Dear USA Fencing Family,
First and foremost, I hope that you and your family are safe and healthy during this most difficult time. Everyone at USA Fencing is thinking of our members, clubs, coaches, officials, volunteers and others in the fencing community.
The USA Fencing Board of Directors continues to hold meetings every 2-3 weeks which are open to any member who would like to call in and listen to the meeting. In addition, USA Fencing will host a Town Hall meeting on May 19, 2020 at 7 pm ET. Questions from the membership can be submitted to BoardQuestions@USAFencing.org.
For both clubs and events, we are faced with the fact that parts of the country will lift restrictions on athletic activity, including fencing, more quickly than other areas. USA Fencing decided and announced following the April 29 board meeting that it would resume sanctioning club fencing on a rolling basis. We are still considering when and how to resume our sanctioning of competitions and will provide an update on June 1st.
At its April 29, 2020 meeting, the USA Fencing Board of Directors approved the re-sanctioning of in-person activities (excluding competitions) at member clubs in locations where the clubs are permitted to operate or reopen by local and state laws, regulations, executive orders and other legal mandates regarding COVID-19. Sanctioned activities will be covered by USA Fencing insurance, subject as always to policy terms and conditions.
We are concerned with the number of clubs that are struggling to remain viable and again would encourage club members to support your clubs in any way you are able. USA Fencing is also exploring ways that we can assist clubs with insurance, marketing assistance and other membership items as we go into the next membership year.
The scheduling of sports events around the nation, including competitions, conferences and conventions, remains a challenge. Sports governing bodies, leagues and teams have been working with government officials to determine when such events can resume safely. Subject to USOPC guidelines and our Board’s approval, USA Fencing is tentatively planning to sanction local events first, followed by regional events and finally national events. To assist with building local sanctioned events, USA Fencing is adding the benefit of fencing at one local event to all non-competitive members to encourage competitive opportunities at the local level.
I know that a great concern to many is whether Summer Nationals will be held this year and we will make a final decision by the end of May. While we know everyone is looking forward to competing again, our first priority is making sure the progressive launch of competition opportunities is done in a manner that is as safe as possible for participants and is consistent with local, state and federal guidelines.
Finally, we will be sending out event surveys this week to all athletes, parents, referees and tournament officials to better gauge the interest and comfort level of the fencing community as we evaluate the Return to Fencing options.
With the loss of two national events, a large regional event and the current postponement of Summer Nationals, the financial situation for USA Fencing is extremely challenging. We will end the membership year with a significant financial loss and dip heavily into reserves that have slowly built up over the past few years. The National Office staff size has been reduced by 22% and we will consider other overhead reductions in the upcoming weeks.
USA Fencing has focused on diversifying revenue streams over the past few years, which is a challenge faced by many National Governing Bodies of similar size. Progress has been made on philanthropic efforts; however, there is much work to be done on securing sponsorships for the organization. The current world situation will require creativity and dedication to secure additional funding.
Shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic, USA Fencing was in the final stages of completing the strategic plan for 2020-24 while looking towards 2028. Volunteer, athlete and staff leaderships are currently working on a Recovery Plan for the next 12-18 months with the goal of transitioning to the 2021-24 strategic plan as soon as possible. The updated plan focuses on many initiatives around athlete and member wellness, growing the sport, coaches and education and diversifying revenue.
Many of you have questions on how USA Fencing, our clubs and coaches and the sport of fencing will recover from this crisis. While we don’t have all the answers as we face many uncertainties if you have questions or feedback, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I remain confident that the fencing community will once again rise to the challenge of not only surviving, but thriving, by working together and honoring the core values of the organization – excellence, respect, teamwork, inclusion and passion.
USA Fencing CEO