Becoming a certified referee involves multiple steps that are aimed at ensuring a uniform application of the rules and the conventions of right of way. To earn or maintain a referee rating, all referees must meet the following requirements:
- Be a member in good standing of USA Fencing. Referees who let their membership lapse for over one year will lose their rating
- Pass the online exam once every two years with a score of 90% in the general section, and 90% in each weapon being tested for
- Attend a rules seminar
- Referee at their level at least every two years
- Observe the Referee Code of Conduct and always act professionally
Once a referee has attended a rules seminar and passed the online exam, they earn a rating of “P.”
All referees must pass a practical examination given by a Referee Examiner. Referees must demonstrate proficiency at a certain level to earn a rating. Demonstrated proficiency means showing consistency over time in the following skills:
- Make the calls appropriate for the rated level of fencing (as listed below).
- Knowledge and utilization of correct procedures, terminology, and hand gestures.
- Apply penalties correctly and appropriately.
- Maintain composure on the strip.
- Demonstrate control of the strip.
- Comport oneself well, and maintain a professional image both on and off the strip.
- Interact with competitors in a professional manner.
- Interact appropriately with coaches and spectators.
- Demonstrate an ability to handle pressure situations; i.e. make the same calls consistently, no matter the bout situation (same call at 14-14 as at 1-1), bout level (pools, first round of DE, or Finals), or quantity/quality of spectators.
The domestic ratings are listed below, with 1 being the most proficient rating. Ratings require demonstrated proficiency at the following levels or their equivalent:
- Level 10 rating – Finals of an E rated competition
- Level 9 rating – Finals of a D rated competition
- Level 8 rating – Finals of a C rated competition
- Level 7 rating – Finals of a B rated competition
- Level 6 rating – Finals of an A rated competition
- Level 5 rating – Round of pools in a Division 1 North American Cup (NAC) competition
- Level 4 rating – Direct elimination round of 64 of a Division 1 NAC competition
- Level 3 rating – Direct Elimination round of 16 of a Division 1 NAC competition
- Level 2 rating – Finals of a Division 1 NAC competition
- Level 1 rating – Any level of a Division 1 NAC competition
Referee Examiners can award ratings from 7-10. Individual FOC members can award ratings 5 and 6. Ratings 1-4 are awarded by consensus vote of the FOC members who are familiar with that referee’s work. A referee must earn a level 5 rating before they can be considered for higher ratings.
The FOC maintains a database of certified referees.