USA Fencing Safe Sport Policy

This month, USA Fencing announced the creation and implementation of a new Safe Sport Policy. I, for one, am thrilled at this effort to recognize and respond to the potential issues around misconduct. Fencing has been touched by this kind of tragedy in the past; one such incident made the news in 2007, and my biggest complaint with the new policy is that it has taken so long to get something like this in place.

The announcement mentions that the new policy has been three years in the making, meaning it took four years from the incident in Baltimore for USA Fencing to even start on a policy for addressing this most serious of issues. That said, at least they have finally addressed it as it is important on many levels to provide clear guidance to clubs, athletes, and parents regarding what misconduct might look like and what the appropriate steps are for addressing the issue.

I am especially pleased to see background checks being required. As an educator, background checks have been a standard requirement for decades; they serve as both a deterrent and a first line of defense against placing people with a history of misconduct in a position of trust and authority. USA Fencing is making a strong statement that it is committed to the safety of our athletes by requiring these checks and helping to facilitate a process through the Professional Membership program.

Concerns

What training and other supports will be available to professional members to make sure they are well informed of the policy and its implications? The draft says that training will be in place by January 1, 2014 (Safe Sport Policy, p. 12).

However, when does the policy actually go into effect? I didn’t see any reference to an effective date in the policy itself, but according to the FAQ (emphasis added)

2. Why was the Safe Sport policy adopted without discussion from the membership?

The policy, though in development over the past three years, was passed at an Emergency Board meeting on July 17, 2013. A recent change in insurance companies meant that the matter became urgent for USA Fencing to meet insurability guidelines for the 2013 – 14 season which begins on Aug. 1 (USA Fencing Safe Sport FAQs, p. 1).

So does just having a policy satisfy the insurance guidelines? Or does the policy need to be in place and full effect at the start of the season? If so, the possibility of no training being in place for months is problematic to say the least. To my knowledge, the only communication from USA Fencing has been a single email. I hope club owners and coaches have received more information.

While the travel recommendations/requirements make good sense, I worry about the logistics in implementing them, especially for small clubs and/or those of limited financial means.

How the Safe Sport Policy will be interpreted and enforced is generating some good discussion on the Fencing.Net forums, too. USA Fencing’s FAQ is a good start to try and clear up some concerns about how the policy will be interpreted, but questions and objections remain and I hope the National Organization and Board are paying attention.

Updated 7-29-2013: added links to more Fencing.Net forum threads.

14meters

I completely missed that 14meters even existed. While looking over the new Missoula Fencing Association website, I stumbled across 14meters in the links section. Curious, I clicked through and was thrilled to discover a site that took all that formerly frozen data in AskFred and turn it into something useful.

Overview

From the website:

The 14meters Online Fencing Statistics database is designed to supplement both AskFRED and your standard paper and pencil Fencing Journals.

All already public AskFRED data is recorded, aggregated and analyzed for easy browsing. Try the Stats Search to see your historical fencing data in seconds!

Use

Home___14meters.com___Online_Sport_Fencing_Statistics 2

Getting started is quite simple, just enter your name.

 

 

Search_Results

I just searched by my last name. Since there are three Clausens in the database, I had to choose my records.

 

 

 

From there, the site provides a wealth of information right up front. Most prominent are the win percentage by year and the overall win percentage by weapon.

win_percent_by_year

Overall_Win_Percentage

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent_Bouts

 

 

Below that are individual bout results from recent events. Clicking on the fencer’s name will bring up their 14meters data. Clicking on the Event or Tournament link will open up the AskFred page for that event/tournament.

 

 

 

All_Bouts_NBouts_by_Year-Season_N

 

Along the left-hand side is a tally of the bouts fenced, won, and lost broken out by weapon, year, and fencing season. These are each clickable to drill down and see a filtered search of the bouts that make up that tally.

 

 

 

 

Limitations

Naturally, a site like 14meters can only be as good as the data put into it. I’ve been fencing since 1991, but there is no AskFred data on me until 2007. And even then, the division wasn’t consistent in its use of AskFred, so I’m sure there is some missing data.

Features I’d Love to See

The people behind 14meters have done an amazing job of making the data in AskFred accessible. As they continue to develop the site, these are some things (in no particular order) that would help fencers and coaches use the data more effectively:

  • Separate calculations (win/loss) for pool and DE bouts.
  • Win/loss percentages by time of year. Does a fencer struggle or thrive in a particular part of the season? Rough first month getting back in? Burned out by the final month of competition? Any patterns?
  • Percentage by Differentials–how close were the matches? Were most DEs won/lost by a touch or two, by 5-10, or was it a complete blow out?
  • Records against specific fencers over time.
  • CSV export so I can download data and manipulate it even more in a spreadsheet.

Conclusion

One of the most important things to remember when looking at data is that it just is what it is. There is no meaning in the data by itself, no value statements are being made. To make the data meaningful, you need to spend some time with it. Ask questions. Discuss the possible circumstances. Challenge assumptions. Look for patterns.

Looking at my own data, after 2010 I haven’t cracked an 80% win rate. But without stepping back and reflecting on the past few years, I have no way of knowing what that really means. Was I getting worse? Competing in more challenging competitions? In this case, 14meters confirmed what I already suspected, grad school and work changes killed my competitive fencing. That’s when I started practicing with less regularity and going to fewer tournaments.

Hiking Bear Creek Trail

Bear Creek Trail RouteWhen my wife and I moved to Missoula, one of the first things we did was buy a guide book, Robert Stone’s Day Hikes Around Missoula Montana (now in its 4th edition). This helped us get out and explore the area, bringing us to many places we wouldn’t have found on our own.

The Bear Creek Trail isn’t my favorite Bitterroot Valley hike, mostly because the trail doesn’t stay right by the water for much of the hike, but it does offer some beautiful views and five geocaches. Finding those caches was a major motivator for getting out on a hike.

IMG_0255According to the guide book, the hike is three miles, round trip, from the trail head to a nice waterfall. I stretched the hike out to six miles through a combination of hunting for geocaches and going an extra .75 miles down the trail to pick up the last cache. That is what I love about geocaching; looking for caches always seems to take me places I wouldn’t normally go and/or push me to go that extra distance to get just one more. In this case, why would I stop at the waterfall when that last cache is just a little farther down the trail. So, I got some extra exercise and picked up all five caches instead of leaving one behind just because I wasn’t willing to walk a little more.

Plus, this final cache brought me to a beautiful spot along the creek where I could sit and rest for a few minutes in the peace and quiet of the water.

Summer Training

Another summer is here, and I’ve set off on another summer training effort.

Fencing

Last season, I was fencing with the UM Fencing club. This worked well enough; although with the demands of work, I was only able to fence about once a week. As the UM club shut down for the summer, the Missoula Fencing Association made some changes to their open fencing option that really worked well for me. The hours are later–Monday and Wednesday from 7:30-9:00 PM and Friday 6:00-8:30 PM–and the floor fee was dropped to $25/month. I’m hoping the hours continue to work out for me as work starts getting busy this fall. Ideally, I want to fence at least twice, if not all three, nights a week.

June and July have just been fencing for fun, but we are starting to discuss how to make August more structured. We’ve got a strong core group of fencers right now, and we want to start the season as a competitive group, including getting to some of the bigger tournaments in Seattle and maybe even a NAC or two.

Biking

I’ve been riding more specifically for exercise this summer. Short rides, mostly around six miles, focused on getting my heart rate up and trying for bursts/sprints to push the aerobic/anaerobic endurance required for a fencing bout. I can’t really tell if it is helping my fencing yet, but the rides themselves do seem to be getting easier in that I can sustain the sprints for longer.

Hiking

I haven’t done many hikes this summer, but I did get in three nice ones recently. I’ve been trying to pick hikes that have geocaches along the trails as a motivator to get out and go farther than I would normally. That worked especially well on my hike up Bear Creek as the final cache along that trail added an extra 1.5 miles to the total hike.

I plan on expanding on each of these topics more fully but wanted to capture a quick summary to get the writing juices flowing.

Summer

Yep. It’s summer again and I’m starting to have a little free time for biking and blogging.

Today’s ride, the first real exercise-focused one of the summer, was enjoyable. I’ll also be playing around more with tech tools related to all of this, as well as WordPress features.

Tech and the ride

Normally, I use my standalone GPS – a Garmin Colorado 400t – to record the ride: time, distance, average speed, etc. Unfortunately, being the first real ride of the season, I didn’t think about batteries until I was already out in the garage staring down at the low battery message. Maybe next time. But, here is a quick map of the ride created using MapQuest’s Map Builder tool.

The trail system in Missoula is pretty amazing, and they keep updating the trail paths and adding new ones. One of the many reasons I love living here.

For music, I use my iPhone. I cycle through a number of apps; today it was 8tracks. I found this workout mix as I was getting ready to head out:

Sweat is fat crying from ashleyrevolver on 8tracks.

(Okay, I need to revisit coding and remember how to get those embedded items better integrated with my text. That doesn’t look good at all.)

Spring is in the air

So, I took a little time off from writing, mostly because work got busy.

I’ve been fencing some. Practices here and there; tournaments in Missoula and Spokane. Nothing too exciting, though, other than the ongoing confirmation that I’m out of shape and need to build up my endurance.

Over spring break, I went for a bike ride and took a walk. Not terribly strenuous but at least I got out and moving.

Now that spring is here and the daylight is lasting longer, I’m starting to think about goals for the nicer months. Biking. Fencing. Geocaching. General health. Not sure what those goals are just yet.

Biking the west side of town

Saturday – bike ride – West Missoula Trails – 9.38 miles in 40 minutes

The western Missoula trail system isn’t as well developed as the paths on the east side of town. Fortunately, the city is working hard on correcting this, and while the trail west of Russell street isn’t complete, it sure is coming along nicely.

Working new trail around the existing homes, businesses, and streets is certainly interesting, though; and once you get west of Russell there is a lot of twists and turns. Certainly not a bad thing, but it does make getting a good pace going almost impossible.

For the return trip, I left the trail and got onto the trail that runs along South Ave. This is a straight shot with no cross streets so I could get my heart rate back up.

Random aside: I’m writing this while watching the Bears game, and I must say I find that the new kick off rules have sucked the drama out of kick returns. I’ll be interested in seeing how the touch back stats compare with last year; I’m guessing the NFL may as well get rid of the kick off and just start on the 20.

Sunday morning bike ride

Sunday – bike ride – house to UM – 6.4 miles in 29 minutes

What an absolutely beautiful morning.

There’s been a spate of high heat, smoke in the valley, back to school meetings, and just enough laziness to turn these into excuses not to ride. But the late morning temps are now in the mid-50s, which I absolutely love, and the smoke wasn’t too bad, so I hopped on the bike and got a quick ride in.

Blue skies. Light breeze. Hardly any traffic. All the dogs were on leashes. Oh, yes, a very beautiful morning indeed.

Training with the lights on

I’ve spent twenty years fencing with university clubs, which has always meant temporary, multi-use spaces. No opportunity to paint strips on the floor, set up (let alone leave up) scoring equipment, or have adequate space to store gear.

This summer the Missoula Fencing Association was able to build on its success and rent a facility they can make their own. They’ve done some amazing work in just a few short months and have plans to keep growing and developing. I’ve been able to practice there two nights a week, and the difference just a few things make has really surprised me.

Fencing in the just right space

In those multi-use spaces, we always had to ball park the strip dimensions out of a tangle of basketball and volley ball lines. This worked well enough, but we never knew for certain whether someone had stepped off the side, or end. The first bout or two at a tournament would be spent in part worrying about where our feet were and sorting out just how much of the strip we were really using. Being at MFA and having those strip boundaries on the floor, every time we fence no less, has been a wonderful change. We can pay attention to how we are using the space of the strip and make adjustments in practice that used to wait until the tournament.

Shining light on the problems

As nice as the painted strips are, the more powerful difference is being able to fence electric every bout. Without being able to leave up, or even store, scoring gear in the multi-use spaces, our use of electric in practice was pretty hit-or-miss depending on who wanted to hassle with setting up (and tearing back down an hour or so later) or whether the person whose car the gear was in even showed up that night. Knowing I can count on the box and reels being there and ready changes how I think about practice and helps me get closer to my tournament mind set.

The immediate feedback of the lights has been more significant than I would have guessed, especially as I try to get myself back in shape. I know my footwork is sloppy and my actions are too big, but how those things translate into points, and more frequently right now into missed points, has pushed me to address these poor mechanics faster than I think I would have been able to just fencing dry.

While I’m not quite ready for the tournament season to begin, especially from the endurance angle, I am very interested to see whether or not I can focus on making those first bouts more meaningful than just transitioning into tournament mode.

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