This may seem like a very valuable thing to 99% of Everythingians, but it's something I've been wanting to get in writing for some time and finally have the free time to do it. I also recently refereed my first major fencing competition, so I have somewhat of a new perspective on things.

Assuming a competition starts at 9 AM, which is the time that most in my area do start, it's a good idea to be there 10-15 minutes early. It's not likely that fencing will start by 9:30 at the earliest, but it's good to get used to the venue you'll be fencing at and also get on the Bout Committee's good side by being prompt. Stretch out, warm up, make friends with the other fencers, meet the officials, do your usual.

A lot of fencers won't suit up until 5 minutes before their pool is ready to start, but I like to get completely dressed about 20 minutes before the estimated start time. I like to get used to fencing in gear before the pool, so that my motions are fluid and normal when I start my bouts.

When the pools are called off, PAY ATTENTION to which strip you're on. Bring *all* the equipment you need with you to the assigned strip and do it IMMEDIATELY. Nothing makes a worse first impression on a director (referee) than not being there when your name is called at roll call.

Be sure you take a look at the scoresheet, both to see that your name is spelled correctly and to see who the other fencers with you in the pool are. It's *never* too early to start going over strategy in your head. Most directors will announce which match is on deck along with which match is about to start, so if you hear you're on deck be sure to stay in the area. I recommend staying near the strip at all times and watching every single bout--the pool bouts are only 5 touches each, and that's not nearly enough time to analyze your opponent's style on the fly. The best way to see how your opponents fence is by watching them in their other matches.

Between your matches, get whatever rest you can--your delay may be 20 minutes between bouts, but it might only be 5. Be aware of your rights--the USFA rulebook states you must be given at least 3 minutes to rest between consecutive pool bouts, and you have every right to request that time if you for some reason are asked to start a second bout immediately after finishing a previous one.

After your pool is concluded, be ABSOLUTELY SURE to check over the referee's scoresheet before you sign it to make sure everything is correct--I've been credited with losses in bouts I won because I didn't bother to check for mistakes before I signed the sheet. After you sign it, you have absolutely no recourse to protest to the Bout Committee if an error remains, because you already certified that it was correct.

You probably have some time to relax before the Direct Elimination bouts start, so it's a good time to grab a light lunch and to relax. I used to play chess with my friends--the local Bout Committee was notoriously inefficient when it came to seeding and strip management.

Try to find out who your first opponent is going to be as soon as you can--showing up to the strip to fight a 15 point bout unprepared is just plain silly.

As for direct elimination bouts themselves, the most important piece of advice I have is not to rush yourself. You have nine minutes in total to work your magic, there is no point to try for a first period slaughter. It will only overtire you and cause you to get very sloppy. Also be certain to make the most of your one minute breaks between periods--if you don't have a coach with you, then get someone you trust to watch your bout so they can help you plan strategy and correct mistakes during the rest periods.

The most important thing you should be doing between direct elimination bouts is to REST--those marathons can take a lot out of you. Again, always remember that the officials are obligated to give you a minimum of 10 minutes rest time between direct elimination bouts. Go watch other matches and put some warmup pants on to stay warm, but don't exert yourself at all.

And that's about it! With my valuable advice, you'll be winning gold medals in no time. Or not.

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