How much will my child's fencing training and competition cost?
Fencing is a pretty expensive sport at the competitive level. While the costs for a beginner start out quite low, they can rise quite rapidly as soon as your fencer transitions to competitive fencing.
Parent maxim - Maximize opportunity at minimum cost
There are several components to the costs you will incur when your child fences:
- club dues and coaching fees
- US Fencing membership fees
- tournament fees
- strip coaching fees
- travel expenses
- equipment and uniform costs
There is a wide range to the costs you can potentially incur, depending on the club you join, the equipment you buy, the number and type of tournaments you enter your child in, and how frequently you travel to tournaments.
Competitive fencing is, of course, much more expensive, simply because you need to invest in coaching, and you need to travel to tournaments during the fencing season.
club dues and coaching fees
Recreational clubs vary greatly in how they charge for dues and coaching, and you should speak to the individual clubs to figure this out. They are relatively inexpensive compared to competitive clubs.
Competitive clubs will typically charge you a monthly membership fee ranging from $50 to $100. Some clubs charge this fee on an annual basis, so you may write a check for example for $900 on August 1 every year to cover club membership costs.
Group class prices vary depending on age and skill level, and can range from $200 to $500 a month. This fee gives your fencer access to regular group classes which usually include footwork and fencing drills, and open bouting sessions at the club, usually up to 3 times a week for 2 hours each time.
Private lessons are 20 minutes long, and range in costs from $35 to $45 per session.
Some clubs separate out their group classes into footwork, physical conditioning and general group classes. Costs vary by club. Other clubs charge a lump sum for all services including private lessons and strip coaching, others break it out on an ala carte basis.
Your total costs for club fees and coaching fees can range from a minimum of $135 (for a recreational club) to upwards of $2,000 a month, depending on the club, the total number of private lessons and other chargeable group classes you sign your fencer up for.
Some clubs run month long introductory beginners classes priced anywhere from $125 to $250 per month. This is a good option to start with, if it is available.
For beginners, start at the minimum level of classes and build up from there. While it is necessary to get your child good training to succeed as a competitive fencer, there is no need to spend unnecessary amounts of money for your fencer to succeed. Use your judgment and common sense in deciding what works best.
US Fencing Membership Fees
Membership fees are mandatory for all fencers for club liability insurance purposes as well as eligibility to fence in tournaments.
There are several levels of membership (see categories HERE). The 2 most relevant are:
$10 a year. Allows your fencer to train at the club, and compete in unsanctioned tournaments.
$75 a year. Valid during the fencing season from August 1 to July 31 annually, and your fencer is eligible to compete at all US Fencing sanctioned tournaments during that season.
Fees vary substantially between local, regional and national tournaments.
Local tournaments organized by local clubs, charge anywhere between $20 to $45 per event. These tournaments are typically held at club premises, and are self-refereeing for senior events. These tournaments may or may not be sanctioned. Sanctioned events require fencers to have competitive US Fencing membership.
Regional Tournaments (RYC, SYC, RJCC and ROC)
These sanctioned regional tournaments are qualifying tournaments for national championships and the July Challenge.
Tournament organizers, usually local fencing clubs are required to follow the tournament rules for national qualifying events including hiring qualified and certified referees. Many of these tournaments are quite large, and require the organizers to rent space at local gymnasiums or conference facilities to host the tournament.
Fencers can earn regional points (RYC, RJCC and ROC) and national points (SYC) at these regional events. Fencers can also earn ratings classifications, when the event rating requirements are met.
Fees are usually split between a registration fee and an event fee. Event fees are refundable, if a fencer withdraws by the withdrawal deadline. Registration fees are typically not refundable.
RYC - usually $35 registration fee, and $45 event fee per event
SYC - usually $35 registration, and $45 event fee per event
RJCC - usually $35 registration fee, and $45 event fee per event
ROC - usually $35 registration fee, and $45 event fee per event
Late registration is usually charged at double or triple the regular fee
National Tournaments (NAC, National Championship, Summer Nationals/July Challenge)
All national tournaments are organized by US Fencing. They are sanctioned tournaments where fencers can earn national points and rating classifications, where event rating requirements are met.
Registration Fees - $85
Event Fees - $95 per event
strip coaching fees
Strip coaching fees are incurred when the coach attends a tournament to coach your fencer during bouts. A few clubs include the cost of strip coaching fees in their regular group class fees, but it is far more common for strip coaching fees to be charged as they are incurred.
Coaches from competitive clubs rarely attend local tournaments, but they will usually attend regional and national tournaments.
Strip coaching fees are typically calculated for the entire tournament, and then divided amongst participating fencers on a per event basis. The fencers are expected to pay each coach in attendance a coaching fee ($200 - $350 a day), and reimburse the coach for all transportation, accomodation and meal charges. All these costs are added up and divided by the total number of events fenced to derive a per event fee. If a fencer participates in 2 events, then that fencer pays the per event fee X 2.
For parents, these costs can range from $50 per event for a regional tournament to $250 per event for national tournaments (where there is airfare, multi-day hotel rooms, meals, and multi-day coaching fees for several coaches to be paid for).
For the elite group of fencers who travel internationally, expect the strip coaching fees to be much higher to cover more expensive travel costs.
For a competitive fencer, travel expenses represent the largest component of total fencing costs.
For competitive fencers chasing national points, these costs rise significantly starting in the Y14 age group. Most fencers travel with, at least, one accompanying parent so you need to factor in the cost of your plane tickets, accomodation and meals as well.
Y10 and Y12
In the Y10 and Y12 age groups, tournament experience is largely gained at regional tournaments which are also qualifying tournaments for Summer Nationals . These regional tournaments are always closer to home (either driving distance or a short flight away). You don't need to go to all tournaments, so you are in a good position to control your costs here.
There are really only 2 national competitions for Y10 and Y12 fencers, the March NAC and Summer Nationals. Depending on where you live, and where US Fencing chooses to hold the March NAC and Summer Nationals, you may be able to keep your total travel expenses to less than $1,000 per tournament, though costs can rise as high as $2500 all in if you have to travel coast to coast, and you choose to stay in a 5 star hotel connected to the tournament venue. If you live on the West Coast, you can expect your travel expenses to national tournaments to be much higher due to flight costs, and the need for extra hotel nights when tournaments are held in the mid-west or on the east coast.
Many Y10 fencers skip the national competitions until at least the 2nd year, when they have more fencing experience under their belts.
Starting in the Y14 age group, the opportunity to participate in an increased number of national tournaments can increase your travel expenses substantially. In addition to the March NAC and Summer Nationals, Y14 fencers can compete in the October NAC, November NAC and Junior Olympics (though many fencers wait till the 2nd year of Y14 to go to JOs).
A Y14 fencer can also consider competing at the December NAC and January NAC, as well as the April NAC if they are competitive at the Junior and Division 1 levels.
Most Y14 competitive fencers will go to an average of 3 national tournaments per year, with travel expenses ranging from $1000 to $2500 per NAC, and more for Summer Nationals due to the greater number of events and hence greater number of hotel nights and higher meal costs.
Travel expenses to regional tournaments may increase as your fencer steps up to RJCCs and ROCs, though attendance at RYCs and SYCs should decrease in the 2nd year of Y14.
Cadet and Junior
Cadet and Junior fencers attend an average of 4 national tournaments a year in addition to a certain number of local and regional tournaments. Most cadet and junior fencers are eligible to compete at all NACs except the March NAC (Y10, Y12 and Y14), and at Junior Olympics and Summer Nationals/July Challenge. Expect to incur substantial travel expenses during these 4 to 5 years of your fencer's career. Travel expenses to national competitions can range from $1000 to $2500 per tournament, and more for Summer Nationals.
Regional tournaments include RJCCs and ROCs, of which there are usually about 6 to 10 per region. You select just a few to compete in. Going to those competitions within driving distance only will help control your costs.
No more than 20 to 25 fencers each year incur international travel expenses as members of the US National Team.
There are several international tournaments that fencers can compete in without pre-qualification. These include the Paris Marathon in February and the Pan Am Youth Championship in July. However, fencers do not earn national points at these events, and participation is purely for the experience.
Equipment and uniform costs
There is no need to start your fencer off with expensive equipment or uniforms. Certainly at the Y10 and Y12 levels, there is no need to buy FIE level gear.
There are brands (Absolute and Linea) that provide good value for beginner uniforms, lames, masks, wires and swords. Practice starter sets cost as little as $150.
It is possible to fully equip your fencer with complete tournament gear listed below for about $600:
- Plastron (under-arm protector)
- 2 body wires
- 2 mask cords
- 2 fully assembled weapons
- fencing shoes and socks
- fencing bag
Once your fencer starts on a regular tournament schedule, you will need to maintain a minimum of 3 working weapons at any one time. Fencers in the Y14 and older age groups frequently travel with at least 4 working weapons to tournaments, to account for breakage and malfunctions.
Note that a set of the gear listed above at the FIE level would, at a minimum, cost you $1600 or more. FIE level weapons alone cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per weapon fully assembled. Unless your fencer competes internationally, it is not necessary to buy all your equipment and uniform at the FIE level. US Fencing does not require FIE level gear at national, regional or local competitions.
what you can expect to spend in total
Recreational fencers have a lot of leeway in how much money they spend on their fencing. Travel to national tournaments, which form the biggest cost component for a competitive fencer, are completely optional for a recreational fencer.
For parents of competitive fencers, you can expect that your initial annual costs of $8,000 to $15,000 for your Y10 and Y12 fencer will increase quite quickly in the Y14, Cadet and Junior years. Those costs can range anywhere between $20,000 to $40,000 annually, depending on the number of national tournaments your fencer attends, the equipment and uniform you buy, and the style that you choose to travel in. These cost estimates do not include the cost of international travel that are incurred by parents of the elite fencers on the US National Team.
It is a very expensive sport indeed!
For parents who have made the commitment for their child to fence, it is usually worthwhile. The benefits of fencing far outweigh the costs!
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