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Saber Outpaces Epee & Foil Across USFA Divisions 2008-2009 through 2016-2017

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Saber fencing activity at the local and regional level in the U.S. has grown twice as fast as foil and about one and a half times as fast as epee over the nine year period 2008-2009 to 2016-2017 according to NFCR’s analysis of askFRED.net data. The number of saber fencer events (entries) generated in local, divisional and regional tournament events, excluding saber events at NACs, has grown from 17,662 in 2008-2009 to 28,780 in 2016-2017, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.3%. This compares with epee and foil fencer events which have grown at the average annual rate of 4.5% and 3.1% respectively over the same period. Saber continued its robust growth in 2016-2017 at 5.5% compared to epee and foil which grew at 4.2% and 0.1% respectively.

Highlights of our major findings for saber are:

  • Saber fencing activity has grown by CAGR of 19.2% in the ten fastest growing Saber Divisions which include North Coast (31%), Arizona (28.9)%, Central Florida (23.2%), Michigan (22.8%), Oregon (19.6%), Gold Coast Florida (19%), Orange Coast (18.2%), Capital (17.4%), Utah-Southern Idaho (16.8%) and Connecticut (16.6%).
  • Saber fencing activity grew by CAGR of 7.7% in the ten largest Saber Divisions. The Divisions include New Jersey (4.6%), New England (11.8%), Metro NYC (3.4%), Georgia (10.8%), Oregon (19.6%), Illinois (7.3%), North Texas (3.7%), Southern California (7.6%), Colorado (13.3%) and Long Island (6.8%). The number of saber fencer events generated in the twenty largest Saber Divisions grew a little faster at CAGR of 8.1% over the same period.
  • Saber’s share of the entire (non-NAC) fencing activity market has grown from 22.5% in 2008-2009 to 26% in 2016-2017.
  • There is a poor correlation between the CAGR in saber across the 68 Divisions and the other weapons. (Foil – Saber 0.53), (Foil – Epee 0.44) and (Saber – Epee 0.21).
  • While sabers share of the entire local and regional market has grown over the past nine years, the weapon only dominates the other weapons in seven of the 68 USFA Divisions. They include in order of size, New Jersey, Capital, North Texas, Oregon, Columbus Ohio, Mountain Valley and South Jersey.

The scatterplot below provides the relationship between the number of saber entries generated by USFA Division members in local/regional events as well as in NACS. The equation for the “line of best fit” is y = 0.2734 x – 4.7593. This means that for each 100 saber entries at the local or regional level, there are 27 events generated by the Division at NACs. 

The accompanying table provides annual saber fencer events generated for each of the 68 USFA Divisions for every second year since the 2008-2009 season. It also identifies the most popular weapon for each of the Divisions in 2016-2017. You may click on a column heading to sort the data based on that criteria.

Saber Fencer Events (Entries) Generated (Excluding NACs) by USFA Division Members 2008-2009 through 2016-2017

USFA Division2008-20092010-20112012-20132014-20152016-2017Compound
Rate %
Most Popular
Total17,66220,83624,80926,19428,780 6.3%Foil
North Coast3015172631.0%Epee
Central Florida424611711022323.2%Foil
Gold Coast Florida10139032633140619.0%Epee
Orange Coast23665281459690018.2%Foil
Utah-Southern Idaho8825635029730516.8%Foil
New Mexico34432114011416.3%Epee
Western New York13332536327639614.6%Foil
New England787118414171512192111.8%Foil
San Diego27927636149364711.1%Epee
Western Washington33831044363873510.2%Foil
Columbus Ohio2642323954004757.6%Saber
Southern California587731107684410517.6%Epee
Gateway Florida2031772301353547.2%Foil
Long Island5616374038949526.8%Foil
Northern California4774554777247966.6%Foil
North Texas658584103497410586.1%Saber
New Jersey237626323305331834094.6%Saber
Nebraska-South Dakota39376161554.4%Foil
San Bernardino7111310992974.0%Foil
St Louis768354741033.9%Foil
Metro NYC10831051853106414113.4%Foil
North Carolina5316625828026903.3%Foil
Mountain Valley4484447396725663.0%Saber
South Carolina117901731851472.9%Epee
Central California4294543543814821.5%Foil
Green Mountain50875239551.2%Epee
South Jersey2512322551862640.6%Saber
Central Pennsylvania318281563100%Epee
Northern Ohio163120156170157-0.5%Epee
South Texas363210208143196-7.4%Epee
Western Pennsylvania5959492526-9.7%Foil
Southwest Ohio688168721-13.7%Foil
Gulf Coast32523617861100-13.7%Epee
Border Texas72322-14.5%Epee
Inland Empire102135685120-18.4%Epee
Plains Texas59161587-23.4%Epee
Northeast Pennsylvania294524210-Epee
Source: National Fencing Club Rankings based on an analysis of askFRED.net data.

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 Divisions and States. 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 and Divisions. For strategic decision making, timely, consistent, and the directionally correct information is more important than data that is 100% accurate.

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