FINDING YOUR EDGE
At the Academy, we recognise the importance of taking a holistic approach to guiding athletes through their competitive journeys, and a key part of that is managing progression throughout a season in order to be as well-prepared as possible for key qualifying and championship events. Providing quality coaching and training environments are only part of the Academy’s approach to event preparation, and we believe that the Academy’s organisational support and structure around our training programmes are what allow our athletes to become the best versions of themselves on the fencing piste. As part of Academy Pathway, we have five youth squads which represent various steps on our fencers’ journeys of personal growth as both athletes and people.
The Academy Coaching Team selects Fencers for the Squads based on a set criteria. The selections can be made throughout the season and Fencers can progress onto the Home and Travelling Squads throughout the season. If your Fencer is aspiring to level up, there are certain things that can be considered to support the progression.
Criteria fo Selection
Attitude to Training
Commitment to the Academy
Setting Personal Goals
Maintaining Updated Individual Athlete Plans (International Squad+)
HOME SQUAD The first step on the competitive journey for fencers in the Academy. This squad competes at local events in Hertfordshire and London as a first taste of competitive fencing. Depending on age categories, this may include events such as local Leon Paul Junior Series, Academy England Ranking Competitions or the Sabre Super League. The Home Squad is open to any Academy fencer who attends training sessions and wishes to compete. Home Squad fencers are required to purchase an Academy top and socks as the team uniform in order to represent the Academy, and are encouraged to purchase their own fencing equipment after their first couple events.
TRAVELLING SQUAD With greater competitive experience and good engagement in training, fencers may progress to the Travelling Squad. The Travelling Squad compete at events around the UK, such as Leon Paul Junior Series events, U17 British Ranking Competitions, England U14 events, the British Youth Championships, and the England Youth Championships, in addition to local events. Fencers are expected to own their own fencing equipment as part of the Travelling Squad, and should be taking 1:1 lessons in order to continue their development as fencers and athletes.
INTERNATIONAL SQUAD The International Squad is the next step for fencers at the Academy who are aiming to eventually represent their country at youth level, and is a key step in our athletes’ journeys to eventual national call-ups. Fencers on the Travelling Squad who have gained more competitive experience, have demonstrated a mature attitude at competitions and training, and are training at a satisfactory level may be invited by the coaches to participate in some international trips organised by the Academy. This typically includes the Challenge Wratislawa in Poland, which has U11, U13 and U15 age categories. Fencers should be training at least three nights per week and receiving regular 1:1 lessons in order to be considered for the International Squad. As part of the International Squad, fencers should be regularly competing up one age category at domestic competitions, where possible, in order to gain experience and put themselves in contention for future selections based on the England (U14) or British (U17/20) rankings.
CAPS SQUAD Fencers who receive a call-up for the England U14 or their national U17/U20 squads are invited to join the Caps Squad. Caps Squad members are expected to train as part of the Academy Performance group, attend Academy training camps and receive regular 1:1 lessons (ideally two per week). Fencers aiming to qualify for major championships at U17/U20 level should also be undertaking additional fitness training and tactical video analysis at the direction of the coaches. International representation is a privilege, and Caps Squad athletes are expected to serve as role models to other fencers at the Academy and take ownership of their own training. Opportunities such as acting as Academy Youth Leaders, support for refereeing qualifications and support for coaching qualifications are also available to fencers on the Caps Squad. Caps Squad fencers who have received a U20 call-up are automatically invited to the Senior Club Sessions, with additional invites at the discretion of the coaches.
MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIPS SQUAD The Major Championships Squad is an additional recognition of fencers who have achieved selection to a major championship in the previous season -ie the Cadet & Junior European Championships or Cadet & Junior World Championships. It would be normal for a fencer to achieve the Championship Squad one year and then return to the Caps Squad, particularly in the transition year from U17 to U20. Championship Squad Fencers have access to all the perks and responsibilities of the Caps Squad, are invited to Senior Club Sessions and should be training towards both achieving successful results at future major championships and eventual selections at Senior International level.
The Academy Competitions Pathway provides each fencer with a competition calendar and training plan; and by helping fencers and parents navigate the wide range of competition opportunities available and bringing the registration process in-house, allows the Academy to ensure that individual fencers are provided with competition opportunities of an appropriate level and volume for their age, development and competitive goals.
The pathway operates both on a continuous competition by competition basis, and over the course of the whole fencing season. This allows fencers and parents to have clear visibility going into the season, whilst retaining flexibility as the year progresses
The Pathway Manager and Coaches identify competitions appropriate for each fencer based on age, attitude & behaviour, experience, engagement in training, qualification requirements, external factors such as exams, and previous results data. For fencers travelling with international squads, we place great emphasis on managing competition load in order to minimise injury risk, avoid mental burnout over a long season and maximise training opportunities during key developmental years.
Coach Assignment and Logistical Organisation
Based on the fencers going to specific events and taking into account simultaneous events, the Academy Director and Pathway Manager assign Coaching staff to events, manage logistics in terms of travel, accommodation etc. Where it is necessary for fencers to borrow fencing equipment from the Academy, we will organise fittings and kit collection at training sessions at the Combat Centre the week leading into any nominated competition so that fencers have everything they need for the competition ahead of time
Communicate & Enter
Parents are informed of competition nomination selections by direct email from the Pathway Manager and asked to register for events via the Academy Competitions Page https://www.teampdfa.co.uk/fencingcompetitions Entries are then bulk processed on Sport80 by the Academy. This system helps ensure that all our athletes are correctly entered on-time for nominated events, especially those with entry caps. Our event tickets include event coaching fees so there will only be one charge per competition. We also process yearly British Fencing, EuroFencing and FIE licenses for athletes through our website so that our athletes always have the correct competitive licenses and insurance cover for specific events.
Leading up to any nominated competition, the Pathway Manager will send out detailed information about the event, including arrival times, equipment requirements and instructions for fencers. On the day of competitions, fencers register with the event coaches upon arrival, before a structured coach-led warm-up ahead of the competition start. Coaching prioritisation is communicated and the competition plans are reviewed so all fencers have a clear vision of their fencing objectives for the day. Coaches provide piste-side support where possible and are available to help fencers prepare for individual matches between rounds, as well as offering pastoral care throughout the competition.
In order to best prepare for important competitions, the Coaches and Pathway manager discuss and implement any specific tactical, technical and/or physical requirements for individual fencers/squads, and training is structured around key qualification and Championship events. Where external support, such as specialist sports psychology or physiotherapy is required, the Academy staff are able to provide recommendations for professionals who have previously worked with successful fencers.
Data Collection, Analysis and Feedback
Using the Ophardt portal, competition video, ranking changes and fencer+coach feedback, a wide range of quantitative and qualitative data is collected for analysis by the Coaches and Pathway Manager. This data is then used to inform competition and training needs on an ongoing basis. Fencers are encouraged to seek feedback from their coaches following competitions, and lessons after a competition will typically begin with a debrief of the event. As part of taking ownership of their own training, more experienced fencers are expected to voice when they feel there is something specific they would like to improve with their coaches, and undertake self-analysis of their fencing using the analysis tools the Academy provides.