(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – USA Fencing is pleased to announce the five clubs which earned Club of Excellence honors for the 2018-19 season, exemplifying incredible dedication to their membership and the sport of fencing.
The third year of the program, the Club of Excellence Program recognizes clubs that show outstanding commitment to retaining members while also creatively attracting new members to the sport.
Each year, five clubs are selected based on excellence in the following categories: membership retention and growth; diversity and women’s programming; youth development; marketing, sponsorship, website and social media; and collegiate club.
The winning clubs are as follows:
Each club was recognized on the finals strip at the USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge in St. Louis and receives a Club of Excellence banner, 25 percent off its club renewal for next season and recognition in American Fencing magazine.
More information on each club can be found below.
Retention and Growth: Music City Fencing Club
Owner: Robert Piraino
Founded in 2014, Music City Fencing Club’s membership has grown to over 100 fencers and nearly 60 were first-year members this season. Recruiting through social media and networking, the club makes sure to be informative on their website and quickly respond to questions, resulting in over 70 percent of new prospects becoming members.
Interested fencers can use the Trial Membership Program to give the sport a try before committing to a membership and the club has a promotional package for new fencers, which includes a free starter gear kit for a new fencer who registers for either three months of group classes (two per week) or three months of group classes (one per week) with three private lessons.
To keep members engaged, Music City Fencing Club uses a level system, which increases motivation, interest and the competitive spirit to advance to the next level, as well as rewards fencers for improvement. Club members also are offered a 20-35 percent discount on club products and services.
Diversity and Women’s Programming: Mid-South Fencers’ Club
Owner: Jennifer Oldham
The Mid-South Fencers’ Club maintains an inclusive environment for all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, ability and background. The club has a non-discrimination policy as well as a policy to ensure parents and spectators are respectful. With a diverse staff, the club works to use gender neutral pronouns, provide a private place for prayer, recognize holidays from various religions and listen as members share their experiences. In addition, the club has proven examples that somebody can succeed regardless of ethnicity as their top fencers are non-Caucasian.
Females are encouraged to be proud of who they are through the Fence Like a Girl! camps. These camps, designed for females of all skill levels ages 8-16, not only teach fencing, but fighting and helping each girl reach her potential. In addition, strong female leadership at the club gives an example to the young girls.
Wheelchair fencing is offered at Mid-South Fencers’ Club and all levels of able-bodiedness are welcomed. The club is wheelchair accessible with a regulation wheelchair platform and last May, the club supported the USA Fencing wheelchair demo at the Valor Games Southeast. The club also partnered with the local Paralympic Sport group since 2012.
Youth Development: Nellya Fencers
Throughout the summer, Nellya Fencers holds camps for beginners, which allows new fencers to try the sport, and children can try the sport through the Trial Membership Program. Year round, there is a beginner class using plastic equipment, offering kids the opportunity to learn the rules and participate at the club before deciding to join a higher-level class.
At Nellya Fencers, the club offers a flat rate for group classes, where members can practice as much or as little as they’d like. Private lessons can be scheduled in addition to the group class, allowing each person to design a schedule that best suits their needs.
During the school year, coaches from Nellya Fencers travel to local elementary schools to expose kids to fencing and allow them to give the sport a try. The club also has special classes during the day for homeschoolers and advertises these classes via social media and online homeschool forums.
Marketing, Sponsorship, Website and Social Media: Bergen Fencing Club
Owner: Oleg Stetsiv
Through social media, Bergen Fencing Club has brought together old and new members and posting accomplishments at all levels – from NAC podium to Y10 local competition results to camp photos – makes everyone feel important and included.
Taking advantage of Facebook’s marketing tools and promotion campaigns, Bergen Fencing Club has been able to advertise to targeted audience, promoting its camps and clinics to users with children near the club.
After the club realized it wasn’t showing up at the top of a Google search in 2017, Bergen Fencing Club redesigned its site to ensure it was not only searchable, but mobile friendly and informative for new members.
Collegiate Club: Michigan State University Fencing Club
East Lansing, Mich.
At Michigan State University, the fencing club has created a strong family-like atmosphere. The club has 50 to 60 members – including 15 who are fencing for the first time – with approximately 35 consistently attending practice. The membership has nearly doubled this season as the club had 30 members in 2016-17. In addition, many alumni return each year to the alumni tournament.
To recruit, the club hangs flyers all over campus and uses street art. It participates in club showcases held by the university and holds fencing demonstrations.
The team practices four times a week in a university gym. Club equipment is provided and the club tries to purchase new gear every other year. Team captains lead the practices while the coach gives the framework for instruction.
As the club receives no funding from the school, members of the Michigan State University Fencing Club volunteer at home football games and host an annual alumni tournament.
Members of the club compete at both USA Fencing and collegiate tournaments. In 2017, Michigan State hosted the Club Fencing Championships.