Returning to my occasional fencing journal today, as I took my first steps this along the path of another journey in this sport: officiating.

Wasn’t my first experience officiating at tournaments, but the difference this time is that I’m pursuing certification, trying to become officially official. There’s three components — a four-hour seminar, an online test, and observation, where you officiate tournament bouts under the supervision of a veteran referee.

Seminar last night was humbling — in addition to a lengthy rulebook, fencing has a large number of subtle techniques and practices of which an official must be aware — and today’s observation demonstrated to me that I need to improve my officiating in order to make the contributions I want to provide to this sport.

My supervisors today were honest, yet encouraging. One in particular, an avuncular veteran of Middle Eastern descent, was particularly helpful. “I want you to take a piece of paper,” his calloused hand squeezing my shoulder, “and write down five ways you want to improve.” I felt like an enthusiastic undergrad again, drafting my list quickly and making a more legible copy. He seemed pleased — “This matches my list!” — and tucked my list into his vest pocket.

And so, here’s that list:

  1. Maintain better distance from the strip, and keep from wandering
  2. Better hand signals and announcing
  3. Focus on the trapezoid area between the fencers
  4. Maintain better poise, display confidence
  5. RELAX!

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