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New England – Is it Poised to Overtake New Jersey as the Largest Fencing Division in the Nation?

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New England Division

Is the New England Division ready to topple the New Jersey Division as the largest fencing Division in the nation? The New Jersey Division, which covers fourteen counties in the State of New Jersey has long been the largest Division of USA Fencing in terms of local and regional fencer activity. In recent years, however, its #1 spot has been being seriously challenged by New England as illustrated in the accompanying graph.

Drawing on fencers from Martha’s Vineyard in the south, Amherst in the west, Salisbury in the north and the Greater Boston Region, the New England Division is one of the largest and fastest growing Divisions of the United States Fencing Association’s (USFA)¹. Last year the Division was ranked 2nd out of 68 in terms of the number of local and regional fencer-events generated by the Division’s members. It ranked below New Jersey, but above Central California, Illinois, Metro NYC, Southern California, Virginia, Northern California, Gulf Coast and Georgia to make the Top 10 list of the most active fencing Divisions in the nation. The New England Division has jurisdiction over the areas of eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The Division is home to fifteen clubs in Massachusetts and one in Rhode Island that were awarded the “Best Fencing Clubs” designation for 2016-2017; Bay State Fencers (Epee), Boston Fencing Club (Epee/Saber), Dynamo Fencing Center (Saber/Epee), Fencing Academy of Boston (Saber), Gold Fencing Club (Foil), International Fencers Alliance of Boston (Foil), International Fencing Club (Saber), Marx Fencing Academy (Foil/Epee), Moe Fencing Club (Foil), NEMA Fencing Center (Foil), Olympia Fencing Center (Foil/Epee), Tanner City Fencing Club (Foil), Vivo Fencing Club (Epee), Worcester Fencing Club (Epee),  Zeta Fencing (Saber) and Rhode Island Fencing Academy and Club (Epee/Foil/Saber).

In addition, two clubs, Olympia Fencing Center and Gold Fencing Club were in the Top 20 of our National Fencing Club Youth Championships in 2016-2017 based on the total number of medals awarded in fourteen Super Youth Circuit (SYC) tournaments. The Marx Fencing Academy made the Top 20 in the National Fencing Club Championships based on the total number of medals awarded in nine National Tournaments last year.

The number of local and regional fencer-events generated by members of the Division has grown at the robust compound annual rate of 13.7% per year since 2008-2009, compared to the national average of 4.4% per year over the same period. The Division joins Central Florida, Arizona, Orange Coast, and Gold Coast Florida Divisions as the fastest growing Divisions in the country.

In recent years, growth in fencer-events has moderated at 7.8% per year since 2010-2011. The healthy growth in fencer-events has been underwritten by all three weapons with epee, saber, and foil growing at the compound annual rate of 10.4%, 8.4%, and 7.8% respectively over the period. Foil accounted for about 42% of fencer-events, epee 33% and saber 25% in 2016-2017. The historical growth in fencer-events is illustrated in the accompanying graph.

Club Activity

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 local and regional fencer-events generated by the largest clubs in 2016-2017 is illustrated in the accompanying graph. Olympia Fencing Center, based in Cambridge, was the largest generator of fencer-events last year at 1,228, up 26% from the previous year.  Epee accounted for 57% of its local and regional demand while foil accounted for 43%. The Rhode Island Fencing Academy and Club, based in East Providence was the runner-up with 878 fencer-events; 49% were epee, 41% foil, and 11% 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. Moe Fencing Club, based in Somerville, MA has vaulted to the #1 spot with 585 foil fencer-events in 2016-2017. It is closely followed by Olympia Fencing Club and Gold Fencing Club.

Zeta Fencing Studio, based in Natick, remains the dominant saber club in the Division with 507 fencer-events generated in 2016-2017. It is closely followed by the Dynamo Fencing Center which experienced a dramatic growth in saber events last year.

The dominant clubs generating local and regional epee fencer-events in the Division are illustrated below. The top four clubs accounted for 66% of the epee fencer-events generated in Division. The Olympia Fencers Club has seen its epee fencer-events grow from 328 in 2012-2013 to 698 in 2016-2017.

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.

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