Testing the Water

I didn’t even try to blog Summer Nationals this year.

There were a couple of reasons for that. The less important—but completely unexpected—one was that driving home from San Jose, when I swerved to avoid a zigzagger on I-680 in Concord, I ended up off the side of the road with my car totaled, and spent the next several weeks in too-frequent discussions with my insurance company over the settlement. (I’m still amazed that I had the good instinct not to hit my brakes in the heavy, high-speed traffic, that my airbags didn’t deploy, and even more, that I had not so much as an achy muscle from the collision.)

The more important reason I didn’t write about this year’s SN is that I was so completely done with big tournaments. Despite the somewhat reduced number of entries from the huge 2014 SN (essentially a return to the previous year’s numbers, which were not exactly small) and a relatively decent least-horrible schedule, it was all I could do to make it through my 8 days on the bout committee. I spent most of my days in a barely suppressed rage, too focused on not losing my temper at some poor innocent who had nothing whatsoever to do with my long-simmering frustration over problems that could have been fixed years ago but have not been. Essentially, I confirmed my suspicion that I needed some serious time away from USA Fencing.

When Brandon sent out this season’s request for BC availability, I told him I would be willing to serve as a last-minute replacement in case of an emergency cancellation, but that otherwise I was not available at all for national tournaments this season.

So far, I’ve not regretted that decision at all.

I’ve popped in to a couple of local Bay Cup tournaments, just to watch the fencing and see friends. That, at least, has not been spoiled by my national-level disgruntlement.

But I also wanted to test whether my BC-crabbiness was limited to national events or extended to running regional events as well, so I was happy to say yes to Rochester Fencing’s request to come help run their Ben Gutenberg SYC a couple of weekends ago. (Of course, there was extra incentive to say yes—my younger daughter is a saber coach at Rochester FC, and I could stay over a few extra days for a visit.)

Not just a smoothy floor, but natural light made the SUNY Brockport SERC a preternaturally pleasant venue.

Not just a smooshy floor, but natural light made the SUNY Brockport SERC a preternaturally pleasant venue.

The Gutenberg turned out to be the single best regional fencing tournament I’ve ever been involved with, starting from the moment I first stepped into the venue (SUNY Brockport’s gorgeous SERC) for setup on Friday morning. Until I walked through that entry and stepped onto the sport floor, I had not realized how inured I was to bare concrete floors. And the novelty never went away for me through the end of the last event on Sunday—every time I walked into the venue, my feet were surprised. It wasn’t just the floor surface, either—this was the least concrete-boxish venue I’ve ever seen.

The tournament ran really well, too—events ran on time, we always had enough referees, and Alia (my BC co-chair) and I trained a raft of great parent volunteers on Fencing Time and tournament operations. It’s just too bad that Rochester is such a remote location—the RFC could put together a great local organizing committee for a NAC or SN.

And what about my little test? Right this minute, with one small caveat, I wouldn’t mind if I never ran another fencing tournament again at all. My caveat? It’s still really fun to talk with fencers as they bring their DE slips to the BC. If I could do that every so often without having to do anything else—no BC management, no hearing about fencing politics, no complaining from coaches or parents, no insane entry numbers or strip and referee shortages—I might one day come back to working tournaments.

My extra three days in town were a lot of fun. Aside from the Monday, when I worried about how much more tired than usual I was, until I realized that I normally spend most of the day after a big tournament asleep on a plane, we mostly just took it easy, eating good food, seeing a bit of Rochester and specifically, the new club RFC is moving to. I got to watch a few of Christie’s classes and lessons. (I knew she was good, but it was amazing to see how much better she’s become since the last time I saw her teaching.)

And Christie took me to a great brunch at the Highland Park Diner:

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