How to choose the right fencing club for a beginner

Youth fencers at club practice

Youth fencers at club practice

Depending on where you live, you may have lots of options for a fencing club for your child, or you may be quite limited in where you can go without a big commute.  If you live in the Greater New York area, Boston and its suburbs or the Washington DC area, you will have a good choice of fencing clubs.  The same is true if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or Southern California.  There are plenty of great fencing clubs and great fencing coaches around the country, but they are not as concentrated as in the areas mentioned.

US Fencing maintains a list of all fencing clubs around the country.  You can search for clubs by state, region and division.  To figure out what region you live in, use the US Fencing Region Map here.

While some fencing clubs specialize in one weapon, there are others who train fencers in all 3 weapons.  Some clubs cater to recreational fencers, and some clubs cater only to serious competitive fencers.  

When your child is just starting out, convenience to home should be a priority, though you should not sacrifice quality of training if you hope for your child to be a competitive fencer. If not, there is no need to undertake a commute to the club until you are sure your child is serious about fencing competitively.  If you live close to a competitive fencing club, then you can consider starting there.

While US Fencing does not maintain club rankings, National Fencing Club Rankings does.  You can see how well the club you're considering joining is performing from a medal perspective, and their success in developing athlete recruits.

Top ranked clubs frequently are owned by or employ top level coaches who are themselves former Olympians and national champions, not just from the US, but from recognized power house fencing countries like Russia, Italy and others.  Some of these coaches have Maestro certifications from internationally recognized coach programs.  They are all accustomed to training fencers across skill levels and age groups from beginners to national team members to Olympians.

However, we do caution against choosing a fencing club based entirely on its rankings.  See our blog Should I care about my club’s medal ranking

When your child is starting out in fencing, you want the experience to be as positive as possible. So, you must evaluate and make sure that:

  • the training style suits your child

  • there are fencers at the club close to your child's age so your child has sparring partners to develop with.

  • preferably, they have a program tailored to beginners

  • the scheduling works for your child

  • you like the coaches, and can communicate easily with them

  • the club structure is such that the coach will have time to give your child personalized attention

  • the club has proper warm-up and stretching before the start of every session

  • the club conducts footwork drills, has practice bouting sessions and

  • the club can give your child 1 to 2 private lessons a week. Private lessons are typically 20 minutes long.

  • you understand the costs of membership, group classes and private lessons. Clubs have varying payment structures, some more straightforward than others.

While most fencing clubs are relatively small (less than 30 fencers across all age groups in one weapon), some clubs are very large (between 100 to 200 fencers) .  Your child could end up fighting for coach attention, which will be frustrating for both you and your child, so make sure you understand their training philosophy and structure.

If you can, visit the clubs, and talk to the coaches before making a choice.  Most clubs will loan equipment and uniform to your child for a tryout while you decide.

As your child develops in fencing, and attends competitions locally, regionally and eventually, nationally, you will develop a far better sense of who the fencing clubs and fencing coaches are through observation at tournaments and by talking to parents at your club and in the fencing community. 

As your knowledge of the sport develops, so will your ability to decide if your current club is right one for your fencer. You will know if your fencer has outgrown his/her current club and may need to move to another fencing club/coach who can take your fencer to the next level of competitive skill.

No fencing club is perfect, and you make your choice based on what works best for your fencer to get started.

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Donna Meyer