Your child wants to fence in a tournament. Great! But what do you do now? We have put together this list of frequently asked questions to help parents and their fencers learn about the world of tournament fencing. If you have more questions after reading through this, please ask one of the coaches. There are also several more articles about tournaments in the Tournament Info section of our website.

Is my child ready for competition?

Different fencers are ready to start competing at different times. There are many factors that go into a fencer’s readiness to compete: technical skills, emotional maturity, age group, type of event, level of competition. Your child’s coach – either the person teaching class or giving your child private lessons – is the best person to ask. If the coach feels your child is ready, he or she will be able to tell you specifically which tournament and which event(s) would be appropriate for your child. Typically youth fencers can fence in their own age group, plus the next older group if the coach approves.

OK, we got the green light to start. How do we sign up?

There are two ways to sign up for a tournament. You can sign up online at a website called AskFRED.net. (FRED stands for Fencing Results and Events Database.) Or, if the tournament is at RCFC, you can tell one of the coaches and we can add you to the list. Signing up online is preferable because everyone can see who is competing and it makes the tournament run smoother when fencers are on the pre-registration list. If you decide at the last minute to compete, you can always walk in the day of the tournament and sign up.

Signing up on AskFRED requires a few extra steps the first time you do it. When you go to the home page, you will see a partial list of tournaments that are coming soon, another list of tournaments that have been added recently, and a list of tournaments where results have been posted. FRED will customize this display based on your browser location. If you don’t see local tournaments, you can enter a local ZIP code in the location box at the top right. Now find your tournament in the list of Tournaments Coming Soon, which is arranged chronologically. If you are signing up well in advance you may have to click on “more…” to see additional tournaments.

Click on the tournament name, which will bring you to the information page for your tournament. You will see a list of events, times, age eligibility and other details. To pre-register, click on either Preregister at the top, or the To Preregister link towards the bottom. Just the first time, you will need to add your fencer to the FRED database. Type in the fencer’s full last name and hit Go, then follow the instructions to sign up your fencer.

A couple of things to keep in mind: Our club is Rain City Fencing Center, our Division is Western Washington. You don’t have a secondary club or a rating, so skip those. Make sure to include a valid email address that will accept mail from FRED. Click on the event(s) you are signing up for and hit Preregister. You will get an email confirming your registration.

What about equipment?

You are probably familiar with the different pieces of the uniform: mask, jacket, underarm protector, chest protector (required for girls, optional for boys), and glove. For a tournament, all fencers are required to wear fencing pants (pants that gather below the knee) and socks long enough to cover the leg below the pants. We have fencing pants to borrow.

All tournaments are run using electric fencing equipment. That means in addition to the uniform, your fencer will need a lamé (scoring vest), mask with the electric bib, 2 electric foils and 2 body cords. The extra foil and body cord are required in case there is a problem on the strip.

To make things easier the first time around, RCFC will provide all fencing equipment for your child’s first tournament at no charge. After the first tournament, you can rent equipment or buy it. You might consider renting for another time or two until you are sure that your child enjoys competing and will be sticking with it. Renting equipment costs $15 for one tournament, or $35 to rent equipment for a month of tournaments and open fencing.

When you borrow or rent our club equipment, please keep in mind that while it is fine for the classroom, it does not always meet competition standards. This is not a safety issue but rather a performance issue. Some of our club lamés have areas which will not register valid hits and some of our foils won’t pass a tournament’s required weight test. It is the fencer’s responsibility to make sure their equipment is working properly. We will be happy to help you navigate through gathering or obtaining equipment for a tournament.

If and when you are ready to buy, we sell brand new equipment similar to what we use in class. Discounts are available for beginner sets. Please ask for the price list if you are interested.

What other costs are involved?

Before you compete in your first tournament, every fencer (except Y8) needs to be a member of USA Fencing, the national fencing organization. You can go online to usfencing.org, click on Membership at the top, then Join or Renew Online to sign up. A one year competitive membership costs $70. That will cover all tournaments fenced during the fencing season, which runs from August 1 to July 31. If you sign up to be a member of USA Fencing after April, typically USA Fencing will extend your membership for the rest of the season to cover the next season as well.

If you choose not to sign up online, you can fill out a membership form and fax or mail it in. We also have the form so you can complete it the day of the tournament if you haven’t done it ahead of time and we will fax or mail it for you.

Additionally, there is the cost of the tournament itself. Most of our club tournaments cost $15/event. Bigger events that require additional staffing and preparation, like Regional Youth Circuits, and events outside RCFC can cost $20 or more per event, and some may also have registration fees. Check the information provided on AskFRED.

What do we do the day of the tournament?

If this is your first tournament, relax! We want you and your child to have a fun and stress-free experience. Here’s how you can help:

First, make sure you have plenty of time. Check the tournament information for the time listed next to your event. This is a Close of Registration time and not a start time. This is when all fencers competing in an event need to be checked in, dressed, and ready to fence. Parents can ease any tension here by arriving 20-30 minutes before the listed close of registration for your fencer’s event. If you have preregistered, you can pay the tournament fee at the counter when you first walk in, verify your fencer’s USA Fencing membership, and let us know if you need to borrow or rent equipment.

Second, help your child get dressed if that would move things along. If you are not sure how to do that, now is a good time to learn. If you are borrowing or renting our equipment and need help picking things out, let us know. We will be happy to help. If you need to buy something (like a pair of socks), we can help you with that, but this would not be a good time to buy a whole set of equipment. We can help you with that after the tournament or any other time you are at the club.

Once your child is dressed, they can and should warm up before their event starts. They can do a little stretching and footwork, and then hook up and fence someone else, preferably in their age group. When the event is about to start, we will make an announcement over the PA system. A display on the large monitors will tell your child where to go.

What is the format of the tournament?

We will announce the format of the tournament at the beginning of each event. All our Youth tournaments are run with a round of pools to Direct Elimination. In the first round, fencers in a pool will all fence each other in bouts that go to 5 touches or 3 minutes, whichever comes first. Your fencer should be familiar with this format since we often fence pools in class (although sometimes we shorten the bouts to 2 minutes in class). There is a procedure for overtime if a bout ends in a tie. We will explain that to the fencers if it happens.

After the pools, all the fencers are ranked in order based on their win-loss record in the pool. This becomes the seeding for the Direct Elimination round. In the DE round, the winners advance and the losers are out. In the DE’s, bouts are longer. In the Y-8 and Y-10 events, competitors fence to 10 touches or two 3-minute periods. In all other events, competitors fence to 15 touches or three 3-minute periods.

Between periods or bouts in the DE’s fencers get a one minute rest break. Fencers need to stay hooked up and on the strip, but you may bring them their water bottle if they are thirsty. Only one person is allowed to be near the fencer during the break. If your child is fencing someone from another club, one of the Rain City coaches will coach them during the break if possible. If your child is fencing another RCFC fencer, we will not coach either fencer. You can offer encouragement, but please don’t try to offer any specific fencing advice.

All fencers will fence a pool and at least one DE bout so please don’t leave the venue until the referee says you are done. Even if your fencer has lost every pool bout, they still will fence a DE.

At the end of the event, we will announce the results. If your child has finished in the top 4, they will receive a medal. Even if your child has not earned a medal, you should stay and watch the rest of the fencing in that event. It’s always a good idea to see how the higher finishers are fencing and cheer on your club mates.

Anything else I should know?

Fencing is a polite sport for participants and spectators alike. Three salutes are required before and after every bout: one for your competitor, one for the referee and one for the audience. At the end of the bout, fencers shake hands. Referees will ensure that fencers follow these rules, which can be hard for young fencers to follow if they have just lost a bout.

There are some rules that we haven’t covered in class that may come up in competition. As referees, we will do our best to explain these rules so that the fencer understands the infraction and the penalty if any. Sometimes we can be lenient for fencers competing in their first tournament. The more they compete, the easier it becomes to learn the rules and remember them.

As parents, you are encouraged to support your son or daughter as they go through the competition. You should bring a healthy snack for between rounds and a water bottle for between bouts. You can sit near your fencer’s pool and help them if they are having a problem or need something. If there is a problem with the equipment that you don’t know how to deal with, let one of the coaches know.

A few more things

  • Parents may sit or stand near the strip their child is fencing on, but please try to stay off the fencing floor. You may take photos or video, but please disable the flash on your camera.
  • You are welcome to cheer or offer encouragement between touches, but not during the fencing – somewhat like at a tennis match. Kids can easily get distracted when they hear their parent’s voice while they are fencing. Again, please don’t give fencing advice or remind your fencer of the score or time remaining. That’s the coach’s job and even if there is no coach around, it’s better for the fencer to learn how to keep track of these things by him or herself.
  • Model good sportsmanship for your fencer, win or lose, and try to encourage your child to stay positive even when they lose.
  • Competition is a fun part of fencing and we want your child to enjoy their experience. If you have any questions about any aspect of competing before, during or after the tournament, just ask. We are happy to help.