This article forms part of a series of reports which accompanies the 2020-21 BF Annual Report.
Due to the pandemic, the majority of delivery across our portfolio of Projects and Programmes came to a standstill in April 2020, with no delivery taking place across London Youth or in the HE space.
During 2020-21, like all areas of the sport, for the majority of the year face to face delivery across our portfolio of Projects and Programmes did not take place. However, the focus quickly moved to supporting the set-up of online delivery, staying connected with partners and supporting people to be active. For all the challenges that the pandemic has bought us and the physical distance it has created, it has also given us the opportunity to be more connected than ever with our partners. We have used the power of technology to connect and share learnings with partners and grow our understanding of what we can do to better support the delivery of fencing across a variety of settings.
Below is a summary of the focus of work over the last year.
Work in the HE Sector
Staying connected with HEIs
With delivery across the HE sector pausing at the start of lockdown, staying connected with HE Club Officers in what was anticipated to be a lengthy period of time away from the sport, was a key priority for the team. Using a range of communication platforms such as WhatsApp and Zoom, we were able to stay connected with over 50 Club Officers across the UK, using the space to share information such as revised COVID guidelines and risk assessments as lockdown restrictions changed. This was also an opportunity to gauge the status of indoor sport in the University sector from the perspective of the individual institutions and provide us with insights into how we could better support them both in the restart of the sport and in the future. From these discussions, we determined that there was a requirement to design online coach education courses and marketing resources to help clubs promote themselves in this space.
Before the pandemic in partnership with BUCS, BF developed and delivered the BUCS Fencing Series, designed for new and intermediate participants to have fun competitive experiences, however, due to lockdown this was paused. The series was recognised as having clearly defined the types of participants involved, and the user experience as being an important element for anyone to become and stay active in HE sports. BUCS used this as an example of a successful model for an event or series that could be replicated in other NGB’s for future delivery.
“I’m looking forward to discussing potential future projects and ideas, seeing how other clubs run, as well as the general communication between university clubs. Further, it would be great to be kept up to date with any nationwide projects, ideas or activities which may arise.”
“This is a brilliant idea and I’m very excited to learn from others and share my thoughts. The group sounds like a great way for me to air ideas we are having and to get BF and others’ insight on them, and also for me to listen to the ideas of other uni clubs. Increased collaboration is very important, and this is a great way to foster that”
Supporting the Scouts #TheGreatIndoors
During the first lockdown we worked with Rob Bruniges, Lucy Johnson and Ben Peggs to produce an online resource to support Scout leaders in their delivery during lockdown. The resource was made up of over 30 videos, covering three themes; skills, games and creative activities and supported the Scouts #TheGreatIndoors campaign. The resource has been viewed over 1500 times and shared across a Facebook Scout group, which has also been used to share the most up to date and relevant guidelines for return to fencing.
Alongside the video resources, we ran several online refresher sessions for existing Scout leaders to support them with their virtual delivery during lockdown. Led by Helen Solly and Rob Bruniges, they shared ideas and suggestions of games and activities that can be delivered at home, as well as using it as an opportunity for the Scout leaders to share the challenges and successes they have had during lockdown.
“Upskilling our Fencing instructors on Zoom! This was certainly the best Zoom of the year so far for us – exciting, motivational and fun. We just love the relationship and support we have from British Fencing and for all the Scouts in West Yorkshire, this now makes Fencing a new sport accessible to all”
Muslim Girls Fence
At the start of the pandemic, the priority for Muslim Girls Fence (MGF) was to stay connected with our partners delivering on the ground, as well as ensuring the participants had the opportunity to come together virtually and continue to be active. Within 17 days of lockdown being announced, the first online session for MGF had moved online and a new way of working with our coaches began. In the first week of lockdown, An initial call with the MGF coaches was set up to establish what support they might need over the coming weeks and months. With many of the coaches not knowing each other, one of the asks was in the short term to meet regularly over Zoom as a coaching team, to use each other to support and share ideas around ways of working online. Driven by the coaches themselves and supported by colleagues from both BF and Maslaha, the group has continued to meet weekly over the last year, building a strong bond and supporting each other through both the highs and lows of their coaching during the last year.
“I’ve really enjoyed attending the coaches meetings, and I will miss them when they stop. They have enabled me to build new friendships which I was unable to create before lockdown. For example coach A and coach B (two coaches from London), I have never met them in person physically, but I have virtually and I think they are awesome! I have built such a good rapport with them, that I feel like if I ever had to go down to London for work, I could drop them a call and ask if I could join their session, and share ideas with them. I know I haven’t met them offline, but I really feel like I have connected with them, and built a friendship with them!” (Coach quote)
For many of the coaches and participants, the Zoom online sessions provided routine, the opportunity to socialise with others, as well as the opportunity to continue to fence and stay active.
“They spoke about how they love that they can come on and socialise and one of the participants said it’s like an appointment they keep to, keeps them going to be able to see people they know and meet new people when new people join.” (Coach quote)
“Alhumdulillah it’s been great attending your sessions not only benefitting physically but also been good for mental wellbeing. Gives me little time out for myself. Love seeing friendly faces and getting to know new sisters in the process.” (Participant quote)
During the pandemic, there were 12 ‘online locations’ with women from all over the country taking part in over 500 individual fencing and creative sessions. These sessions have ranged from women only to family friendly and have constantly adapted to the needs of the participants. The drive and determination of the coaches to make online delivery work has been an incredible effort by all those involved. The sharings and learnings between the team have not only been a support for the coaches but have given the MGF partnership a greater understanding of the needs of the coaches and we can better support them in the future.
For our partners London Youth, online delivery was not possible. With their workforce massively impacted by the pandemic, youth workers leaving the sector to find work elsewhere and internal resources focusing on the most critical services they provide young people, all delivery was paused. The latter part of the year has focused our attention on the restart of the sport and working with them to target those clubs who are keen to include fencing in their programmes and need further support in training and upskilling youth workers.
The 2020-21 Director’s Report can be found here.
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