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USA Fencing Honors Club of Excellence Winners

08/09/2019, 5:00pm CDT
By Kristen Henneman

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – USA Fencing is pleased to announce the four Club of Excellence winners for the 2018-19 season.

Now in its fourth year, the Club of Excellence Program recognizes clubs who have shown incredible dedication to their members and the sport of fencing.

Each year, four clubs are selected based on excellence in the following categories: membership programming, youth programming, marketing and communication, and diversity and women’s programming.

The 2018-19 winners are as follows:

  • Membership Programming: Alliance Fencing Academy
  • Youth Programming: Music City Fencing Club
  • Marketing and Communication: Orange County Fencing Center
  • Diversity and Women’s Programming: Kolakowski Sabre Academy

This year’s honorees receive a banner to hang in their club as well as 30% off their club renewal for the 2019-20 season.

More info on each Club of Excellence selection can be found below.

Membership Programming: Alliance Fencing Academy

Houston, Texas
Owner: Andrey Geva

Fifteen years ago, Alliance Fencing Academy had less than 10 members. Now the club has grown to more than 300 members – approximately 125 of which have been with the club for more than four years – and are home to Olympians as well as gold medalists at the national, NCAA and World Championship level. With a focus on personalized attention and support tailored to each fencer’s needs, Alliance works to teach proper habits while embedding fun activities to grow fencers’ love for the sport.

Alliance’s fencers are known for being friendly and good sports while also being tough competitors. The quality of classes and training are among the best in the country, but the community is also supportive and inclusive, using events such as team dinners, pool parties, barbeques and game nights to create a team environment and help their fencers see personal growth in the club and out. The club knows that when fencers are having fun and are working in a positive environment, they work harder, support each other better and push each other to be the best they can be.

With a strong attention to detail, Alliance’s coaches care for each student and take into account the needs of each individual. They go the extra mile, analyzing video to individualize each fencer’s style. Whether a fencer is competitive or recreational, fencers are treated with the same level of individual attention, the only difference being the frequency and intensity of their training programs.

Youth Programming: Music City Fencing Club

Nashville, Tenn.
Owner: Robert Piraino

The 2017-18 Club of Excellence Winner in membership retention and growth, Music City Fencing Club has more than 70 youth members with over half being first-time members. The club offers classes for all ages, including bring a buddy month which allows members to bring a friend to a group class for free, social events for groups and birthday parties. To help with costs, Music City has a siblings discount, free club memberships for fencers under the age of 10 and fast start promo packages, which includes a free starter gear kit with three months of classes.

Music City also does work with school programs in the area, running the Winterim Fencing program, a one-month fencing class that is part of the graded curriculum at an all-girls private school. It provides funding, equipment and instruction for schools that are interested in participating in the Tennessee High School Fencing League and hosted the state championships. The club also provides classes that fulfill homeschool gym credits and contacts local schools to include fencing, offering to do a demo and help start a program.

A welcoming atmosphere and an inclusion policy help create a family at Music City Fencing Club. Teens help with preteen group classes and camps, creating mentorship opportunities, and the club encourages the more experienced fencers to help the beginners. It also hosts team dinners and while Music City Fencing introduces the idea of competition early on, it focuses on personal growth, improvement and the challenge of competition rather than results. The club hosts informal tournaments as a first step to competition without pressure, brining competition to a more recreational level.

Marketing and Communication: Orange County Fencing Center

Fullerton, Calif.
Owner: Simon Cho

Although Orange County Fencing Center was a new club this past season, opening in October of 2018, it found creative and effective ways to market its club and communicate to its members. Facebook was the club’s biggest marketing tool with nearly 1,400 people liking the page of a club with only 41 members. It posted tournament results, schedule changes and club activities and utilized tools Facebook offers such as event pages and insights. OCFC used Instagram to target youth, using Instagram stories to give up-to-date information. The club used each app’s analytics to better target their audience and even had a few videos go viral through posting to its social page and external ethnic group video channels, with one reaching more than 500,000 views.

To market new programs as well as help with increased social media presence, OCFC created a bingo challenge. Members can fulfill certain tasks such as liking the club; writing a review on different platforms such as Facebook, Google and Yelp; purchasing gear; bringing a new member; or signing up for classes and prizes include gift cards and private lessons.

As a new club, OCFC also has created a strong presence on third-party review sites to gain new members. It also has outreach programs with local schools, sends direct mailings and drops off brochures at local hospitals. The club also has an after-school program at private schools in the area. They have done demos in front of students, teachers and parents, which led to many sign-ups. OCFC has also done demonstrations with other clubs at a local mall to gain interest.

Diversity and Women’s Programming: Kolakowski Sabre Academy

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Owner: Dennis Kolakowski

Welcoming of all ethnicities, religions and abilities, Kolakowski Sabre Academy ensures classes are inclusive for everyone. The club is home to parafencer Tori Isaacson (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) and welcomes members with developmental needs. With the belief that fencing can help the lives of all kids and is a sport of all kids, every success, whether a new rating or becoming a High School All-American, goes on the wall of honor in the club where the fencer’s name is proudly displayed. KSA also creates a sense of teamwork when it names its fencers of the year. For each program, the honorees are asked to recognize someone who helped them, and that person’s name is displayed on a plaque in the club.

Through social media and community groups, Kolakowski Sabre Academy advertises the benefits of women in fencing. The club has worked with Positive Coaching Alliance and done research on the best way to train all athletes. As a result, KSA tries to place girls of similar ages and abilities in the same classes and events, knowing that women tend to enter new social environments in groups. Female leadership is emphasized with the club having captains that help welcome in new fencers.

At their main location, the costs for members are less than those of other clubs in the area. Almost all competitive fencers are on a scholarship receiving free lessons and classes are unlimited for a monthly fee. The more members participate, the more the club offers additional lessons to make sure each fencer sees a return in investment. In addition, all club purchases go on a rewards card to help club members with travel with 26 hotel nights and 21 flights purchases with reward points last year.

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