(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – USA Fencing is pleased to announce the five clubs which received Club of Excellence honors for the 2016-17 season, exemplifying incredible dedication to their members as well as the sport of fencing.
The second year of the program, the Club of Excellence program recognizes clubs that creatively find ways to attract and retain members. Each year, one club is chosen for its commitment in one of the following five categories: membership retention and growth; diversity and women’s programming; marketing, sponsorship and social media; youth development and collegiate clubs.
The five winners are as follows:
Each club was recognized during a presentation on the finals stage at the USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge in Salt Lake City. The award winners received a Club of Excellence banner as well as a 25 percent discount on off its club renewal for the 2017-18 season.
More information on each club can be found below:
2017 Club of Excellence in Membership Retention and Growth: Olympia Fencing Center
President: Daniel Hondor
Founded in 2012, more than 200 of Olympia Fencing Center’s 287 members have been at the club for more than four years. Memberships are offered on a month-to-month basis, meaning members have no contracts or required commitment (there also is no club fee). For the younger children, the coaches make the classes fun, combining instruction and games. Also, the club asks for feedback on its programs and is open to change to ensure the best experience for its members.
To help grow the club, Olympia Fencing Center takes advantage of the trial membership program, offering trials for all levels during the beginners’ classes to expose interested participants to fencing. The club advertises the free trial on diverse free event posting websites as well as uses Facebook ads, and contacts local schools and libraries. They also run fencing demos and spread the word of their club at local events such as fairs and 5k races.
The club also keeps the price of the beginner classes low, offers diverse programs and does its best to strike a balance between class duration, level and price. Olympia Fencing Center’s website is search engine optimized and includes weekly updates with competition results. Olympia also offers workshops for parents to answer questions on the national circuit and creates a friendly, warm community.
2017 Club of Excellence in Diversity and Women’s Programming: Louisville Fencing Center
Owner: Les Stawicki
The Louisville Fencing Center prides itself on tolerance and accepting others’ lifestyles and views. Featuring a diverse membership with different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and gender identities, bullying is in no way allowed and strict policies are enforced to ensure enjoyment for all. As a result, strong friendships and a second family has formed at the Louisville Fencing Center and together they volunteer to help disadvantaged youth and diverse groups enjoy fencing.
With a goal of creating a safe place for everyone, the Louisville Fencing Center works with immigrants, inner city and disadvantaged youth and adults. The club advertises at libraries, museums, LGBT organizations and community centers in the area to give everyone a chance to enjoy fencing.
To recruit female fencers, the Louisville Fencing Center reaches out to school programs, Girl Scout groups and historical society affiliates. Advertising on Facebook and their website, the club has seen its population of female fencers grow in the past year.
Owner Les Stawicki was a coach of six U.S. Paralympic Teams and the Louisville Fencing Center continues to make fencing available to anyone, regardless of disability. The club is seeking to expand the wheelchair program and acquire more wheelchair fencers and equipment in the near future.
2017 Club of Excellence in Marketing: Marx Fencing Academy
West Concord, Mass.
Owners: Lisa Bell and Michael Marx
Marx Fencing Academy was founded in 2014 and has used various marketing techniques to grow its membership. After a website overhaul and new platform launch, the site is now mobile responsive in order to be user-friendly on mobile phones and tablets. The website also is search engine optimized, helping to attract new members.
At the club, there is a slideshow updated weekly which includes helpful information and a notice board advertising selected upcoming camps. Marx Fencing Academy also sends out a newsletter with news on events occurring at the club and educational information and gives out flyers promoting their summer camps to the community and neighboring towns to draw new members.
Such an important component to marketing, Marx Fencing Academy pays close attention to its timing, planning the right times to launch dates of their camps and intensive trainings while ensuring enough time for their marketing efforts to be effective.
2017 Club of Excellence in Youth Development: Missoula Fencing Association
Owner: Laura Lee
Offering an eight-week introductory program for kids, the Missoula Fencing Association introduces students to the sport for the first six weeks before they join the club level one class the final two weeks to meet other club members. The program includes equipment to use, which they can continue using if they join the club, and a glove for the kids to keep.
The Missoula Fencing Association also offers opportunities to try fencing for free at community events, offers scholarships to qualifying students and hosts “bring a friend to fence” classes. To help recruit, the club offers after school programs and summer camps. They also invite the public to watch tournaments held at the club.
Partnering with local schools, the Missoula Fencing Association teaches fencing in P.E. classes and holds after school classes at elementary and middle schools. The club also hosts demonstrations at school assemblies, participates in open houses in the fall and keeps flyers about classes and camps at local schools year round. For homeschoolers, the club has fall, winter and spring sessions of fencing classes which are advertised using social media such as Facebook.
2017 Collegiate Club of Excellence: University of Florida Fencing Club
The University of Florida Fencing Club has proved successful in recruiting new members, sometimes exceeding 60 people in a recruiting class and maxing out the space in the gym. Club members hold demonstrations, attend the university sports expositions and give out flyers to expose students to fencing. Equipment is provided to new fencers with new gear bought every two to three years. Developing college athletes, many of which have never played sports, the club creates a positive, welcoming environment with many fencers coming back year after year because of the close friendships with their teammates.
With no dues for its members, the University of Florida Fencing Club fundraises with local restaurants and the university athletic association. They also hold donation drives and host two tournaments each year, including the Annual Green Gator competition, which is the largest tournament in Florida.
The University of Florida Fencing Club also has found success in competition. Practicing four days a week for two hours on a basketball court, this past season the women’s team placed third at the 2017 USACFC College Fencing National Championships, with the team placing sixth overall.
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