Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Division (A Double Connotation)

Last Saturday, I attended the NC Divisional Meeting. This is the first Divisional meeting I have attended. My reasons for not attending in the past are:

A. I do not consider myself to be of significance within the Division.

B. I soured on Divisional matters about 5 years ago. While it is much better today, I am still not totally over it.

C. There is no one less political than me.

The reason I decided to attend: one of the topics for discussion from a group of people interested in a splitting the NC Division. I though this was a topic to be discussed. The meeting was interesting, but the “biggie” was saved for last.

If I had known that a petition was already filed and the deed was done, I would not have bothered to attend. I found this out as the topic was brought up. I have no idea why there was a discussion about it after the fact. I figured this is what it must be like to be in a long term relationship with someone, and then one of them breaks up with the other over the phone.

The whole thing was uncomfortable. The seating was almost directly divided (not by design) with the people wanting to leave the Division on one side, and the people wanting it to stay together on the other. I was in the group “that did not want it to split up”. There were crossed arms and tight jaws staring across the room at crossed arms and tight jaws.

I didn’t want to fight with these people. I always felt welcomed when I fenced at their clubs. Fortunately, I don’t think it ever reached the level of “fight”. It still sucked. I left in a hurry, as oddly enough I was heading to the coast.

On the drive down, I analyzed the meeting over and over in my head. I tried to look at things from the side of the group who wanted to leave the Division. I thought about the reasons stated for wanting to leave. The things said and the things unsaid. I thought about why I did not want the split, when in truth, it would not affect me personally at all.

I was born in this state. I had to take a class called “North Carolina History”, which had to be the most boring class ever. I had to learn the state dog and the state sea shell. Yes….there is an official state everything. While na├»ve, living here all my life has made me sentimental concerning the state and this transferred to the Division. As I looked across the room during the meeting, I realized that a person from another area could not share this type of feeling. I also realized that my emotional attachment to the State and the Division were nice, but it really had no meaningful bearing on what was happening. You could not say, “Hey…Wait…Jim has an emotional attachment to the State. Don’t split it up.” It is not relevant.

Often on AskFred, when I have registered for a tournament, and you have to enter the club affiliation, I have thought I should just put down “Divisional”. I am a member of the Greensboro Fencers' Club (formerly the Downtown Fencing Club.) I have been a member of NCFDP and proudly studied with Coach Miller both in Chapel Hill and Greensboro over the last four years. I was briefly a member of Mid-South Fencers' Club when they were in Greensboro. I am presently affiliated with the Charlotte Fencing Academy. I have studied with Alex Beguinet, and I have lost count of how many seminars I have attended at Raleigh Fencers' Club. I go wherever I can to study fencing in the state. Again, this is an emotional thing and has no real bearing on splitting the Division.

These are some of the reasons given for wanting to leave the Division and my opinion on them. (Please note, that this how I remember it after four days.)

A.“It is too big.” This means the total distance across the state. Not the membership, which has slipped into the three hundreds with USFA memberships. Eh…..maybe…..maybe not. Going across the state from the coast, fencing begins to tapper down in Durham and ends in the line hooking Charlotte and Greensboro. ASU pops up again in the mountains. That is a shame, as I have always thought Winston Salem and Asheville could support good clubs. I guess it is relative to what you consider “big”. Other Divisions have greater distances to drive.

B. Herman brought up that it is a four hour drive to Charlotte for JO’s if a qualifier is held there. I can buy that. There is a tournament in Charlottesville, VA this weekend that I would like to attend. It is about that same distance, and I doubt I will go due to the drive. If you are a coastal club you do have the length and breadth of the about half the state to contend with on one side and England on the other.

C.Greg wants to grow that area in terms of fencing. Short term, I don’t see the need to be another Division to do this. Long term, maybe. The proposed new Division doesn’t expect to divide any money that the current Division has. They said they would start from scratch. So, in the long run, after they had some funds, they could be used to grow that area. If you wanted to get on with it now, you could stay in the present Division and apply for funding.

Here is what I tried to bring up during the meeting. That during this time of economic uncertainty and other reasons, clubs could be lost in the future. The smaller the Division the greater the impact this will have, and the larger it is, the more easily that loss can be absorbed. It went over like a lead balloon.

Here is what was unsaid. How does this split help the current Division? How does this split help the Non-coastal Division? That never came up. Also not mentioned was that part of the reasoning for this had to do with bad blood between people and clubs and some personal agendas (That is an assumption. If I am wrong in that regard, I apologize.)

There was discussion on this not being in line with NCUSFA Mission statement and some other things that I hope I never have to understand regarding USFA rules and regulations.

Perhaps a petition should be submitted not to split the division. If so....for gods sake....don't tell anyone or talk about it before hand. Evidently, this is the way it is done.

I have no idea if Divisions or Division qualifiers will even have a place in the near future. I have no idea what will happen next or when. What I do know is that my opinion has changed from “ I would like the Division to stay together” to “ Okay…Hell…Whatever.”

Also at the Division Meeting…….

I found out at each meeting the board wrestles with the restrictions Divisional Observers have placed on them. Good! I think that they should rethink the whole thing. The whole thing is based on thinking someone will do something wrong; be biased or cheat. I have fenced at every club in this state except one and my feeling is that no one is going to intentionally cheat or do anything wrong. There will be some bad calls reffing. If you don’t think a Divisional Observer is an honorable person, don’t let them observe. It is THE most boring job in the world. You should check membership and check safety. At that point you do almost nothing until you get home. I say if they want to ref….let them ref. If they want to fence….let them fence. It reminds me of the rule about wearing a knee brace outside of your uniform. A blade might get hung in it. Well...it might....but what are the odds. Trust people to do the right thing and loosen up.


Woody said...

The division should stay one division. If anyone has issue with this, we'll drive to the coast add 60 miles and the differences can be settled between the plank and Davey Jone's locker.

This is how you kill divisions. The USFA has examples they would be happy to share with us.

Plus, since the traitor in question petitioned the USFA without the knowledge or consent of the division his hands will be tied before stepping onto the plank.

Meredith said...

I agree, splitting the division is a terrible idea. Population-wise, the division is tiny and still geographically much smaller than the other divisions. It seems to me that it's nothing but a power play, as splitting the division would concentrate the power in a few areas/clubs. In the USFA as a whole, the split would dilute the power of the division below its current insignificant level.

Sure, driving is a pain but if a parent is willing to drive their kid to travel soccer tournaments, they will drive them for fencing. What's the point of having a youth qualifier with only two kids? That's the surest way to kill interest. Splitting things up won't spur growth, it will only reduce the available resources. I could go on, but I think I'll stop here.

Jennifer said...

Jim, I believe you are a very significant member of Division (whatever it looks like). I hate it when you put yourself down! I have not yet formulated on my option of split or not. It makes more work for everybody the way I see it if we split. Also, I am not aware of any "bad blood" and it is the fencers who need to speak out if they don't like the observers!!! Thanks for speaking out. If the observers is really the unspoken issue, it needs to be considered they are still MANY clubs who want to hold event referring out of pools and still have them sanctioned. It is the Divisions job to only sanction "sanctionable" events. Until every one reads the rule book, it is EXTREMELY difficult to have a discussion about how to do this more effectively than it is, without getting into trouble AND most importantly Board members doing all the work. It may be boring, but it's divided up among a lot of people, not just six. You can still hold an event YOU think should be sanctioned and give out ratings, and 'by the rules' it's not sanctionable. Doesn't make you a bad person or mean we have willful cheaters in this division.

I am so glad people are starting to bitch and moan and at least do something! Many of us our offended because our opinions wasn't ask. I will effect you Jim, just in a many you may not expect.

Anonymous said...


It isn't about not having observers, but what they can do at an event.


Jennifer said...

Well, voices where sounded and that did change this year. My guess it will gain more flexibility as trust evolves. I strongly encourage you to be on the board. So much ugly work has been avoided due to having observers. It makes the lives of board members so much easier. Until you have been on the board and have had to tell someone they lost their rating due to errors that COULD have been kept from happening if there was someone outside the club double checking them, it is easy to say- this is dumb. It's not dumb for people who loose a rating they feel they earned. Jim, we lost sanctioning on an event this year too and lost a really good rating going into SN. Mistakes happen, the observers job is to correct and help people avoid mistakes! It's friendly and I see it more about other club helping other clubs who run tournament do their jobs better. I appreciate someone overseeing our tournaments VERY MUCH.

cobalt said...

Honestly, it's personal. There's a bunch of people wanting the world to revolve around them and want to do it through political means. And yes...that's on both sides. Any arguments currently being given are clearing justifications being made post fact. (FYI, there's been very little history of CFFA attendance to JO's when it was elsewhere either...run stats on askFred)

I prefer to have the world revolve around me by...well...winning. Must be my inner epee fencer. Also not being a complete jackass helps too. Amazing how many lesson requests I get that way.

I really could care less about any of this. People want to leave fine...people don't...fine. My fencers could care less about stupid division politics. It's all meaningless. National points and medals are all that really count...

But then again, I'm just a club in a city that's 'in shambles'. (Guess that record 20+ divisional medals and those national placings were just random accidents AGAIN. I'm certain that quote won't appear on a corkboard anywhere or be a motivation for any of my fencers. Guess I need to work on that accent again...maybe put some more gray in my hair or something)

Also...I do believe that observers should be allowed to be refs, but not fencers in the tournaments. And that's been the CHFA stance. Unfortunately, there are cheaters still within the division. And there always can be. The division has to take measures to protect itself. However, I think separating ref from observer is too cumbersome in this division.

deb said...

Jim, I think that you underestimate your presence in the Division. I think that you should speak up more and that you should take a more active roll in the Division. I also love NC and love the fact that I am from this state. That being said, I have not heard a really good reason for splitting the Division. I simply don't buy "too far to drive". By their own admission they are willing to drive to many areas of Va. for tournaments. If one of the issues is the distance to qualifiers, then offer to hold qualifiers in your area. We'll come as will many others. My real issue was how this was handled. Not bringing this up in a discussion with the NC membership as a whole just smacks of something unpleasant. As my son and Coach Miller stated at the meeting, we should be seeking out opportunities and the best fencers to compete against. This is how we measure our development. This is how we go back to the clubs and begin our work again. On the other hand my feeling after the meeting was over was let them leave. If that is what they really want then why would we want them as part of the Division.