Drawing on fencers from Champaign in the south to fencers in the Greater Chicago Region, the Illinois Division of United States Fencing Association (USFA) catapulted into the Top 5 list of Divisions for generating fencer-events in 2016-2017¹. Last year the Division was ranked 6th out of 68 in terms of the number of local and regional fencer-events generated by the Division’s members. It joins New Jersey, New England, Central California and Metro NYC to make the Top 5 list of the most active fencing Divisions in the nation. The Division is home to six clubs that were awarded the “Best Fencing Clubs” designation for 2016-2017; Fencing Center of Chicago (Foil/Epee), Illinois Fencers Club (Epee), Midwest Fencing Academy (Saber), Peoria Fencing Academy (Epee), Redstar Fencing Club Chicago (Foil/Saber) and Windy City Fencing – Chicago (Epee).
The number of local and regional fencer-events generated by members of the Division has grown at the compound annual rate of 5.3% per year since 2008-2009, slightly above the national average of 4.4% per year over the same period.
The growth in fencer-events has been underwritten by the growth in saber which has grown at the compound annual growth of 15% per year since 2010-2011, while epee has also enjoyed solid growth at 8.9% per year over the same period. Foil is the laggard growing at 3.7% per year. The historical growth in fencer-events is illustrated in the accompanying graph.
The number of local and regional fencer-events generated by a club is related to the number and profile of competitive members in the club, the approach of the club’s coaches regarding competitive tournaments and the quality and distance of nearby fencing competitions. Local tournament events include events that are organized by clubs, consortia of clubs and USFA Divisions. They do not include ROCs, RJCCs, SYCs, RYCs and Divisional Qualifiers which are all classified as regional tournaments. National tournaments include NACs, Championships, and the July Challenge.
The composition of fencer-events generated by the largest clubs in 2016-2017 is illustrated in the accompanying graph. Windy City Fencing – Chicago generated the largest number of local and regional fencer-events in 2016-2017 at 518 as illustrated in the accompanying graph. Almost all (99.6%) were epee. The next club, Fencing Center of Chicago, a dual weapon epee, and foil club, generated 505 fencer events, 68% foil, and 30% epee. Redstar Fencing Club followed with 311 fencer-events, 53% foil and about 45% saber.
The following graph shows the growth in foil fencer-events generated by the largest clubs with foil programs in the Division over the past five years. The Fencing Center of Chicago generated the largest number of local and regional foil fencer-events, followed by Redstar Fencing Club, as illustrated in the graph.
The following graph clearly demonstrates that Windy City Fencing-Chicago and Illinois Fencers Club were the dominant epee clubs last year, generating 516 and 183 fencer-events respectively. They accounted for about 38% of all local and regional epee fencer-events generated by Division members.
The dominant clubs generating local and regional saber fencer-events in the Division are illustrated below.
¹ Source: askFred.net
We recognize that askFRED.net data includes non-sanctioned USFA tournaments such as high school tournaments, private club tournaments, and a few tournaments associated with fencing camps. While the data is not perfect, it nevertheless allows for a comparison of medium to long-term growth rates in fencer-activity across States, Divisions, and Clubs. Provided the inconsistencies are consistent over time we are able to get a trend, and therefore an average growth rate. Despite the data limitations, we are able to make valid comparisons on the performance of States, Divisions, and clubs. For strategic decision making, timely, consistent, and directionally correct information is more important than data that is one hundred percent accurate.