Summer Nationals was once again a great success and demonstrates the growth of our sport in the United States. The previous record for total bout slips turned in was 12,500 and we passed that in the morning of the last day, ending up with 13,500 bout slips turned in for the event!! That number, while amazing, does not even include the pool bouts fenced, so there was a tremendous amount of fencing. Over all, events ran smoothly, and while there were late nights, it is not possible to run that many events, with that number of competitors without extending past the typical dinner hour.
There are opportunities to improve, as always, for example, the delays in referee usage. Many referees were told their services were still needed, only to wait at least an hour, and at times more than two to receive their next assignment. Another is, sabre events were flighted. This resulted in long hours in arguably the most challenging events and led reduced quality of decisions by late in the week. All of these challenges are being reviewed and addressed for future Summer Nationals.
The single area which we believe needs the most immediate attention and could be the easiest to solve is the delay in volunteer pay. In recent years, the National Office has done a tremendous job of ensuring that referees are paid as they leave the venue on their last day of service. All of us who have experience with USA Fencing can easily remember the days when payment was not made until the end of the season, with some referees receiving only a portion of what was owed.
Fixing this has gone a long way in repairing the relationship between the referees and the National Office. However, at Summer Nationals there were no checks provided when the referees completed their duty days. This was quite a shock for many, who count on that money to take care of expenses incurred during the event. If you consider that all referees are out of pocket for expenses such as ground transportation, airport parking, gasoline, and food, that can be a considerable amount of money. When examined over a four-day NAC, that might add up to a couple of hundred dollars. However, when considering that Summer Nationals is ten days, that total can easily equal $500 – $600. For many of our referees, that is a considerable amount of money and needs to be budgeted very carefully in light of life’s demands. A delay of even a week or two, while historically expedient, can cause serious financial issues for some of our referees.
An easy solution is for the National Office is to clearly communicate to the RC Domestic Assignments Committee that payment will be delayed prior to the event. This will allow the referees who accept the assignment to make alternate plans to better budget for that delay. That notification should be repeated in subsequent communications with those hired to ensure there is no confusion. This is a simple solution to an issue which affects every hired referee.
Again, congratulations and thanks to everyone who organized, competed and volunteered in making this Summer Nationals the biggest, and arguably, the best contested to date. The future is bright for USA Fencing and we must take all steps to ensure the future success of our events by being as transparent as possible for all special circumstances which affect our referee corps.