An Open Letter to Parents Attending the Capitol Clash

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Dear Parents,

You should be proud. You should be excited. This weekend, your child/children will be competing in the Capitol Clash Super Youth Circuit (SYC), a tournament that had over 1,500 competitors last year! The Capitol Clash is an amazing tournament for many reasons. For one, it’s a joy to go into a room full of hundreds of enthusiastic fencers, see them jubilantly competing, and realize that these kids are the future of fencing. Chances are, one or two of the competitors in this event will be our future Olympians and ambassadors of the sport.

The Clash is also a tournament that seems to awaken growth in fencers and foster those moments where fencers just “click” and understand what their coach/es have been showing them. And most importantly, the kids have fun!

In the last Olympic cycle, our sport has seen unprecedented growth in membership, and as the Clash expands its size (both in venue size and entrants), our sport’s growth becomes more and more apparent. Being a part of Fencing is a great investment in building your child’s character. As many of you have probably already seen, our sport does a fantastic job in teaching discipline, respect, sportsmanship, personal accountability, and how to overcome adversity. These character traits will be at the front and center for those competing this weekend, and whether or not your child walks away with a medal, so long as they are having fun and demonstrating the best qualities of a fencer, then the Clash may be considered a victory in its own right.

Though the Clash (and other youth tournaments) bring out the best in our youth fencers, they’ve often brought out the worst in our parents, and I wanted to write this letter to discourage the continuation of a recent trend we’ve seen at various tournaments as of late (including last year’s Clash): the trend of the belligerent parent. Some incidents as of late include:

  • Telling a referee he sucks and then threatening him with physical violence. (Capital Clash, 2014)
  • Drunkenly approaching a referee and angrily heckling him long after a bout had ended. (Columbus Summer Nationals, 2014).
  • Shoving a referee following a disagreement (Cobra SYC, 2014).

While isolated incidents and not representative of the many wonderful, supporting parents that are a part of our sport, there has been enough of a rise in belligerence towards our officials as of late that undermine what Fencing is about. This weekend, calls will be missed, errors will be made, but what’s important is that our youngest fencers remain the focus of the tournament.

Just as your child strives to do his/her best, the same can be said of our referees, many of whom are flying in from around the country (often on their own dime) for a chance to be observed for ratings. Our referees are often the greatest teachers of sportsmanship and respect, and it’s important to honor them as such in both your child’s victories and defeats. Write the checks, be friendly, be supportive, and be kind, and you probably won’t go too far from wrong this weekend.

This weekend, let’s keep the scorecards flowing, the joy engine going, and the black cards from showing.

To all of our athletes competing, good luck. Thank you in advance to our hardworking referees and bout committee who have done a fantastic job running this tournament in years past. Parents, this is the greatest sport in the world and you should be so proud that your child is making the effort to compete against the best of their peers.

Happy Clash!

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 Damien is a candidate for USA Fencing At-Large Director. To view his platform, click here

2 thoughts

  1. My daughter fenced at Capital Clash last year. She did well and loved the experience. She won’t be returning. Over the past year she has become quite disillusioned by the lack of sportsmanship in what was her favorite sport and favorite pastime. She has quit. My heart is broken; I will miss the action and the immense pride I felt when I watched her fence, win or lose. I tried to convince her to stick with it. Her reply: “I just can’t stand being around all those assholes anymore.” She clearly wasn’t referring to everyone but her point is well-taken and I’ve learned to accept her decision. She’s a happier kid now. But I do wish it didn’t end this way.

    • Bad sportsmanship? I’m sorry to hear your daughter had a bad experience. But I feel as if bad sportsmanship is the exception, not the rule. What exactly happened? Thank you for your truthful comment.

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