Cultivating Fencing Club Success

What makes a fencing sport club work? Designed to be a place of teaching and refining fighting skills within a group, here is some general advice gathered over the years which has supported Mid-South Fencers’ Club success for close to a decade of development.

Consult. Consult. Consult.

Mid-South would not exist without the input, suggestions, warnings and firm advice from dozens of people. Connect yourself with people you can trust and make sure a few consultants are club owners on the other side of country who can offer different perspectives. Read, study and invite people to exchange information with you from other clubs and similar businesses who are viewed as successful. You will often hear me ask other club owners, “What’s the best decision you made for your team this year?”

Coach Kallio intensely listening to one of his mentors, Ed Korfanty.

Coach Kallio intensely listening to Ed Korfanty who he studies and consults with about his coaching development.

Support Space First.

The business of creating a fencing club is about creating and sustaining an environment to enable fencers to reach their goals. This environment includes: coaches, staff, a place to practice, and the equipment needed to fence. Willpower is only part of the story. Dumb luck, networking, planning, and several revisions of a budget and curriculum planning turn your vision of a community of fighters into a reality where you fully support the process of developing and sustaining fencers.

Define Various Measures of Success.

I want every fencer who goes through our competitive program to be able to walk into any fencing salle in the world and hold their own. I want a competitive environment where people have social skills to interact with each other with kindness and empathy between bouts and celebrate team victories as their own. I want our coaches to have well-funded retirement funds. I want to make Durham a better place to live, work and raise children. I want a National Champion by the year 2019.

Some goals should be easily quantifiable with numbers, others are more subjectively measured by observations of others. An example of qualitative data is when a new family walks in and says, “this place is very welcoming.”

This 12 strip, 6,000 sq. ft. facility opened in November 2013.

Mid-South’s 12 strip, 6,000 sq. ft. facility opened in November 2013. It took six years of working and planning for this facility to come to fruition.

Spiral Your Growth.

Start with one class, one school, and add a few students to one general training pool. Keep adding another class, another school, and build your culture. Soon you will be adding programs on top of programs: advanced programs, summer camps, other staff, and maybe a retail store! Rotate focused attention back to everything you’ve built over time. Remind yourself the first class you started deserves the same attention as those you are priming for a championship match.

Listen To Your Clients and Staff.

Rely on a trusted cross section of people in your club to provide you with feedback. How does the club feel when you are not around? Do your members feel encouraged? Is there a negative nellie preventing growth? Reward honesty when parents, fencers and coaches make difficult disclosures. Tell them you appreciate caring enough to speak up. Show them they are valued by addressing the issue(s) brought to your attention.

Encourage communication, define their goals and various ways to create a supportive environment from the beginning of a coaching relationship.

Encourage communication, goal clarity and create multiple pathways of communication for parents and students of all ages. We review goals every year as part of our summer camp training.

Out of Adversity Comes Abundance.

Every time something is hard, there is something incredible about to happen. I almost get excited when bad things happen. Failure equals growth. Often what seems like a really bad thing, is exactly what I needed to wake up my awareness to take needed steps for essential improvements to elevate the quality of our programming.

Please join our community as we celebrate our 8th Annual Grand Open February 20th and 21st. Our finals gala will begin at 6:30pm to showcase the final bouts of the day. Thank you especially to those who were at the beginning of our club’s journey.

If you are a coach contemplating opening up a fencing club, need to consult or brainstorm, please reach out. Many small and large fencing clubs have supported the growth of our club and these relationships are greatly valued as we constantly refine and build our community.

Fencers who train with us, you are the most important part of our environment. The gifts you bring to each other and our community, cannot be quantified. Thank you for striving to be great and actively participating in our community, everyday.

Friends who are also teammates make a club a worthwhile place to spend hours a day training.

Friends who are also teammates make a club a worthwhile place to spend hours a day training.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at the celebration!
Jennifer