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Six Clubs Named 2022-23 Club Of Excellence Honorees

08/31/2023, 6:00pm CDT
By Nicole Kirk

Clubs from Washington state, Georgia, Oregon, California, New York and Texas were selected for 2022-23 Club of Excellence honors.

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. - At USA Fencing, we take the time to recognize these wonderful clubs through the Club of Excellence Program, showcasing all the wonderful things they do for their members and the overall fencing community. 

The 2022-23 honorees include a club in Washington that grew their membership despite two physical shutdowns due to the pandemic, a club in Georgia who is present at Sports Day at local middle schools and other festivals to showcase the sport to the community, and a club in Oregon  that revamped their website to make it easier to navigate and learn about all they offer.

These three clubs were among the six selected as Clubs of Excellence, meaning they receive a Club of Excellence banner, 30% off their club renewal fee and recognition on the USA Fencing website (in this story!).

The USA Fencing Club of Excellence Program began in 2015 as a way to honor the outstanding work being done at the grassroots level to grow and sustain fencing. The program is an acknowledgment that every successful fencing journey begins when a fencer opens the door to their local club for the first time.

The 2022-23 Club of Excellence honorees are:

  • Community Outreach: Dunwoody Fencing Club

  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging: Alliance Fencing Academy

  • Marketing and Communication: Northwest Fencing Club 

  • Membership Programming: Kaizen Academy

  • Youth Programming: Academy of Fencing Masters

  • Veteran Programming: Manhattan Fencing Center

Community Outreach: Dunwoody Fencing Club

Atlanta, Ga.

Owners: Kathy Vail 

The Dunwoody Fencing Club (DFC) has become a huge part of their community as they provide fencing demonstrations and instruction on Sports Day at local middle schools. The staff at Dunwoody Fencing Club has introduced fencing at the local Shakespeare Festival of Youth. They also engage with the community as they encourage their own fencers to dine in local restaurants and shop locally.

The club has also engaged with local organizations to help the community. They have worked with Family Promise to provide activities for homeless families, Great Prospects, a care program for adults with special needs, where DFC offered Tai Chi exercise instruction during their program, and DFC collects supplies to assist Lutheran Braille Workers.

DFC has supported the Sandy Springs Mission by collecting Goldfish Crackers every November for the past six years. The mission provides lunch and snacks for students in need during school holidays and breaks. DFC also holds summer camps open at the local high schools, and have established good relationships with administrators and teachers. This has led to DFC donating lessons to local schools and community organizations for raffles and fundraising opportunities.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging: Alliance Fencing Academy

Houston, Texas

Owner: Andrey Geva

Alliance Fencing Academy welcomes all fencers regardless of their religion, race, political affiliation, social status, gender, sexual orientation, etc. As a result of their approach of opening doors to everyone, Alliance has six female coaches and eight male, all three staff members are female, and the coaches have a variety of diverse backgrounds.

Alliance opens its door for everyone regardless of their race, or religion. They advertise the club in multiple different languages. With Houston being such a diverse city, Alliance has fencers of all backgrounds. 

Two of Alliance’s coaches are former and current National Team coaches which attracts and retains fencers itself.

Marketing and Communication: Northwest Fencing Center

Tigard, Ore.

Executive Director: Michael McTigue

Northwest Fencing Center (NWFC) has made their mark in the marketing space as they send weekly emails to members and bi-weekly emails to “friends” who are on their mailing list via MailChimp. They also have panels throughout the club with important information that rotates as needed. Northwest Fencing Center recognizes their members fencing and personal achievements, holidays, and personal tips.

The club utilizes MailChimp, website analytics, Instagram and Facebook analytics, and they use member direct feedback. Northwest Fencing Center asks members to “get a more accurate read” on their pages. To make things even more engaging, the club updated their website for an easier view for a “non-member” to read and understand and then created a “member hub” which has what members are looking for quickly.

Growing the club is a major focus of NWFC and reflects in all of their posts. They make the newsletter a more formal post, but they keep their social media more on the fun and silly side to make it more engaging. The club has previously purchased ad space in event brochures, city-wide newspapers, school advertisements, and online ads. 

NWFC added themselves to the Portland Community College class course, and it resulted in their classes becoming completely full! Portland has a rich history of fencing where NWFC has proudly displayed on their website.

Membership Programming: Kaizen Academy

Redmond, Wash.

Owner: Kevin Mar

Kaizen Academy is about future leadership development. Whatever place you are in life: They have a place for you. Kaizen Academy has grown their club in spite of two physical shutdowns due to the pandemic.

They listened to their membership base, and added classes. They added a mom’s class, adult only classes, women’s only training, monthly cookie challenges, referee clinics, armory clinics, Kaizen Kohort (training USFCA coaches), and team building for corporate clients. Five of the eight Kaizen Kohorts they have trained are women. They added more classes to build a deeper pipeline for competitive fencers. The membership of Kaizen has responded with increased retention and supporting each other as they each grow in their fencing experience.

Kaizen uses the local community centers to do outreach. They reach out through schools with demos. Kaizen markets to our client base and does organic social media that our members want to repost to their friends. This draws in new warm leads to the academy and they teach a unique trial class that has dramatically drawn in students. This change alone had an 80% sign up rate. Their beginning camps are geared for fun and showing how they teach as opposed to "making" a fencer in a week.

If future fencers have fun, they will come back. Kaizen especially emphasizes this in their beginning classes. The Kaizen Kohort role is to see how students are doing and develop relationships with new students. They introduce them to other students who are similar to one another so they can develop natural friendships. They have parties throughout the year so different subsets of students can meet each other. This cross pollination of newer students with senior students helps when the younger ones are having a hard time with motivation.

Youth Programming: Academy of Fencing Masters

Campbell, Calif.
Owners: Irina and Igor Chirashnya

Youth fencers need people around them who believe in them and who see them as whole people, not just cogs in a spinning wheel. As a club, their role is to nurture and fuel kids’ energy by sharing our passion, providing ample support, and creating a space where young fencers can flourish.
The love for fencing among youth fencers stems from the energy it provides. As a club, we are committed to fueling that passion through our own dedication, unwavering support, and creating a nurturing environment. At AFM, we empower young athletes to find fulfillment, excitement, and personal growth in their fencing journey. Together, we create a vibrant community where youth fencers can thrive, build lasting connections, and embrace the joys of this captivating sport.

Retaining youth fencers goes beyond just coaching and training. Academy of Fencing Masters invests in fencers growth , making sure they feel valued in the club and in the wider fencing community. They use valuing personal growth, investing in the whole child, logistical support, building a supportive community, and consistent resources and practices to retain their youth members.

In the world of youth fencing, it is crucial to recognize that young fencers do not exist in isolation. At AFM, they place great importance on ensuring that parents feel supported throughout their child's fencing journey. We provide a comprehensive online platform that offers resources for new fencing parents, complementing our recruitment process. Additionally, our new parent orientations serve as a testament to our commitment to recruiting through active support. By fostering connections with parents, we often find that siblings end up on the strip when one child in the family decides to explore fencing.

AFM  understands that stepping into the world of fencing can be overwhelming, especially for newcomers and their families. That's why they have prioritized building a robust online presence and offering consistent support to parents. Their website serves as a valuable resource, providing comprehensive information tailored to address the specific needs and concerns of fencing parents. For those seeking guidance and reassurance, our blog offers a helpful platform to navigate the intricacies of fencing parenting.

Veteran Programming: Manhattan Fencing Center

New York, New York

Owner: Yury Gelman

The Manhattan Fencing Center (MFC) prioritizes veteran fencers by providing tailored options such as adult-only classes, sleep away camp weekends, clinics, and early morning training sessions. They understand their preference to train as a cohesive group and avoid being mixed with teenagers.

The MFC veteran community is the heart and soul of our club, as they remain dedicated year-round, participating in all holidays, summer, and winter breaks. Their unwavering commitment makes them the backbone of our thriving fencing community.

MFC has taken proactive measures to ensure they cater to their veterans' needs and preferences. After sending out several polls and feedback request messages, we carefully analyzed the responses received. As a result, MFC has made significant improvements to their class experience. MFC’s focus has shifted towards emphasizing strategy and fencing techniques while reducing the emphasis on conditioning. Additionally, they brought in new coaching staff to provide fresh perspectives and enhanced expertise during their sessions.

In an effort to enhance their overall experience, MFC has also taken financial considerations into account. They have lowered prices to make our services more accessible and issued guest passes to encourage a sense of community and inclusivity.

MFC’s primary goal is to create an environment that fosters growth and enjoyment for their valued veterans. Rest assured, they are continuously working to refine and optimize our offerings based on their feedback and evolving needs.

Tag(s): Updates