my school fenced the second middle school in the state to have a fencing program yesterday. My school was the first. In a few more years, there may be many other schools with fencing programs, but right now we two are the only ones. I was reminded how fragile these fencing programs are, though. If I leave my school, I’m not confident that the program would survive. If my colleague at the other school decides that he can’t commit the time, that program collapses too. Fencing at all of the high schools I know is similarly precarious. The moment that a coach becomes incapacitated or ‘retires’ from the job, or gets fired in a spate of anti-fencing job-related violence, the available fencing partners for my school and my students becomes substantially weakened.
The public school system has made an effort to standardize their fencing programs by rating it as a varsity sport in the ECC, the high school athletics conference. However, as a middle school we are exempted from those rules and thereby excluded from a lot of the higher-level competition. Eventually there will need to be a league for middle school/junior high school competitors. We’re nowhere near that just yet, although creating the tools to make communication and eventual collaboration possible makes some sense.
I’m excited for the future of my adopted sport. I hope that I can help lift it from the level of the personal, where it is right now, to the institutional, where hiring a teacher-coach specifically to cover fencing becomes a necessary part of the sport.
Oh, yeah, and we won yesterday. Big boost to my ego, and to my team’s confidence in their abilities as fencers. I hope we can keep that process going.