weekly VFA bulletin this season, please let me know and I'll remove you from the list.

1. PRESEASON PRACTICES FOR RETURNING FENCERS
Every year, I open the season with 3 free workouts in each location for returning fencers - my gift to the club. The purpose of these practices is to brush off the rust, get back in shape, and tune up our basic technique. We will do a lot of footwork and conditioning, drills, some games, and a little non-electric bouting. I like starting the season with the entire club working out together, from the least experienced students who just started fencing in the spring, to the most battle-hardened veterans, all ages, and all weapons (well foil and epee at least...if you want to do sabre, you'll need to make sure you have a partner coming). I encourage everyone to participate in some or all of the start up practices. All of them will take place 7-9 p.m., on Sept 12, 17 and 19 in Middlebury (Mary Hogan School for all of them), and on Sept. 13, 18 and 20 in Charlotte. Have I mentioned these practices are FREE?

2. SOME BIG CHANGES THIS SEASON, ESPECIALLY FOR EXPERIENCED FENCERS
I have noticed that interest in and dedication to my Junior Team program seems to be waning. Since I introduced the Associate team member category several years ago, a majority of teens (especially in Charlotte) have opted for that. This coming season, we will not have enough teen fencers to support the full Jr Team program as I originally envisioned it and ran it for the last 20-some years. I anticipate that it will not be worthwhile to run Tuesday afternoon practices in Middlebury this season. I have been rethinking what the club schedule and structure might look like going forward, and here is what I would like to try this coming season.

The well-established Monday through Thursday evening schedules, with Level 1, 2 and 3 classes will remain in place. The only difference is that I have requested 6:30-9 on Tuesdays, but that is pending approval from CCS (if they are unable to accomodate that request, we will continue with 7-9).

The Junior Team program will be replaced with a new VFA Competitive Squad for motivated teen and adult fencers. This would be a core group (a Varsity Team if you will) of enthusiastic experienced fencers who are ready and eager to take their fencing to the next level. The program is open to all interested adult fencers in Level 3 classes, and to teens ages 12 and older by invitation (typically, the same teens who previously would have been invited into the Jr Team program). Geoff Butler and Jack Brisson have both expressed interest in helping get this program off the ground, especially to teach the habits of successful competitors such as goal-setting and mindful practice. Most Mondays and Tuesdays will begin with Geoff or Jack leading the CS in conditioning and footwork, followed by a long period of open bouting. As the season progresses, we will ask various team members to step up as leaders for the evening.

A big value of the Tuesday afternoon practices has been affording me time to give private lessons (although only to a limited number of teen fencers). For motivated competitors, private lessons are hugely beneficial. This season, instead of Tuesday afternoon, I plan to offer two private lesson sessions, from 4:30-6 p.m on Monday or Wednesday in Middlebury (still working on scheduling that) and on Thursday in Charlotte. I realize many adults have set work hours that preclude these times but for those of you with enough flexibility in your schedule, I invite you to take advantage, and of course welcome teen and youth fencers for lessons during these sessions. For Charlotte, I have secured the use of the Charlotte Congregational Church hall for these sessions. It is an excellent space (nice wooden floor, plenty of room!), literally 2 minutes from Charlotte Central School. My hope is that competitive fencers will use these times to schedule individual lessons with me (and possibly with Geoff). There will be no open bouting during these times, just lessons. You would come in a few minutes before your scheduled lesson to warm up on your own, take your lesson, and then take a break (maybe bring a picnic dinner for yourself) before attending your Level 3 class nearby that night. You would therefore be able to have a private lesson, group class, and open fencing time, all in one trip. I hope this will allow me to better serve the Charlotte club members by offering lessons in a more convenient location. Note that Geoff will also continue to offer private lessons during portions of our evening practices, as well as at Vintage Fitness in Vergennes (probably on Fridays, talk to him about it). So now you have an expanded range of times and places when you can arrange for a lesson with Geoff, as well as expanded opportunities to work with me. Geoff and I are on the same team! We are both delighted to work with any one of you at any time. Neither one of us will feel bad if you would rather have your lessons with the other one. It is also completely acceptable to take some lessons from Geoff and some from me, and/or to try out both coaches to see which is a better fit for you. Both Geoff and I will charge the same fee for private lessons: $20 for a 20-minute lesson. This is in line with what local music teachers charge for private instruction, and much less than what more expensive fencing clubs typically charge.

Squaddies will pay the usual club dues and $100 per term class fees (in other words, no change or extra charges beyond optional private lessons). Squaddies must be competitive USFA members.

A couple of other small changes came out of a recent brainstorming session with Geoff: all Level 1 students will receive a free 10-15 minute individual lesson with me after class during weeks 7-10 each term. Hopefully, this will help them consolidate their learning and inspire them to continue into Level 2. All Level 2 students who are still at a pre-competitive level (i.e. not simultaneously taking Level 3 or competing regularly) will get a chance after class to try some electric bouting with club equipment, a few at a time over the course of weeks 4, 5 and 6 each term. The goal is to get new fencers excited about electric fencing, bouting, and ultimately, participating in their first local tournament.

A lot of this is still in the planning stage, and really, it's all a big experiment and we may need to make adjustments as the new system emerges. If you have ideas, concerns or suggestions, please do not hesitate to share them!

3. FALL CLASS AND PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Beginning the week of Sept. 24, we will split into groups by weapon and skill level and begin the full schedule for fall term. Here is the schedule:

MIDDLEBURY FALL 2018 CLASS AND PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Mondays, Mary Hogan School, September 24-December 3
6:30-8 p.m. Level 1 (beginner) foil/Level 2 foil and epee classes
6:30-9 pm: Competitive Squad practice, open fencing, private lessons with Geoff (by appointment)

Wednesdays, Location TBA
4:30-6 p.m private lessons with Viveka, possibly also with Geoff, by appointment
Wednesdays, Mary Hogan School, September 26-December 5
6:30-7 p.m. warm-up, conditioning and footwork
7-8 pm Level 3 (advanced) foil and epee classes.
8-9 pm Open fencing, private lessons with Geoff (by appointment)

CHARLOTTE FALL 2018 CLASS AND PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Tuesdays, Charlotte Central School, September 25-December 4
6:30-8 p.m. Level 1 (beginner) foil/Level 2 foil and epee classes (tentative, pending approval from CCS for 6:30 start - if not possible, than practice time will be 7-9 with 7-8:15 for classes) 6:30-9 pm: Competitive Squad practice, open fencing, private lessons with Geoff (by appointment)

Thursdays, Charlotte Congregational Church, September 27-December 6
4:30-6 p.m private lesson with Viveka, possibly also with Geoff, by appointment
Thursdays, Charlotte Central School, September 27-December 6
6:30-7 p.m. warm-up, conditioning and footwork
7-8 pm Level 3 (advanced) foil and epee classes.
8-9 pm Open fencing, private lessons with Geoff (by appointment)

No classes Nov 19-22 (Thanksgiving week). Any cancellations will be made up Dec 10-11. Holiday break Dec. 12-Jan 1. Winter term starts Jan. 2. Note that during basketball season (late November through late February), Charlotte practice time will probably shift to 7:30-9:30, depending on school and town basketball schedules.

Now is the time to spread the word about fencing to any friends who may be interested in joining the club. For every friend you recruit to the club, you get $5 off your own class fees. Please direct your friends to our website (www.vtfencingalliance.org note: .org NOT .com) and/or have them get in touch with me. The VFA grows mainly by word of mouth.

4. EQUIPMENT FOR RETURNING FENCERS
If you are a returning fencer who plans to rent equipment for this fall, please let me know as soon as possible, as I am about to start registering new Level 1 students. Rental equipment is first come-first served, as is not automatically reserved from term to term. You may use rental equipment for preseason practices (see #1 above) but I need to know several days in advance that you need it and that you are planning to come.

I encourage all students to buy your own basic equipment as soon as you know you will be continuing with fencing and can afford it (mask, jacket, glove, underarm protector and weapon, plus breast protector for women). Not only do you free up rental gear for new club members, but you can get things you want (like a front zip jacket or pistol grip weapon), don't have to share with anyone, and can do a better job of keeping it clean than I do.
You will save by purchasing your equipment as a set rather than picking it up piece by piece. I would recommend ordering on-line from Absolute Fencing in New Jersey (www.absolutefencinggear.com). They are very fast in filling orders and have reasonable prices. A starter set from Absolute costs about $120 to $160, depending on what you get (but remember, you save $20 per term in rental costs). You can find advice on ordering your first set of equipment here:
www.vtfencingalliance.org/old_posts/EquipmentBuyGuide.htm

If you will be joining Level 3 classes for the first time this fall (by invitation), you will definitely need your own basic equipment. I also strongly recommend electric equipment for Level 3, as most of the fencers in Level 3 very much prefer practice bouting with electric. You can find advice on ordering electric equipment in the same post as the link above. Competitive Squad fencers must own a full competition set of electric equipment (including spare weapon and body cord).

Attention competitive foil fencers: starting this season, all plastic chest protectors must be covered with an FIE approved padding (this is to correct a longstanding problem with foil tips bouncing off the hard plastic without registering the hit). Absolute Fencing sells a padding kit for $21, which easily attaches using sticky-backed velcro. I bought it and I think it will do the trick. Alternatively, you have to buy a new chest protector (for about $45). This rule is for foil competition only.

5. RENEW YOUR US FENCING MEMBERSHIP-PLEASE!!!
The company which offers clubs insurance through the USFA requires that ALL club members (regardless of age or competitive status) be USFA members. The USFA offers an affordable "non-competitive membership" for $10 per season. The VFA needs this insurance in order to be allowed to fence in all the school buildings we use.
-If you joined the USFA for the first time after April 1, you are already a member and don't need to do anything (this applies to spring beginners who got a noncompetitive membership in April, as well as those who joined as competitive members for the first time last spring). Not sure if you are a current member? Check the listing here:
https://member.usfencing.org/search/members
Select "Green Mountain" for division, wait for the screen to refresh and look for your name. If you are not on this list, your membership needs to be renewed.
-Please, please, please.....save me a lot of paperwork and hassle, and renew your USFA membership online prior to the first practice you attend (this includes the start-up practices!). Have I mentioned that you are REQUIRED to be a member even to practice? You may choose either a competitive membership ($75) or noncompetitive ($10), depending on your needs. Youth fencers (born 2006 or later) who plan to only compete in the GMD youth series, and recreational fencers who do not plan to compete this season, may use the noncompetitive membership. Any teen or adult fencer who plans to compete in Champlain Cup tournaments this season needs a full competitive membership. Non-competitive memberships can be upgraded to competitive membership at any time by paying the additional $65.

How to join the USFA on line: Go to www.usfencing.org. Right under the USA Fencing banner you will see several options, including membership. Click on that. Then click on "Individuals" from the left side bar. Click small red link that says "join, renew and print your membership card". If you are a returning/renewing member, you will need to log in (there is a password reset option if you forgot your password - as long as you use the same e-mail address the USFA has on file for you. If that doesn't work, you'll have to call them). If you are a first time member, click where it says "Register" and follow instructions to create a new account. Once you have renewed your membership, print out your receipt as proof of membership. The USFA no longer sends out plastic membership cards.

6. ABOUT LOCAL FENCING TOURNAMENTS
The 2018 Fall Foliage Classic will take place at UVM on Sept. 29, with mixed Open and single-gender Unrated events. Full information and to register: https://askfred.net/Events/whoIsComing.php?tournament_id=40666

New to using the AskFRED website to register for tournaments? Instructions are here: www.vtfencingalliance.org/old_posts/HowToUseFRED.htm

Relatively new to fencing, never competed before? The Champlain Cup is Vermont's fun and friendly fencing league. Particpants earn a point each time they enter an event, plus bonus points for high placement, depending on the type of tournament and the strength of the field. Trophies are awarded at the end of the season (in May) for the top 3 fencers in foil, epee and sabre, the best veteran fencer (age 40+), the best youth fencer (age 12-), and, especially to encourage new competitors, the Rookie of the Year (a fencer with under 2 years total experience, first full season in the league). You do not have to be a cut-throat competitor to enjoy our fencing tournaments. I encourage everyone to participate in order to meet fencers from other clubs. Learning to evaluate and fence unfamiliar opponents is an important part of learning to fence, and you don't get that experience just by fencing the same few buddies in your own club. Among the events we sponsor are those especially for kids (children born 2006 or later are restricted to events designated Y12-they can not enter teen and adult events) and those especially for inexperienced competitors (designated "Unrated" or "E"). There will be U events at the very first tournament of the season! Keep an eye on future VFA bulletins for information about upcoming tournaments and get in on the Champlain Cup fun!