COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Fencing’s unpredictability is one of the things people love most about the sport. On any given day, any one fencer could defeat any other fencer.
As it turns out, that unpredictability isn’t limited to what happens on the strip. It also applies to the fine art of planning USA Fencing national tournaments.
That’s the primary reason why the exact start times for specific events — aka check-in times — are posted after the regular entry fee deadline for a USA Fencing national tournament.
Some in our community have asked why these times can’t be shared earlier, so we thought we’d answer that question in this edition of “Ask USA Fencing.”
(In a previous edition of “Ask USA Fencing,” we explained our refund policy and why it was created.)
There are several types of schedules at play with a USA Fencing national tournament.
There’s our overall national calendar, which shows the dates each tournament will be held.
Next, within each tournament there are what we call day schedules. That’s a look at which events will be held on each day. These are released at the beginning of the season (with the exception of Summer Nationals) and have already been posted on their respective tournament pages.
Day schedules are important because they help fencers and their families know which day (or days) their event(s) will be held.
The final piece of the puzzle is event check-in times — a daily schedule of when each event will start on its given day (9 a.m., 1 p.m., etc.).
Speaking of puzzle pieces, the event check-in schedule really is a puzzle, and the pieces are never the same from one tournament to the next or one year to the next.
When trying to create a schedule that is as efficient as possible, the team factors in things like:
How many fencers are signed up for each event
Strip availability and maximizing use of available strips
Ending the competition day at a reasonable time (no 11 p.m. bouts, please!)
Avoiding large gaps during the day where fencing isn’t happening
That first point — the number of fencers in a given event — is the primary reason why we don’t release check-in times until registrations are mostly done (after the regular entry fee deadline).
Doing so ensures that we put together a schedule for each tournament that is as efficient and fencer-friendly as possible.
Once a draft of the check-in schedule is created, it’s reviewed by our internal staff, as well as representatives from the Tournament Committee and the Referees Commission, before being posted on the tournament webpage and shared on social media.
We often get asked why this process can’t be completed before the registration deadline. The argument being that we could look at registration numbers from previous years and use those to estimate entries for this year.
That would work well in theory, but in practice, that plan falls apart.
Last year, for example, we changed the event combinations for our NACs (North American Cups), which made it easier for fencers to compete in multiple events. This caused registrations to grow at a rate we likely wouldn’t have anticipated.
Had we tried to predict those numbers before regular-fee registration closed, we might have encountered a difficult situation. For example, an event scheduled to start at 1 p.m. might have been so large that it didn’t end until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.
Because day schedules are released at the beginning of the season, we recommend that families plan to arrive the day before their first competition day and depart the day after. Given the risk of delayed or canceled flights, this approach minimizes both risk and stress.
It also can be cheaper. This way, families can buy tickets farther in advance — often resulting in more options and getting tickets at a lower fare than if they had waited until event check-in times are released.
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