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#1 2007-03-06 01:02:30

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

new conversations

I must apologize for not being able to give much attention to this forum for the past six months.  My children and I are still living in FEMA trailers after our house fire. I don't have a good work space- I have to sit in front of my computer on a short stool, with my feet jammed under the end of the bed and the computer set on a hastily built particle board nightstand, with the mouse falling off dozens of times a day since it doesn't really have room.  I'm also still trying to salvage the hard drives from computers fried by the smoke.  It doesn't help that every time it gets below about ten degrees, our water (and toilet plumbing!) freezes so we have to spend time trying to thaw it out, and going to other peoples' houses for showers.

What this means is that everything I do takes a bit longer than it used to, and than it will in the future when we're back in our house.  I have enough responsibilities to keep half a dozen people busy, and now much of what I've written or produced in the last 7 or 8 years is not accessible, so I'm having to rewrite many things.

Consequently, I don't have much time for online forums, even our own.

On the other hand, I can't say I've been bored.  It has been quite a learning experience in many, many ways.

I'd like to get back to having real discussions here.  Right now, most of my questions are about practical matters, many because I'm currently rewriting so much of our publicity and marketing pieces.  If any of you have anything to offer on the following subjects, I'd be interested.

1. What information do you give to prospective students?

2. How do you deliver it to them?  Newspaper ads?  Flyers?  Posters? I'd love to see copies of these, if possible.

3. Where do you advertise?  Papers?  Bulletin boards?  Online?  In the school system where you are?

4. Of the things you have done, which have gotten the best responses?  Any ideas why?

5. What do you do specifically to increase student retention, if anything?

6. What information do you give to a prospective student who moves to your area, responds to your advertising, and says they have fenced for "x" number of years elsewhere and wants to know when they can fence?  How do you make sure they understand the difference between what you do and what they probably have done elsewhere- or do you?

7. What experiences have you to share about incorporating such fencers into your group?  Has it worked successfully?  Or not?  Why do you think that happened?

8. What class schedules work for you, as far as how many hours a week students train?

9. Do you have any daytime classes (other than through a college) or are they all at "prime" class time- after school and work?

10. What other organizations have you offered classes through, and how did that work out?  Community colleges, park departments, after school programs come to mind.

11. What classes have you wanted to offer, but couldn't get to fly?  Why didn't it work?

12 Are you satisfied with the number of students you currently have?  What percentage of your income do you get from teaching fencing, if any?  If you are not satisfied, what would be your ideal, and why?

13. Do you successfully balance your life, as far as time spent fencing, teaching, earning a living, exploring your own interests, your own training, and time with your family?  If not, where do you think the disbalance is, and if you do, please explain HOW! :-)

I'm interested in getting some ideas about what things have and have not worked for other people, to see if it is the same as here or different, and maybe to get some ideas of new things to try, both in advertising and in organizing new classes for new populations of students.  I have a variety of things I'd like to try, but not enough time to try them all, so it would be nice to hear about other people's experiences.

One of the things I tried recently was hooking up with a local group that offers lifelong learning experiences for seniors.  I believe there could be enough interest there to have a small class.  We did some demos and informational meetings, and they went well, but I haven't been able to follow up on it since the demos were right after the house fire.  Has anyone else worked with groups of seniors? How did it go?

Something I have wanted to try for years is to organize a class for the hearing impaired.  There is a fairly large deaf population here.  I suspect fencing hasn't occurred to many of them as a viable opportunity because they don't have enough information to know that it's not only something they could do, but at which they could excel- not being able to hear would not be a handicap at all.  I studied sign language for a couple of years quite a few years ago, so I'd need to upgrade my skills.  There are several sign interpreters here with whom I might be able to connect- but again, I haven't had time to follow this through.


Linda

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#2 2007-03-06 12:11:07

Akilles
Member
From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

Linda - sorry to hear things are still up in the air for you and your family.  My sister-in-laws house in Virginia exploded last week so they are in a similar situation.

I can try to give you answers to your questions from my experience - and maybe to save time and sanity - I will make replies to each question one at a time.  Otherwise I am likely to trip over myself.  Therefore,

#1 There are Prospective students and there are New students.  The amount and type of information a Prospective student receives depends entirely upon what form our initial conversation takes.  Phone calls - which I avoid like the plague - tend to get quick declarative bits of info: what, when, why, how much, etc.  Personally, I try _not_ to make my phone number available since I only have one phone and it is not a dedicated fencing or business line.  Emails are easiest because I can have a prepared statement ready to tailor to the new recipient and zip off quickly.  While including the same information as the phone call, I tend to go into more detail about fencing, how our practice is structured and what they can expect.  I also try to make every effort at making sure they understand what to expect before they show up.  This saves a wasted trip for both of us.  Once they do show up in person we can talk face to face.  I have a fairly well developed sense of whether or not a person at this point will actually become a student or a fencer.  During these interviews I have been known to tell people to wait and come back at the end of the year, to go and try some other sport or martial art that may better suit their temperament, and many times been tempted to just say no.  We have some tri-fold brochures that look rather keen and I give this to the Prospective student so they have a hardcopy of the information to refer to later.  At this point one of two things may happen: they will go away or they will ask to start lessons.  Frankly, its always a relief when they just go away.  If, however, they want to start I prefer that they observe a minimum of 2-3 practice sessions.  And by observe, I mean to sit or stand quietly without causing a disturbance and to watch carefully.  This is yet another weeding out tool and another device to learn about the Prospective student: do they show up on time, do they show respect for the fencing room and the fencers, and other factors that I am observing about them.  After this period they are invited to start training. The Prospective Student now becomes the New Student.  They are junior to all others in the Salle.  They are given a New Student packet that includes: Salle Code, Vocabulary, Student Rights and Responsibilities, and a registration form (I want to include a bibliography as well - in the past we have relied on the website(s) to handle extra information such as this).  The new Student then begins training and is expected to keep pace with everyone else.  By using this process we have a success ratio of nearly 90% which includes successful completion of a one to two year student training and retention into the third year and further.  New students are gradually brought closer and closer to the core, again by careful scrutiny of their output, until at last we can absorb them entirely into the group for cooperative and perpetual training.  At this time the student becomes a fencer and starts to reciprocate  - starts to give back to the group in their own way.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-06 12:14:05)


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#3 2007-03-06 12:36:45

Akilles
Member
From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

# 2  We have not actively advertised for many years.  Many.  There are sufficient inquiries through our web presence alone to keep us busy.  This is largely due to the following factors:

a) I prefer working with my core group - between 4-18 fencers.  it allows me to train them better and at the same time it allows me to get time in as well.
b) therefore, I have no great sense of urgency at increasing our numbers or at starting feeder or satelite groups.  we may resort to some such scheme in the future but when we do it can be on our terms and we can target the fencing students we want - mostly because we need only a small number.
c) our new home at the Concordia Turners Hall (STL CFS) has its own athletic membership and outreach in the community that we can tap into if we choose.  right now we are offering a specially trimmed-down version of our beginners program for kids and adult members.

In the past I have found two forms of advertising crucial: the first is an ad in the popular weekly magazine and the second are attractive flyers in coffee shops.  These alone will leave you questioning your sanity as call after call comes in.  Nowadays it seems like all you need is a quick reply to an email sent after a person visits the website.  Which to me is great.  There is no clutter, no wondering if your flyer has been torn down or plastered over with another  "hot yoga" ad, not the time and expense for getting a small ad in the paper and fielding the Fencing Gladiator calls.  Neat and tidy.  So my answer really is that all materials not found on the website are delivered in person - face to face.  Again, simple, and tidy.  If there are questions they can be fielded immediately.  And little chance of misunderstanding or more importantly, at being misquoted.  I have a funny story about the time a local news channel did a spot about us about 10 years ago I can share with you sometime over beer after a lengthy phrase d' armes.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-06 12:37:52)


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#4 2007-03-06 12:46:03

Akilles
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From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

#s 3 and 4  See above.  These days we do zero advertising - here in St Louis at least.  It is not necessary.  In the past it was definitely attractive flyers in coffee shops and the ad in the popular (read - trendy/hip, whatever) local weekly magazine.

Stay away from local TV - please!

Never tried radio - but then, other than community radio PSAs or interviews that would be cost prohibitive.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-06 12:46:48)


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#5 2007-03-06 12:56:58

Akilles
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From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

#5 This used to be an utter mystery to me.  Back in those days about 90% of our new students were University freshmen or sophomores.  I had a core of non-University fencers numbering about 5-7 and a few graduates who stayed in town.  My core never changed and was reliable.  Retention wasn't an issue.  But the new students - to whom we would offer a new Beginner course at the start of every term - boggled the mind.  There was the attrition algorithm followed by the retention drain.  Starting with 12 we would have 6 by mid term.  Of that 6 maybe 3 would return the following term to continue.  But University students are hardly a data set worthy of writing a paper on - in this context.  There is literally too much offered to them by way of distraction coupled with their choice to remain responsible to their education.  In many ways I wonder how those who stuck with the fencing program for 3-4 years did it as well as graduate.

However, since we no longer derive our new students from the University all matters of prospective students undergo the ritual I described in #1 above.  By following that our retention rate is very adequate and I can't say we have had any major disappointments.  What has been disappointing lately is the fact of life that working adults need to have a flexible schedule - especially when family comes into play - and therefore weekly attendance can suffer radical shifts.  But I have no fears of losing people entirely anymore.  Another benefit of the smaller group is that you can roll with the punches a little easier.  If its a slow night and there are 3 or 4 of us it just means that I get more training in - which is great.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-06 12:57:53)


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#6 2007-03-06 13:17:27

Akilles
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From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

#6 is easy.  If they claim to have previous fencing experience and they are younger than me or their previous experience is less than 20 years AND I have no idea who their instructor is and what may have been taught the prospective student goes through the same process as #1 above and then is given an assessment bout - not lesson - with a senior fencer of my choice. 10 times out of 10 - ha - the prospective student is told that they need to undergo beginning training.  Basically we re-train fencers who are the product of unknown training.  We give the assessment to be fair.  In many cases the Prospective student breaks down and asks to be taught from scratch.  That makes things easier.  If they are not receptive to the re-training then they are free to go.  We are not a club.  I will not have dubious fencers coming in and making a mess of my training. I let a few people slide past in the years and it has always been a regret.  But it is interesting to note that the people who are willing to retrain always end up better fencers and better members of our Salle.  All the people who refuse or resist re-training never get any better and become problems for the Salle.

If they are fencers from a known Salle things are different.  For example, if one of your students was to relocate to Saint Louis I would give them the assessment bout myself - mostly to experience their training first hand.  Then I would inquire where they wanted their training to go - what they wanted to keep the same, what they were open to and try to come up with a mode of training that would use the best of what they have while still trying to develop other talents and skill sets.  At that point they would be welcome as a junior fencer.  I suspect there would be no need for re-training whatsoever.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-06 13:24:03)


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#7 2007-03-06 13:43:14

Akilles
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From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

#7 I have had many such experiences. Again, to reiterate from #6 above, fencers who come to us from Whosits Fencing Club usually have had zero education in the first place.  Some people even come to us because they have realised that they have been taken for a ride.  In most cases, these Prospective fencers have a sincere desire to _learn_ how to fence.  Time after time I have heard the stories that they were very upset that they were not being taught and knew it.  I think it was great that they had the presence of mind to leave and look for better training.  Occasionally the modern or stubborn fencer would show up and barely get their head through the door.  In these cases it is most likely that they will just leave.  They are perfect already - afterall.  Sometimes they play around with retraining but it has been obvious that they are not putting much effort into it.  If they don't leave at first they usually get the picture.  I have been blessed with senior fencers in my core who use peer pressure very effectively.  I tell them that its their training somebody else is messing around with and that there are many useful ways to express their dissatisfaction.

There are two prototypical stories that characterise these events.  The first was a young man who was not being taught and really wanted to learn.  He came to us from a local modern sport club program.  I had him attend over a months worth of practice sessions before I even sat down and talked to him.  He came to every practice on time, was respectful and polite and after a month or so I invited him to take some probationary lessons.  That was 7 years ago.  He is now one of our best left handed fencers and has become a true friend to all of us.  The second was an older man who returned to St Louis and was friends with other fencing students of mine.  Because of this personal connection we let him in earlier.  I did give him an assessment bout which he failed miserably.  He admitted that he hadn't been fencing long and it had all been sport fencing - even competitive.  Naturally I required that he be re-trained and he resisted.  He threw such a fuss about me personally that he would not continue lessons.  We tried to accommodate him and Alexis took over his lessons.  But he did not follow through and he never got any better.  Coincidentally, those two anecdotes are very close to one another chronologically.

I can provide you more details offline if you like.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-06 13:45:33)


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#8 2007-03-06 13:57:42

Akilles
Member
From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

#8 Pulling no punches, eh Linda?  I'll be frank.  Those of us in St Louis know that we are not really training - not the way we want and not the way we need - in terms of time.  Right now we are on a 3 day a week schedule open to all fencers.  A few can make it all 3 nights, most make it 2 nights and there are some who can only attend one night a week.  This is the reality for most of our working adult membership.  There was a time many years ago when I was fencing 5 nights a week.  that does not mean that my training was better, however.  I know that what I am doing now is much better and in many ways.  We make the best use of our time. Monday nights are typically 3 hours of basic exercises and bouts.  Tuesday nights are the two beginner classes followed by another hour or two of lessons in at least two weapons.  Wednesdays are intensive lessons and drills over foil - technique and strategy. So in all, at 3 days a week there is the potential for a solid 9 hours training.  Not enough by a long shot - but its what we can do right now.

The good news is that our facility is nearly open at any time to us so fencers can make their own arrangements when convenient and train together.  We use some times on the weekend for this purpose.  In fact, this weekend we are driving up to Milwaukee for an all day training event with our Northern chapter.

Dave


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#9 2007-03-06 14:00:01

Akilles
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From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
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Re: new conversations

#9 All practice sessions and classes are between 7 and 11pm

Dave


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#10 2007-03-06 14:20:56

Akilles
Member
From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

#10 I have taught classes at: private athletic clubs, Universities, and community centers - prioritized from best to worst.  Some thoughts on each,

Community centers) usually want to make some money and be hassle free in terms of how invasive your group can be.  Because CCs are usually run by a single Director it can be quite a game of staying in good graces - depending upon the disposition of the current Director.  It is not possible to follow the ritual described in #1 above at CCs because you are bound to take whoever signs up at the front desk.  It may also be the case that limited facilities leave you with a less than desirable location.  Benefits can be low cost, easy clientele, and extra amenities like locker rooms and parking.

Universities) I have spent nearly half of my fencing career at a local private University.  Good and bad.  Totally dependant upon current policies governing your particular niche.  Great resources, student population can be tricky to work with (reference the discussion of retention above), and it can be difficult to ensure your non-Univ fencers can participate.  Added bonus for groups with students of the Univ is direct access to Univ facilities like rental vans, catering, and even spending money.  In the 9.5 years we were are SLU we were allocated nearly $5000 and the use of discounted van rental for trips.  However, as we experienced late last summer - when they want you gone - you're gone!

Private athletic clubs) similar to Univs in the sense that you want to find one that fits your profile and has the amenities that correlate with your program and fencers, but smaller and less prone to policy changes.  They typically stay the same and you can rely on support especially if your fencers are members.  Our current facility includes not only a gymnasium and other things you'd expect to find like locker rooms but also an on site caterer and bar and restaurant. The off street parking and affordable memberships are bonuses. 

In my limited experience with after school programs and such you always seem relegated to short beginner classes with little room to truly develop a program in which students can continue to learn or advance.  Locally these are often used as feeder clubs - with the hope of finding that one child who you can focus on and transplant to your other group.  I think this can be a little disingenuous - even if you may be providing some fencing exposure to people who may have no other outlet.  Continuing education programs and community college programs often follow the same feeder cycle - or they become bout clubs for people who "just want to get out there and fence, man".

In short, know what the guiding purpose behind your target group is and who their target audience is.  If your purposes conflict it is  best to keep looking.  If they look compatible start weighing the other factors.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-06 16:35:29)


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#11 2007-03-06 14:30:02

Akilles
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From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

#11 The only classes I have not been able to offer are those I am not qualified to teach!  Seriously, we have a very limited scope.  There are times when I want to use another weapon to help explain facets of fencing principles - auxiliary weapons so to speak.  But teaching those classes often fail or have limited participation due to equipment constraints.  I can't honestly say that this has been a problem.  There are resources out there I sure wish I could tap into but have as yet failed to do so.  But in terms of classes I think we are spot on.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-06 14:31:40)


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#12 2007-03-06 15:05:20

Akilles
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From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

#12 Yes, very happy.  We are close to a 50/50 male to female ratio, we fit in all our practice spaces, comprised of diverse backgrounds and experiences.  Again, I no longer entertain notions of a large group.  I have fond memories of summer nights and a gym full of 50+ fencers.  There is a lot of energy you can draw from in that kind of setting.  But, the amount of work required to keep that going, to maintain that inertia, is overwhelming.  Up to 5 years ago the difficulty was in balancing the new classes and new students while still keeping the quality of training high for the core group.  Nevermind my own training.  These days we all share in the responsibility of the Beginner classes we teach at Turners and there is no crossover - yet.  If we do take on a new student it can be one at a time - which I think is better, too.

I receive $0 by teaching fencing.  Although, in the past my students and training partners have all shown enormous generosity through gifts and sending me to workshops.  As much as I appreciate those things, the opportunity to continue fencing and to develop meaningful relationships with good people is certainly its own reward.

My ideal would be to have more time and resources to make this all better.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-06 15:06:13)


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#13 2007-03-06 15:17:10

Akilles
Member
From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

#13 This is the difficult one.  For a man with a family, a full time job, a house under renovation, and one or two other interests, balancing time and money for fencing is not getting easier.  I am present at our 2 main practice sessions every week.  Any more than that is just impossible due to the above.  For that reason alone my personal training will never be what it was in terms of quantity - so I try to make every moment better and to use it efficiently - like fencing teaches us to do. The balance shift is definitely at my personal training.  I cannot make sacrifices anyplace else.  Not for my children nor my wife, not my job and not for my students or training partners.

Another imbalance is geography.  If we want to participate with you or Maestro Hayes the amount of time and money to actualize that is huge.  I would love the opportunity to fence with you regularly - but I know that it will be good fortune to make it happen even
once.  Once again I had to decline Mr Moser's invitation to tournament this year due to these reasons. 

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-06 16:38:49)


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#14 2007-03-06 17:43:24

cfaustus
Member
From: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Registered: 2006-04-20
Website

Re: new conversations

Ok, I'll give it a wack...

please keep in mind that my answers are going to be similar to David's in that he runs the St Louis CFS and I run the Milwaukee CFS. That being said, David and I do have different approaches, which is something I have always appreciated about my relationship with David.

1. What information do you give to prospective students?
   When we are doing a recruitment push, I simply print out about 100 handbills and distribute them by hand and at key locations (coffee shops, lunch spots, etc.) Part of the distribution is knowing one's audience... fencers tend to be intellectuals (or think themselves to be) and romantics. So you have to put your info where those sorts of people will see it. THe handbills generally just have a tag line, information for a meeting for interested individuals, and the link to our site. The site has most of our info. I work hard to keep this up to date, although life makes this difficult at times (I need to update this semesters schedules!!!!) . once they show up at the Salle, I have a special postulant packet which basically is a hard copy of the FAQ from our website. It also explains that they will need to attend 2-3 weeks before they will be accepted as neophyte students. This initial period is free of charge to the postulant, I want them to see if this is something they really want and we want to see if they are someone we really want. After the postulant period they are given the packet David spoke of. Each student must read it and then I speak to them individually and have them sign the pertinent portions. 

2. How do you deliver it to them?  Newspaper ads?  Flyers?  Posters? I'd love to see copies of these, if possible.
    I could send you copies of our handbills. Possibly also our Neophyte and Postulant Packet.
3. Where do you advertise?  Papers?  Bulletin boards?  Online?  In the school system where you are?
    Bulletin boards, the Marquette University paper,  and via Milwaukee Turner flyers as we also have a program with the Turners. And of course, online (www.cfssda.org)
4. Of the things you have done, which have gotten the best responses?  Any ideas why?
    The website and the handbills do the best. We also always get students after we do presentations but they seem to be more fickle than others.
5. What do you do specifically to increase student retention, if anything?
   Nothing. If they wish to stay great. If they have found other things which are more meaningful for them, great. This makes things difficult at times (like now - we recently had a number of students graduate from the University and/or get jobs out of town so we are currently experiencing a nadir in our advanced student pool). At the same time, I guess the one thing I always do is be completely honest with them. I tell them from day one that this is going to be hard. That it will demand attention and discipline, that many will drop out. If this doesn't scare them away, they tend to stay longer - because they probably really want it.
6. What information do you give to a prospective student who moves to your area, responds to your advertising, and says they have fenced for "x" number of years elsewhere and wants to know when they can fence?  How do you make sure they understand the difference between what you do and what they probably have done elsewhere- or do you?
I spend time with each such student. I talk to them, ask them general questions about their training and answer all their questions. By that time I usually have a pretty good idea how what we do differs (or compliments) what they have done before and I discuss my observations with them. I try hard not to assume anything but simply state these as my hypotheses based upon what they have told me. I ask them for feedback and correction on this. Often I am able to determine from this initial interrogatory what remedial work they will need to do to join our Student ranks and propose a course of training for them. If it is this early in the discourse, it usually means that they will need to begin from the beginning, all over again. I do not phrase it this way, rather stating the obvious, that if they pick up the material quickly they can advance quickly to Student/Full member level. They seldom advance any faster than any other postulant. However, those that stay tend to appreciate the hard work and myriad of skills we teach that they did not have before. If I need further information about their fencing I will then do a private assessment. I go through the basic pedagogy of the school until I begin to find gaps in their fencing. Depending where these gaps are, I know where to put them in our program. On the rare occasion I may have someone who needs further assessment. I will then fence them and possibly have one of my Seniors fence them while I watch. Such a student may have a lot of skill but needs a little polishing. This last situation has only occurred twice that I can remember. Regardless of the outcome of the assessment, they will be considered postulants for the first few weeks. When they earn the position of novice they will continue at the level I assessed them at, which may mean they move to Student/Full Member level faster.

7. What experiences have you to share about incorporating such fencers into your group?  Has it worked successfully?  Or not?  Why do you think that happened?
We have a number of them currently. Our entire training is collaborative and as such, these fencers either leave quickly during the postulant phase or wind up being the most studious of students.

8. What class schedules work for you, as far as how many hours a week students train?
   Normally, we train Mon & Wed 6-9 as an open session. Then on Fri we have a 1-2hour closed session for Seniors only (those with bouting privileges). On Saturday we have another two hour session at the Turners. On Tues and Thurs I teach sport fencing at a local highschool ( I teach it with more traditional techniques as I am slowly trying to ween the team off of the sport fencing... to that end we have begun this year the Highschool Classical Fencing League - it is comprised of students from our many locations in the area. As such, we have more local organizations and highschools doing classical fencing than there are doing sport fencing in Wisconsin.) The tues/thur schedule is only during the appropriate highschool season which I run from Sept- Feb. So for a good portion of the year we are teaching and fencing 6 days a week. on SUndays we rest. This semester we are currently doing less than that. Highschool season is over and due to an error with scheduling at the University, we do not have a suitable practice spot on Wednesdays.. so for now fencing is just Mon, Fri and Sat. - plus what ever footwork handwork and bladework I do at home.

9. Do you have any daytime classes (other than through a college) or are they all at "prime" class time- after school and work?
The only day classes are those on Saturday  morning at the Turners.

10. What other organizations have you offered classes through, and how did that work out?  Community colleges, park departments, after school programs come to mind.
The CFS was started through the Jesuit Universities of St. Louis and Marquette. They were initially offered as classes and then formed into student groups. The student group status opens up free space when available, funding, and a large pool of captive potential recruits. We have also begun classes at the local Turners. The Milwaukee branch currently teaches through the following programs - Marquette CFS, Turners CFS, Brookfield Academy Highschool, and we have a mentor relationship with the Kenosha Classical Fencing group ( I teach their instructor and go down their whenever I can for workshops).

11. What classes have you wanted to offer, but couldn't get to fly?  Why didn't it work?
     None, we do what we want... as long as we realize that we must be patient and can't do everything at once.

12 Are you satisfied with the number of students you currently have?  What percentage of your income do you get from teaching fencing, if any?  If you are not satisfied, what would be your ideal, and why?
    Yes and no. I am only dissatisfied in so far as during this downturn in our current membership the outgoing Seniors did a poor job turning over the reigns to the incoming leaders ( I expect the students to take leadership responsibility in the running of the group). As such we have had our first semester with a gap (Wednesdays) in our training. At the same time, those students who have stayed are golden and are a pleasure to teach and fence with. I know this is a temporary situation so I can not be too disappointed. As far as fencing income, fencing makes up less than 1.5% of my income. Most of the funds go back into the group for equipment and private workshops with Masters. I don't do it for the money. I do it because I love it and I love exploring it with others who respect it as I do. I also see fencing as a wonderful way for solidifying virtue, so I do it as a service, to help populate our community with more virtuous ladies and gentlemen. I only want more students if they are of the same caliber as those I presently have.

13. Do you successfully balance your life, as far as time spent fencing, teaching, earning a living, exploring your own interests, your own training, and time with your family?  If not, where do you think the disbalance is, and if you do, please explain HOW! :-)
Exactly as David said. Unfortunately my own training suffers. I do what I can to disbalance this. Which often means my dog and neighbors look at me funny as I do footwork and bladework at home and in the yard (when we don't have 2 feet of snow in it). I am blessed with a wonderfully understanding wife who, though she does not fence herself, understands my passion for it and the mission of the CFS. She also recognizes that it is good exercise and as such is happy to see me doing it. I was also blessed with an excellent Jesuit Liberal Arts education. The most important lesson I learned from it is that all disciplines intertwine. In deed, in some ways, all human endeavor is equal, at least in its ability to be mastered through diligence and as such help us develop as humans. As such, many of my own interests flow easily to and from fencing. I am currently re-exploring metaphysics and applied metaphysics and the fencing piste is a wonderful laboratory for this. Artwork - I happen to find fencers challenging subjects to draw, web design - our website is a wonderful excuse to utilize the newest technology. Archery, sailing, homebrew, bicylcing... most of my fencers need little convincing to join me in these pursuits (where age appropriate of course). The CFS is like a family... but a very special family - one that I hand picked - so of course I like spending time with them!

Hope this helps... I'll try to send you the docs I mentioned above.

Last edited by cfaustus (2007-03-07 13:31:53)

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#15 2007-03-07 08:53:30

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: new conversations

Thanks, Dave.

Quite a lot of interesting stuff, some of which inspires me to ask new questions.

> Emails are easiest because I can have a prepared statement ready to tailor to the new
> recipient and zip off quickly. 

I also prefer e-mail, but I don't have anything I keep to tailor and/or reuse.

I receive two types of e-mails.  One is clear and obvious, a specific question about class times or such that is easy to answer.  I try to give a very specific answer to their question and then invite them to inquire further if they have other questions.  These questions mostly come from people who have seen our written information somewhere, a flyer or ad or something online.  Either that, or they have a friend who fences with us.  They already have some information.

The second type is more general, and more difficult to answer.  Just got one of these last night.  A woman wrote to say her son wants fencing lessons and asked if I could tell her about summer fencing programs.  I began to tell her about our schedule when I realized there was no real identifying information in her e-mail to indicate she was local.  Her e-mail was a college e-mail somewhere else, and she did not specify "your summer programs" but summer programs themselves.  For these, I give the same outline of our program schedule, but I also asked if she was local, explaining that we don't have any information about summer programs anywhere else.

Mostly, I hope to engage interested people in an e-mail discussion, giving them specific information as they ask rather than trying to fit everything into one e-mail.



> While including the same information as the phone call, I tend to go into more detail about fencing,
> how our practice is structured and what they can expect.

I rarely get this far in an initial e-mail.

If someone is coming from another fencing program, I do go into much more detail about the structure of our program.

>  We have some tri-fold brochures that look rather keen

I'd love to see one, if possible.  I can send your ours in trade. :-)

>  At this point one of two things may happen: they will go away or they will ask to start lessons.
>  Frankly, its always a relief when they just go away.

Some people would say that sounds terrible, but I understand what you mean.  Sometimes, especially with adults, and especially people with "fencing experience" elsewhere, we simply aren't what they are looking for, and the sooner they figure that out, the better for everyone.


> If, however, they want to start I prefer that they observe a minimum of 2-3 practice sessions.  And
> by observe, I mean to sit or stand quietly without causing a disturbance and to watch carefully. 
> This is yet another weeding out tool and another device to learn about the Prospective student:
> do they show up on time, do they show respect for the fencing room and the fencers, and other
> factors that I am observing about them.

I like this.


We do not charge for an adult's first class, where they participate in the warm up, attempt the footwork, and primarily observe.  Sometimes this is the last we see of them.  Quite a few seem to be surprised that fencing is physically challenging.

For children, we have an introductory series of classes, and it wouldn't work well to have anyone observe some before joining in because they need to start on the first class of the series.

>   After this period they are invited to start training. The Prospective Student now becomes the
> New Student.  They are junior to all others in the Salle.

What do you mean by junior? 

New students here are novices, as far as rank goes, but other than bouting privileges at higher ranks, there are no particular differences in responsibilities and/or any kind of "status."

Do you have a system where there are different responsibilities for different subgroups of students?  I can see how some groups might, we just don't.

> They are given a New Student packet that includes: Salle Code, Vocabulary, Student Rights
> and Responsibilities, and a registration form (I want to include a bibliography as well - in the past
>  we have relied on the website(s) to handle extra information such as this). 

We have a notebook of information we give students once they become members of the salle.  This is one of the things I must rewrite because I no longer have the files.  It has some explanations of who is who and what is what, our expectations and what they can expect from us, and it also has things like our weather cancellation policy.

For more information, a bibliography and such, we have the book Maitre Crown wrote.  We offer it at a discount to our own students.

> The new Student then begins training and is expected to keep pace with everyone else.  By using
> this process we have a success ratio of nearly 90% which includes successful completion of a one to
> two year student training and retention into the third year and further.

Once students join the salle- that is to say they have completed an introductory series and have chosen to continue past that- they tend to stay for at least a few years.  Our most common reason for people leaving the salle is high school graduation.

It sounds to me from your descriptions that you work mostly, if not exclusively, with adults or at least older teens.  Is that the case?

Linda

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#16 2007-03-07 11:58:27

Akilles
Member
From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

Good Wednesday, Linda.

Regarding emails, I agree they afford us an opportunity to engage, however, we can never be sure what will happen with the information on the other end.  Apologies if I made it appear as though the email is a form letter.  Previous emails are banked and can be copy and pasted rather than rewritten from scratch.  Saves time and ensures that I am being consistent. I can save a draft of the email and call it up when I need it.  I can add, subtract and otherwise customize the email for the recipient.

You know, for me - for our little group here - taking on a new student is a big deal.  Taking on any student is a large responsibility and I take it very seriously.  If I can't take a new student at the time one comes a callin'  I would rather be honest with them and ask that they please consider us in the near future.  I try to give them a general time frame, say, new class starting at the beginning of summer please check with me again in June.  Sometimes I wish that we were equipped to take on as many new students as possible, but we just are not at that place at this time.  I have been focusing my efforts and our resources on the Core CFS group which is kind of a little dream come true in itself.

You are absolutely correct about children and I am sure that your experience teaching kids fencing is far greater than mine (in fact, I would appreciate any advice you care to offer).  For 9 years I had an age policy of not less than 12 or 13 - and I would always interview the child and parent.  Since moving to Turners we found ourselves with a beginners class of about 12 kids ranging in age from 5 to 13 - and its been a blast.  Without fail the youngest girl can outperform the goofy teenage boys.  I love that.  The new, adult students we take from outside the Turner community are subjected to the Trial.  Probably because it fits well with our nightly or weekly schedule.  But the kids at Turners have one thing that kids in the past have not had and that is strong parent support.

We don't have ranks at the CFS.  The next person to walk in the door is Junior to everyone else de facto.  Everybody else is their senior.  This fits well within our scheme of perpetual and cooperative training.  Seniors take an active role to assist in the training of their Sallemates and Juniors learn this process so to carry it on when their Junior walks in the door.  Ranks don't fit well with our training or our culture, but if I had to break it down it would look something like this,

student -                 has not yet completed basic training
junior fencer -         has completed basic training, has bouting privileges
senior fencer -         junior plus a few years as well as training in epee, sabre
assistant instructor - senior plus is learning to teach basic fencing skills for student class

Day to day we tend to use Junior and Senior - its a differentiation everyone can make.
And yes, I'd be happy to send you some of our print material.  Please send me a private email letting me know exactly where you'd like that sent.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-07 16:10:37)


all conditioned things decay - seek liberation diligently

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#17 2007-03-07 13:07:18

cfaustus
Member
From: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Registered: 2006-04-20
Website

Re: new conversations

Linda,

David and I are both somewhat inspired by monastic orders in our organization of the CFS. It seems to be an excellent way to organize a group of people to a common goal which requires a great deal of discipline to achieve.  Check out the "Rule of Benedict" for good examples. In monasteries, the novice has to go through a period where they prove themselves and also get a chance to determine if joining the monastery is really what they want. At the same time, the novices or postulants are not mollycoddled... in deed, they are often discouraged from entering... which is to test their true resolve to join. Having such individuals as your beginners certainly helps with retention. You can see this in how Dave and I run our branches, albeit with slightly different techniques tailored to our own personalities/backgrounds.

-Alexis

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#18 2007-03-07 13:26:19

cfaustus
Member
From: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Registered: 2006-04-20
Website

Re: new conversations

The progression at the Milwaukee CFS is as follows:

Postulant: Someone who has expressed interest in joining and is going through the probationary period.
Novice: Someone who has completed the probationary period and been accepted for instruction. We have a classplan for this level which generally takes an individual a school year to complete. The Novitiate program introduces the student to the fundamental techniques of fencing. I try to follow the Trivium theory of education. As such, the Novitiate can be considered the Grammar portion of this and the very beginnings of the Dialectic portion.

Once they complete the material in the Novitiate they are tested and may then become full members.

Full members are Junior and Senior... basically you are Junior to everyone who became a member before you and Senior to those who did so after you. Being Senior obliges you to help your Juniors in their development. The first year or so of full membership usually sees the student grappling with the Dialectic portion of the Trivium. Eventually their technique becomes instinctual and they no longer have to 'think' to fight. They then enter the Rhetoric portion of their development. By this time they are usually Senior to several sets (semesters or years worth) of newer members who were admitted after them.

Last edited by cfaustus (2007-03-08 09:17:51)

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#19 2007-03-08 09:06:31

cfaustus
Member
From: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Registered: 2006-04-20
Website

Re: new conversations

This is an interesting article on the Trivium

http://www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html

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#20 2007-03-08 12:43:50

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: new conversations

> Apologies if I made it appear as though the email is a form letter.

No, you didn't.  I think having something on hand to edit is a great idea- I just haven't done that. 



> I try to give them a general time frame, say, new class starting at the beginning of summer please check with
> me again in June.

I do this, too.  I also try to keep a list of all these people so I can send them a brief e-mail when it's close to a new class starting.


> You are absolutely correct about children and I am sure that your experience teaching kids fencing is far greater
> than mine (in fact, I would appreciate any advice you care to offer). 

What kinds of advice?

> For 9 years I had an age policy of not less than 12 or 13 - and I would always interview the child and parent.

I think this is a good plan.

For a long time, our intro classes were part of the offerings of a local Youth Bureau, where registration was done through them and we had little to do with it.

We changed that.  :-)

> Since moving to Turners we found ourselves with a beginners class of about 12 kids ranging in age from 5 to 13 - and
>  its been a blast. 

5 year olds?  I'd like to hear about what you do with them, and how many stay on.

> Without fail the youngest girl can outperform the goofy teenage boys.  I love that.

I think that's good for both groups, as long as it doesn't turn into a huge competitive thing.  It's good for the girls to know they can hold their own, and good for the teenage boys to know that testosterone level isn't the most important thing.

>  But the kids at Turners have one thing that kids in the past have not had and that is strong parent support.

That's great to hear!


> We don't have ranks at the CFS. 

We use ranks as intermediate goals for students who will not be bouting for quite some time.  It isn't a prestige thing at all, but more a "this is how much I've learned, what I can perform well, so far" thing.


> And yes, I'd be happy to send you some of our print material.  Please send me a private email letting me know
> exactly where you'd like that sent.

Thanks, I'll do that.

I'd be happy to trade flyers with anyone else, as well.

Linda

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#21 2007-03-08 13:38:45

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: new conversations

> In the past I have found two forms of advertising crucial: the first is an ad in the popular weekly magazine and
>  the second are attractive flyers in coffee shops.  These alone will leave you questioning your sanity as call after
> call comes in.

This reminded me that we have a very different situation from most of the other people I know of who teach fencing.

You're all in or near large cities.

We're most decidedly not.

The actual town we're in has a population of 3,139 as of July 2005 (the most recent count).
There are more horses and cows here than people- and they generally require a different kind of fencing than we offer. :-)

The nearest "city" if you want to call it that has a population of  29,766 (also a 2005 count), with the addition of about that many students in the academic year.

Using those numbers, for the percentage of the population fencing where you are to be comparable, you'd need nearly 1,000 students!

What that means for us, mostly, is that we don't get a huge number of calls in response to advertising, not nearly as many as you would, because there simply aren't that many people to do the calling. 

We also live in an area with a very transient population.  Most people are either college students, family of college students, faculty or staff at the university or one of the colleges, or family of faculty or staff.  Then there are children, who grow up and go to college somewhere else.  This means that the bulk of our program is introductory classes and beginners classes.  Most people aren't in town long enough to become advanced students, even if they want to.

Because our area has many, many opportunities for activities, especially for children, we have to stay in the public's eye to be seen, especially by newcomers.  Fencing is not often the first thing someone looks for in a new town, because most people don't know anything about it.  We're looking for and working on better and better ways to reach people, especially new people in town, with information that will help them understand what we do and why they might be interested.


Linda

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#22 2007-03-09 11:18:24

Akilles
Member
From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

Yes, that is a different challenge.  So how would you characterize your students in terms of a number you feel approach the advanced level?  You must have a few that stay on and continue.  How do you address the advancement of your own teaching ability and skill against a population comprised mostly of novices?

Dave


all conditioned things decay - seek liberation diligently

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#23 2007-03-09 11:33:46

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: new conversations

> Yes, that is a different challenge.  So how would you characterize your students in terms of a number
> you feel approach the advanced level?  You must have a few that stay on and continue. 

We have a good core group of committed advanced students, and a fair number of intermediate students who are relatively young and therefore likely to be with us for a while.

> How do you address the advancement of your own teaching ability and skill against a population comprised
> mostly of novices?

That one's easy- I have a Fencing Master.  :-)

Also, my own training mostly does not happen during the classes I teach- I focus on my students then.  One advantage I have that most teachers do not is that I don't have a "day job." This is what I do, full time and then some.

Linda

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#24 2007-03-09 13:00:54

Akilles
Member
From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: new conversations

Quite right, quite right.

I start to get itchy during these conversations, as though an invisible, yet tangible force begins to pull me away from the computer and closer to my foils...

Someday soon, my friend, we'll fence.  I will look into driving cross country later in the year perhaps.  Till then, have a great weekend.

Dave

Last edited by Akilles (2007-03-09 13:01:15)


all conditioned things decay - seek liberation diligently

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#25 2007-03-09 16:43:23

cfaustus
Member
From: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Registered: 2006-04-20
Website

Re: new conversations

Linda,

just wondering,

have you received the emails I sent you regarding materials for this topic?

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