How I Believe the Changes to the Strip Coaching Rule Changes (t.109) Should be Interpreted

In the April 16, 2023 USA Fencing Board of Directors Special Meeting, the Board voted to approve changes to strip coaching rules (t.109) to align to FIE standards. These changes were voted on in order to promote more order on the piste and minimize distractions for fencers and referees over the course of a bout. 

A number of rumors have circulated suggesting this amendment would result in the banning of strip coaching; and thus, USA Fencing has created a forum at Summer Nationals to invite Coach feedback on the proposal.

As the Referees Commission forms its interpretation of this new rule, I believe a few fundamental principles must be considered:

  • Most coaches are inherently non-disruptive and deserve the opportunity to communicate to their fencers.
  • Advice should be delivered in a way that is not disruptive to the fencers or the referee
  • Above all else, respect must be at the center of every bout and every interaction in our sport

With these principles in mind, these are the forms of coaching I believe should and shouldn’t be allowed under Rule t.109.

Should be Allowed:

• Strip coaching between touches, up until the referee orders the fencers en garde

• Strip coaching between bouts

• Quick, undisruptive iotas of advice during an active fencing sequence (e.g. “ten seconds left,” “distance,” “move your feet!)

Should not be Allowed:

• A constant and continuous stream of advice from coach/spectator to athlete during an active fencing sequence (e.g. “look for parry six and take step back when he starts fleche attack!”)

• Any conduct from coach/spectator such as screaming during an active fencing sequence that could disturb maintenance of order

• Approaching the referee during a bout

I believe interpreting t.109 as I’ve suggested would allow for a compromise between obstructive coaching and an outright strip coaching ban. What do you think?

5 thoughts on “How I Believe the Changes to the Strip Coaching Rule Changes (t.109) Should be Interpreted

  1. I agree with your first two, not the third. A bout is a fight between two individuals. No help should be given or allowed during the action.

    1. There are certain things though that a coach can help with without being obstructive. “One foot over the back line.” “Ten seconds left.” These are ways a coach can add value without being obstructive, and it doesn’t stray from the spirit of the bout being between two individuals.

    2. Have you ever watched boxing or UFC? Those coaches talk a lot to their fighters during the fight.

  2. I have seen USA cadets flounder internationally when their coach has been stopped from persistently coaching on piste. At some point the fencers need to think for themselves, so this will help them do that. There is time between periods for communication. In reality, on the international circuit coaches can still shout “10 seconds” or “move” without repercussions, it just stops the constant commentary. I think it will help them to become more thoughtful fencers.

  3. In my opinion, there should be silence during the fencing. firstly, out of respect for the other athletes. secondly, the fencer should be trained in such a way that he can act independently, without constant instructions from the coach. As a fencer, I find it incredibly disturbing when the opposing coach shouts something in.

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