Why does BF publish U17 & U20 selection calendars?
BF is responsible for selecting athletes to represent Great Britain at the Cadet (U17) & Junior (U20) European Championships (February) and U23 European Championships (April) and the Cadet and Junior World Championships (April).
To do this BF nominate domestic events (British Ranking Competitions “BRCs”) in which athletes can gain British ranking points. In some cases BF nominate existing events (eg the Welsh Open, a Senior Open, has historically been selected as a Junior BRC for epee), and in some cases BRCs are organised in collaboration with clubs.
BF also nominates international events where British ranking points can be gained – EFC U17 circuit tournaments, FIE U20 World Cups. For EFC U17 and FIE U20 events there are entry limits (a maximum number of athletes can be entered per federation) so BF need to select for these events. This is primarily done on British ranking. Therefore we need to ensure that suitable opportunities to gain ranking points in domestic events exist before selections take place for internationals.
For practical reasons, selection for the Europeans ideally needs to happen before the end of December to allow logistical arrangements to be made for a squad to travel in February.
Historically BF has avoided running qualification events in the middle of Summer holidays, as this is often a great time for young fencers to attend Summer camps either in the UK or internationally.
This all means that September to December becomes a critical competitive period for athletes seeking selection.
Are these dates set in stone?
Calendars are issued for guidance purposes only with the information available to BF at the time of publication. Calendars may be subject to subsequent change due to changes to dates and schedules of events which are outwith the control of BF.
It is the responsibility of athletes, coaches and parents to read the information published by the organisers of the events. Where international events are nominated BF will use the reglements as the basis for squad logistics and the instructions provided to selected athletes.
How is the calendar created? Why isn’t it published earlier?
The selection calendars aim to be progressive and are designed first and foremost to aid selection of the 3 or 4 fencers selected for Europeans and World Championships.
The process starts well before the Cadet and Junior European Championships which is normally in February. Neither the EFC or the FIE calendars are available at this point so assumptions are made about the likely dates based on previous season dates.
On a domestic front, BF looks at the events that have been licensed by BF for the following season and try to accommodate those events which we would consider appropriate for athletes seeking selection to attend.
Where a significant domestic event has not yet been licensed we look at prior year events and make a best guess. Due to the large numbers of events in the calendar we are not able to contact every event organiser. Event organisers are responsible for licensing their events well in advance so we can, if possible, take these into account.
We also look at the senior domestic event calendars and other senior events such as FIE satellites. This is because these events impact the availability of referees – often our senior fencers will referee at BRCs.
We take into account frequency of competitive events, recognising that more than two competitive weekends in a row is not desirable.
We take into account any sponsorship and commercial arrangements in place which may require us to use certain venues to substantially reduce the costs to participants.
These, and a number of additional factors and interdependencies are all taken into account making the creation of selection calendars across 6 weapons and 3 age groups a complicated exercise.
Why are some venues confirmed later than others?
BF undertakes a BRC tender process. Ideally BF are looking to balance the geographical locations of the BRCs and the camps so that athletes are not always travelling to London. Often at expression of interest stage, we get more interest from clubs in and around the London area. This means that BF sometimes has to be proactive to reach out to clubs in other areas and work with them to put the events on.
Why are so many events in London/England?
We know that athletes travel from all over the UK to compete (for example Truro and Aberdeen) and we also have a few athletes that fly in from outside the UK.
London is home to one of Britain’s largest and best fencing facility – the Leon Paul Centre. Previously home to the World Class Programme, many of the best fencers in the country choose to train there. Additionally London and the South East have access to a larger pool of high standard local referees which significantly reduces the cost of running a competition.
The Athlete Development Programme (ADP) is subsidised by Sport England funding, therefore associated camps and centres are held in England.
We take all these factors and more into account. We are looking in the future to create a more geographically balanced set of events (competitions and training camps) for athletes. In the meantime we do ensure that a minimum number of training and competition opportunities are run outside of London and will continue to seek opportunities to move major competitions like the Cadet and Junior Nationals outside of London.
Going forwards, our referee training programme is delivering opportunities for Regional level referees to upskill so that we have more National level referees across the country who can support local as well as National events.
In the meantime we continue to try and create a calendar of events that deliver the right quality experience, at the right price in the right geographical locations.
Do I need to attend every competition?
Selection calendars are not intended to be a list of every event that every U17 or U20 athlete should attend.
Ranking schemes typically count a subset of best results.
Events should be selected taking into account the developmental needs and related goals of an athlete (this is a discussion between personal coaches, parents, athletes with advice from ADP coaches) and other factors, such as financial situation, education, motivation and commitment.
All athletes seeking to represent GBR should have their own actively managed athlete development plan which set out which events an athlete is expecting to attend, This should be reviewed and updated regularly throughout the season by the athlete, personal coach and parent – taking into account advice and feedback from the ADP coaches.
The Cadet Winton, Age Group Home Nation Representative team events and other non ranking events.
Events like the Cadet Winton Cup and Age Group Home Nation team events are examples of great opportunities for young athletes to experience the fun of representational fencing, without the pressure that comes with a ranking event.
However, any event that sits within the September to December period currently sits within the most crowded part of the domestic Junior and Cadet Calendar will risk clashes. When these happen, the small numbers of athletes targeting the European or World Championships in that season, may need to prioritise selection events.
As the season progresses, some athletes will be increasingly unlikely to make qualification for the major events and we would encourage them at this stage look at other non selection events that better suit their development journey.
The Winton Cup is also a great opportunity for regions to work with their clubs to encourage younger and less experienced fencers to participate in fun, competitive team fencing.
What about exams?
BF is not going to stop fencing events just because of exams. However, we recognise that the chase for ranking points creates stress and to encourage sensible decision making around that we will sometimes adjust the number of ranking points available for events which clash with GCSEs and A Levels. It is important to note that only 2 years (out of the 6 + years in U20/U17) are affected by these exams and athletes who are not sitting these exams can still be offered an opportunity to compete.
What about Athlete Development Camps?
BF is fortunate to receive Sport England funding to support training and education of young athletes representing GBR. These training opportunities (eg ADP camps) also need to be scheduled in. These are often run right at the start of the season (late Aug/Sep, mid October and between Christmas and New Year) to take advantage of school holidays.
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