For most of us, tournaments are always daunting. That’s never more true than your first tournament, but as long as you’ve been working hard and listening to your coaches, you’re more prepared than you think! Read on for a complete rundown of what to expect and how to get ready for your first tournament.
First things first: Are you a current member of USA Fencing? If not, you’ll need to sign up for a membership. The process is simple, and as soon as you’re a member you’ll be able to join your first tournament.
If you already have your sights set on a particular event, you can jump right over to AskFRED to register. Make sure to sign up as soon as possible; most events have a maximum number of entries, and you’ll want to get registered before the event fills up. If you haven’t decided on an event yet, you can check out our list of upcoming tournaments or ask your coach for recommendations.
Equipment & What to Bring
Good news: you don’t need to purchase any special equipment for tournaments. However, if you don’t have them already, you will need to buy a spare epee and body cord; tournaments require you to have two of each in case one breaks. Overall, you’ll need to make sure to pack:
- Two epees
- Two body cords
- Underarm protector
- Chest protector (women)
- Tall socks
- Athletic shoes
- USA Fencing membership card (physical or digital)
Important: Check that your weapons are in working order during your last practice before the tournament. They must have both tip screws and pass the weight and shim tests. If you’re unfamiliar with those tests, ask your coach for help.
Just like with practice, you won’t need to arrive wearing all of your gear. It’s best to come dressed in athletic clothes that you can easily put your equipment over; not all venues will have somewhere available for you to change before the event.
In addition to all of your fencing equipment, we highly recommend bringing along:
- Bottled water or sports drinks
- Healthy, high-carb snacks
- Folding chair
- MoDuel hoodie or track jacket
Mentally & Physically Preparing
If you want to fence at your best, you’ll need to start getting mentally and physically prepared before your event ever begins. Everyone has different routines and rituals for game day, and you’ll eventually find what works for you. In the meantime, here are some best practices that work for most people:
- Eat well and drink a lot of water starting a few days before your event
- Eat a large, high carb breakfast a few hours before your event
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Pack all of your equipment, get directions to the venue, find out what time you need to leave, etc. the night before
- Start warming up (jogging, dynamic stretches, etc.) before you even leave the house
- Find music that helps get you “in the zone”
- Eliminate distractions so you can put all of your focus on fencing
Hopefully by this point you’re well-rested, well-fed, and ready to fence! Plan to get to the venue at least an hour early to give yourself plenty of time to get ready. Before anything else, you’ll need to check in. Most clubs will have a check-in desk set up by the front door or somewhere else easy to see; you’ll need to show them your USA Fencing membership card (either a physical or digital copy will do) and pay the registration fee via cash or check. After that, you’re free to start warming up and getting ready to fence.
You may be tempted to save your energy, but your body is used to fencing while tired! Make sure you warm up enough to raise your heartrate and break a proper sweat. We’re talking at least 15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise before you ever start fencing. (We know, warming up sucks, but it’s important. Don’t skimp on the warm up). After you’ve done that, it’s essential to get in a few practice bouts as well. Find an open strip and fence at least two strangers (not teammates) to five or fifteen touches.
After you’ve done all that, the tournament should be about ready to start. Pay attention to any announcements/instructions from the tournament organizers, and make sure to check any results and strip assignments that they post around the room. As long as you pay attention to those two things, you’ll always know where and when you’re fencing. Good luck!