What are your top three (3) priorities for the USA Fencing Board? *
My top three priorities are:
First, we need to grow the sport of fencing. When I was in high school I started a team that grew from 0 to 36 fencers. I know how to go from an empty room to a thriving club. The majority of members are competitive youth fencers and the main reason why parents invest in fencing for their children is for the opportunity of college recruitment. There is a large drop in membership from fencers who go to a college without a fencing program and therefore quit the sport. We must increase the number of NCAA fencing programs. As a former NCAA fencer, 4-time NCAA All American and former NCAA Head Coach I will lead the effort to contact athletic directors to maintain and grow the number of NCAA programs.
Financial stability is vital to the success of USA Fencing. I attend many senior World Cups and our aspiring Olympians are constantly worried about funding and travel costs. Cadet and Junior fencers cannot make a National Team without attending several expensive European Circuit events. I have helped solve this problem with my own non-profit organization that has raised over $100,000 to fund US fencers who cannot afford to attend National Team Qualifying events. I can fundraise. We also need to pursue sponsorship opportunities. Other Olympic sports raise 2+ million in sponsorships (Toyota, Nike, Coca-Cola). USA Lacrosse donated $2 million worth of lacrosse equipment to under-represented communities. Two million dollars is the entire budget of USA Fencing during COVID. And more importantly I can reduce the main underlying cost of USA Fencing membership: Insurance. My professional background is corporate consulting and insurance. I have already secured quotes to significantly reduce the cost of individual and club memberships. USA Fencing can keep the revenue to fund initiatives or pass the savings on to members and clubs. Either way, financial success is essential for the future of USA Fencing.
I cannot overstate the discontent with USA Fencing’s member experience. The website is confusing. The membership is expensive. Now National Events are capped with a “lottery” system that deprives competitive fencers from any opportunity to advance. Qualification and Regional/National Points are a mystery to many. This all affects the growth of our sport as parents say “Why bother?” but it doesn’t have to be this way. Take a look at other Olympic Sport’s websites. How easy is it for a beginner to sign-up? For a new parent to find information? Is there a VIDEO with exactly how to put on your equipment (hint: for ice hockey, there is!) These are all things that USA Fencing can easily accomplish. We need to work with FencingTime developers to add “points earned” to the results page for regional events. Communication from USA Fencing to membership needs to be improved. We can utilize all available technology to make participation in the sport of fencing more enjoyable for all.
Tell us more in depth about how you plan to approach issues of racial and gender equity in USA Fencing. You may use our WFencing Report Card to help you.https://wfencing.org/programs/report-card/ Please feel free to refer to any of the issues raised within the report card to focus your answer. *
As a USA Fencing Board Member, my main goal is growth as measured by USA Fencing membership. At present, 1/3 of USA Fencing members are women, so there is a huge growth opportunity to promote women in fencing. WFencing’s mission is to “achieve diversity, unity and equity among all fencing professionals,” and I believe I can help. Our club has successfully implemented a women’s and girls fencing program to help provide a safe space for our female fencers to train together and express themselves. Senior and collegiate female fencers mentor and inspire our youth athletes. Everyone participates in leadership exercises to inspire these young women to become future leaders. Immediately, the USAFencing.org website needs a “women’s fencing” tab with information about opportunities in our sport. My website and other profitable Olympic sports such as USA Ice Hockey have already implemented this. The BEST way to get MORE female coaches and MORE female referees and MORE female board members is to encourage young women TODAY and develop future leaders at each and every club. I am actively doing this now, at my own organization and can help other to do the same. You may view a video about our program here:
What else would you like the WFencing community to know? *
I grew up in a “win at all costs” fencing environment. My own teammates refused to warm-up with me at competitions. Their parents tried to prevent me from taking lessons with the “better” coaches for fear that I would win a coveted college scholarship over their child. I just wanted to fence and make friends. I started coaching at the same “win at all costs” club. I was told certain students could not represent the club, because they were not rated highly enough. I was told to aggressively recruit the “best fencers,” even though I knew they would bring negative energy to the training room. I saw fencers quit, because all their love of the sport was lost if they didn’t become an Olympian. Fortunately, my partner encouraged me to leave the toxic “old boys club” and we started our own club. We created a club where success isn’t measured only on the fencing strip but by how fencing can enhance one’s life. We developed a program that works to help ALL athletes improve and grow in the sport. I want to share that with all of USA Fencing.
Please provide any links and contact information for any questions that the membership may have. This will be published on the website and be made public.
Detailed information is available at Durkanfencing.com/votedurkan.
You may also speak to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-203-9585.