Pathway Stage Components

There are 10 Pathway Stage Components

  1. Behaviour & Commitment
  2. Adaptability & Decision Making
  3. (Ability to) Control and Dominate Distance
  4. Technical Excellence
  5. Ability to tolerate mental and physical load
  6. Performance/Results
  7. Training Environments
  8. Support (Coaches, SS&M, Parents)
  9. Competition Targets
  10. Programmes

Components 1-6 derive from the 2012-16 ‘What it Takes To Win’ model originally developed as part of the UK Sport funded World Class Programme, which have been further adapted and refined. These performance components are joined by the other stage components (7-10) to provide a holistic pathway stage description.

‘What It Takes To Win’ in world class fencing is defined as the ability to score more hits than the opponent (first to 15 or most hits scored within 3 x 3min rounds) and win 6 consecutive direct elimination fights (against world class opponents in world class competition)

This goal is broken down into Performance Components (eg technical, tactical, behavioural etc) which include quantitative performance measures (eg average %age finish, world ranking, win/loss ratio for fights won/lost by 1 hit, strength & conditioning measures) which feed into the Pathway Stages Descriptions. Using the Weapons Framework these components and measures are further defined for each stage and adapted by discipline where appropriate.

For athletes moving into T4 and beyond each of these performance components include performance standards required to be eligible for entry to UK Sport funded programme elements of the ADP.


Individual Component Descriptions

1. Behaviour and Commitment

Underpinned by the leadership models and behaviour frameworks, an athlete is expected to be professional and accountable – both in their pursuit of performance but also in how they inspire others and ultimately become the Olympian that they and others can be proud of. Teamwork is as important as individual results as is the ability to develop self-awareness and leadership skills.  Over time a world class fencer will be supported to develop the ability to manage their support team to deliver on their goals preparing for a long term career at world class level.

Commitment is not just turning up to training and competition, its about all aspects of the athlete lifestyle and giving 100%. It is about turning up to a competition ready and prepared with equipment that works. All pathway athletes are expected to demonstrate:

‘Professionalism in your approach to everything’

‘Accountability for your actions’ 

At T1 stage athletes are expected to demonstrate ‘coachability’ and ‘hunger for success’. Coachability includes the ability to follow instructions (eg read and respond to programme emails in a timely fashion) and be accountable for following personal plans (eg Strength & Conditioning, nutrition).

Without these elements the positive impact of any programme will be limited and result in a poor experience for athletes.

Measures include

  • Existence and regular maintenance of Individual Athlete Profile
  • #Red cards due to equipment failure

2. Tactical Game, Adaptability & Decision Making

The ability to create and execute excellent tactical game plans. World class athletes should be able to read an opponent, create game plans in advance and adapt on the piste. They must be able to make winning decisions and adapt during high pressure competitive matches. They should also be able to win one touch matches when it matters.

At T1 stage athletes should be demonstrating that they are

‘game intelligent and innovative’.

This can be demonstrated through other games which have tactical and strategic elements.

It is expected that T1 stage athletes will be taking an interest and show a basic understanding in the tactics adopted by the World Top 16 (in their weapon) to win.


Measures include:

  • Number/quality of tactical game plans in place for target competition opponents
  • Win/loss ratio of fights won or lost by 1 point at target competitions.


3. Control & dominate distance

The ability to create the time and space to execute winning moves. World class fencing requires exceptional judgement and control of timing and distance.

T1 stage athletes are expected to demonstrate

‘great timing and ability to use distance for advantage’

and have some ability to use their body to create space and distance with a similar level opponent where necessary. Like ‘game intelligence’ (see above) this can be demonstrated in other activities, not just fencing.


4. Technical Excellence

Consistently excellent technical skills (blade-work and footwork). Has a world class level of technique to enhance their personal style which includes:

    • Balanced and agile footwork.
    • Successful in attack – fights with a successfully offensive style complemented by dependable defensive actions.

To win at world class level athletes need the ability to execute an attack, and with the recent changes in rules this is even more important.

World class athletes also need to have an excellent understanding of the rules of the sport and how these are interpreted in practice.

At T1 stage athletes are expected to have

‘good coordination

the basic ability to control their hands and feet to allow for development as a performance athlete.

We are also expecting athletes that are

‘confident to make attacks using a range of footwork’

This does not necessarily mean we expect T1 stage athletes to always be successful in attack, but athletes that only develop their defensive game play will not be able to progress.  (T1 Foilists and Epeeists are expected to be as comfortable fleching as they are lunging).


5. Performance /Results

Ability to consistently perform under pressure – is able to maintain performance standards under competitive stress.


  • Average % finishing position at world class  (or developmentally appropriate T1/T2) competitions.
  • % DE victories against world class (or developmentally appropriate T1/T2)  opposition.
  • World Ranking (Senior)


6. Ability to tolerate mental and physical load

Robust and ready to perform. Required level of fitness (mentally & physically)  to perform optimally at the end of multiple world class 15 hit matches and team matches for three consecutive days of competition.

In a sport which at the highest levels involve subjective refereeing, world class athletes must develop mental resilience to cope with this and the ability to thrive mentally under this pressure.

At T1 stage, athletes are expected to have a basic level of physical fitness and mental resilience.


More information will be published on the specific tests that all athletes are expected to do on a regular basis to monitor their physical readiness. T1 stage athletes should have a basis level of anaerobic and aerobic fitness.


7. Training Environments

To progress through the pathway athletes are expect to access appropriate training environments that support their pathway stage level.

Training environments at all levels need high quality coaching AND appropriate level sparring

At the top level of the pathway these environments include elite performance clubs with other E1/E2 stage athletes, National training sessions, International training and preparation camps (with other medal winning athletes/nations) and other high quality training environments such as S&C facilities.

It may be necessary for athletes to relocate abroad for a period of time to access the right training environment.

Not all T1 stage athletes can access performance clubs and may be participating in community fencing. To progress to T2 stage, these athletes will be expected to change (or enhance) their training environment.


8. Support (Coaches, SS&M, Parents)

Athletes on the programme need the right level of support from those around them to progress.

At the highest level an athlete’s support team (coaches, physio’s, nutritionists, parents/guardians/partners) must:

  • Enable a high performing collaborative partnership between athletes, coaches, clubs and BF.
  • Commit to supporting athlete to lead and manage relationships and feedback to all support staff in a constructive manner to drive performance.
  • For professional support staff supporting T4 and above, commitment to own ongoing personal development in elite medal winning space, ability to research, critically review and innovate to gain competitive advantage.

At all levels it is expected that members of the support team

  • Support sporting efforts and role modelling of BF values and positive sportsmanship.
  • Show respect to athlete, leadership personnel, coaches, and officials.


At entry level (T1) we expect everyone (personal coaches, parents/guardians etc) to:

  • Promote athlete autonomy and problem solving, allowing athletes to develop ‘self coaching skills’ and a collaborative partnership between athletes, coaches, clubs and BF to develop.
  • Commitment to supporting athlete to share feedback in a constructive manner to drive performance.
  • Undertake the UKAD online Coach Clean
  • For professional support staff, commitment to own ongoing personal development in performance athlete space and maintaining up to date knowledge and qualifications.
  • For fencing coaches, be on the BF Coach Register (min Level 2 with a development plan to Level 4) with a satisfactory disciplinary and safeguarding record.
  • Parents/Guardians of U18s – Attend an ADP induction session which will focus on athlete wellbeing


Measures include:

  • Existence of Coaching Development Plan
  • Qualification Level
  • CDP undertaken


9. Competition Targets

These are a list of the competitions that an athlete is targeting to deliver their personal best performances.

At E1/E2 the expectation is that an athlete will be targeting the Olympics within that cycle.

At T4 an athlete may be up to one cycle out from Olympic qualification. Therefore targets will include Senior European and World Championships, Senior World Cups and Senior Grand Prix’s.

Competition targets are expected to be defined alongside the Results component.


10. Programmes

The BF Athlete Development Programme is responsible for delivering funded/subsidised services and development opportunities to identified pathway athletes.

All identified pathway athletes stage T2 and above are expected to join the BF Athlete Development Programme.

Subject to Sport England funding there may be opportunities for T1 athletes to join the programme and participate in related activities.

At the E1/E2 level, (subject to UK Sport funding) it is expected that athletes will be engaging with the Podium Programme element of the Athlete Development Programme.

At the T2-T3 stage athletes (age 16-18 undergoing state education in England) are normally expected to apply for DiSE.

At all stages, athletes are expected to apply for any appropriate sport scholarship opportunities that exist in their chosen place of education.


Return to the Pathway Zone to find out more about the Athlete Development Pathway.

Return to ‘The ADP Zone‘ to find out more information about the work that we do.



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