From the YMCA to a permanent facility!
This is just one approach when considering starting a new fencing club. If you are looking to open your own club, starting slowly with as little financial pressure as possible is a good idea.
In most cases, starting off slowly is in your best interest. Many successful clubs started in community/recreation centers with an arrangement that does not cost the club anything for use of the facility but does require a shared revenue structure.
Starting a club at a YMCA for example may work like this; You arrange to offer fencing for their membership which allows the YMCA to promote additional programs to their community. You might want to offer fencing 4 days a week and charge the fencers $75 for an introductory 6-week class held twice a week. The YMCA would receive their standard per person fee and you would keep the rest. Or, you could teach twice a week for 2 hours and run two classes within the two hours.
An important part of this relationship is the free marketing you would get from the YMCA. Your new fencing club would get promotion in all official YMCA communications. Most of these facilities have large distribution lists and would be very effective ways to get the word out about your club. This combined with positive word of mouth will allow you to maintain a constant membership at the level you want. If you would rather start at 8 person classes…that would mean potentially 16 total if you run two separate classes. Or, 2-3 classes per week may suffice.
By limiting the number of fencers in the initial stages of your plan, perhaps capping each class at 10 students, you can maintain a relatively low overhead on gear. In addition, by teaching one weapon, you can also start with limited outlay for gear. Strips can be simple lines on the floor in the facility. Assuming you are starting with beginner level training, full strips are not necessary at the start of these programs.
In general, start-ups are “one-person shows.” This is necessary to keep costs down and to allow you as the owner to fully dive into the club without worrying about staff. If you do have a partner or assistant who is prepared to coach, it is important to be on the same page in regards to finances. In short, making money out of the gate is not realistic so if you have additional staff, they need to be aligned with your long term goals and understand that the beginning is the hard part financially and otherwise.
Insurance and USA Fencing club membership-
Another positive is the YMCA may allow you to participate in their insurance programs. If this is the case, you do not need to require USA Fencing membership. While USA Fencing would very much like your club to be a USA Fencing member club, this may not necessary at first. If you need insurance coverage, you should then consider joining USA Fencing for a comprehensive insurance package.
USA Fencing individual Membership-
We would strongly recommend the coach to become a Coach Member with USA Fencing. This allows you to promote your relationship with the National Governing Body for the sport and, included with that, promote you being a fully compliant USA Fencing coach including current background check and Safe Sport training. People want to know the club owner’s commitment to continuing education and safety and by being a member and being a member with current safety certifications is a great start. If you participate as a Member Club, you are required to have all members as current USA Fencing members. The entry point is only $10 which can be baked in to the class fee or even absorbed by you to start.
This is just one of many ways that fencing clubs have gotten their start. Perhaps the best part of this approach is it allows you to constantly evaluate your plan without tremendous financial pressure. If you do things right, you will realize a significant uptick in interest which can signal a time to consider moving into a leased permanent space. You will have learned a lot while hosting classes at the YMCA 9or similar facility) and you will be prepared to take the next step in your club ownership.
For questions or additional information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Below you will find "How One Club Got Started" by Henry G. Fiorentini, a text document with accompanying forms. This is the story of how Mr. Fiorentini started Blade Masters, a club for junior high students, an enjoyable and informative step by step for new and existing clubs. Many thanks to Mr. Fiorentini for providing this wonderful information!
You can also download and read an article series about how to start a high school club and then how to become a varsity club that appeared in American Fencing magazine.
If you have tips you would like to share about starting a club at your school, please email them to Bob Bodor at email@example.com.