Advocate extraordinaire to Beelzebub.
It would be very useful if we could come up with other measures of participation and any increases, as funding from Sports England could be increased if we were able to show a significant increase in numbers.
We have no exact figure on how many people fence in this country, appart from rough guessing, this information is a lot easier to collect than other sports like asking how many people cycle recreationally, because with fencing you'll be in a club somewhere.
The moment the subscription rationalisation proposals are carried out, I will be handing out the associations membership forms to 150 parents, and will also work to ensure the universities meet cost of the forty or so committed fencers, I am guessing the school kid/base participation rate will be a tenner or so per head.
If all twenty full time school coaches in uk do similar then you've a possible membership increase of 2000 of school ages more or less ten to thirteen years.
Job done ?
Ref my reply above & your comments.
If the association steps up, then like France Italy &c it'll be made clear that a base level membership fee is mandatory. It will require a no nonsense approach from b.f.a to ensure compliance and enforcement.. Letters to schools/coaches/clubs reminding of due diligence guidelines for insurance purposes would serve.
Getting a handle on stats much easier going forward.
Re your second paragraph about how to improve recruitment, I enclose cesh's post from earlier because in my opinion this is how it is done best.
A good coach with assistance from high level fencers for the induction.. Then the ability for that coach to follow up on the induction and develop.
Also a mistake to let the L1 coach do inductions or take beginners group, unless they are working very very closely with a senior coach with a very well established club not more than 30 min away.
But how to achieve this ?
Again IMO L1 need to be downgraded with coaching licence 'withdrawn' until they up skilled.
Pull funding from go fence unless it is a project co-ordinated by successful club ref above.
You don't need to buy starter sets for coaches as there is already a very generous lease/buy arrangement between b.f.a and lp for this.
I have one radical idea, and that is for b.f.a to pay £25 per hour to any ex international level fencer of student age or so who successfully introduces and teaches a new beginners group for kids at a school or sports venue provided it has never been before. Ten people doing this could within one or two years, have a radical effect.
( the young coach would have to balance the terms fee with venue hire and kit purchase etc and could keep any surpluses, if any, which is doubtful. Plus the federation could maybe help with the first correspondence to the targeted schools and potential venues )
As far as I am aware Sport England will only take any notice of their own survey results regarding participation. They know that NGBs are prone to fiddling the numbers so they disregard NGB membership data.
In my (not entirely unbiased!) opinion, GoFence is a good idea currently poorly executed. Fencing Fun currently coaches around 450 kids a week (with 2 full-time coaches and 3 part-time) using plastic kit and feeds predominantly into 2 clubs (Salle Holyrood in Edinburgh and Shetland FC). Salle Holyrood was established as a development pathway for kids who learnt to fence using plastic kit whereas Shetland was long established.
A couple of key things about Fencing Fun classes are that using plastic kit is cheaper and quicker than metal (12 sets of plastic kit for about £700 and the kids can be kitted up by putting on a midi-fence vest and a mask in about 2 minutes) but the quality of coaching has to be high (all Fencing Fun coaches fenced for Home Country senior team or GB Junior squads as a minimum). To be honest, a good coach could teach basics using garden canes for swords and sieves for masks, the key is what and how you coach rather than what you coach with.
Linking feeder clubs to an established club has potential problems (space, coaching and kit capacity, existing culture) whereas starting a club from scratch makes it easier in some ways to set the standards for how training will be carried out and the fencers have all come from a common coaching structure. EF funding to support purchase of plastic kit (or actual provision of kit to benefit from bulk purchase of kit) and central assistance either in the form of direct funding or help with applying for Awards for All grants to establish new metal clubs would provide cheap grass-roots classes and a development pathway for those fencers. EF/BF could look to recruit 20 full-time coaches (where EF/BF gets to choose who is recruited and how they are trained) and recoup most of the money by directly invoicing the participating schools and providing decent sized grants to support the new clubs that can be founded from that larger group of plastic-trained young fencers.
Just another outline option for how to increase participation, improve coaching standards and develop a pathway from grass-roots. (I am available as a consultant to BF if required!)
Sean Walton - the voice of reason!
Still a little confused. I never realized the B.F. reason for existence was to follow any plan as outlined by the sports council. The B.F. following a sports council plan encouraging devolution and wrongly (in my view) devolved into four country associations in order to access home country money which was never forthcoming.
So I have to ask what is the purpose of B.F. I really don't think that the majority of B.F. members want the B.F. to concentrate only on getting 13 to 24 years olds to fence for an hour so that a relatively few have a pathway and can access cheap foreign comps.
Lots of good ideas in the posting, but what we need to do is get as many people trying fencing having fun and in the process provide a way for people of any age Cadets to Veterans to improve. There are 350 20 set of change for life kits (Midi-fence /Go fence kit) out in English schools so let get these\all being used. Lets stop all this nonsense of withdrawing level 1 licenses. (My coach never had a coaching certificate but created many top fencers including myself and Graham) Any fencing is better than no fencing.
Although Graham Paul is asking for opinions as an expert on winning (4 Olympic Games(7th in team with me in Montreal (medal zone?))) 2 times winner A grades, approx 15 times British Champion individual/Team foil and epee, several times Veteran World Championships) perhaps we should be asking him what we should do to becoming a winning fencing Nation?
Thanks, you are officially appointed as my PR agent!
However I believe that for far too long we have had a piecemeal approach to becoming a top competitive nation. We need to have a more holistic and integrated approach. We need to expand the base of the pyramid with young fencers. We then need a clear pathway for the more talented of them to improve as they mature. The beginning of the pathway will have many fencers being guided to maximise their potential. This number will narrow down over the years, leaving a squad of fencers dedicated to reaching the top and being at least partly funded. The really important bit is to develop this pathway so that all fencers with the desire can reach their full potential.
If 14-24(?) is the age group targeted, then there needs to be more of a focus at least on graduation to metal fencing from Go Fence.
The key issue for me is that putting a plastic sword in the hand of a child might keep them interested for a year or two. Putting a plastic sword in the hand of a teenager will keep them interested for a month or two at most.
Without progression to metal in hand, both are damaging situations. The teenager after a couple of months will lose interest. The next time they are presented with the opportunity to fence they will feel they have 'already tried fencing' and that it wasn't for them. Likewise, as a child grows older they too will begin to lose interest in the soft form of the sport, and the same scenario occurs later in life.
So while you might have added the two hypothetical youngsters to your participation numbers for a year or two, you've not retained them and actually put them off a sport that they were motivated to try in the first place.
This is a problem in sheer numerical terms because I suspect that the number being put off in this way either exceeds the birth rate or will eventually do so as the program expands (ie we are getting rid of them faster than they are coming in). That's without all the other logistical factors that impede access to your target population group.
There is not an infinite number of potential participants with which to feed the numbers, therefore retention counts.
Retention requires progression, which acts as the carrot to keep the proverbial donkey motivated. If someone feels they are making progress with something, they will more likely stick with it. If they feel they are stagnating for whatever reason, they will lose motivation and drift away.
This is why I like munkey's model. Having good coaches at the participation level is key to retention, as they are able to help their fencers progress technically and encourage them into the local clubs where they can fence metal. If they are successful fencers themselves, even better, they can provide an aspirational figure for the kids to aim at. Everyone loves stripes.
I'm still not convinced that plastic fencing isn't the devil incarnate, but if it's a necessary evil then the above seems to be the best way to use it.
Progression drives retention. Incidentally this is why I think everyone's posting on this thread about talent pathways and funding for cadet internationals. Because we have such a small circuit, both of these are sighted very early on by parents and fencers as a form of progression.
What is the rational behind this age group selection? What evidence of subsequent long term increase in sports participation is this based on? Is this based on some sports and then just assumed that all sports are the same? What would happen if I had an irrefutable case that getting kids fencing from 10 to 13 would eventually lead to long term greater numbers?
I do not think it matters if BF target younger age-groups for developing the base for fencing, but as posted so many times already, the key is a structured route for fencers to reach the targets they want to within these ages, whether that is just club fencing, local events or aiming for longer term development to National or Internatonal level.
Oundle, Peterborough & Stamford Fencing