While training with peers is always fun and exciting, there’s nothing quite as nerve rattling as a fencer’s very first tournament. The experience itself almost always ends up being exhilarating, but the fear of the unknown that first time through the doors can be a little stressful. It definitely doesn’t need to be.

Choosing Your First Tournament

The most important thing to remember is that your coaches are not going to let you go to a tournament if they don’t think you’re ready. Everyone has to start somewhere, but you won’t be allowed to compete if you don’t have a firm grasp on your basic skills and safety protocols. The fact that your coaches are encouraging and allowing you to register should be a sign you’re ready to get out there for the first time. 

While there are tons of tournaments to choose from, your first will likely be very local. They tend to be a bit smaller and don’t require as much extra travel planning or preparation in order to participate. This will help to keep your new-competitor stress levels down as well.

Preparing the Night Before

Spend some time the night before going over your gear to make sure everything is in good working order. In addition to your protective gear, you’ll want to pack extra t-shirts (so you can change between events and stay dry), food and water, a screwdriver or wrench alley (depending on your weapon), and tape. While there are always first aid stations available, you should carry a few supplies of your own — including an ice pack, bandaids, your pain reliever of choice, and any other first-aid items you usually carry.

What to Expect on Arrival

Look for the registration desk as soon as you arrive. Plan to get there at least 30 minutes in advance, but give yourself longer if the tournament is large. Once registration closes, pool assignments will be announced. They are usually posted on a wall or television monitor. Fencers usually start in pool play before moving on to direct elimination (DE). From there, DE competitors end up listed in a bracket for playoffs. Awards ceremonies happen after the playoffs are complete.

Tournament days can be long, but they’re full of excitement. Pack some small meals, get a good night of rest beforehand, and prepare to have the time of your life. Once you’ve enjoyed your first competition, you’ll find yourself dreaming of the next!