Did you know that many fencing scholarships go unused each year?
That’s true across differently sized universities, but it’s especially true for small schools with fencing programs that are just trying to fill their rosters. While not all of these scholarships will be full rides, they’re still worth a look. It’s definitely better than relying on student loans!
But if you’re interested in getting a fencing scholarship, you’ll need to build connections with coaches. Networking with college fencing coaches is critical to getting a fencing scholarship. And the good news is that you don’t have to be a nationally ranked fencer to build those connections. Even regional and local competitors can get a fencing scholarship if they meet the right coach.
There are four stages to networking with coaches so you can land a fencing scholarship: doing your homework, introducing yourself, meeting the coach, and demonstrating your commitment.
Do Your Homework
No university will offer you a scholarship if they don’t know you exist, so you need to get on coaches’ radars. Begin by identifying NCAA schools that offer fencing scholarships and formulate a list of programs that piqued your interest.
Networking with fencing coaches to get a scholarship is a numbers game.
Once you’ve identified the schools with fencing scholarships that you’re interested in, introduce yourself to their head coach with an introductory email. You can get their email address by visiting the university’s athletic website, but what do you say to them?
The goal of your introductory email isn’t to convince them that you belong on their team. The point is to inspire curiosity, and you’ll do that by summarizing your fencing career. You’ll be able to do that with a concise email that has the following info:
- Why You’re Interested In The Program: Do your research on the school and the fencing program so you can succinctly explain why you want to fence at their college.
- Experience Level: While you don’t have to be at a high level to say hello to a coach, you need to be honest about how long you’ve been fencing.
- Top Stats: An introductory email should list your ratings, rankings, and top three competitive results. And if your current coach knows the college coach, mention them.
- Fencing Video: The coaches won’t look you up, so send them a one to two minute video from your best bouts. This is especially helpful if you only compete locally or regionally.
Now that you have their attention, you end with a call to action. Conclude the email by suggesting a time and day to meet and discuss the possibility of getting on the school’s fencing roster. Taking that initiative will help your case, but that raises the question: Should you talk over the phone or in person?
Meet The Coach
While a phone call is always a solid choice, fencers that go the extra mile to meet with a coach in person will create an even better impression. I know what you’re thinking: “There are so many programs that I’m interested in! Traveling to each college to meet each coach is impractical.”
Fair enough, but there’s an alternative. Most competitive college programs compete at the Summer Nationals or various North American Cups throughout the year. All these tournaments are opportunities to meet your preferred coaches, so keep these tournaments on your radar and register for them as soon as you can.
And much like applying to college, networking with fencing coaches for the sake of getting a college scholarship is a numbers game. Make sure you leverage the Summer Nationals to meet as many of them as you can and set up one-on-one meetings with the ones you feel strongly about in between fencing days.
Now that you have meetings with your chosen coaches, the conversations have to turn to the matter of scholarships. Naturally, you should get verbal confirmation from your coaches that their university’s fencing program does offer a scholarship. But before you even ask about that, you need to get one thing straight — both with yourself and with the coach.
Demonstrate Your Commitment
We told you that networking with coaches is vital to getting a fencing scholarship. That’s because the final decision about whether or not you’ll get one — whether it’s a full-ride or a partial one — rests with them. There’s one last thing you must do to earn their approval.
The time commitment required of NCAA fencers depends on the division, but most serious programs expect a minimum of five practices per week and weekly tournaments during the competitive season. Regardless of the program’s intensity and whether or not a scholarship is available, you must demonstrate that you’re serious about fencing in their school’s program.
Your chosen coaches are far more likely to offer you that scholarship if you affirm that you’re absolutely happy to dedicate yourself to such a rigorous schedule.
“That makes sense,” you might say. “But there are highly rated fencers out there who are just as interested in that school as I am. Why would these coaches pick me?”
That’s an understandable worry, but coaches ultimately want to know that you’re serious about their university and team. That’s why assuring them of your commitment and passion for competition is essential. More often than not, coaches want to work with fencers who are reliable, responsible, and passionate. As long as they see that, they’ll take a less experienced fencer over a high-level fencer any day.
Depending on the school, coaches may be receiving 100+ inquiries or as few as 10 inquiries. If you have the opportunity to meet or speak with a coach, please thank them for their time. They’ll remember fencers who are polite, inquisitive, and professional. But there’s nothing to be intimidated about! No matter which program it is, if you’re passionate about the school, it never hurts to extend a hello to a coach.
Now you just need to make sure you stay in good form. You’ll need classes that are intensive, cover advanced fencing footwork, and help you deploy effective strategies on the piste. To that end, we encourage you to sign up for competition classes at Swordplay LA on Wednesday and Thursday nights. See you soon!