Becoming a referee has never been easier! The first thing to do is go down to your local club. When you see two people fencing, ask them if they would like a referee and when they say, “Yes, please!” go ahead and jump right in. That’s it, you’re a referee!
Of course, there is a great deal more to learn if you are interested in becoming a certified referee, but the first step is to jump in at the local level and referee informal bouts whenever you have the chance. Refereeing even informally among your club mates can seem intimidating for many because nobody wants to make a mistake, but by practicing to referee you will learn the rules, as well as right of way and improve your own fencing along the way.
Hopefully, with some experience under your belt, you will make the choice to become a certified USA Fencing Referee. There are multiple steps to getting your certification that are designed to help ensure a consistency among referees across the United States. Fencing is a constantly evolving sport, and there are always new and sometimes subtle changes in the way rules and convention are applied. The goal of certification is to help ensure all referees are working from the same knowledge base.
The steps involved in getting your certification are:
- Practice in your club at every opportunity, and if possible find a local experienced referee or your coach to help mentor you.
- Read the Rulebook. Since the job of the referee is ensure a fair bout, you have to know the rules. Even if you decide not to become a referee, this step will make you a better fencer so you can advocate for yourself in case a referee misapplies a rule.
- Download the Referee Study Guide. This is a practice quiz with the types of questions you will find on the certifying exam. There is no answer key other than the rulebook, but the answers are in there, we promise! At the very least, it should get you thinking about some of the situations that occur as a referee.
- Take a referee seminar. Certified Referee Instructors across the United States give refereeing seminars on a regular basis. All certified referees are expected to attend a seminar every two years.
- Take the online exam. The test is divided into a general section, as well as weapon specific sections. There is a fee to take the exam, but if you fail, can retake the exam within the next 48 hours. Did you pass? Congratulations, you just earned your first referee rating!
- Take a practical examination. By passing the test alone, you earn a P rating (for pass), but in order to earn a local/regional referee rating, you must pass a practical examination administered by a Referee Examiner.
- Read through the Referee Handbook. This is a great resource of practical knowledge about best practices, collected insights, and expectations to help you prepare to start refereeing locally and nationally.
- Get out there and ref! Refereeing is a skill that needs to be practiced. Offer to help at local tournaments and watch as much fencing as you can. Video footage of high level domestic fencing can be found on the USA Fencing Facebook page, and video of international bouts can be found on the FIE YouTube page. As you get better and more experienced, you should consider refereeing at the national level as well.
As your skills progress, consider joining the USFA Fencing Referee Development Committee Mentor Program as a Mentee. You’ll work with a mentor to help guide your professional development as a referee in the sport. For more information, check out the Referee Development Committee website.