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Fencing the Gap Initiative Aimed at Increasing Access to the Olympic and Paralympic Sport of Fencing

12/14/2022, 7:00am CST
By Bryan Wendell

USA Fencing and All Kids Play are partnering on a new initiative specifically targeted at increasing the numbers of BIPOC youth, youth girls and youth with disabilities in fencing.

2023 Update

Update, Nov. 10, 2023: To learn how to apply for Fencing the Gap programs for the 2023-24 season, visit this article.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Somewhere in a classroom in an under-resourced community in this country sits a future Olympic or Paralympic fencing champion.

All that young person needs is a chance — an open door and an invitation. And that’s just what we plan to provide.

So begins the unflinching dream of Fencing the Gap, a new initiative from USA Fencing aimed at increasing access to our sport through scholarships, mini-grants, and incentives for athletes, coaches and clubs.

The underlying focus: boosting the numbers of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) youth, youth girls and youth with disabilities in our sport.

To help us reach this goal, USA Fencing is proud to partner with All Kids Play, a national nonprofit that provides financial assistance to communities lacking sufficient resources and provides education on safe and healthy sport-related play.  

"All Kids Play is very excited to be partnering with USA Fencing to ensure the growth of youth fencing in the U.S. by providing increased access to fencing to underserved student-athletes who are currently under-represented in fencing,” says Jason Schmitz, executive director and founder of All Kids Play. “All Kids Play and USA Fencing are aligned in our shared belief that the numerous life skills learned in fencing will propel student-athletes toward future success in all aspects of life.”

In a recent survey of USA Fencing members, respondents called for intentional action by USA Fencing to increase representation at all levels of the sport — athletes, coaches, referees, staff, board members and beyond. Fencing the Gap is the latest big step in that direction.

“Statements and words of support in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are important, but they’re just the beginning,” says Phil Andrews, CEO of USA Fencing. “If you want to affect real change within the sport, you have to put your money where your mouth is.”

Fencing the Gap will begin in the 2023-24 season with applications opening on Jan. 1, 2023.

One Initiative, Many Programs

Fencing the Gap encompasses a number of programs, including:

Fencing the Gap Support Fund 

The fund offers ten scholarships, each worth $1,000, to fencing clubs or individuals to provide financial assistance for BIPOC individuals to get into or continue in the sport of fencing.

Clubs must complete the online application and explain how the scholarship will help support the success of the athlete(s). 

Applications open Oct. 9, 2023, and will be awarded on a rolling basis.  

Community Impact Mini-Grant

The mini-grant is designed to increase competitive opportunities for clubs to engage youth in the sport of fencing. Ten awards of up to $2,000 each will help clubs provide programming to under-resourced communities, support coaches with diverse backgrounds and create opportunities for potential athletes who may not have had access to the fencing pipeline. 

Applications open Oct. 9, 2023, at this link.

Diverse Coaches Mini-Grant 

This mini-grant will help grow the sport of fencing by introducing new coaches from diverse backgrounds to the sport. Three awards up to $2,000 each will be given to coaches or clubs to support efforts to train and develop new coaches from diverse backgrounds. 

This grant can serve as a method for current clubs to raise funds by hosting clinics in their local communities, while also strategically engaging individuals from under-represented groups. 

Applications open Oct. 9, 2023, at this link.

GRACE Program

This program was developed to assist USA Fencing members and families who find themselves in an unforeseen financial bind that prevents their participation in USA Fencing national competitions. This may include a sudden loss of income or an injury, illness or crisis affecting the fencer, their partner/spouse, their dependent child/child(ren) or others.

Fencers and their families can apply for a competition fee waiver (tournament fee, admin fee, event fee) for nationally sanctioned events. A maximum of 10 waivers will be awarded per North American Cup (NAC). 

We recognize that fencing can present financial barriers for those interested and currently competing in the sport, as such, the GRACE program is a step towards our commitment to making fencing a sport for all.

Applications are now OPEN, at this link!

Club Incentive program 

This program will reward fencing clubs who are intentional with educating, engaging and empowering youth from diverse populations (BIPOC, youth girls, youth with disabilities).

Clubs will be invited to apply to receive waivers for select USA Fencing expenses. Clubs will be selected for the program on a rolling basis and will be selected at the discretion of the selection committee. 

In order to be considered, clubs must demonstrate how they are currently providing service and support to members from the aforementioned populations. Eligible applicants will receive incentives like:

  • Annual club membership (also allows club access to free USA Fencing insurance)

  • Five coach membership fees

  • Five registrations for team events at NACs 

  • Ten USA Fencing membership fees 

Targeted Cities for Growth

We’ve identified select cities where we will pilot a program that brings fencing to diverse communities through partnerships with local school districts, parks and recreation departments, and sport development organizations.

At launch, those target cities include Los Angeles, Chicago, Columbus, the Bronx and others that can support the development of the sport. Look for more details about this program soon.

Tag(s): Updates