A little over a week ago, the USFA posted a letter from Executive Director Kris Ekeren: http://www.usfencing.org/news_article/show/511809?referrer_id=669365
People began discussing it almost immediately.
The following day I posted my response : https://sabrecoachkate.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/reaction-to-kris-ekerens-message/
Since then, there has been a lot of public discussion on social media and message boards about the ideas presented in the original message. The overwhelming majority of people are thrilled to have the opportunity to mull over each point with one another. For most, this is the first chance they’ve had to be heard about their opinion on qualification paths, national tournament structuring, and the overarching path our organization should take.
That’s the real issue here.
The current system of discussion, and the main reason for so much backlash, appears to be performed primarily by the Tournament Improvement Plan working group (TIP). TIP members were listed by President Donald Anthony today at http://www.usfencing.org/news_article/show/515408?referrer_id=669365 10 of them are USFA members; 6 are staff. A common complaint on threads about this topic is that there was no open, public discussion before the mandate was imposed. No official surveys were sent out to the general membership. The perception is that the National Office received input from 10 (out of 32,000 possible) USFA members before implementing their new policies. The committee members are all good people who want to do good things for Fencing but they are .03125% of our members.
Another perception is that lots of decisions are made behind the scenes and behind closed doors. I myself received multiple emails over the past week asking me to talk about the issue in a private manner and not in a public forum so that there is no pressure to “win”.
This isn’t about winning anything except the right to be heard.
We’re really smart people who care an awful lot about this sport of ours. All we want is a chance to help make it even better. And a chance to air our views in a public way. That creates a system of checks and balances. It helps us take other points of view into account. We all come from a variety of backgrounds and clubs; each of us can provide valuable input into the direction we think Fencing should take.
Will we all be 100% satisfied with the outcome? Of course not. But we might get someone who didn’t originally see it our way to relook with new eyes. We might be the catalyst for a fresh, new idea.
In the end, we might have had exactly the same outcome presented to us by our Executive Director. But at least we would have been included in the process. Our voices would have been heard and–hopefully–respected.
Fencing Community: let’s remain passionate about our desire to publicly discuss and communicate ideas about our sport. And to remind the Powers That Be to ask us, the membership, for input. We are doing good things for our sport and we deserve to be heard too.