skip navigation

USA Fencing Coaching Education Program: Myths, Facts and a ‘Nostra Culpa’

08/17/2023, 4:45pm CDT
By Bryan Wendell

While we agree that more detailed reminders would've been helpful during the program's rollout, we stand behind the rationale of the Coaching Education Program itself.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Coaches, we’ve heard your feedback about the new Coach Education Program, and we want to start by agreeing that we could’ve handled the rollout better. We’re learning from that and say “nostra culpa” — our fault.

While we’ve been providing big-picture hints about this program for around a year — in our member newsletter, renewal confirmation emails to Coach and +Coach members, the monthly 5 Minutes with Phil newsletter, a specific announcement in May and elsewhere — we agree that more frequent and detailed reminders to coaches would’ve been helpful prior to the launch of the program, especially between our full announcement in May and launch in August.

We promise to incorporate that feedback into future communication.

Over the past year, USA Fencing has made strides to improve how we communicate to and receive feedback from members. Look for even more ways to give feedback soon, but in the meantime, you’re always welcome to contact our CEO at or our general inbox at We also have a suggestion box and welcome in-person feedback at a national tournament.

That said, we stand behind the rationale of the Coaching Education Program itself. We understand that compulsory sport training requirements that we, like you, must undertake can feel onerous. But with that said, the full course where you are not exempted is about four hours and can be completed over a 90-day period. We hope you can find value in those four hours.

Speaking of, instead of taking the course in one four-hour sitting, we recommend completing it at a slower pace — an hour a week over the course of four weeks will see you complete the certification within the 90-day requirement and well in time for the October NAC.

We’ve heard, albeit more privately, thankful feedback from coaches and club owners who value having “USA Fencing-certified” coaches at their club. Additional coaches, even those with decades of experience, have told us they found value in the modules.

So far, approximately 15% of coaches who were Coach or +Coach members last season have completed the certification. Around 50% have begun the certification process but not yet finished.

One item we do want to emphasize is that your insurance for your club is valid while this process is completed — this has been a rumor that is essential to dispel.

With that said, we’ve already heard your feedback in this first year and have extended the days to complete the program to 90 days. We’re actively engaged in looking at other objective ways we can exempt more experienced coaches from Module 4: Foundations of Fencing, while satisfying regulatory requirements around basic safety and cultural items.

Why We Believe in Coach Education

We established the Coach Education Program for several reasons:

  1. It establishes a base level of safety and culture. As it stands right now, we have no way to differentiate between who is a Coach and who is not — other than their membership classification. This causes major problems for our insurance carriers and for partners in certifying organizations such as the USOPC (U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee) and U.S. Center for SafeSport. It’s not impossible to imagine a future in which, without a minimum standard in place, we may be challenged to acquire insurance. In fact, this year, our insurers required that we create a minimum certification standard.
  2. We’re about making USA Fencing the best it can be. As we go forward, we want to support our coaches with opportunities to grow and learn from each other. The 2023-2024 CFEUs (Continuing Fencing Education Units) give fencing coaches the ability to choose their pathway. USA Fencing’s athletes and coaches have proven what happens when we innovate together: We win. Just look at how we changed the world in foil or have become a world player in saber as just two examples of this diversity of thought in action. We also want to see modern coaches supporting U.S. athletes, upholding their mental health, teaching them life skills and building a lifelong love for this sport.
  3. It protects the diversity of coaching in the U.S. There’s no “American method” of fencing, and that’s by design. When we built this program, USA Fencing considered three options, outlined below. As you’ll see, we chose Option C.
    1. A full, in-person education program which would require several days of training and specify an American model of fencing.
    2. Fully outsourcing our coaching education to the USFCA (who later became a strategic partner)
    3. Establishing a minimum base standard and allowing our coaches across the nation to build from there using a Continuing Education program.
  4. Members, and parents, want it. Fencers, as well as their parents or family members, expect that when they show up at their fencing club, all the coaches there meet or exceed minimum certification and safety standards. We’ve seen and heard this as a priority through our membership survey and club surveys.
  5. The USA Fencing Strategic Plan requires it. The Board, through its strategic plan built and refined over the past years, has been asking USA Fencing’s staff to work with top coaches to create a Coaching Education Program. That time has finally come, and the 2022-23 Board was actively involved in the route we chose.
  6. It stresses athlete safety. If there’s one common thread running through our Coaching Education Program, it’s not “here’s the one way to give a fencing lesson” or “here’s a parry 4.” It’s that nothing is more important than the safety of our fencers — a reminder that applies both to local, regional and national tournaments and to weekly lessons at the club.

Myths vs. Facts



Myth: The program was created exclusively by USA Fencing staff.

Fact: The program was created in direct consultation with some of the nation’s top coaches, and overseen by a technical group that included NCAA head coaches and U.S. National Team Coaches, or their designees.


This approach allowed us to create a program that was less demanding on coaches time and required no in-person instruction.

Myth: The program teaches coaches specifics about how to coach fencing.

Fact: The program ensures that all coaches meet a minimum standard of safety. We aren’t teaching coaches one standard way of coaching or mandating a “standard approach” to certain attacks. We’re just ensuring that all coaches who call themselves “USA Fencing certified” have met minimum requirements.

Myth: Coaches will need to find a four-hour block of time to complete the program.

Fact: We don’t recommend that coaches complete all their modules in a single sitting, and we’ve given coaches plenty of time to complete the training on their schedule. Furthermore, experienced coaches don’t have to watch every repetition of a given skill. In other words, a coach can watch a video in its entirety or decide that viewing one repetition of a given skill is sufficient for their understanding and skip past the repeated portions.

Myth: USA Fencing is forcing me down a required certification pathway.

Fact: Coaches are required to meet a minimum standard in the first year.

After a coach has completed their first year, they have the flexibility to earn their continued fencing education units CFEUs from a variety of vendors, coaches and clubs who offer coach education. USA Fencing will offer exclusive member-only education that will count toward this CFEU requirement. 

Myth: Other sports don’t require coach education.

Fact: Most sports organizations and national governing bodies have coach education requirements. For example:

USA Swimming: Coaching Membership Requirements Checklist (
USA Track & Field: Education Standard | USA Track & Field (
USA Taekwondo: USA Taekwondo | Coach Registration ( 


Similarly, fencing federations around the world who operate in similar regulatory environments have similar requirements for their coaches.


We’ve taken inspiration from the USOPC’s own Coaching Education Department, which offers this statement:


The USOPC coaching education department encourages coaches at all levels of sport in America to become continual learners in terms of growing their abilities for both core knowledge and their sport-specific understanding. Through the development and delivery of resources and practical application of research based educational programming, and strong NGB partner relationships the USOPC coaching education department believes sport in America will advance and grow the number of podium potential athletes.

Myth: Longtime coaches shouldn’t need additional education.

Fact: Even the most experienced coaches should strive to be lifelong learners. While they may not need to know the foundations of footwork or weapon-specific skills, there is still something to learn. (Reminder to many high-level coaches: You can be exempt from Module 4 by completing this form.)  After the first year, our emphasis will be on continuing education, where coaches can focus on a specific area or even create their own course and coach new and upcoming coaches (while earning a little extra money along the way). 

Myth: Coaches will need to complete these modules and the supplemental Sexual Harassment Prevention Training that was required in the 2022-2023 season.

Fact: We're making some updates to our Supplemental Athlete Safety Training (i.e. the 2022-23 Sexual Harassment Prevention Training) that was required for coaches at national events last season. For those still needing to meet that requirement, completion of the Coaching Education Program, specifically the Creating a Culture of Belonging course, will satisfy this season's additional athlete safety requirements.

Myth: Coaches that consistently produce top-level fencers whose students reach high levels regionally, domestically, collegiately and internationally, will need to complete every module, even the one covering fencing-specific knowledge.

Fact: Former and current NCAA head and assistant coaches, and former and current USA Fencing National Team coaches (inclusive of personal coaches who have appeared at an FIE World Championship or World Junior & Cadet Championship), any USFCA certified coach or any coach certified by a foreign body or whom has a degree in coaching or related subjects can apply for an exemption to Module 4 (Foundations of Fencing).

Myth: Coaches will need to complete these same modules year after year.

Fact: After completing these first-year modules, the coaching education requirements shift to  Continued Fencing Education Units, also known as CFEUs. 

These CFEUs will help coaches pursue their passion of becoming lifelong learners as they learn from each other. 


We’re going to require all coaches to complete CFEUs moving forward, ensuring that our diverse and experienced coaches can share what they know as we raise the bar for all coaches in the country. 


For coaches who help teach these modules, CFEUs create a revenue opportunity and a chance to teach newer coaches.


There will be both fencing-specific and non-fencing-specific CEFUs available. Our goal is to make U.S. Fencing the best it can be, and we believe this market-led route is the way that can be achieved.

Myth: Completion of Module 4 (Foundations of Fencing) is optional.

Fact: Completion of Module 4 (Foundations of Fencing), along with other athlete safety requirements, is required to coach at USA Fencing national tournaments. 


Coaches planning to coach at the October NAC should note that they will not be able to pick up their coach credential until the course is marked as complete — either via course completion or exemption.

Myth: Club insurance is invalid while coaches complete their Coach Education Program requirements.

Fact: Club insurance remains valid while coaches complete their Coach Education Program requirements. 

Myth: USA Fencing, the USFCA and/or some other third party stand to see a financial gain from the launch of the Coaching Education Program.

Fact: The Coaching Education Program is not a money-making endeavor, and USA Fencing asks for no money from coaches beyond their annual membership fee. In fact, the addition of this program is an additional benefit provided to coaches as part of those fees. And USA Fencing is one of the only (if not the only) national governing body that doesn't charge extra for its coaching certification program, thanks in large part to funding from the Susan Crown Exchange Million Coaches Challenge grant.

Myth: The Coach Education Program is in competition with the offerings of the U.S. Fencing Coaches’ Association.

Fact: Earlier this year, USA Fencing entered a strategic partnership with the USFCA, and we have exempted those currently certified by the USFCA from Module 4. 


The USFCA is also the first approved CFEU provider, and as part of our agreement reviewed the material and provided materials that were approved by our technical team.

We continue to value our partnership with the USFCA and look forward to an exciting future with the group.


Tag(s): Updates