Scenes from the Columbus debut of the Fencing for Everyone initiative. (Photo by Shannon Jolly)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Armed with plastic swords, practice masks and easy-to-wear chest protectors, a group of Columbus teachers got their first taste of fencing earlier this month.
And, judging from the reactions of those in attendance, it’s safe to say it won’t be their last as they’re now equipped to show what they know to students who might never have otherwise tried the sport.
That was the scene in Columbus, Ohio, at the official launch of USA Fencing’s Fencing for Everyone initiative, powered by Leon Paul. This new program (part of Fencing the Gap) aims to make the sport of fencing more accessible by bringing it to cities across the United States through school programs and parks and recreation departments.
“We're excited to be doing this important work alongside Leon Paul,” says Shannon Jolly, USA Fencing’s Senior Manager of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. “In order to grow our sport, we have to make sure it’s accessible, and this initiative is our commitment to doing so”
It’s a reminder that an individual’s first “touchpoint” with fencing doesn’t need to include ready-for-competition equipment. A plastic sword and a patient instructor can do the trick.
The Columbus program had more than 30 teachers in attendance, and local organizers will start with 200 sets of equipment to pilot fencing programs in physical education classes at schools, including many in under-resourced areas.
That number grew to 200 after a generous donor matched the 100 sets of equipment originally provided by Leon Paul.
But Fencing for Everyone is about more than equipment.
Once interested partners have been identified, USA Fencing will facilitate a "Train-the-Trainer" workshop, where we’ll teach local staffers or facilitators how to run a 10-week introductory fencing curriculum.
After this workshop, we’ll give these stakeholders the curriculum and free fencing equipment to introduce the sport to their respective student groups. And, we hope, it will only grow from there. If a student shows a particular interest in fencing, we’ll connect them with a nearby fencing club that can provide additional educational support and pathways into competitive fencing.
Columbus is only the beginning. Next, we’ll continue to identify new markets where Fencing for Everyone will flourish.
Fencing Demo: We’ll invite local clubs to host a fencing demonstration(s) to increase awareness and engage youth with the sport.
Identify School/Parks & Rec Programs: We’ll identify interested schools and/or parks and recreation departments to implement training workshops and a curriculum roll-out plan to pilot fencing programs.
Intro to Fencing Curriculum: USA Fencing and Leon Paul will facilitate an interactive training workshop to introduce the fencing curriculum. Participants will be given a workbook and virtual curriculum with instructor videos.
Fencing Starter Kits: Participating programs will receive the appropriate amount of fencing equipment to launch a program. The kits will include masks, vests, and plastic weapons.
Launch the Program: Now comes the fun part! After the program is launched, USA Fencing will have check-ins to monitor progress. Neighboring fencing clubs will also be invited to provide additional educational support to instructors and students.
Evaluate: Once the curriculum is complete, USA Fencing will work with the partnering programs to assess outcomes and address areas of opportunity to enhance the fencing experience for future student groups.
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