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Five Fencing Clubs Honored for Excellence to Membership and Sport

06/20/2016, 2:45pm CDT
By Bill Kellick

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - In its inaugural year, USA Fencing’s Club of Excellence Program is pleased to honor five fencing clubs across the country for exemplifying excellence to their membership and to the sport. The winners , who will be formally recognized on June 29 at this year’s USA Fencing Summer National Championships in Dallas, Texas. 

This year’s honorees  were selected for their creative work to attract new fencers to the sport while also retaining longtime members.

USA Fencing congratulates the following winners on their achievements:

2016 Club of Excellence in Diversity and Women’s Programming
Winter Garden Fencing Academy (Region 6)
Winter Garden, Florida
Owner: Jason and Jennifer Seachrist

The Winter Garden Fencing Academy has been family-oriented since its humble beginning in 2005. When social gatherings are hosted, WGFA encourages all of its families to contribute from their own culture. Tolerance and respect is what they promote and expect from all their fencers and families.

It is very important to WGFA to be more than just a place to learn fencing. While winning tournaments and being competitive is always a great way to be recognized, a commitment to appropriate behavior, knowledge of rules and regulations, respect and overall sportsmanship is expected at all times.

The WGFA hosts the state’s sole women-only tournament each season. The Black Widow tournament is a fun and spirited competition for fencers from across the Sunshine State. Press releases from WGFA include the successes of its ladies, and its website clearly displays the strength of the female members and the pride the team holds in them.

Inclusion is also a big part of WGFA. The club currently has fencers and families from many races, cultures and religions, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu. Ethnicity and cultures among club members include Latin, Hispanic, Asian, mixed-race and black. Even with the diversity, the WGFA remains one family.

In addition, the WGFA family includes successful fencers who have sensory integration dysfunction, Tourette syndrome and various levels of autism. Any fencer with special needs is accommodated and included, but not singled-out as “disabled."

2016 Club of Excellence in Youth Development
Rhode Island Fencing Academy and Club (Region 3)
Providence, Rhode Island
Owner: Alex and Jill Ripa

Founded in 1994, the Rhode Island Fencing Academy and Club currently has approximately 300 youth fencers between ages 6-14, and the club welcomes about 20 new youth students into their programs every eight weeks.

The club's youth program consists of a clear development path for the young fencers to follow, starting with an eight-week beginner class. Aside from an outstanding community reputation, the Rhode Island Fencing Academy and Club feels that their website (www.rifac.com), which is dedicated toward attracting new fencers, is by far their best recruiting tool.

The eight-week beginner class costs $190 and includes use of equipment. New students are allowed to try their first class for free if they seem uncertain, but newcomers frequently register for the full beginner session seem to always end up registering after the first class. A club refund policy is also in place, but has not been needed in the past several years.

The club also offers programs at times that work for homeschooled students and their unique schedules, and provides many workshops and demos for homeschool groups in the community. The club’s community advertising includes billboards in two key neighborhoods as well as underwriting of the local NPR station that reaches a key target parent group.

Free demos and workshops at local schools are also conducted at least once a month and the club generously donates to school fundraisers and silent auctions. One of the best donations is a birthday party at the club which usually generates 10-12 potential new fencers.

2016 Collegiate Club of Excellence
University of Michigan (Region 2)
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Reigning USACFC Champions, the University of Michigan fields full squads every year and has one of the lowest dues for any club in the university. The club receives only 10 percent of their entire budget from the university but is still able to fun all travel expenses and finish the year with a surplus.

Successful fund-raising programs utilized by the club include the Giving Blue Day, a university-wide fundraising initiative that raised over $4,000, and alumni newsletters where the club updates Michigan alumni on their progress and tournament results, and provides a link to donate directly back to the club. In addition, the club utilizes two on-campus events – Festifall and the Recreational Sports Expo --– to recruit around 100 new students at the start of each school year.

A six-member officer board oversees the operations of the club, which recently changed to a co-President model where one focuses on training the team and recruiting and the other works on logistics. The club is currently focusing on long-term fundraising to set up a team endowment through the university.

The myriad events attended by the college club include the Junior Olympics, Holy Grail Excalibur, State Games of Michigan, OSU Open, Wayne State Open, Midwestern Fencing Conference Championships and USACFC National Championships.

2016 Club of Excellence in Marketing
Salle Green LLC (Region 3)
Glen Allen, Virginia
Owner: Walter Green

For Salle Green LLC, social media plays a key role in engaging members and their families, and in recognizing individuals. The club posts daily schedules on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, and regular newsletters portray a club that cares about its members.

Salle Green also utilizes website and social media best practices which are applicable to their operations and competitive business intelligence about factors such as pricing and program offerings. The club benefits from a prime location on a major highway, but also uses outreach to build awareness of fencing in the county.

To help the club continue to achieve excellence, a strategic plan was completed in October 2015 that established clear goals in membership, program quality, coaching and competitive success. Each month, the club tracks its progress toward plan accomplishments using key indicators.

2016 Club of Excellence in Membership
Academy of Fencing Masters (Region 4)
Campbell, California
Owner: Irina Chirashnya

The Academy of Fencing Masters opened in August of 2013 and in two and a half years grew to 120 members. The club’s philosophy revolves around great coaches, a great program, a great community of fencers and parents, and a lot of emphasis on education of the local community, including schools and businesses.

The club conducts a beginner fencing class which is a short, inexpensive, four-lesson program providing kids an opportunity to really explore fencing. All equipment is provided for beginners with the class.

The Academy of Fencing Masters strives to provide a great fencing education and create a fencing community where people feel they belong. With a strong belief that fencing is about a passion, the Academy of Fencing Masters seeks to create the best possible program with a supporting and trusting atmosphere for all fencers that generates a contagious feeling of passion and true belonging.

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