UPDATED Foil Referee Discussion 12/10/2016

We hope that foil referees will find this discussion useful. We apologize for the poor sound quality.

https://youtu.be/8ZsiCBw5GdA

Bruce Gillman
Interim Vice-Chair, Domestic Referee Development

Commentary by Abbas Fadel:

Advanced Referee Foil Seminar at the December Foil  NAC D1  Mission Fencing Club in Long Island

Abbas Fadel, Doug Findlay, Buckie Leach and Greg Massialas

High level seminar, designed to address needs for referees rated 1 – 3.  The primary goal is for our National referees to be consistent in the way they make these calls, bout by bout, tournament by tournament.

1. Attack/Counter attack.  How much arm back/removal of point is sufficient to eliminate priority?  When does the counter attack have to arrive to take the time from a composed attack?

a. Slow approach without intent is not an attack.

b. The offensive action, executed with the intent to score will retain priority, even if the weapon arm isn’t moving forward, as long as it is continuous.  If there is a hesitation, the offensive action leaves itself open to attack into preparation.

c. Start applying high level priority discriminations at the earliest levels of competition.

d. Focus on making the majority of the calls, and pay less attention to the rare, unusual action.

2. Beat/Parry.  How do we consistently determine where blade contact occurs (strong vs weak) and under what circumstances will a beat low on the blade be automatically a parry, and under what circumstances not.

a. Just beating on the lower part of the opponent’s blade doesn’t mean parry.  The intention of the action will determine whether it was a beat or not.

b. If one fencer is making the offensive action, and both fencers try to beat the blade, the priority stays with the offensive action, unless the parry is obvious.

c. Use your ears! The sound of the action will help the referee understand what happened.

d. More experienced referees focus on the fencers, and use their ears to decide beat/parry.

3. Penalties.  We need to be consistent as a cadre in how we apply penalties:

a. Reversing Shoulder.  The first world cup brought a new interpretation to this penalty.  How do we want to approach enforcement?

i. The intent of the rule is to prevent a fencer who has been parried, from taking advantage of putting the unarmed shoulder in front of the armed shoulder to prevent being hit.

ii. The action is, as always, relative to the position of both fencers.  The reversing of the shoulder in order to avoid being hit needs to be relative to the opponent.

iii. Reversing the shoulder is akin to covering target.

RDC Milwaukee Meeting Notes 11/13/2016

The Referee Development Committee (RDC) met on November 13 to discuss its ongoing work. Many thanks to those committee members in Milwaukee who finished a long day of reffing followed by a committee meeting – hopefully they could still partake of fried cheese and beer after the meeting. Those who weren’t in Milwaukee called in to share updates and approve committee plans, including:

  • The committee approved a revised Certified Referee Instructor (CRI) outline to send to the RC for approval, so that CRIs can begin using it as soon as possible.
  • We formally accepted the new Code of Conduct, which has already been sent to the Referees’ Commission (RC) for approval. The Code of Conduct would replace the Code of Ethics, and it reflects standards of acceptable behavior from a human resources viewpoint rather than its current moral/ethical perspective. The RDC will also make recommendations to the RC regarding consequences for violating the Code of Conduct.
  • The RDC discussed the Certified Referee Observer (CRO) role, noting that there are people actually doing the work of a CRO without the mandate and criteria to do the job. The committee is currently working on a document to define the role, its goals, responsibilities, strategies and evaluation, and agreed to have a final draft ready to present to the RC by the end of the week.
  • The mentor program is up and running, with approximately 30 people involved as mentors, mentees or both. Committee members will work with the national office to create a blast email for professional members to promote the program.
  • There is a complete referee development program plan in the works, which should be available to the committee in draft form for the next meeting.
  • The RDC website and Facebook page continues to provide an avenue of communications for the committee, although most people who comment on the committee work do so offline.
  • Because of the tough schedule for the November NAC in Milwaukee, the epee seminar was cancelled. It will be rescheduled for the Richmond NAC. In addition, there will be a foil seminar at the foil NAC in NYC in December, touching on three topics: attack v. counterattack; beat v. parry; and the appropriate application of cards. The committee will reevaluate the seminars, their timing and effectiveness in January to see if tournament operations will allow for this type of continuing education moving forward.
  • We’re having difficulty scheduling coach-led clinics for upcoming NACs, due mainly to hectic tournament schedules and scheduling at cross-purposes. Good times for refs to attend these types of clinics are bad times for coaches and vice versa.
  • The committee agreed to talk with assignors to find the best time to schedule the next meeting at the Richmond NAC.

We appreciate the cadre’s input on development issues, and we’re always willing to discuss ways to improve the referee development experience. Please reach out to committee members if you have questions or would like to know more about our work.

Bruce Gillman
Interim Vice-Chair, Domestic Referee Development

Education Plan Update

We started off this season busy, and we are still busy! The RDC has been spending a lot of time trying to build an effective education framework for the future, one that will outlast the current members’ tenure on the committee. The goal is to create an education plan that will serve referees from the first time they look outside the club environment for referee education through all of the different branches of referee service they might choose.

To that end, we’ve been spending a lot of time looking at the way other sport governing bodies educate their referees, with sport programs ranging from youth soccer to Quidditch. We’ve been talking to educators, and to curriculum design experts on the best way to educate adults for the long term. And, we have been working in conjunction with other committees of the RC to discover their needs, and find ways that our efforts can multiply our results. We’ve been gathering (and publishing) data on referee usage, referee seminars, and where our referees live and serve. We want to be able to make the most-informed decisions possible as we create an educational structure for fencing referee development.

Our preliminary outline includes a recruitment plan, an entry level education plan, and a general advancement plan for referees who wish to work beyond the club/divisional level. This plan will tie into our existing Mentor Program, and we hope it will be accessible to any individual choosing to give their time and talent to referee our sport. We are looking into best practices for continuing education as well as content delivery, including more advanced seminars, as well as distance learning opportunities.

We are hoping to have the structure in place by our January deadline, and start implementation very soon thereafter. Until then, we appreciate the patience you’ve had with us, and look forward to serving you.

RDC Detroit Meeting Notes

While we’ve been working on a variety of aspects of updating and upgrading the referee development activities in place, we had our first opportunity to meet face to face at the NAC in Detroit on October 8 from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. Committee members joined after the day’s fencing events concluded, drove to Detroit to attend the meeting or called in on a conference bridge to share ideas.

I say this to illustrate how dedicated this group is to improving referee development. Here’s a quick run down of the meeting. As a committee, we:

  • Agreed to meet at each NAC until we get a better handle on all of the tasks involved in meeting our goals.
  • Talked at length about the referee usage data that we’ve gathered and what it all means.
  • Discussed updated CRI materials and agreed to a feedback deadline, so CRIs can use the corrected materials to offer seminars.
  • Approved the development of proof-of-concept online modules (similar to the sample module on this site) to begin revamping the referee education process.
  • Outlined the development of a referee education plan spanning from recruitment to FIE examination, including suggestions for new best-practices based formats, criteria and continuing education requirements.
  • Explored referee ratings from both a regional and national perspective.
  • Addressed how we must recognize and repair barriers to entry into the cadre, noting that we will have to overcome a tremendous amount of negative perceptions about serving as a USA Fencing referee.
  • Received an update on the sabre discussions and their positive impact on the sabre events at the Detroit NAC.
  • Agreed to contact USA Fencing’s SafeSport compliance officer for guidance on minors seeking entry into the new mentor program.

In conclusion, we have a massive job to do. As we touch on one area of development, we learn how it affects the entire USA Fencing referee experience. We’ll keep you up to date as we move forward.

Bruce Gillman
Interim Vice-Chair, Domestic Referee Development

Mentoring Sandbox

Referee Coaching, Assessing and Mentoring – What’s the Difference?

This is a question that the Referee Development Committee has been working to answer in a way that will be most helpful to the USA Fencing cadre as we move forward in developing a comprehensive Referee Development Program.

How do they differ?

So what are the differences, and what do they mean to USA Fencing referees? Here are some of the definitions we’re working with:

  • Referee Coaching: Coaching focuses explaining rules, history, theory, appropriate behaviors or new skills and trends to a less experienced referee. A coach directs this learning, and usually in response to an immediate problem or opportunity to share knowledge. For example, a coaching referee shows a newer referee a way to speed up pool check in, or how to correctly show the hand signal for a double touch. A morning meeting at at NAC is another example of a referee coaching situation. In the coaching scenario, the coach leads the relationship between experienced and less experienced referee.
  • Referee Assessing: Assessing occurs with direct observation and an assessment tool, like an observation form or video camera. During the assessment, an assessor will record the good, bad or otherwise behaviors of a referee, and share that assessment with the referee and the governing body, now the Referees’ Commission (RC). The RC may use these assessments as a written record to help determine ratings increases. For example, an RC member may hand an experienced referee a referee observation form, clipboard and a junior referee in order to provide feedback on the junior ref’s performance in a pool. In this scenario, the assessor leads the relationship with the newer referee.
  • Referee Mentoring: Mentoring is a learning concept that’s informal and focuses on long-term, personal career development. If done well, a mentoring relationship can last a lifetime, and may not even be focused solely on fencing. It’s based on listening, supporting, role modeling and consensus building. For instance, a new referee may call on a more experienced referee to find out how to get hired for an event, or to talk over a first black card, or discover the best place to go for dinner at a NAC in Portland. In this scenario, the less experienced referee leads the relationship, reaching out for help as needed, looking for insight.

It seems simple, but …

We often confuse these roles, because they overlap quite a bit. Experienced referees may offer coaching to newer refs while they are observing or assessing. Mentors may provide formal skills assessments. And maybe an assessor may end up filling the role of mentor as a new referee asks questions about specific skills. But, each role is important, and it has its own place within a learning environment.

A fresh approach for the cadre

The RDC has created a formal mentoring program as part of our planning process. We say formal, because we know that mentoring has been going on for a long time within the referee cadre. It’s easy to identify your mentors. Who do you call when you have a rules question, or who do you want to tell first when you’ve just reffed your first gold medal bout?

But, finding the right mentor can be difficult. Maybe you’re not comfortable reaching out for help. Perhaps you’ve had a bad experience. If you’re looking for guidance, and want to take your refereeing to the next level, the RDC urges you to take advantage of its new mentor program.

For experienced referees reading this, we need you to participate in the program as well. One of the main motivators for fencing referees is the ever-present “giving back to the sport that gave so much to me,” so the RDC is calling you on it. Please help us to help the next generation of referees. Mentors can end up gaining as much from the mentor/mentee relationship as newer referees.

You can find the details, and sign up here.

A Word from Our Vice Chair

bruce
Bruce Gillman

I’d like to introduce the new Referee Development Committee and to welcome you to this blog and website. We’ve just begun our journey, and we’ve hit the ground running. We hope to bring a fresh, new perspective to referee development, and we look forward to sharing with you, our stakeholders, as we progress.

Let me start by introducing our members: Charles Astudillo, Zack Brown, Lisa Campi-Sapery, Matt Cox, Doug Findlay, Andria Hine, Justin Meehan, Jon Moss and Bill Oliver. We’re also lucky to have some folks helping us in working groups, so let’s include Susan Belanich and Abbas Fadel to the list, too. If you need to get in touch with us, our contact info will be up on the website soon. I’d like to thank this group for volunteering for this daunting task. They’ve already put in hours of hard work, and there’s likely to be many more as we move forward.

The new Referee Development Committee is working on a comprehensive development plan, and we’re doing it a little bit differently. We’re following a traditional planning process (goal setting, discovery, planning, implementation, evaluation, refinement and succession planning), as well as gathering best practices from other sports organizations to create and fill in a framework that makes sense for the USA Fencing referee cadre.

We know you want change. And you wanted it yesterday, and we want you to know that we’re working as quickly as we can to create a plan that has a solid foundation that works. Referee development on a systemic level is pretty complex. When you look at the total picture, it can change completely through the lens of geographic distribution or experience level, let alone weapon-specific issues. So please, have patience with us as we take up this task.

In the last two weeks, we’ve accomplished a lot. We’ve developed a goal, created our blog/website for sharing/polling and developed an internal communications platform to help us interact as a committee. Behind the scenes, we’re crunching numbers, collaborating on planning documents, vetting software and exploring new ways of thinking about referee development.

As we continue, we’re forging ahead with some programs that are already in place. Depending on how they fall within the new framework, we may need to refine them a bit or maybe even start over with a clean slate. This season, we’re coordinating educational opportunities at NACs, updating seminar materials, looking into a regional feedback system, expanding the foil assessment pilot, beginning weapon-specific mentoring programs and looking into changes to the ratings system.

As we do this work, we welcome your feedback. Please participate in polls, or reach out to committee members with questions or comments. Share our blogs and social media posts. Talk to us at NACs or local tournaments. For our part, we promise to listen and investigate, share our progress and work hard to create a plan that will continue long after we retire our cards and blazers.

Bruce Gillman
Interim Vice-Chair, Domestic Referee Development

Trends in Referee Experience and Volunteerism

The Referee Development Committee (RDC) has taken it upon themselves to analyze as many years’ referee usage data as possible, in order to determine rates of recruitment, as well as rates of “churn,” or the number of referees that for whatever reason choose not to volunteer as a national referee going forward. The RDC analyzed six years’ worth of referee activity as provided by the Domestic Assignments Committee. Data included the usage of each referee during any given event from July 2011 through the end of the 2015-2016 season, with the detail of the number of bouts refereed at any given DE table for each event, as well as the historic rating for that referee during that event. Due to the fact that the 2011 data was incomplete, the analysis discussed below will use 2012 as the baseline year for discussions of year-over-year activity. The data was scrubbed for any service where the referee was listed as “None,” or “Signature Illegible,” or other instances where the referee could not be identified.

The initial analysis focused on the the annual number of unique referees hired for a given year, determined by whether or not a referee’s name appeared as having volunteered that year. The data was adjusted to only concern itself with American referees, as the RDC determined that only those individuals fell under its purview.

In order to capture the feel for rate of growth of the American referee cadre, the activity was further attributed to:

  • One-Time Referees, who only appear during one year’s service, and don’t provide service in subsequent years.
  • Non-returning Referees– Those referees that do not provide further service after a particular year’s time.
  • Returning Referees– the number of referees any given year that offered service the previous year.
  • New Referees– Referees that did not volunteer in any of the years prior.

Issues to note: the analysis focuses on averages and percentages, as the number of referees hired any given season fluctuated year-over-year. It’s not clear as to the cause of this fluctuation, and the author did not take into account variables such as the size of events any given year, or the hiring representatives for events. The analysis assumes that the referee hiring normalizes on an annual basis, despite the fact that the fencing season is effectively from October to the following July every year. Also, it’s worth noting that the author assumes that these numbers reflect actual willingness to referee, and that all other things equal, the hiring process or staffing requirements for referees remains constant.

New Referees

The data was analyzed for referees that appear for the first time in a given year, having not served in any of the previous years for which we received data. The breakdown of these numbers is detailed in the chart below.

 

Year

2016

2015

2014

2013

New Referees

29

45

69

66

The number of new referees shows a relatively sharp decline starting in 2015, with an all-time low in 2016. The peak percentage of new referees hired was in 2013, with 28.7% of referees hired being considered “new” to national events, compared to less than half of that percentage in 2016, at only 13%.

One-Time Referees

The number of one-time referees, meaning those referees who did not work in any of the prior season who did not return in any subsequent season broke down in this fashion:

 

Year

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Total Cadre Hired

209

223

249

230

218

Number of One-time Referees

27

16

36

25

36

The average number of one-time volunteers over the period was 28 annually, which consisted of an average of 11.4% of the annual cadre hired.

Non-Returning Referees:

The number of referees that choose annually to not offer service in any subsequent years fluctuates greatly over the last several seasons:

 

Year

2016

2015

2014

2013

Total Cadre Hired

209

223

249

239

Non-Returning Referees

60

85

65

55

The number of referees that chose to not offer further service peaked after 2014, with a high of 34% of total cadre choosing to not work in 2015. The 2016 season shows a rebound in this trend, but not to the degree that the churn was reduced in 2013.

Conclusion

These numbers are put forth only to show trends in the experience of the referees hired, and whether or not there is any sense of longevity associated with that experience. These numbers do not go anywhere near the need to coordinate demographic factors such as age, gender, or location of the referees. Again, it is important to note that these numbers are not normalized based on the hiring practices or the organizational needs for any given time period. They are not normalized for other types of conflicting service toward the organization, such as assignments for Cadet, Junior, or Senior level international assignments. These numbers cannot be used as the sole determination as to why a population chooses volunteer referee, but can act as a baseline to conduct qualitative research as to why our referees choose to volunteer, or not, and ways in which the organization can move toward a larger recruitment and training effort for its national referee cadre.

What’s Next?

The RDC is putting together the infrastructure and the processes to start to tackle this serious problem. Referee cadre growth over the past five years is stagnant, and while we pull in a number of new referees per year, many, if not all of them in a given year stop refereeing at a national level. We are looking at ways to not only recruit, but to retain the referees we need to keep national events happening into the foreseeable future.

 

Worked in:

Year

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

Averages

Annual American Referees Hired

209

223

249

230

218

55

226

Annual Returning American Referees

163

164

165

163

52

53

 141.4 (avg)

Annual Non-Returning American Referees

60

85

65

55

3

 

 53.6

(avg)

Annual One-Time American Referees

27

16

36

25

36

2

28 (avg)

Annual New American Referees

29

45

69

66

166

 

Annual Percentage of One-Time American Referees

12.92%

7.17%

14.46%

10.87%

16.51%

3.64%

11.36% (avg)

Annual Percentage of Returning Referees

73.09%

73.54%

66.27%

70.87%

23.85%

70.94% (avg)

Annual Percentage of New Referees

13.88%

20.18%

27.71%

28.70%

76.15%

22.62% (avg)

Annual Percentage of Non-Returning Referees

26.91%

34.14%

28.26%

25.23%

5.45%

28.63% (avg)