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Australian Fencing Team (AFT)
Frequently Asked Questions about the AFT.
These FAQ’s and Answers are provided by way of explanation only. They do not form part of the AFF Selection Policy or other AFF Policies and are not intended to effect the interpretation of the AFF Selection Policy or other policies, each of which is to be interpreted on its face and without reference to extrinsic material (unless so stated in the policy).
If you have more questions about the High Performance Program of the AFF, please contact one of the following people: Frank Walsh (High Performance Director) or Paul Crook (High Performance Manager).
Why has the AFF adopted the concepts of the AFT and the AFS?
In 2009 the AFF developed a new strategic direction based on a long-term objective of achieving international medals in a 12-16 year timeframe.
Prior to this the AFF had a policy of using its limited resources to support a National Coach and a High Performance Program for only one weapon. Epee was chosen because it was judged that it was the weapon that gave Australia the best chance for international success. The number of places on the program was limited to four athletes.
The current program was introduced due to widespread dissatisfaction with this policy because it provided no support for Australia’s very talented foil and sabre athletes, provided no capacity to support athletes outside of the High Performance Program based in Melbourne, did not support a decentralised staff of National Coaches in all weapons, and was not delivering medal results at the AFF’s benchmark competitions.
The current program is decentralised and places strong emphasis on developing and qualifying teams (through team success we are much more likely to build the sport), strength in all weapons, developing an elite team focused sporting ethic in our younger talented athletes, and excellence in the area of coaching with a network of National Coaches. To achieve the objective of developing a strong National Team across all age categories and weapons the AFT was established.
It is only through the development of an elite sporting culture that Olympic and World Championship success will result and the AFT program is strongly focused on this pathway.
In 2012 the AFF added the Australian Fencing Squad (AFS) to the High Performance Program. The purpose of the AFS is to include those fencers who wish to be part of the AFF HPP but for some reason, e.g. study or work commitments, cannot commit to the international competition program required for membership of the AFT. The AFS members will be required to meet training commitments as set out in the AFS Athlete Agreement and will be eligible to fill casual vacancies on the AFT and nominate for selection for specified international events as set out in the AFF Selection Policy.
What is the AFT and how do I become a member?
The Australian Fencing Team (AFT) is an Australian Open, Under 23, Junior and Cadet Team for each weapon that is selected each year following each of the World Championships (Open and Junior/Cadet) and Asian Zone Championships (Under 23) from athletes who nominate and commit to a 12 month National Training and Competition Program developed by the each of the National Weapon Coaches to prepare for the next World Championships. To become a member you must respond to the call for nominations and if you are eligible for selection you will be considered along with other nominees according to the AFF Selection Policy. Selection is not automatic; where there are more nominations from eligible athletes than AFT positions available, the Selection Policy mandates that selections are made based on rankings.
What is the AFS and how do I become a member?
The Australian Fencing Squad (AFS) is an Australian Open, Under 23, Junior and Cadet Squad for each weapon that is selected each year following each of the World Championships (Open and Junior/Cadet) and Asian Zone Championships (Under 23) from athletes who nominate and commit to a 12 month National Training Program developed by the each of the National Weapon Coaches. As a member of the AFS you are not required to be available for selection for any particular international events but you are eligible for selection for specific international events as is set out in the AFF Selection Policy. To become a member you must respond to the call for nominations and if you are eligible for selection you will be considered along with other nominees according to the AFF Selection Policy. Selection is not automatic; where there are more nominations from eligible athletes than AFS positions available, the Selection Policy mandates that selections are made based on rankings.
How is it possible to be part of the system if you’re not already part of the system?
The Selection Policy allows athletes who are not part of the High Performance Program to join the AFT/AFS by nominating, and being accepted through merit by meeting performance thresholds and ranking points requirements, or by the Selectors (at their absolute discretion). Several calls for nomination for the AFT/AFS will be made throughout the year. However, it will not be possible for fencers to join and drop out of the AFT/AFS before and after particular competitions for which they may wish to be selected. If fencers did this there may be a period of ineligibility to rejoin the AFF HP Program.
Of course, moving from the AFS to the AFT requires signing the AFT Athlete Agreement, which requires a higher level of commitment than the AFS Athlete Agreement. Study, work commitments, sickness, and other personal circumstances mean that an Athlete may wish to stay in the AFS rather than move up to the AFT.
I have been told that it costs $5,000 a year to be a member of the AFT/AFS. Is that correct?
No, that is not correct. There are fees charged to belong to the AFT/AFS however these fees go towards costs that a fencer who wants to compete at an international level would have to pay anyway. Here’s how it works: the fees athletes normally pay to their personal coach, to attend squad training, to attend training camps and for official’s costs when travelling overseas with an Australian Team are paid in quarterly instalments through the AFF. The AFF then distributes the fees to the AFT/AFS member’s personal coach for individual lessons and State Association for squad sessions, and applies the balance towards the costs of officials travel expenses. All of the fees paid go to paying the costs of AFT/AFS members that non-AFT/AFS members have to pay directly to coaches, State associations and the AFF for officials travel costs if they are part of an Australian Team competing in international competitions. Athletes’ individual travel costs are not covered and are additional to the AFT/AFS fees. This is the case for all athletes whether AFT/AFS members or non-AFT/AFS members.
The figure of $5000 was an initial estimate at the start of the AFT in 2010 of what those costs would likely total over a year, to give potential AFT members then an idea of the costs involved in competing internationally as an elite fencer. In practice it has generally been less than this because all State associations have generously subsidised to varying degrees the cost of squad training sessions. AFT members get value for their fees because all of the fees paid by an AFT member go towards paying that AFT member’s individual costs. None of the fees paid by the AFT members are used for any other purpose. A portion ($500) of the AFS member’s fees will go towards paying coaches and HPP staff for the additional workload for non-AFT members.
AFT members have, since the inception of the program, had access to sponsorship benefits (AFT clothing, discounted Leon Paul equipment and clothing, etc.) that is unavailable to non-AFT athletes. These may or may not continue as existing arrangements fall due for renewal.
Sports like fencing that don’t receive high levels of government assistance or other external funding such as corporate sponsorship have to find ways of funding their own programs. While everyone involved in fencing would like to be able to pay coaches and send athletes to international competitions at no expense to the athletes this is not our reality. Therefore, the AFF has the choice of self-funded programs or no programs at all. The AFF is working hard to obtain external sources of funding but until it has more success in fund-raising it is an unfortunate reality that not everyone will have the financial means to be part of these self-funded programs. However, as explained above, the cost of belonging to the AFT/AFS is no higher than the cost for non-AFT members to train for and compete in international competitions.
If I am a member of the AFT/AFS are all Officials levies covered by my AFT/AFS quarterly fees.
No, there is no guarantee that all of these costs will be covered. It is impossible to predict what these costs will be in advance and also the grants and subsidies the AFF obtains towards these costs vary from year to year. All of the money collected through AFT/AFS fees for coach/officials travel costs is used for this but there may be a shortfall for AFT/AFS members. Non-AFT/AFS members of Australian Teams are required to pay a full share of officials travel costs with no rebate from prepayments through AFT/AFS quarterly fees. To understand how the AFT/AFS members contributions via their AFT/AFS fees are applied refer to the policy document in the Documents and Policies Section on AFF website.
The fees for the AFT and AFS will vary because the members of the AFT and AFS are making different commitments. These fees are set out in the respective Athlete Agreements.
I have an arrangement with my personal coach where I give lessons to beginners at his/her club in exchange for individual lessons does that mean I will now have to pay through the AFF for my lessons?
No, under these sorts of circumstances you won’t have to pay for your individual lessons through the AFF. The AFF does not want to financially disadvantage AFT/AFS members, so where there is a verified arrangement such as this or where, for example, your partner or parent is your personal coach, your AFT/AFS Athlete Agreement can be adjusted to reflect your individual circumstances.
It is being said (e.g. another parent told me, that their child’s coach said) that the AFT is unfair because you can buy a place on the team. Is that correct?
No, that is not correct. Membership of the AFT/AFS is based on merit. To be a member of the AFT/AFS you must nominate and be selected. Selection is based firstly on meeting certain benchmarks and then on the Australian Rankings with the highest ranked eligible nominees being selected. It is only if higher ranked eligible athletes choose not to nominate for the AFT/AFS that they will not be selected on Australian Teams.
I have heard people saying that AFT members get preferential selection on Australian Teams. The AFF Selection policy says selection is based on merit. If AFT members get preferential selection, how is that based on merit?
The selection of Australian Teams for International Competitions has always been based on multiple selection criteria. The selection criteria which have been included are: the Australian Rankings, having a minimum required number of Australian ranking points, having completed an approved overseas training and competition tour, and having achieved benchmark performances in national and international events even if you are the number one ranked fencer on the Australian Rankings. In the past there have been instances of the number one ranked fencer not being selected for Australian Teams because they didn’t meet all of these criteria.
It has never been the case that Australian rankings are the sole criteria for selecting Australian and it is misleading to suggest that this is a change that has occurred with the introduction of the AFF’s new strategic approach to High Performance. The only change that has occurred is that the selection process now occurs in two stages (selection of the AFT/AFS at the beginning of the competition year and final team selection three months before the event) with the first stage being earlier in the year to give teams more time to prepare for the major international events.
The current system requires that nominees satisfy multiple criteria and then the eligible nominee with the highest ranking who meets these criteria is selected. That is a “merit” based system with “merit” being determined on multiple criteria not just rankings.
The current policy is to select the strongest National Team possible from those who qualify and nominate to be on the National Team approximately 12 months prior to the World Championships in each age category. Therefore, selection is based on merit. As there are more fencers selected on the National Team at the start of the “year” to allow for injury etc there is a further selection process before each particular event.
If places on Teams are reserved for AFT/AFS members, surely that is preferential treatment?
There are places reserved for AFT members on Australian Cadet and Junior teams. These have two places out of three or four (depending on the event) to be selected in the first instance from AFT members on the basis of their national rankings. The remaining places are open to both AFT and non-AFT members based on their national ranking and other criteria. Reserving two positions in the first instance for AFT members is necessary support the team-building objective of the AFF High Performance Plan and to recognize the commitment of AFT members who engage in a 12 month training and competition program to prepare for the next World Championships. To do otherwise would mean the National Coaches who are preparing teams for the AFF’s benchmark event (World Championships), may not be able to have the nucleus of the team they are preparing for the next World Championships compete in the critical lead up events. It is then entirely possible that the athletes who displaced them may choose not to nominate or may not qualify for selection for the World Championships.
It takes time, persistence, dedication, and extensive experience in international competition to achieve success. The National Weapons Coaches need to have continuity among the team of athletes they are working with over the longer term to achieve the required standard for international success. If athletes, who can’t or won’t make the commitment 12 months in advance to work with the team and to be available for the benchmark competitions, are able to pick and choose which events they wish to attend and are not part of the national team of athletes, coaches, and managers working towards Australian Fencing’s long-term goal of international success, then Australian Fencing won’t improve over what has been achieved with this individualistic approach over the last ten years. The AFF recognizes that some people may have difficulty adjusting to this change of culture and policy and have provided access to some places on Australian Junior and Cadet Teams for athletes who choose to work outside the national structure. This is more accommodating of individualism than many other team sports allow.
There are no places reserved for AFT members on Australian Open teams. These are selected in the first instance from both AFT members and non-AFT members who achieve a number of performance thresholds and then the remaining places are selected from AFT members who have completed all the requirements of their Athlete Agreement based on their national ranking. This is because the current policies were introduced after the current Olympic cycle had started and the AFF did not wish to disadvantage athletes who had already set their course to qualify for London prior to the introduction of the AFT.
How is it fair that only AFT members are eligible for selection for the World Championships?
The new Strategic direction adopted by the AFF in 2009 to concentrate on building teams has led to the decision to select the National Team (AFT) 12 months before the World Championships each year.
It is not actually true to say that only AFT members are eligible for selection for the World Championships. Any fencer in Australia has an equal opportunity to put themselves forward for selection and to be selected according to the requirements as set out in the AFF Selection Policy. To make this claim is to misunderstand how and when the team for World Championships is selected. Being selected on the AFT and being selected for the World Championships are not independent events.
Selection for the World Championships is a twostep process. The first step is to be selected on the National Team (AFT) for that year. The second step is to be one of the top performers on the National Team and secure one of the available places at the World Championships by then being selected from within the National Team for that event. That is, being selected on the AFT is in effect being selected for the World Championship Team. It is a bit like being selected on the Australian Cricket Team and then deciding who will be 12th man immediately before the game.
The AFF has always had more stringent selection criteria for the World Championships than for other events. This is because the World Championships are the premier competition of the international fencing calendar (apart from the Olympic Games each four years) and if Australian fencers are going to achieve high level performances at the World Championships they will need to have done the necessary preparation as an elite fencer for the event.
When the change was made to select the National Team at the start of the fencing year to give the selected fencers and coaches 12 months to prepare for the World Championships it was on the basis that the commitment to undertake the necessary preparation would be incorporated into the Athlete Agreement rather than being incentivised through the Selection Policy as it had been previously. It is keeping faith with that commitment to the fencing community that our World Championship Teams will be fully prepared and with the fencers who make that commitment to prepare, that the team is selected in this way.
What options are there for generating more ranking points?
Membership of the AFT and AFS goes hand-in-hand with international competition. Some athletes will travel on both organized AFF tours, and others on their own training tours. Recognising this, the Selection Policy allows athletes to submit information to the Selection Panel requesting that points be allocated to them for these events. The Selection Panel may elect to award zero points for a competition; so long-term planning – part of the AFT/AFS underpinning – is essential. Therefore, events have to be rated for points by the Selection Commission at least three months before the competition to give certainty to the athlete attending to compete and also so other athletes will know that they can potentially earn ranking points at that particular competition.
Isn't it against our best interests to not select our best fencers, who are not on the AFT/AFS?
In the interests of long-term outcomes for Australian Fencing, the answer to this is “no - it is definitely not against our best interests”. It is in the long-term interest of Australian Fencing to build a strong National Team. The decision comes down to whether you prioritise the best interests of Australian Fencing or the best interest of individuals. To prioritise the best interest of individuals is short-sighted and not in the best long-term interest of fencing. It treats each team selected for each competition as a standalone event and ignores the necessity of using competitions as a stepping stones to build on for success in the future. The AFF’s strategic pathway to achieving success is strongly based on building Australian teams of elite athletes (the National Team). Team building requires long-term commitment and dedication to the team and every encouragement must be given to athletes to be part of the program that is building towards this common goal. If an individual does not commit to be part of the program developed to build Australian teams and wishes to remain outside the program, it is reasonable that they will get reduced opportunities over those who commit to the team building program approach. There is a balance between putting your strongest team on the piste now and creating a culture and an environment that supports future success. This is the AFF’s long-term strategy which is definitely the better way to achieve our long-team goals.
Can a lower-ranked AFT Cadet to be selected to a Junior International event before an AFS Junior**?
Yes it is possible but the mere membership of the AFT – at any level – does not guarantee entry to a competition. There is a further merit-based selection criterion in such circumstances relating to a minimum performance and ranking point threshold. In this situation, if a Cadet AFT member did not have the Junior performance threshold and ranking points to merit Junior AFT membership, they would not be selected ahead of a Junior AFS member. **The same applies to the other age categories of the AFT/AFS.
Do AFT members have a advantage in earning ranking points over AFS members (and non-AFS members)?
It has been suggested that this is the natural consequence of having points-earning tournaments that are not open to all fencers and exacerbated by the weighting of points in favour of those tournaments that are most restrictive in terms of participation. It has been further argued that it would appear that in spite of any regular review process that may be undertaken, once you are in the AFT it's going to be pretty hard to be overtaken by an AFS or non-AFS athlete and that gives the impression of a closed system, designed to protect those on the inside at the expense of the rest.
These arguments are not correct. They are based on the incorrect idea that the AFT is a development squad with selection rights. It is not – the AFT is the NATIONAL TEAM. Anyone who meets the criteria is eligible to nominate and be selected on the NATIONAL TEAM (i.e. AFT). The major change to selection with the introduction of AFT is about when the National Team is selected, what your obligations are between when you are selected and when you compete, and a strategic decision by the AFF to focus on teams not individuals. It is not about anyone being excluded or treated differently.
Once the National Team is selected for an international competition it is true that the team members are the only ones who can potentially earn ranking points from that event but that is true NO MATTER WHEN THE TEAM IS SELECTED (whether it one week or one year before the competition) or what you commit to do between selection and competition. The limit on how many fencers can potentially earn ranking points from the event is determined by the number of entries the AFF is allowed for the event not by the AFF. This is particularly the case since the introduction of the AFT because at the same time the AFF moved to selecting the national team approximately 12 months before the respective World Championships (i.e. the AFT) it introduced a policy of sending FULL TEAMS to international events whenever possible which was not the case before the introduction of the AFT. This actually means MORE fencers NOT LESS get the opportunity to earn international ranking points.
The AFF ranking system limits the number of ranking point events that can be counted towards an individual's ranking. There are no cheap points in international competition - you don't get points just for turning up. The limit on the number of ranking point events that can count to a fencer’s national ranking means AFS and Non AFT/AFS fencers who do well in domestic competitions and/or category E events can acquire enough ranking points to gain entry onto the AFT/AFS.
The weighting of points for international events reflects the Selection Commissions assessment of the difficulty of the event and is there to encourage Australian fencers to compete in these more difficult events. It also compensates Australian fencers who may have to miss domestic events in order to compete internationally.
Can an AFT age group member be selected ahead of another nominating higher ranked fencer from another AFT age group?
Underlying the selection system is a merit-based process designed to put forward the best members of our Team for Australian representation. This means that all AFT members that nominate for a Category A/B event are selected in ranked order of that event's age category, regardless of their AFT age membership. In essence, this means that an athlete that satisfies the selection criteria for a number of age groups is able to nominate for any of those age groups to gain selection to the AFT. Athletes in this case should in this case review the athlete obligations and athlete agreements to assess which age group is the most appropriate. It should be noted, however, that if an AFT athlete's ranking drops below the relevant AFT ranking point threshold for that age category, then they are then assessed against AFS athletes for selection for Category C/D events.
What do the current members of the Australian Team say about the AFT and representing Australia?
Here is what one had to say: “Excellence in sport is not just about promoting individuals but also about building a sport for the future excellence of all fencers. Being an Olympic athlete is about training 5 days a week and cross training. It is better to have a fencer who trains 5 days a week than one who manages to beat that fencer in Australia by natural talent. The naturally talented tend to give up when they lose and are not always around for the long term. We want someone who will be a team player so we do not have to go overseas to train to get better.
It is better to have a team player who wants to build a sport than one who only cares about himself. There are overseas fencers who come here and with little training are ranked in the top 4. It is their past training that often got them there. They are not committed to excellence now because they do not spend the time training and training with others so we all get better.
Selection is not something to be seen in isolation. It is part of development. If the AFT was not a pathway and we simply sent the top ranked 4 fencers, no one would be in the AFT. Fencing simply would not grow.
Some in the fencing community view the AFT as a way to pay to go. We are not getting the message across that the money goes on our coaching and training.”
What happens if I sign an AFT/AFS Athlete Agreement and then can’t or don’t fulfill the agreement?
If for any reason you find you can’t fulfil the training or competition obligations you agreed to in the AFT Athlete Agreement, or training you committed to in the AFS Athlete Agreement, you should immediately discuss your circumstances with the National Coach and the High Performance Manager (HPM). There are circumstances where you can apply to have your AFT/AFS membership suspended for set periods due to such things as injury or temporary absences due to competition or overseas training opportunities. Temporary suspensions have to be approved by the HPM and the Chairperson of the High Performance Program Committee (HPPC) in consultation with the National Coach and you must apply using the form on the AFF website located in the High Performance AFT/AFS Documents Section before the suspension can take effect.
Circumstances that are unrelated to fencing and reasonably foreseeable at the time of signing the agreement will generally not be accepted as a valid reason to suspend your membership of the AFT/AFS without sanction.
If you are persistently absent from training without prior approval or fail to attend the agreed competitions for which you are selected your membership of the AFT/AFS may be terminated and you may be ineligible to re-join the AFT/AFS for a specified period.
If you withdraw from the AFT/AFS without approval you will continue to have financial obligations to the AFT/AFS (these are set out in your Athlete Agreement and the Suspension/Withdrawal from the AFT/AFS form) and you may be ineligible to re-join the AFT/AFS for a specified period.
Are there any circumstances for exemption from fulfilling part of the Athlete Agreement?
Yes. There are circumstances where if the NWC believes it would be preferable for an athlete to be granted an exemption from competing in an event in order that they are able to compete in another event an exemption can be granted with the agreement of the HPM. If the NWC and the HPM cannot agree then the HPPC Chairperson will mediate the decision. (It is considered unlikely that the HPPC Chairperson would need to be called on to assist with this type of decision).
So what is the benefit to me in joining the AFT?
The benefits are many:
- You get the benefit of a structured program – the National Training and Competition Program – including specialized national and international training camps – prepared and overseen by the National Weapon Coaches.
- Your individual coaching can still be delivered by your personal coach who is paid through AFF out of your AFT fees.
- You are part of a team and will have the support of a team environment during training and competition.
- You will have the support of the AFT sponsors.
- You will have your membership of the AFT as a drawcard for attracting personal sponsorship.
- You will have a greater level of certainty about being able to attend the international competitions you are training for throughout the year.
- And, importantly, you get a sense of pride and achievement from being a selected member of the Australian Fencing Team.
What if the Championships are somewhere I can't go?
The AFF recognises that the locations of Zone and World Championships each year may sometimes create problems for all athletes or for individual athletes. In these situations, the AFF may consider waiving specific athlete agreement obligations.
Some examples of this situation are where a fencer's previous citizenship or permanent residency make it extremely difficult or impossible to travel to a country (or return to Australia). Similarly, the location of some Championships may be somewhere that the Australian Government (through its official travel advisories) considers that it would be dangerous for AFT and AFS members to travel to.
An example of where this would not apply may be a known situation preventing an athlete from travelling (e.g. a Departure Prohibition Order through a Child Support Agency, or a history of DVT), or personal concern or preferences about a particular overseas area. In these situations, the athlete should reconsider their nomination to the AFT / AFS, as travel is a requirement of the High Performance Program, and the destination of this travel is often unknown or changeable.
So what is the benefit to me in joining the AFS?
The benefits are many:
- You get the benefit of a structured program – the National Training Program – including specialized national and international training camps – prepared and overseen by the National Weapon Coaches.
- Your individual coaching can still be delivered by your personal coach who is paid through AFF out of your AFS fees.
- You are part of a team and will have the support of a team environment during training and competition.
- You will have your membership of the AFS as a drawcard for attracting personal sponsorship.
- You will have an opportunity to compete in some international competitions if there are additional places available.
- You have a training pathway into the AFT
And, importantly, you get a sense of pride and achievement from being a selected member of the Australian Fencing Squad and being a member of the AFF HPP.
Do I need to nominate to this event?
Nominations for events outside of Australia and International events held in Australia are generally called for to close 3 months before the event for interested fencers.
The Athlete Agreements that are signed by each Australian Fencing Team (AFT) member indicates the events that the member is automatically nominated for. These automatic nominations have generally been the Asian Zone Championships and World Fencing Championships in the AFT member's AFT age category i.e. Open AFT members are automatically nominated to Open Asian Zone Championships, and Open World Fencing Championships, for their AFT weapon category.
It is recognised that some AFT members may be eligible for additional age based events that are not the categories that they are members of the AFT, in these situations, the AFT member will need to nominate for these additional events if they wish to be considered for selection. AFS members also need to nominate for events.
What do I do if I would like to attend an AFT training camp?
AFT Training Camps are for all members of the AFT and AFS and by invitation only for non-AFT / non-AFS members. Non-AFT and non-AFS members can be invited in two ways. The National Weapon Coaches may invite non-AFT and non-AFS members whom they consider would benefit from attending the camp, and the host state can invite a number of fencers whom they think would benefit from attending the camp. AFT members do not pay fees to attend AFT camps as the cost of the AFT camps is included in their AFT quarterly fees. Non-AFT members invited to attend by the National Weapon Coaches are charged an attendance fee by the AFF. Non-AFT members who are invited by the host state are charged a fee by the host state that is set by the host state. If you are a non-AFT member and you would like to attend a camp you should speak to the relevant National Weapons Coach or the host state and express your interest. Applications to attend the camp (non-AFT and non-AFS members) are accepted on the portal - http://portal.fencing.org.au