USA Fencing announced a new training camp designated to be open to the top Y14 fencers in the country and named this the “Future Stars” camp. The announcement produced a fairly large thread on the forums and lots of questions about the focus, nature, and direction of such a camp.
The USA Future Stars program is part of an overall vision for fencer and coaching development in the United States. In the long term, the goal is to create a facility that can serve as a national training center to develop a US school of fencing that will attract fencers from other countries to come and do training camps here in the United States.
The first two parts of this program are the USA Future Stars training camp and a Coaches College program. Both are to be held at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT).
According to Michael Marx, all of the national coaches are on board with the training camp and when approached for feedback, the coaches felt that the Y14 age group would be the best place to start.
The idea is to get the kids accustomed to working together. Fencing in the USA is so spread out that a lot of the kids at the Cadet and Junior levels go to international events with their own coach, fence, then come home. There’s not a whole lot of time to build camaraderie.
If there are more training opportunities where the top kids can all work together, then “even if you’re the #4 or #5 fencer, you know you helped earn that medal” said Marx.
The camp is being developed with not just fencing in mind, but also the whole athlete. Recognizing that burn out is a concern, they want to bring in athletes to the camp that can be mentors for the kids – talking about how to deal with burn out and the pressures of international competition.
Given that the results at the Cadet and Junior levels are already good, why focus on the Y14 age group?
Kevin Smith, working with Marx as a volunteer for US Fencing, answered that in building a program to be effective 4-8 years out, hitting the Y14 fencers now has the most promise to bear fruit. He argued that starting with 17-19 year olds may not see quick results, but starting a program at Y14, then layering on additional programs for those athletes at the upper age groups will allow the program to build upon itself and expand.
When asked about the financial model for the camp, Smith responded that his directive from the national office was “to not lose money.” The camp will most likely be in the 900-1000 range, which includes a day at Disney.
When the discussion turned to coaches college, Marx reiterated that FIT had been showing a lot of support for fencing. IF US Fencing can put on a good camp and coaching college session, then it shows FIT that [US Fencing] is serious.
Coaches College is set for two sessions in July after the Summer Nationals. Not every coach can afford to take the additional time after Nationals off to go to a training camp, however.
Marx brought up that he wanted to start to bring coaching training out to more coaches to be more accessible so there will be four regional sessions, starting with one in Florida. (US Fencing has announced the dates/locations for those in their latest newsletter.)
Marx also plans on holding coaching Q&A events at the NACs and Junior Olympics.
When asked about the mandate for these programs, Marx said that this is what he’s been hired to do (he was hired by USA Fencing in a coaching development role in November), and Smith stated that Jim Page and Greg Dilworth “have been the drivers behind this.”
If the domestic camps find success at FIT, then the idea of a home for training camps may find purchase. The space at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado is extremely difficult to get so having space available and a school open to a partnership is attractive. Plus, the prospect of coming to Florida to train and then hit the beach is sure to be attractive to some of the European fencing teams.