My name is Abdel Salem, and I am running as a candidate for the At-Large Director for USA Fencing. In this roll I will utilize my long involvement in our sport to help USA Fencing offer more opportunities and improve conditions for women in fencing.
I came to the United States almost 40 years ago and have had the enjoyment of a career in fencing. During this time, I have been an Olympic fencer and Olympic coach. As a Fencing Master in all three weapons, I have worked as a club coach, founded, and owned two successful clubs. I coached for USA Fencing at the World University Games, World Cup events, World Military Games, Junior and Cadet teams and US Olympic Festival. I was a staff member of the US Fencing Coaches College. I worked as an instructor and assistant coach at Bryn Mawr College and the University of Pennsylvania. I recently retired, after 22 years as Head Coach of the US Air Force Academy Women’s and Men’s teams. I was a member of the NCAA National Fencing Committee and three term President of the USFCA. Along the way, I married and became the parent of a fencer. Currently, I am a referee at USA Fencing events and Assistant Coach at my wife’s club, Front Range Fencing Club.
Looking ahead, the power of USA Fencing will be measured not just by medals, but by how we incorporate, diversity, equity, and inclusion, in every aspect of our sport. USA Fencing must achieve and continue equitable ideas as an organizational concept.
USA Fencing needs regular communication, both written and through public events. There needs to be transparency for membership. We must establish programs to promote qualified individuals, but also to encourage individuals to become qualified. USA Fencing must work to reduce inequities and view diversity as part of our strength. As a person of color, I have dealt with many of these challenges on a first-hand basis. My goal has always been to give an opportunity to anyone. To not see our differences. I have worked with several women coaches, referees, and armorers, some of them working with WFencing. I have heard their issues. As President of the USFCA, I worked hard to establish a coach testing system that was objective rather than subjective. With clearly defined expectations. I want to take that a step further and nurture coaches more effectively as they approach and work through the certification process by offering programs designed to assist women coaches and address their needs. I will establish a system to mentor and empower one another. If we are to close the gap between coaches, referees, armorers, administrators, and of course fencers, then we need to educate the fencing community and improve the working environment for everyone.
USA Fencing has started this process with a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) team. We should involve experts in equity training for staff from the national office, our committees, and at the regional and divisional level. We hold numerous fencing events throughout the country each year. What a perfect forum to offer discussion with membership. Our new-found ability to communicate through technology like Zoom and podcasts offers another opportunity to interact and communicate.
But first, we must ask ourselves: what are the goals of the organization, what strategies can we implement, how can we improve our performance with data driven planning while making sure we have input from multiple points of view. I want to improve communication and establish an internal feedback process that is comfortable for everyone. We need to provide periodic reports showing progress and learn from what is not working. This information should be provided to divisions and clubs as a guide to help them improve their best practices.
We need to mentor and create role models for girls and women as fencers, referees, armorers, and coaches. We want them to feel wanted in every aspect of our sport. They need to feel they have something of value to express. I want to increase the public acknowledgement of their accomplishments. I want to establish a newsletter that I “girl centered” to appeal to our younger members and let them know the wide range of opportunities they have. Our organization needs to support them through SafeSport training and make them feel they have a safe environment to participate in. We need to do all we can to keep the few who violate our principles from being able to do it again. We need to be able to communicate information not just in the United States but with the international community as well. We need to share essential knowledge to protect those in other countries from individuals who flee there.
I was appalled at the WFencing report card. Across the board USA Fencing has much to accomplish. I hope you will give me the opportunity to work for all members of USA Fencing to establish programs to address these inequities. I look forward to a continued dialogue with WFencing members as we improve the fencing experience for girls and women.