Fencing at Amherst

The AAS. I’m sure those words alone are enough to elicit a response in most of you. Believe me, I know that the AAS has its flaws. I’ve met more than one senator who has tried to flaunt his supposed power on campus. It’s kind of amusing. Like watching a toddler try to order around his collection of stuffed animals. But less cute, and more annoying. I digress. So, to recap: AAS = flawed. However, I think in the rush to criticize their lack of efficiency, transparency, etc., we often fail to appreciate what they do for us. For this post, I’m going to focus on the funding of the Amherst College Fencing Club specifically, because it’s pretty rad. Yeah, I said ‘rad’. Bringing it back.

As a club, we train around ten to fifteen new fencers each year, depending on demand. We also usually get a couple of freshman with previous fencing experience on the team. Now, I had never picked up a blade, let alone knew an epee from a foil, before I joined Amherst Fencing, but that didn’t matter. I made some of my best friends on the team, not to mention becoming a competent fencer, and without the AAS, it wouldn’t have been possible.

A typical practice.

I mentioned that we get a lot more beginning fencers each year than we get experienced fencers. Much of this is due to the cost of the sport and its limited geographical range. The specialized equipment needed to fence is staggering in both amount and price. Blades, knickers, jackets, plastrons, gloves, body cords, masks, etc., etc., etc. add up to hundreds, even thousands of dollars, depending on quality. Accordingly, many fencing clubs are only found in larger cities, or more upscale neighborhoods, where there is greater demand.

Needless to say, there are many low-income students like myself at Amherst who have never had access to fencing before, but thanks to the AAS inclusion policy, we are able to fence free of charge (not counting dues, of course). Not only does the AAS pay for equipment for the whole team, which members check out at the beginning of the year and return at the end, it also funds the salaries of our two excellent coaches, and pays for tournament entry, so we get the full collegiate fencing experience.

Fencing has been one of my most worthwhile pastimes at Amherst, and so I’m grateful to the AAS for letting us, and other clubs on campus, thrive.

I’ll just leave this here. Don’t worry if you don’t really understand what’s going on. At this level, most people don’t. That doesn’t make it any less awesome.