On September 22nd 2016, Fencing Ireland unveiled Future Trailblazers, an ambitious development plan for fencers at all weapons who are under the age of 20.


Vision for youth fencing

Fencing Ireland understands that it is difficult for fencers and parents who are relatively new to the sport to be able to access dependable and sound advice about the best pathway to achieve success.

Fencing Ireland wants young fencers to maximise their potential, have positive experiences and stay in the sport, so that they will continue to develop to become successful senior fencers. It is expected that the best of them will seek international representation and win medals at future World Cup events.

The objective of Fencing Ireland is to:

  • provide young people with the best possible sporting experience
  • encourage lifelong and active participation in fencing
  • foster supportive environments for enjoyable participation in a variety of physical activities, through the development of skills and good sporting behaviour
  • encourage the allocation of appropriate and safe resources and facilities
  • ensure equal opportunities for all young people to participate in fencing
  • actively cater for talented young fencers
  • demonstrate a consistent and coordinated approach to junior fencing in Ireland

Participation in fencing is characterised by:

  • a safe, healthy and challenging sporting environment
  • a level of competition commensurate with age, maturity and ability
  • a broad development programme preceding specialisation in any particular skill
  • the recognition of participation, development and improvement
  • the influence of role models who are good ambassadors for fencing and who practise appropriate behaviour in the view of junior fencers
  • an emphasis on enjoyment of the sport

The ‘Future Trailblazers’ initiative

Future Trailblazers is the name of Fencing Ireland’s junior, cadet and minor development group, created in 2016 as part of the Fencing Ireland’s Youth Programme. ‘Junior’ refers to U20s, ‘Cadet’ to U17s, and ‘Minor’ to U14s.

Future Trailblazers has been established to both develop the sport but also to create a future pipeline of world-class fencers.

It seeks to develop the skills and talents of young Irish fencers, with the aim of achieving international representation and success.

The objective of the Future Trailblazers is to:

  • Complement club training and further enhance fencers that show commitment and talent with the long term goal of representing Ireland in competitions appropriate to their age and skillset
  • Provide training in fencing skills, blade management, fitness, nutrition and competition psychology

To represent one’s country should be seen as a privilege, rather than an automatic right. Earning that privilege requires considerable hard work and commitment on the part of the athlete as well as from those supporting the athlete. Fencers representing Ireland will be proposed to the Fencing Ireland selectors by the Fencing Ireland Junior Development committee only.


Selection to Future Trailblazers

Entry to Future Trailblazers is by invitation only, following an assessment based on nomination by the prospective candidate’s coach; any fencer between the ages of 8 and 20 can be selected based on prerequisite training outcomes and competition results within the 32 counties. Future Trailblazers will be selected on an annual basis and membership reviewed mid-season.

Assessments will take place twice yearly, in September and January. No canvassing on behalf of any applicant is permitted.

Selection criteria include:

  • Completion of Fencing Certifications
  • Competition results within the 32 counties
  • Written and signed nomination by club coach with reasoning behind nomination and open to query by the Fencing Ireland selection committee and Junior Development Committee.
  • Candidates can only be nominated twice for assessment in the fencing year (Sept and Jan)
  • Fencing assessment is by the coach selection team (not including in the fencer’s own club coach)
  • Fencers must have an Irish Fencing Licence.

Future Trailblazer Selectors/Coaches

Future Trailblazers is an all-Ireland initiative to identify and develop Irish Fencing. The following are the coaches/selectors for 2016:

  • Olga Velma (Pembroke Fencing Club)
  • Patrick Dight (Munster Blades)
  • Katie Arup (Fence Like an Olympian)
  • Radu Andrei (Brian Boru Fencing Club)

The Head Coach will rotate on an annual basis. The decision of the selectors is final and will be based on a fencer’s skill, dedication and age, meeting the aforementioned selection criteria and the outcome of assessment by the selection committee.


Future Trailblazer Training

Most clubs are not fortunate enough to have the strength in depth that a national training session can provide. By bringing together many of the best young fencers in the country, the Future Trailblazers offers a unique opportunity to train with your peer group.

Training sessions cover all aspects of fencing, including warm-up, fitness, footwork, and blade work. Future Trailblazers sessions are not suitable for beginners, and the fencers who will benefit most are:

  • those who have been fencing for a year or more
  • have competed successfully in a number of competitions and finished high in the final rankings of those competitions
  • aspire to compete at national and international standard

Training sessions may also include talks on sports nutrition, equipment maintenance and more. It is expected that Training Sessions will take place approximately every 8 weeks during the fencing season. All training sessions will be age and skill appropriate.


Athlete Development

Fencing Ireland and Future Trailblazers encourage a staged development programme, in line with a fencer’s skill set and age. It is important that a fencer develops along a continuous path, beginning at the easier end of that continuum, gradually developing skill and experiencing a measure of success along the way until reaching the élite level.

As all athletes are individuals, it is recognised that skill development and maturity can vary from individual to individual; the stages below are the general guideline for development.

  • Stage 1: U12 Minors
  • Stage 2: U14 Minors
  • Stage 3: U17 Cadets and U20 Juniors

A high level of fitness is required in order to achieve success in fencing. Fencers should aim to build and maintain a high level of aerobic and anaerobic fitness at all developmental stages. In addition to this, individual fencing lessons, footwork drills, bouts and competitions will build specific ‘fencing fitness’.

Fencers should carefully map out their weekly, monthly and annual training and competition program in consultation with their coach. See outline document (linked above) for guidance on training load and recommended practice frequencies at each FT stage.


Competition

Fencing Ireland junior participants will be taught that “winning” and “losing” are merely results of all sporting competitions. There should not be an over-emphasis on winning. The emphasis should be on the quality of the experience and its appropriateness to the age and ability of the participant.

All fencing junior participants should be encouraged to achieve, do their best and develop their full sporting potential. Competition is one element of this developmental process. The level of competition must be appropriate to the age and development of fencers. A progression of competitive experiences in line with the stages has been identified in the Future Trailblazers model. The training programme should be undertaken alongside the recommended
competition programme for each stage outlined below. Whilst the stage a fencer is at is predominantly based on performance, indicative ages have been included.

It is suggested that a fencer should remain in the same level of competition for two to three years as they move through the stages. All participation in competitions must be in line with the fencer’s skill set and age. Shorter periods at each level may also be insufficient to learn the skills and enjoy that level of the sport. However, as a general guideline, it may be appropriate for a fencer to compete in an older age-group if they consistently have achieved a
result in the top 50% or better, in competitions with 10 or more fencers of their own age-group.

Further guidance on recommended levels of competition at each stage can be found on the Representing Ireland page.