This article was originally written for the September 2014 newsletter, but there’s been lots of exciting growth at RFC recently with many new fencing families, so it seemed like a good time to bring back a topic that will be new to many people receiving the RFC newsletter or viewing the new RFC website.
This month’s topic: Letter Ratings
If you have a Y14 or under fencer who is an advanced beginner or is just moving up to level 1, you may have noticed updates in RFC newsletters or posts on the RFC Facebook page saying things like “Congratulations to Vivian who earned her D” or “Anil renewed his B at a recent tournament in New York.”
So just what are these letters?
US Fencing maintains a letter rating for every person with a USFA membership. The letters are A through E, and U (for Unrated). Everyone starts off as a U/Unrated fencer. “A” is the highest rating, “B” is the second highest, and so on. Just getting a letter rating is an achievement. For example, of over 5500 competitive US women fencers with USFA memberships (from children to Olympians), only about 725 have an A through E letter rating in foil, and less than 100 across the US have an “A” rating in foil as of Feb 2016. Many of the more experienced RFC fencers have letter ratings!
How does a fencer get a letter rating?
Every USFA sanctioned fencing event (most events in the US) has a pre-event rating. If you scan through upcoming fencing tournaments on AskFRED.net, you’ll see some events that say things like “could be a B2 event” as shown below.
If you’re not familiar with AskFRED.net, it’s a website listing most upcoming fencing tournaments across the US and Canada – see the November 2014 Parent’s Corner on the RFC website for details about how AskFRED works.
Events are rated on a combination of how many fencers attend, the rating of the fencers participating, and how the top-rated fencers in the event finish. The event shown above is a “could be a B2 event”. Below is the USFA event rating chart for a B2 event:
As the table above shows, for an event to be rated a B2 event, it must have at least 25 fencers (who actually show up and compete, not just register!), and the event must include at least 2 fencers with a B (or better) rating, AND 2Cs (or better), AND 2Ds (or better). There’s more to it than that… for the event to achieve its B2 rating, a minimum number of the top rated fencers need to finish in the top 8 (this is what the “Rated Fencers Must Finish” column is all about).
Usually enough of the top rated fencers in an event finish high enough for an event to achieve its rating. So the final column above is the key to understanding how to earn a rating. All fencers who finish between 9th and 12th place in this event earn an E in this event (if they didn’t have an E or better already). If a fencer earns an E in 2013, then their full rating is an E13. If they earn their E again in 2014, then their rating changes to E14 (this is what “re-earning a rating” means).
Once a rating is earned, a fencer keeps that rating regardless of placement in future events. For example, if a D-rated fencer in the above event finished 14th, they are still a D fencer. The rating can eventually expire, but that’s many years later, so don’t worry about that.
How are letters used?
If your fencer competes in a larger event, especially at the Y12 and Y14 levels, you may find there are competitors who have already earned a rating. These ratings are used for the initial seeding of the event, so all of the top fencers don’t end up in the same pool. If there are 28 fencers in an event, it may be split into 4 pools of 7 fencers. If there are 4 Ds and 4 Es in the event, they will be split between the pools so the top rated fencers don’t all end up in the same pool. So the fencers with higher ratings will have fewer other high-rated in their pool, which can be an advantage.
One last point
Some fencers and their clubs work hard to “chase” ratings. Some clubs create specific events that make it easier for their fencers to earn higher letter ratings. While ratings are a measurement tool, your young fencer should attend the events they want and just enjoy the fencing!