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The Relationship Between High School Fencing and Fencing Club Membership

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We intuitively know that a high school fencing team with a number of experienced fencing club members is more likely to do better in competitions than a team of novices or one with no or very few club members. But, to what extent do fencing club members impact the final results of a high school fencing tournament? To find the answer, NFCR recently examined and analyzed data provided by the New Jersey Interscholastic Fencing Association (NJIFA). The data related to a sample of high school squads at the recent Cetrulo (men) and Santelli (women) Fencing Tournaments, which are the largest high school fencing competitions in the nation. The data related to all weapons, but we have only reported on foil in our post. We are confident that our findings for foil, apply to both saber and epee as well.

Both the Cetrulo and Santelli Tournaments have the same set of rules and overall format, with two rounds of pools. The format has three fencers in each weapon (A, B & C) fencing the other team’s A or B or C fencer. The order of bouts for both rounds is as follows:

  • C-C to 5 touches/or time (priority overtime rule applies to foil/epee)
  • B-B to 5 touches/or time (priority overtime rule applies to foil/epee), and
  • A-A to 5 touches/or time (priority overtime rule applies to foil/epee).

At the conclusion of round 1, a general ranking is established of all the squads, based on an order of decision making: 1) percentage of wins, 2) number of win; 3) indicators and finally, 4) touches scored. The ranking after round 1 determines the seeding for round 2. In round 2, the squads ranked 1-8 in each weapon make up pool A, squads ranked 9-16 makeup pool B, squads ranked 17-24 pool C, 25-32 pool D. Squads ranked 33 and above are divided into two equal or near equal pools, E being larger than F. The same scoring and bout order are used in round 2 as was used in round 1. The final tournament standing for each of the squads is determined by the round 2 pool results only. The ranking is based on the total number of wins in round 2.  Squads in pool A finish 1-8, squads in pool B finish 9-16. etc.

Based on data submitted to the organizers of the Santelli tournament, we were able to identify the names of A, B and C fencers from 27 of the 49 high schools that participated in women’s foil. We then identified the number of fencers on each three-person squad that had been or were currently a member of a New Jersey or New York fencing club. The results of our analysis are found in the following scatter plot which shows the relationship between the number of fencing club members in a women’s foil squad (x or horizontal axis) and final placement in women’s foil at the Santelli Tournament (y or vertical axis).

We can quickly observe that the squads that had either two or three fencers who were members of a fencing club did better than squads that either had none or one. For example, the squads that had two fencers with fencing club experience ended the tournament ranked between #2 and #12.

The regression line describes the relationship between the two factors; (Final Tournament Result = -12.458 x #club members +36.848). The slope coefficient of -12.458 means that for each additional fencing club member on the squad, the final result decreases by an average of 12.4 places. Expressed more simply, the slope tells us that for each additional squad member with fencing club experience, the final result for the squad improves by 12.4 places.

The intercept is 36.848 which is the point at which the regression line and the y-axis intersect. This means that when there are no members of the squad with fencing club experience, the final result is about 37th. For the statisticians, the coefficient of determination is 0.63. This means that 63% of the variation in the final result is explained by the number of fencing club members in a squad. The remaining 37% is unexplained but could be due to such factors as the natural athleticism of the fencers, the efforts of the high school coach and the enthusiasm of team mates.

A similar analysis was undertaken for men’s foil at the Cetrulo Tournament. We identified the names of A, B and C fencers from 27 of the 49 high schools that participated in men’s foil. We then identified the number of fencers on each three-person squad that had been or were currently a member of a New Jersey or New York fencing club. The results of our analysis are found in the following scatter plot which shows the relationship between the number of fencing club members in a men’s foil squad (x or horizontal axis) and the final result in men’s foil at the Cetrulo Tournament (y or vertical axis).

Once again, we can quickly observe that the squads that had either two or three fencers who were members of a fencing club did better than squads that had only one or none. 

For example, the squads that had two fencers with fencing club experience, finished the tournament ranked between #6 and #15. The squads with three members of a fencing club, Ridge High School, Columbia High School and Millburn High School, came first, second and third. The regression line describes the relationship between the two factors; (Final Tournament Result = -11.739 x #club members +36.895). The slope coefficient of -11.739 means that for each additional fencing club member, the final result decreases by an average of 11.7 places. Expressed more simply, the slope tells us that for each additional team member with fencing club experience, the final result for the squad improves by 11.7 places.

The intercept is 36.895 which is the point at which the regression line and the y-axis intersect. This means that when there are no members of the squad with fencing club experience, the final result is about 37th. For the statisticians, the coefficient of determination is 0.58. This means that 58% of the variation in final results is explained by the number of fencing club members of a squad. The remaining 42% is unexplained.

So what is the lesson for high school coaches wanting a championship high school fencing team? Encourage your younger recruits to join a fencing club and fence 10-15 tournaments in the “off” high school fencing season. According to the USFA there are 36 USA Fencing Member clubs in New Jersey and 62 in New York. Apart from high schools in the rural areas of the state, most fencers are within a reasonable driving distance from several clubs. Our “Best Fencing Clubs” is another source of information on New Jersey and New York fencing clubs.

The symbiotic relationship between fencing clubs and high school fencing teams is undeniable. The synergy between clubs and high school fencing teams has produced a combined effect greater than the sum of their respective efforts to expand fencing’s population. The increased effectiveness that results when clubs and high school fencing programs work together is clearly demonstrated in the growth of high school fencers in New York and New Jersey, not to mention the impact on the performance of high school fencing teams. In turn, this cooperation has provided the critical mass of clubs and high schools needed to maintain the growth of high school fencing in the country.

2 Responses to "The Relationship Between High School Fencing and Fencing Club Membership"
  1. Tom Outwin says:

    Exactly! Some years ago I coached a High School team. In my first year there we won States and place high in the finals of squads and Individuals with both men and ladies. This happened largely because all of our varsity players were members of local clubs and competed in USFA events. Many were well rated in USFA. We invited all the club coaches to the awards banquets and recognized them all for their efforts. I later established a development team that required participants to join outside clubs and they were released from practice to attend. This boded well for results for the next three years. In time, this practice was not supported and ebbing results have shown. Your article is spot on.

  2. Your article is spot on, the problem arises when the school coach tell their fencers that they must attend school practices 4 or 5 times a week during the season, leaving little or no time for them to continue lesson at their home club. Then, when the season is finally over these fencers return hoping to get in shape to qualify for the summer nationals, for some the damage has already been done, leaving little chance to qualify…

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