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Process for Becoming a Referee

Becoming a referee has never been easier! The first thing to do is go down to your local club. When you see two people fencing, ask them if they would like a referee and when they say, “Yes, please!” go ahead and jump right in. That’s it, you’re a referee!

Of course, there is a great deal more to learn if you are interested in becoming a certified referee, but the first step is to jump in at the local level and referee informal bouts whenever you have the chance. Refereeing even informally among your clubmates can seem intimidating for many because nobody wants to make a mistake, but by practicing to referee you will learn the rules, as well as right of way and improve your own fencing along the way.

Hopefully, with some experience under your belt, you will make the choice to become a certified USA Fencing referee. There are multiple steps to getting your certification that are designed to help ensure a consistency among referees across the United States. Fencing is a constantly evolving sport, and there are always new and sometimes subtle changes in the way rules and convention are applied. The goal of certification is to help ensure all referees are working from the same knowledge base.

The steps involved in getting your certification are:

  1. Practice in your club at every opportunity, and if possible find a local experienced referee or your coach to help mentor you.

  2. Read the Rulebook. Since the job of the referee is ensure a fair bout, you have to know the rules. Even if you decide not to become a referee, this step will make you a better fencer so you can advocate for yourself in case a referee misapplies a rule.

  3. Download the Referee Study Guide. Click on the link to find the updated study guide designed to help with passing the test as well as practical tips to help improve your refereeing. The study guide is laid out to create a learning environment from page one! It will help you conceptualize critical aspects of all three weapons. Get started today!

  4. Take a referee seminar. Certified Referee Instructors across the United States give refereeing seminars on a regular basis. All certified referees are expected to attend a seminar every two years. All currently scheduled referee seminars can be found here. In the "All Types" box, choose "Referee Seminars."

  5. Take the online exam. The test is divided into a general section, as well as weapon specific sections. There is a fee to take the exam, but if you fail, can retake the exam within the next 48 hours. Did you pass?  Congratulations, you just earned your first referee rating!

  6. Take a practical examination. By passing the test alone, you earn a P rating (for pass), but in order to earn a local/regional referee rating, you must pass a practical examination administered by a Referee Examiner.

  7. Get out there and ref! Refereeing is a skill that needs to be practiced. Offer to help at local tournaments and watch as much fencing as you can. Video footage of high level domestic fencing can be found on the USA Fencing Facebook page, and video of international bouts can be found on the FIE YouTube page. As you get better and more experienced, you should consider refereeing at the national level as well.

All USA Fencing referees must be a current member of USA Fencing and referees age 18 and over must purchase the +CheckEd add-on to complete a background check and Safesport training. The +CheckEd add-on can be purchased through your profile in the USA Fencing Membership Database. Referees under the age of 18 do not need the background check or Safesport training. However, upon turning 18 the referee must have the criminal background check and Safesport. A referee who is nearly his or her 18th birthday may contact the USA Fencing Safesport Coordinator to access the Safesport training so that it is completed on or by his or her 18th birthday. The criminal background check cannot be started until the referee has turned 18.