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Thread: Care and Feeding of a Club

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    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    Care and Feeding of a Club

    I am curious about the steps that clubs (in particular smaller clubs) take to increase their vitality, and appeal.

    Certainly coaching, services, equipment and facilities go a long way, but not all clubs have the resources to expend on big ticket items (like, salary ).

    One not-for-profit club (they operate out of a community center) that I have been associated with (on and off) over the last several years recently decided to put aside some money to help subsidize the costs of having certain members attend local ref clinics based on the understanding that those members will seek to attain (or increase) their certifications. The concept being that improved reffing will help raise the performance ceiling for club members. Having more rated refs within the club should also help expand the local footprint and visibility of the club. To me this seems like a pretty high value play for the club, though obviously results are still pending.
    "I cannot ensure success, I can only endeavor to deserve it" - Capt. John Paul Jones

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    Quote Originally Posted by RoninX View Post
    . . . money to help subsidize the costs of having certain members attend local ref clinics based on the understanding that those members will seek to attain (or increase) their certifications. The concept being that improved reffing will help raise the performance ceiling for club members.
    There are elements of a good idea here - subsidizing clinic costs to help raise the performance ceiling - however which clinic would depend on the club. I've been in one club where a group of us, the ones who predominantly taught the beginner/introduction to fencing class, went to a coaching clinic. We then proceeded to join forces and re-write our beginner syllabus and training goals based on some of the lessons learned. Seems more band for the buck there.

    My first reaction to ref clinics would have been a *huh?* as well, but I'm not familiar with the club - if they had been told in the past that fencers weren't participating in their tournaments specifically due to ref issues, and tournaments was their #1 fundraiser, then that was a good investment.

    In order to comment on 'vitality' and 'appeal', those words need definition. Are you looking at increasing membership for beginner classes? attracting experienced fencers? increasing retention from beginner classes? Increasing the number of competitors at events? Or just name recognition and respect for the club among your division.

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    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    Small clubs, are -- by their nature -- fairly tenuous affairs, simply because they don't have the resources to control their own environment. Often a small club exists because of a unique relationship with a facility (or coach) and when that relationship changes, the club can suddenly find itself in serious trouble.

    Increasing the knowlege of individuals in the club is not a bad idea, but doesn't really protect the club against the whims of outside forces. Sometimes the only way to ensure the health of a small club is to turn it into a bigger club.

    A

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    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    ... however which clinic would depend on the club. I've been in one club where a group of us, the ones who predominantly taught the beginner/introduction to fencing class, went to a coaching clinic. We then proceeded to join forces and re-write our beginner syllabus and training goals based on some of the lessons learned. Seems more band for the buck there.

    My first reaction to ref clinics would have been a *huh?* as well, but I'm not familiar with the club - if they had been told in the past that fencers weren't participating in their tournaments specifically due to ref issues, and tournaments was their #1 fundraiser, then that was a good investment.
    For a little more background. This club has been continuously operating for 30 years now, so they are meeting a need. They have also successfully made at least one major transfer of leadership.

    To my knowledge participation in hosted events has not been a problem. Indeed, Locally there is a ref pool that most clubs draw on for events. This club has just primarily been producing what I consider recreational fencers (U-Cs - but mostly Es and Ds). I would say that the "problem" is that club's members tend to not compete very actively, and some of that may be because they are not used to a competitive strip environment. Of course the best way to get over this is if other club members are compete regularly and can act as guides (sometimes literally) to the local competitions ... but first you need to get those regularly competing members in place. Once you do you have a cycle that can be sustained relatively easily.

    I think part of the reasoning behind subsidizing participation in these ref clinics is that getting more in house "refs" to run bouting practice and club tournaments in a more competitive manner (as well as seeing and calling the actions more accurately) is part of getting people comfortable with competing.

    Also, I should say that I don't think this is a one time effort, but will continue in the future (though I suppose that depends on what future club meetings may approve).

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    In order to comment on 'vitality' and 'appeal', those words need definition. Are you looking at increasing membership for beginner classes? attracting experienced fencers? increasing retention from beginner classes? Increasing the number of competitors at events? Or just name recognition and respect for the club among your division.
    I was intentionally vague. This part is an open question to others. I am not asking for advice per se, simply asking what others have done or would like to do to improve that club in whatever way is most meaningful to them, or their club. A lot goes into determining the success of a given change, including the personalities, size, location etc. of a club. I'd just be curious to hear about different clubs goals and how they achieved them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans View Post
    Sometimes the only way to ensure the health of a small club is to turn it into a bigger club.
    I think there are a lot of subtleties and assumptions inherent in this statement. I've typed a couple of paragraphs twice and deleted them. I think the core reaction that I have to this statement is that trying to turn a small club into a large one can be fraught with problems as well. Certainly not unanswerable ones, but size can raise as many problems as it alleviates.
    Last edited by RoninX; 05-17-2010 at 12:34 PM.
    "I cannot ensure success, I can only endeavor to deserve it" - Capt. John Paul Jones

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    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    If the club has been in existence for 30 years (and is the club I think it is) you might need to decide what part of the club culture is at work. The club obviously knows about the bigger world of fencing in town, why aren't they a bigger part of it? Is it the club history? A lack of familiarity with competition among the members (as you have hinted), or something else? Perhaps you've identified the problem, but your post also hints that you're not sure what the problem is. Of course, the rest of the club might not see any of this as a problem at all.

    Sometimes all it takes is a few fencers talking up fencing outside of the club, to galvanize the membership. Or there could be other objections, causes, or barriers that are more hidden. *shrug* You're going to be the best judge of what is really impacting the club and the goals you have for it.

    There isn't a single answer to your question when it comes to small clubs, because most small clubs are very personality driven. The answer has to fit the leadership and the personality of the club.


    A

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    Member TwoPassions's Avatar
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    Hmm, I think I know which club you are referring to as well...

    I would definitely agree with Allen. Each club in our area has such a distinct personality. My club technically is considered small as well. But everyone is familiar with our passion and comraderie. We actively compete, practice with other clubs, provide rated referees, and hang out with each other outside of fencing. Things like this may not fit your clubs personality; it's up to you to find out what does. If you want a change from recreational fencing to competitive fencing, I think that takes individual drive. They have to be excited and want to compete.

    Referee training is a good idea. Are you aware of the divisions Referee Development Program? The division provides incentive for fencers who become rated referees within the span of a season. There's a document on the division website that gives the details.
    "...good. Now snap your fingers." (Not said often by my coach, unfortunately...)

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    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    @ TwoPassions

    I do. My personal problem is that I barely have time to fence these days, much less ref. I am attending clinic RCFC is hosting this weekend and plan on getting rated down the road. We'll see what time allows. The WWD's concept behind the development program is essentially what FDL is trying to do within the club (though obviously scaled down):

    "To increase the quality of fencing the Western Washington Division (WWD), we need to increase the quality of referees. When referees have national level experience, there is a direct correlation with the overall quality of fencing. By growing a cadre of national level referees at a divisional level, we can have a direct impact on how well our WWD fencers fare at the national level. This program will help develop referees at a grassroots level instead of needing to always hire more expensive referees that need to be flown in."
    Last edited by RoninX; 05-20-2010 at 08:17 PM.
    "I cannot ensure success, I can only endeavor to deserve it" - Capt. John Paul Jones

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    [QUOTE=RoninX;877254"To increase the quality of fencing the Western Washington Division (WWD), we need to increase the quality of referees. When referees have national level experience, there is a direct correlation with the overall quality of fencing. By growing a cadre of national level referees at a divisional level, we can have a direct impact on how well our WWD fencers fare at the national level. This program will help develop referees at a grassroots level instead of needing to always hire more expensive referees that need to be flown in."[/QUOTE]

    One thing that is often forgotten with/by ref's is once you earn a level, you have to keep refing at that level, at sanctioned events to maintain it. So you start having to decide, am I competing at this event or am I ref'ing at this event. If the division has enough fencers, where there are both men's and women's events, it may be easier. But it will be interesting to follow over the next couple of years, to see how much of an impact this initiative has.

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    Posting Hound oiuyt's Avatar
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    Or you start working nationally where there are all kinds of opportunities to demonstrate reffing ability in events for which one is not eligible to compete. Problem solved, where conforming even more to the goal statement posted by RoninX.

    -B
    "Oh but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!"

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    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    One thing that is often forgotten with/by ref's is once you earn a level, you have to keep refing at that level, at sanctioned events to maintain it. So you start having to decide, am I competing at this event or am I ref'ing at this event. If the division has enough fencers, where there are both men's and women's events, it may be easier. But it will be interesting to follow over the next couple of years, to see how much of an impact this initiative has.
    Interesting, I would think that would be self evident as the same goes for fencing ratings. Even if this initiative only produced 10-15 (more) highly skilled refs over the course of the next 5 years it seems like that could have a substantial impact within the WWD an its member clubs. Just a few dedicated refs can make a big difference if they are active! The "will I play or officiate?" is always a tough one though, I have been challenged by it in other sports and hobbies.
    "I cannot ensure success, I can only endeavor to deserve it" - Capt. John Paul Jones

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    If we continue in this vein, of getting higher skilled refs, to improve the division; consider the impact a few, highly skilled coaches could have on the division. Wouldn't helping fencers acheive a montieur rating for coaching then seem a natural progression to helping increase the quality of fencing?

    I realize I'm instigating a bit here, but did the division ever considered hireing a marketing company to help increase the exposure of the sport of fencing in the area? It would seem that increasing the ref pool works for one end of the fencing spectrum - those that are already active, competing fencers, while increasing marketing would work on building the fencing base from the bottom - increasing the actual number of fencers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    If we continue in this vein, of getting higher skilled refs, to improve the division; consider the impact a few, highly skilled coaches could have on the division.
    Yes, I think that could make a big impact.

    Wouldn't helping fencers acheive a montieur rating for coaching then seem a natural progression to helping increase the quality of fencing?
    Why would this help?

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    Quote Originally Posted by prototoast View Post
    Why would this help?
    re: getting coaches certified -

    Thank you for pointing out that getting more certified coaches is not an obvious connection to increasing fencing. I made several leaps on this one:
    1. More coaches = the ability to offer more classes - leads to increased number of fencers
    2. Certfiied coaches (not just well rated fencers) can charge more for classes/lessons = increased revenue for the club
    3. Not all coaching styles appeal to all fencers. Having a variety of coaching styles available, appeals to a larger base leading to increased retention (I can't take credit for this one, I discussed it with another fencer who brought up this point)

    Depending on the structure of the club, this has merit. If the club is run by one coach, this may or may not work, depends on if they enjoy having assistants to help with group classes or trust others to teach beginners classes, freeing them up for more one on one lessons. If the club is formed of recreational fencers, without a central coaching figure, this can help for the reasons above.

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    Member TwoPassions's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoninX View Post
    @ TwoPassions

    I do. My personal problem is that I barely have time to fence these days, much less ref. I am attending clinic RCFC is hosting this weekend and plan on getting rated down the road. We'll see what time allows. The WWD's concept behind the development program is essentially what FDL is trying to do within the club (though obviously scaled down):

    "To increase the quality of fencing the Western Washington Division (WWD), we need to increase the quality of referees. When referees have national level experience, there is a direct correlation with the overall quality of fencing. By growing a cadre of national level referees at a divisional level, we can have a direct impact on how well our WWD fencers fare at the national level. This program will help develop referees at a grassroots level instead of needing to always hire more expensive referees that need to be flown in."
    Ah...I know who you are now! Obviously, I was there too, but you probably already know that...

    Good for you guys. I'm glad to see your club taking steps towards improving the level of fencing. I've been hired to referee a couple events at your club and it's always encouraging to see a club recognize a need and work towards fulfilling said need.


    As to coaching, sure. Of course a good coach can improve the level of fencing at a club. But depending on the clubs situation, finding/hiring a coach (certified or not) may not be possible. Becoming or even just learning to referee will still raise the level and it something each fencer can do themselves. Our division has many good resources if people are willing to utilze them; whether it be coaches, referees, or strong tournaments.
    "...good. Now snap your fingers." (Not said often by my coach, unfortunately...)

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    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoPassions View Post
    Ah...I know who you are now! Obviously, I was there too, but you probably already know that...
    Yup, saw you there. Probably I should have introduced myself, especially as I am an epeeist

    Did you stay for the second day of the clinic? I wanted too, but alas, had already promised my wife that I would put a day of work into our basement before the clinic was brought to my attention.
    "I cannot ensure success, I can only endeavor to deserve it" - Capt. John Paul Jones

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    Member TwoPassions's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoninX View Post
    Yup, saw you there. Probably I should have introduced myself, especially as I am an epeeist

    Did you stay for the second day of the clinic? I wanted too, but alas, had already promised my wife that I would put a day of work into our basement before the clinic was brought to my attention.
    Yes, the second day was very good. I've already attended the basic, but I went the first day just as a review. Bill had Kevin and Connor on strip doing senarios in each weapon. It was really good and quite amusing. I think I'm going to go with saber as my second weapon, but I have a lot of studying/practice to do before I even think about getting observed.
    "...good. Now snap your fingers." (Not said often by my coach, unfortunately...)

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