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Foilling Around
-16th October 2011, 20:42
Yes this can be about the GBR performances, but also are there any patterns, trends etc which people have spotted which are lacking from British Fencing or coaching from which we can learn.

I'll kick off. I don't think you can learn a lot from Chinese MF, unless you want to raid British Basketball and produce a set of lumbering giants. I think you can learn from the precision of the German and French footwork. Something I will be looking at with the Academy next Sunday.

Foilling Around
-16th October 2011, 20:43
Oh phooey!! Why on earth did I put an apostrophe in Worlds!! Gav if you have a moment please can you remove it.

WhatEveryoneIsThinking
-16th October 2011, 21:03
These are the worst set of GB results for a long time I think, who carries the can?

allthree
-16th October 2011, 21:29
I would be interested to see how much each medal cost the winning country to acheive.

munkey
-16th October 2011, 22:57
These are the worst set of GB results for a long time I think, who carries the can? Everyone. Fencers, coaches employed by BF through UK Sport funding, BF Board, Performance Manager. These results don't suggest a medal in 2012. Funding has already been front-loaded so the run-up to the Olympics may be a fairly austere time. Roll on 2016?

Gav
-16th October 2011, 23:10
Oh phooey!! Why on earth did I put an apostrophe in Worlds!! Gav if you have a moment please can you remove it.

What an offensive apostrophe!

Gav
-16th October 2011, 23:10
These are the worst set of GB results for a long time I think, who carries the can?

Are they?

coach carson
-17th October 2011, 07:17
These are the worst set of GB results for a long time I think, who carries the can?

I think those who play the blame game should definitely carry the can. ;)

aao
-17th October 2011, 09:16
Simple lesson really, if people are not held accountable for their failures (and praised for their successes), then problems will be allowed to build up, and 4 years and nearly £1million spent will have been on paper completely wasted.
We are now further away then ever on our bid to achieve medals at the Olympics, continue to have a lack in strength in depth, and clearly struggle to get the best out of the fencers we have and that is a damning indictment on those who have been in charge of this process till now.

Threestain
-17th October 2011, 10:58
Can I ask one thing - was our best result fencer going to go before the appeal for her team?

TBennett
-17th October 2011, 11:08
Yes

Threestain
-17th October 2011, 11:11
fair enough - quickly answered!

Tubby
-17th October 2011, 12:08
Did we offer a shot? Go down looking (baseball)? Is there a lesson to be learnt about managing performance anxiety at major events? Additionally we should show more courage to select for development and take the opportunity to develop on a big stage. I know I am a stuck record when it comes to Philip's non-selection, but to me, that was a clear opportunity missed. And its not like people didn't say something before the decision was finally made. Jenny's selection for the WET is a good example of this courage and that was paid back with some great performances in the team event. How would she have got that kind of experience if she was not there. I know that with this kind of selection others get bumped.

I can only comment on WE as that is what I follow, two of our WE were identified when they were juniors for funding and the return has been good; Corinna's results and the junior team results plus their L8 in Rio (and why can't I count that? Its a TKO). There was also Sissi's L32 in Doha and whilst "only" a L32 it was one of the higher NIF comps. And yet the Men's Junior World Champion is too young.

Other countries invest in and develop their young stars and don't wrap them in cotton wool which may stunt their development and we wonder why they are relatively successful? If we keep doing what we're doing (and I would contend that its proven to be unsuccessful) we will continue to ask what are the lessons to be learnt.

J4G
-17th October 2011, 13:02
I heard that we did not take an armourer away with us. If this is true, was there a reason?

D'Artignan
-17th October 2011, 13:24
I heard that we did not take an armourer away with us. If this is true, was there a reason?Possibly cos there were so few fencers there, it wasn't worth while sending an armourer?

pigeonmeister
-17th October 2011, 13:38
I have been watching the MF finals and I can't help thinking that the game has moved up a level. The firepower the Italians can draw on is outrageous. It's got to the stage that Baldini is seriously going to struggle to get in the Italian Olympic team. Then you see teenages like El Sayed and Imboden come in and take out former world champions and world number ones like Joppich and Le Pechoux. I'd like to know if Ziemek has a strategy to keep up with the level of foil fencing demonstrated at this WCs. We have a cadre of highly talented young fencers who can come in and be competitive at senior level, but they are going to have make BIG strides in the next 2 years to be even in the running to qualify for Rio. Simply because fencers their age and younger are coming in now and showing they are real medal contenders for London!

Kruse has a terrible record at the worlds but is still an outside contender for London. The team are inconsistent but also have the potential to medal- losing to Germany was no disgrace given that they then took out Italy with ease. But, we need to start planning NOW how to manage the transition after Kruse, Halsted and Kenber effectively retire after 2012- and given the lack of competition they have faced for their places, you have to question whether MF is going to get worse before it gets better.

Gavinoo
-17th October 2011, 13:40
I think the results of the Womenís Team Epee show a ray of hope and they did better than the Womenís team foil. The overall Epee ranking was 14 out 30, whereas the Foil team was 14 out of 22.

The WE were beaten very narrowly loosing 8th place to Canada 44-45, so close it could have gone either way.

They also had more team victories than WF notable victory 45-39 against Sweden.

Both teams didnít get close in the initial match, but rankings etc make that hard.

Considering WE had to appeal to get in, I think theyíve proved they have more potential and should be funded and supported further.

Also they donít have a full time coach, maybe the BFA and PM should get them a coach, we have a few in the uk that have competed in the Olympics and coached at the Olympics you know :rolleyes:

aao
-17th October 2011, 14:13
Erm not sure the Womens Epee team were contesting 8th place at any point, I believe it was for 13th/14th place?

The more encouraging sign was that they came very close to upsetting Russia, without using their strongest fencer in Corinna. In addition I am not sure the team sent was technically the strongest team that could have gone. So all told yes there is potential.

But lets not kid ourselves, none of our individuals or teams were close to a medal, let alone a gold, the teams and individuals selected and sent were by our PD's own words those who best represented our chance of getting medals at London 2012, and by that standard this event was a failure.

The question now is what to do about it? of course the whole performance program needs to be overhauled from the start (and many of those involved in it) and with it so do many of the support programs which feed into the Performance program, but less than a year before the Olympics is not the time to do it, frankly I would prefer our PD and others to focus their attention on building a viable post 2012 program.

For this Olympics I would be tempted to offer some clear qualifying criteria, I would select the top 6 fencers off the ranking plus the top 2 ranked juniors and allow them to go to every remaining A-grade, it will be a straight race for World ranking. If we haven't qualified any teams by right (a sad possibility) I would then select the highest world ranked fencer from each weapon to go to the Olympic qualifiers, if any qualify great, if they don't then they will be given a wild card to the Olympics . That would leave us with 2 spots available, they would go to the highest world ranked team at the time of selection, e.g. if the Mens Foilists are the highest ranked then we send 2 extra mens foilists to the Olympics to make up a team. Its hardly a great system but it is clear, non discretionary and would leave everybody with a clear view of what they have to do to qualify.

As for the support of the above we tailor it as best we can with the resources we still have available, our fencers weaknesses aren't that they aren't fit enough, motivated enough, or mentally tough enough, one of their biggest problems is a lack of top level opponents to train against on a regular basis, and a comparative lack of top level coaches to get the best out of them. Mid to long term out goal has to be to provided this level of fencing in the UK, short term I would be tempted to send our fencers off to clubs across Europe to train and compete against the best if we still have the financial resources to do so.

Gavinoo
-17th October 2011, 14:27
>Erm not sure the Womens Epee team were contesting 8th place at any point, I believe it was for 13th/14th place?

Yeah think I got a bit carried away, I mean Canada were 8th. Yes did also mean to mention the 40-45 loss to Russia, I mean Russia this is Russia!! we're talking about.

Tubby
-17th October 2011, 16:19
Yes did also mean to mention the 40-45 loss to Russia, I mean Russia this is Russia!! we're talking about.IIRC Jenny biffed Logounova 7-3 (as well as taking down Bergdahl). Credit where credit is due.

Foilling Around
-17th October 2011, 18:28
I was very impressed with the little I saw of Jenny M in the WE team. She really looked the part technically, tactically and she was not overawed. She looked sharper than both Corinna and Georgina in that match, though Corinna had her day in the individual.

Aramis
-17th October 2011, 20:51
As for the support of the above we tailor it as best we can with the resources we still have available, our fencers weaknesses aren't that they aren't fit enough, motivated enough, or mentally tough enough, one of their biggest problems is a lack of top level opponents to train against on a regular basis, and a comparative lack of top level coaches to get the best out of them. Mid to long term out goal has to be to provided this level of fencing in the UK, short term I would be tempted to send our fencers off to clubs across Europe to train and compete against the best if we still have the financial resources to do so.

I would start with the coaching first. Spend money on importing decent coaches from abroad for epee and sabre (foil is OK). Sending fencers abroad is fine, but it won't make them world-beaters. Fencers from the stronger countries such as France, Italy and Germany are taught properly from the beginning. You can't expect someone who's been taught by a mediocre (British) coach for a few years and got into the top 20 in the UK to miraculously improve their results if they're sent abroad. It won't happen. The damage has already been done. Their foreign peers are already leaps and bounds ahead of them. They need to be taught properly from scratch.

Gavinoo
-17th October 2011, 22:34
I would start with the coaching first. Spend money on importing decent coaches from abroad for epee and sabre (foil is OK). Sending fencers abroad is fine, but it won't make them world-beaters. Fencers from the stronger countries such as France, Italy and Germany are taught properly from the beginning. You can't expect someone who's been taught by a mediocre (British) coach for a few years and got into the top 20 in the UK to miraculously improve their results if they're sent abroad. It won't happen. The damage has already been done. Their foreign peers are already leaps and bounds ahead of them. They need to be taught properly from scratch.

Whether it's effective or not, I don't agree with sending fencers abroad. For continued success and a foundation to build on, like GB cycling, you need to create your own environment in the UK. A good coach being involved doesn't necessarily mean changing a fencers complete technique, but doing a tactical evaluation and viewing, with an eye on the game. Those across the sea are not leaps and bounds ahead, otherwise the women's epee team wouldn't have fencer the Europeon Epee finalists Russia to 40-45 within their last 16 singles fencer.

Give me a chance to drink another bottle and I'll elaborate further.

Aramis
-17th October 2011, 23:58
Whether it's effective or not, I don't agree with sending fencers abroad. For continued success and a foundation to build on, like GB cycling, you need to create your own environment in the UK. A good coach being involved doesn't necessarily mean changing a fencers complete technique, but doing a tactical evaluation and viewing, with an eye on the game. Those across the sea are not leaps and bounds ahead, otherwise the women's epee team wouldn't have fencer the Europeon Epee finalists Russia to 40-45 within their last 16 singles fencer.

No.

Fencing is not a sport where one can just train, get physically stronger and faster, then beat the world. Cycling requires a certain amount of tactics, but it's generally the team that can impose themselves on their opponents. For example, HTC Highroad could just murder the rest of a peloton by keeping the pace high throughout a stage, then hand over in the closing stages in order that Renshaw could lead out Cavendish in the closing metres, Cav doing the rest. Stage won. Fencing requires competing against other high quality opponents to get skills and tactics to work properly.

The foreign powers are leaps and bounds ahead because they have better coaches and better training programmes for their elite athletes. They don't necessarily have more fencers, but they are of better quality because they have been taught better and more effective techniques by their better coaches, of which there are a more. This results in a much larger and stronger pool of fencers from which they can choose their elite athletes. Essentially, the better coaching is at the root of increased success. A foreign fencer can tap into this by living in a country where these opportunities exist, but by the time they decide to do this and get the opportunity to do so they are probably too old for it to change them into a genuine contender to be a world or Olympic champion (it would almost certainly be post university). They would need to delete all the poor technique and ideas that they had initially been taught and essentially restart from scratch. Even those who get the chance to go abroad would never get the opportunities of the elite fencers native of that country, simply because they wouldn't be eligible.

I didn't see the GBR-RUS match, so can't comment. However, a 45-40 scoreline means one of two things. Either the British girls ran the Russians close, or the Russians were doing just enough to get over the line.

Tubby
-18th October 2011, 09:08
I didn't see the GBR-RUS match, so can't comment. However, a 45-40 scoreline means one of two things. Either the British girls ran the Russians close, or the Russians were doing just enough to get over the line.It was 36-35 to Russia going into the last fight.

aao
-18th October 2011, 09:32
We all agree we need to improve the standard of coaching across the board in the UK, that takes time, and a viable plan. While that is certainly something that will have to be done, with 10 or so months before the Olympics we don't have time to bring in the coaches to work with the fencers, hence why I suggest we send them abroad in the short term.
The level of training and competition in many European countries is a big step up from what we have here, and we need to give our top men and women the chance to train with and compete regularly against the best.

aao
-18th October 2011, 09:32
ps. the girls were 2 hits up at the start of the 2nd last fight.

Aramis
-18th October 2011, 10:44
We all agree we need to improve the standard of coaching across the board in the UK, that takes time, and a viable plan. While that is certainly something that will have to be done, with 10 or so months before the Olympics we don't have time to bring in the coaches to work with the fencers, hence why I suggest we send them abroad in the short term.
The level of training and competition in many European countries is a big step up from what we have here, and we need to give our top men and women the chance to train with and compete regularly against the best.

I have no doubt that sending them abroad would give them the chance to train with the best coaches and compete against better fencers (although not necessarily the very best, a) because they won't necessarily turn up to their affiliated club after a long day in the national training centre and b) they won't necessarily do the national competitions).

Alp, my point is that the coaching, for example, that they would receive abroad would be so different to what they are used to here that it would take them all of those 10 months to adapt to it. There wouldn't be time for them to improve prior to London.

M'son
-18th October 2011, 11:24
I agree that time is short and therefore feel the fencers should be asked. They aren't daft and are committed and probably know exactly what they need and want to make 2012. Only question is would anyone listen and act on it.

Tubby
-18th October 2011, 11:24
... the coaching, for example, that they would receive abroad would be so different to what they are used to here that it would take them all of those 10 months to adapt to it. There wouldn't be time for them to improve prior to London. Bit of a generalisation to say that. I think it depends on the where the fencer is in their development and how they learn, too old a dog to learn new tricks etc? Unlearning of course would be a big blocker.

My kid, on average over a year (excluding Worlds and Euro champs) fences less than once per week (the majority of that in a club with about 20 epeeist half of which are juniors) and averages a lesson once a fortnight. She has no medical or physio support though we are hopeful the uni will allow her to use the gym for free (fingers crossed). That profile suggests there is capacity to take opportunity however opportunity is limited.

Aramis
-18th October 2011, 11:32
10 months isn't a very long time. In reality, between now and the games, if you include the time to get a move organised, Christmas and the off-season in the summer, there's really only 6 months of training available.

I agree, the sooner (and younger) a fencer could move abroad, the more benefit they will get from training there. My point is that that is something that is difficult to do until after university and that, in addition, they won't have the added benefits of the full training programme that their contemporaries in that country will have access to.

tigger
-18th October 2011, 11:58
It all depends on which fencers you're referring to, what age they are and what their current environment is like.

I'm working with two young WCP sabreurs (Honeybone - MS, Williams - WS). Both are 1991 year birth. Both were very strong juniors last season.

James Honeybone is 76th in the world ranking in his first senior year, and there are only 2 fencers who are the same year ahead of him in the World ranking (Illiasz (HUN) is 2 places ahead, plus 1 fencer all of whose points are from the Asian zonal).

Sophie Williams is 75th in the World rankings in her first senior year. There are only 3 fencers her age or younger ahead of her in the world ranking, (of whom 1 has all her points from African zonal).

Neither has yet completed a full senior calendar of competitions. There is little evidence to suggest their development would be improved or accelerated by being based elsewhere with a new coach.

I don't have the knowledge to comment on the other weapons.

Aramis
-18th October 2011, 13:10
There is a major difference between Juniors and Seniors. If Junior fencers from other countries are good enough and show the right attitude, they are picked up by their national squads, at which point they have access to coaching and training far beyond anything the UK can offer. It is at this point that our fencers start to lose ground.

cesh_fencing
-18th October 2011, 13:21
I also think there is a big deifference between Truro where you have a dedicated fencing facility and some very experienced coaches (who have good international experience) and most of the rest of the country which does not.

I feel that where fencing is flourishing and the coaching is of a suitable quality any extra input from new 'National Coaches' should be to guide and support.

In other areas where the set-up/coaching is not there, there could well be the case for 'taking on' fencers as such, but still with support from the local club (else you rip the guts out of the local club)..

tigger
-18th October 2011, 14:04
I agree it's a difficult balancing act between the needs of individual fencers and clubs, national squad development, and obviously costs.

James and Sophie do go abroad regularly (this year 5 times to a combination of Hungary, Spain and Canada), and we have access to national squad training in a couple of strong countries.

This is nothing unique - all the top fencers do camps in other countries. But there's of course a difference between this and moving abroad.

I agree coach education is poor and needs to be completely overhauled.

Tubby
-18th October 2011, 14:46
Its a too late for my kid now but for the future it would be great if for epee there was:
1) a national coach (senior)
2) performance development coordination
3) a base location with adequate training facilities near a couple of universities
4) active communication and recruitment into the performance squad

Unfunded (junior) fencers typically rely on their parents. It is going to cost about £12k for uni this year and another £5k on fencing probably closer to £8k if done properly. If I cannot afford £12k-£20k then what gets cut? The fencing. If I can afford £12k-£14k then picking a uni based on an epee centre (pun intended) becomes a supportable decision. Uni bound and uni fencers have a chance to make a choice to combine uni and performance fencing which could perpetuate attendance at the centre.

The black hole which does not appear to be addressed by anyone is the fall off in performance curve and retention when juniors go to uni. If I recall correctly, James and Sophie are full time athletes which is great for them, for others with uni competing for their time and funding it is a difficult one to juggle (though Corinna and Jenny appear to be managing).

The Driver
-18th October 2011, 15:01
Unfunded (junior) fencers typically rely on their parents.

On the other hand correctly coached they can continue to improve without having to toe the sponsorship line - note the independent line taken by Jodie Williams in athletics.

Tubby
-18th October 2011, 15:19
note the independent line taken by Jodie Williams in athletics.My daughter is independent but without any choice in the matter (no funding) ;)

pavski
-18th October 2011, 15:30
I.

I agree coach education is poor and needs to be completely overhauled.

Agreed 100% and this is what keeps this country behind the rest, IMHO. Until this is rectified there will be no step change in the results achieved apart from some notable exceptions.

Gavinoo
-18th October 2011, 15:42
No.

Fencing is not a sport where one can just train, get physically stronger and faster, then beat the world. Cycling requires a certain amount of tactics, but it's generally the team that can impose themselves on their opponents. For example, HTC Highroad could just murder the rest of a peloton by keeping the pace high throughout a stage, then hand over in the closing stages in order that Renshaw could lead out Cavendish in the closing metres, Cav doing the rest. Stage won. Fencing requires competing against other high quality opponents to get skills and tactics to work properly.

The foreign powers are leaps and bounds ahead because they have better coaches and better training programmes for their elite athletes. They don't necessarily have more fencers, but they are of better quality because they have been taught better and more effective techniques by their better coaches, of which there are a more. This results in a much larger and stronger pool of fencers from which they can choose their elite athletes. Essentially, the better coaching is at the root of increased success. A foreign fencer can tap into this by living in a country where these opportunities exist, but by the time they decide to do this and get the opportunity to do so they are probably too old for it to change them into a genuine contender to be a world or Olympic champion (it would almost certainly be post university). They would need to delete all the poor technique and ideas that they had initially been taught and essentially restart from scratch. Even those who get the chance to go abroad would never get the opportunities of the elite fencers native of that country, simply because they wouldn't be eligible.

I didn't see the GBR-RUS match, so can't comment. However, a 45-40 scoreline means one of two things. Either the British girls ran the Russians close, or the Russians were doing just enough to get over the line.

I'm treading carefully here, with the risk of waking up with a horses head in my bed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godfather) , but don't 2 of GB our fencers already train in Italy who were in the Womens Epee and Foil, and judging by the world results it doesn't make much difference, so that blows your theories right out of the window.

I was using GB cycling as an example of more a support structure of many different facets, including strength and conditioning and psychology, I know in cycling you can train going around track and get times then replicate in a comp, whereas fencers need to compete against the best, but they can do that in tournaments and I wasn't ruling out training camps, more having to move out of the country which is a bit late in the day with 10 months to go now as some have mentioned.

I think priority number 1 is a coach / manager in Epee at least. If you've read your copy of the Sword you'll see that Durham university has dedicated fencing facilities. There really needs to be a centre of excellence in London, even if it's hired and pistes are laid out for the majority of the week and all the top fencers are invited to fence from Europe.

Hassan
-18th October 2011, 16:31
Uni bound and uni fencers have a chance to make a choice to combine uni and performance fencing which could perpetuate attendance at the centre...The black hole which does not appear to be addressed by anyone is the fall off in performance curve and retention when juniors go to uni.

This is so true and so crucial. Two points to make here.

1. The current senior/development foil squad, it could be argued, has been 'subsidised' by a number of fencers electing to study in London or being London-based students. Studying in London means one has the 'means' to live in London (student loan and accommodation). When this isn't possible, for whatever reason, it is difficult to live there and train. The squad has found this out to its cost with talented fencers having to leave full-time squad training because of the cost of living in the capital. Likewise, once a fencer finishes university, unless he or she gets a full-time job they cannot afford to pay rent. Having a job means they are no longer able to continue full-time training - unless subsidised by parents, though they're getting rather old and parents are probably too impoverished (fencing + university) for this to happen.

2. When a fencer is attempting to train full-time and manage their studies something has to give. Sometimes it's the fencing, sometimes it's the studying, and sadly, sometimes it's both, with the fencer falling between two stools as they try to manage both activities. If I felt my sons would have listened to me I would have advised them to pack fencing in completely whilst they were at university, or at least reduce it significantly so that it did not impact on their studying. By the way, the Pathway counselling ('lifestyle adviser') available for fencers who were studying was, by some accounts, understandably pretty ineffective. A good idea, but you try persuading a Russell Group university to be understanding regarding commitments to sport!!

Ronald Velden
-18th October 2011, 16:51
As I wrote on the World Championship thread in the aftermath of the Mens Foil defeat by Germany the BFA have invested for
6 years in a 'one trick pony'. Last year the BFA spend £676,000 on our International Pathway Programme, which is incidentally more than our UK Sport Funding and Sponsorship combined.

It is clear to me that this country is incapable whatever system is in place of producing fencers who are going to QUALIFY for
next year's Olympics let alone the absurd suggestion post the European Championships that we are aiming for a gold medal.

The best and incidentally the cheapest option would be to send our best candidates abroad where they are receiving not only
World Class Coaching but training as well.Maybe one or two of them might just produce a decent performance. It would also
be possibly the cheapest and cost effective option.

Richard Kruse worked as an assistant Coach at Camden prior to Athens where he produced his best result as an amateur. I recommended that he should train abroad in the lead up to those Olympics. The idea was resisted at time.

However, in the aftermath and when the foil timings were altered and our fencers struggled I repeated that offer again. Richard spent 4 months in Hungary taking an International Coaching Diploma and training alongside the Hungarian National
Team. It helped him not only to sort out his technical problems, but acted as a stimulation and improved his performance.
Even the PD and his personal coach acknowledged at the time that it was the right decision.

I would go further and suggest that perhaps the BFA should send our Performance Manager abroad for 3 months to learn something about fencing and how other countries are putting together their programmes.

Forget about France who have invested properly on their programme for at least 40 years and start looking at those countries
who are producing results with a smaller budget than is on offer here. I believe that Rumania produced two medals at last Olympics. They managed it with a fraction of our budget and fewer than 1,000 active fencers. However, what they do have
are good organization, decent coaches and the right training.

JohnL
-18th October 2011, 17:51
While we can all say we're disappointed with the WC results, I'm sure none of us are more disappointed than the fencers themselves. These are the guys (girls) who bust their butts every day trying to acheive results despite the system in place.

My own opinions on the what the results mean;

2012 Olympics.
If our illustrius PD thinks that Gold is a realistic forecast, I'd like to hear her verdict on the next 5 Derby's and Cheltenham gold cups as I'd make a fortune. The chances of medals are slim to none. What can be done about this - Nothing. I'd take the MF team as the only option, continue funding them to the Olympics and in the meantime set in place the development program. Attending Olympics at 2012 could be a part of the development of the younger athletes.

2016 Olympics
People seem to think that this is a realistic opportunity for medals if the right system is put in place. It isn't. 5 years in fencing (indeed any sport that has a major skill set) is short term. I argued this previously when GB was awarded the 2012 Olympics. Our cahnces of medals in this Olympics are almost as remote as 2012.

2020 Olympics
Now this is a possibility.

Looking at all the fencers who succeeded at the current WC's, their ages varied. What didn't vary was that they had all been performing at top international level (A grade finals) since their very early 20's or before. In addition, the majority (yes, I know there are exceptions) were in their late 20's. This doesn't suprise me, it's been the same since I've been around fencing.

This means that if we're looking at success for GB fencers in the 2016 Olympics, we're looking for fencers of under 24 who are already appearing regularly in L8's. We don't have any. Given this, the chance of our 24 year olds improving by 2016 are again slim to none. By the time you're 24 your performance level is more or less set. It may go up/down a bit, but if you're only making L64's by them, you're NOT going to suddenly become a medal contender.

If we're looking at 2020, we need fencers of 19-20. In the next 2 years, these have to be performing at L8 level. We don't have a lot but there are a couple who (despite the system) show promise.

I understand the immediate gratification needs of youngsters and also the viewing population, however if there is to be ANY sustainable success, it needs to be in the long term. How this is acheived I will perhaps discuss later in this or another post, but until people start thinking in the true long term, GB fencers will continue not to meet their own expectations, never mind those of the irrelevant people on the sidelines.

Foilling Around
-18th October 2011, 18:04
I'm treading carefully here, with the risk of waking up with a horses head in my bed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godfather) , but don't 2 of GB our fencers already train in Italy who were in the Womens Epee and Foil, and judging by the world results it doesn't make much difference, so that blows your theories right out of the window.

Remember that not all Italian fencers are as talented as those at the very top. Perhaps if the two you mention were UK based and trained they would not be achieving as well as they are? No disrespect to them intended.

Foilling Around
-18th October 2011, 18:20
My daughter is a few years ahead of Tubby's and in a different weapon, but she made a conscious decision to train hard in her first year at university, which was her final Junior year. It paid off with qualification for Baku. This was important to her as she went to Belfast without actually achieving the qualifying criteria. In her second year she scaled back a bit, chosing to go to Tauber and Turin senior A Grades for the experience. This was scuppered by glandular fever, but the thought was there.

For her 3rd and 4th years she is focussing on academia and getting her degree. Fencing is for fun and getting the unversity to pay for things. Her Uni in Canada has already paid for one trip and accommodation. Which she repaid with a bronze medal.

After Uni she will decide how seriously she will take her fencing running up to Rio and beyond.

The opportunity cost of a high academic achieving fencer dedicating themselves to the sport is huge. Most are looking at highly paid professional careers which need to be put on hold for years or abandoned.

Even if you are prepared to do this, you have to have confidence in the organisation you are placing you faith in, ie BF. From past experience it would not be wise to invest years on fencing and rely on BF to provide the right infrastructure and treat you fairly.

I hope this is changing, but the fencers' parents and coaches have seen so much in the past that leads them not to advise their charges to take that chance.

It is telling that Hassan, Tubby and myself, who are all parents of talented young fencers, advise them not to throw all their eggs into the fencing basket until after they have their degrees.

The integration between sport and education is not good enough to combine the two. Simply also Hassan is right that London is a crazy place to have our centre. Let's make it as expensive as possible for young fencers to survive!!

Tubby
-19th October 2011, 08:40
The integration between sport and education is not good enough to combine the two. Simply also Hassan is right that London is a crazy place to have our centre. Let's make it as expensive as possible for young fencers to survive!!I have been fortunate enough to have experienced working in one industry where the whim of the person at the top as to where a company was (re)located have affected hundreds of colleagues' lives, that is, lets base the HQ near where the top guy lives. Fortunate because I could then experience the proper business decision making when the company re-re-located to a more economically and socially effective place. Business rates were a third, the cost per sq ft was half, time on the road network access the HQ was a third better and there was parking!!!!

COST IS A BARRIER! If fencers are not being funded at Podium level and they don't already live in London good luck with trying to recruit onto the programme. Once the money for 2012 runs out, if the place picked for 2016 is still the most expensive place to be look out (I'm clearly running with the wrong social set if that happens).

silvercross
-19th October 2011, 12:05
Will Universities in the UK ever play a major role in the development of fencers for the junior and senior national teams?

In the US there is at least a much more strongly developed and competitive collegiate sports culture. Student Athletes can continue to combine their studies with their chosen sport without a severe performance drop (or no drop at all), because the universities have such a highly developed sporting infrastructure, something severely lacking in most UK universities.

The prospect of Durham University having a dedicated fencing salle and coaching staff is promising, but it also needs to have the financial backing to make it possible for Student Athletes (again that little term) to be able to not worry about the financial pressures imposed on them and their parents (hard enough balancing sports and academics). I read that Durham were offering 12 sports scholarships (to any sport, not just fencing) of £2,000 to full time UK students.

A good start, but with the cost of tuition going up, it really needs to be more (It really should cover the whole of tuition).

If not, would it be feasible for promising UK fencers of university age to cross the pond and take advantage of the US higher education system AND its Athletics/sports infrastructure while at the same time maintain their fencing prospects?

It would be good to hear from some of the GBR fencers who have done that (I can only think of one, LBW).

JohnL
-19th October 2011, 12:27
Paul

I understand your daughters dilema and I'm sure it's one that many students and parents face.

Fencing continually claims to be moving into a "Professional era," however without the reward a "Professional sport brings. It took the Kerry Packer revolution to turn cricket into a truly professional sport and Rugby has had severe growing pains moving in this diection. Both of these sports had significant funding and end product reward (financial) that enabled them to do so.

In the US, fencing is not considered a "Professional" sport by any means. It is developed during younger years, with success from the fencers at international level while the fencers are of college age. Further, college degrees in the uS are generally a 4 year course and the first 2 can be undertaken without declaring a major. This enables students to take general courses, deciding later on specifics, and means they are 19-20 before the work content would be difficult to combine with fencing and by that stage they will have a better understanding of their fencing potential. If fencers have success beyond college age, this is generally because they succeeded at the earlier age and then having reached a top level, continued with their fencing careers with an understanding employer and help from family.

Fencing, certainly in the UK, does not have and will not have enough money to make it worthwhile for fencers to see it as a career path and unless it can be integrated with a college program is unlikely to keep the fencers for the period needed to develop fully at international level.

Don't get me wrong, I spent a considerable time fencing and enjoyed every minute (well almost) of it, but if I was advising my children on a risk/reward basis, I would say, enjoy your fencing but studies come first, second, and third.

TomA
-19th October 2011, 12:30
Will Universities in the UK ever play a major role in the development of fencers for the junior and senior national teams?Yes. But it will require some work on the inside as well as the NGB getting involved. Student fencing clubs need to get themselves organised and build a structure into which their university will want to invest money. This is what I'm trying to get in place in Bath over the course of the next five years.

The tricky bit is getting the university to realise how many BUCS points are available from fencing - because the circuit is so variable, a full 1st team consisting of junior international standard fencers can easily dominate, as demonstrated by Imperial College this season. It's a relatively small investment for a university sports department compared to the amount spent on, for example, a rugby team who will also have a much tougher time as their leagues are quite hotly contested.

Hassan
-19th October 2011, 12:39
My son (Husayn) had an interesting offer earlier this year from Nazlymov at Ohio State to study and fence there. On paper it was intriguing and in some respects tempting (as well as flattering). Tuition fees were covered and I think equipment costs. Living costs were not covered though and we weren't sure if the Student Loan company could be used for this. Also, as he is in the last year of the lower rate of tuition fees here in the UK and, therefore, will be for the rest of his university course, this wasn't as significant as it might have been were it next year (fees at 9K). Then he may have seriously considered it.

We did get the feeling also that a much greater emphasis was placed on inter-collegiate fencing rather than being prepared for the international circuit, though I guess this would happen anyway. This seems such a big thing in the US. There was also no funding as I understood it for trips to Europe for World Cups. It tempted some though as Gatai (Hun) has just started there.

In the end, uncertainties about funding and an allegiance to the GB squad made up his mind (the latter reason, btw, also led to his turning down a chance to fence for Egypt at the Worlds and probably at London 2012 - hope he doesn't live to regret that!!).

As for his present university (Greenwich), they contributed to his costs for the World University Games which is a darn sight more than Ahmed ever got from Kings. The 'lesser' universities do seem to be more accommodating when it comes to sport and no surprise that this is where the TASS hubs are located, though Durham getting in on the act seems to bucking that trend - which is a good sign.

TBennett
-19th October 2011, 12:48
Will Universities in the UK ever play a major role in the development of fencers for the junior and senior national teams?

In all honesty (don't want to be harsh), I really don't think so, not in the next 10-15 years al least.. Maybe in other countries it works but in a way JohnL is right and studies are simply the priority for the young fencers (and their paying parents) and not a sport in which there is seemingly very little tangible reward.

When going through the uni application process myself, I based my choices based on my club and elite fencing (and transport links to london, airports etc) and not the uni club. There are very few 'skilled' athletes and/or coaches within the uni system (there are many many enthusiastic people though) and the structure isn't there for anyone to really benefit in fencing terms. S&C terms yes, a lot of universities will be helpful with sports programs but most have little idea about the coaching/sports specific training needed for fencing.

Hassan, yes some universities are very supportive (some aren't as you say) and I have always been grateful for the assitance my former university is still giving me in the run-up to 2012 (having graduated in 2009 after 5 years at Royal Holloway)

I hope this will change but I really don't see the development of better fencers changing from the clubs to the universities.

silvercross
-19th October 2011, 12:50
The tricky bit is getting the university to realise how many BUCS points are available from fencing - because the circuit is so variable, a full 1st team consisting of junior international standard fencers can easily dominate, as demonstrated by Imperial College this season. It's a relatively small investment for a university sports department compared to the amount spent on, for example, a rugby team who will also have a much tougher time as their leagues are quite hotly contested.

Liverpool Uni caught on to this as well after we won promotion to the premier league north back in 05-06. They (Sports Liverpool) realized that even finishing last and being relegated (which unfortunately we did), we stood to gain more points for the University than any ONE other sports team in their AU.

Suddenly we had loads more funding, and could afford a coach and an assistant coach. Our ladies epee squad started producing really good results at the BUCS individuals, and eventually one of our fencers won it (the one year she intercolates for Edinburgh! :()

But universities are missing a trick here.

And so is the BFA. I'm sure if a small portion of the development fund were to cover part of a Student Athlete's tuition at a university (and now I have to think Durham, since they have the distinct advantage of the infrastructure), it would pay them back in kind after three years.

I know Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster have an academic agreement in order to boost their universities as academic centres of excellence for particular subjects (so as not to step on each other's toes). It would be an intriguing idea if the BFA (nudge nudge, wink wink) could approach a group like this to try to create weapon/gender specific training centres and provide some of the funding.

Aramis
-19th October 2011, 13:00
I think JohnL's post about 2012 and 2016 being unrealistic is spot on. 2020 is probably optimistic too. I don't agree with Ronald, why look at developing programmes rather than the established ones? It just seems more work for the sake of it, when we could take a very established model and adapt it to our own needs.

I agree that many of the more accommodating universities are the ex-Polys etc. The problem with this is that these universities are often not where our best fencers would like to be (OK, Durham is an exception, but is it Durham itself or Northumbria?). BF needs to be fostering links with universities at the top of the table, rather than the bottom. Programmes need to be established where a top level fencer can do almost a part-time degree at these universities, while training at the same time. They also need to forge links with the major club in the area - the university club is often relatively weak and would not offer a remotely high enough standard of training.

In any allocation of funding, however, COACHING has to be the main priority.

Cloudy
-19th October 2011, 13:14
BF needs to be fostering links with universities at the top of the table, rather than the bottom. Programmes need to be established where a top level fencer can do almost a part-time degree at these universities, while training at the same time.


Part of the problem is what's in that for the university? Would letting them do that affect it's league table standing etc.

silvercross
-19th October 2011, 13:43
Part of the problem is what's in that for the university? Would letting them do that affect it's league table standing etc.

More importantly, which table?

The Academic, or the sporting? They aren't the same (Oxbridge asides).

Should it be restricted to Russell Group Universities? (not all of them have good fencing programmes, or better to say that some non-russell group universities have very good fencing programmes).

The Centre at Durham University would also benefit Newcastle and Northumbria universities indirectly (with only Newcastle being an RG uni).

It does pose challenges.

Hassan
-19th October 2011, 14:12
Programmes need to be established where a top level fencer can do almost a part-time degree at these universities, while training at the same time.

This is what would make a big difference in my opinion. However, getting a Russell Group university to agree to this is a mighty challenge. This is also what UK Sport should have been trying to set up for the last ten years, especially considering the number of university students and graduates in the Beijing team in 2008 (at least a third if I recall). As I posted earlier, in my sons' experience, the UK Sport 'lifestyle adviser' to the Olympic Pathway programme whose brief it is/was to help in this area was either useless or toothless (probably the latter).

silvercross
-19th October 2011, 14:16
Did your son's university have any direct links with UK sport or was their scholarship package all in house, Hassan?

Hassan
-19th October 2011, 14:19
considering the number of university students and graduates in the Beijing team in 2008 (at least a third if I recall)..

Just checked this again, it was in fact half not a third.

Hassan
-19th October 2011, 14:23
Neither son has had a scholarship package whilst at university though both (I think - Husayn definitely) have had TASS. The payment towards WUG was a one off after a personal email to the vice-chancellor. One current member of the foil squad has had a sports scholarship from his university though (not Russell Group though).

Link relevant to my previous post:

http://www.bucs.org.uk/news.asp?section=8&sectionTitle=News+from+BUCS&itemid=1499

silvercross
-19th October 2011, 14:43
Back when BUCS was BUSA, if memory serves me right, they published a list of all of the Athletes participating in the Commonwealth Games that were BUCS/BUSA athletes. The number of athletes that were uni students was staggering (probably around half as well), but concentrated on a very small number of universities (Loughborough being tops).

Clearly it is a case that universities play a part in the development of the top athlete (or should). Most chose to go to university in what is essentially the 'prime' of their physical lives (late teens, early 20's). It is not a new discovery, which is why I am a little shocked that Olympic Development Programmes haven't been working more closely with Universities.

Cloudy
-19th October 2011, 15:06
More importantly, which table?

The Academic, or the sporting? They aren't the same (Oxbridge asides).

That is the problem, pretty much. For most universities, getting up the BUSA table is going to do nothing for their (academic) positioning, so I can't see them going for it, unless there's a lot of money coming in from somewhere external as sports is one of the things that gets hit hardest with both funding cuts and when students have less money (due to inflation).

silvercross
-19th October 2011, 15:26
Would it be worthwile to suggest to the BFA to look into the possibility of having a 'University Development Coordinator' to oversee and liaise with university Athletic Unions that show interest in having programmes like the one in Durham and to foster this sort of relationships between the BFA and HEIs? (unless it already exists)

Hassan
-19th October 2011, 16:08
I think personally that it would make more difference to individuals if UK Sport (as they would have more clout I guess) were able to 'cut some slack' for elite athletes currently trying to manage their studies and their training. This might mean, for example, serious consideration given to part-time options, flexibility with assessment (half the senior season coincides with the exam period in most universities), even offering an allowance of a certain percentage of marks in examinations. I think this would make more difference than any financial package however well intentioned. It's having to balance the two activities that is the killer. It also should be done on a national basis and not be university-specific.

To his credit, I understand that the current men's foil development coach now draws up training schedules that take into account university timetables for the relevant fencers. This is definitely a step in the right direction.

Aramis
-19th October 2011, 16:10
More importantly, which table?

The academic table. I don't think potential fencers really look at the position of the University club in the BUCS table when choosing their university. They're more likely to choose a university in a town with a good main fencing club.

scottishsabreur
-19th October 2011, 16:29
Would it be worthwile to suggest to the BFA to look into the possibility of having a 'University Development Coordinator' to oversee and liaise with university Athletic Unions that show interest in having programmes like the one in Durham and to foster this sort of relationships between the BFA and HEIs? (unless it already exists)

British University and Colleges Sport (BUCS) are already laying this foundation.