I am the assistant volunteer coach for a collegiate fencing club. The coach is keen on teaching fencing fundamentals and some advanced maneuvers. I am his second set of eyes and goto for general fitness, for example, introducing new routines for warmups and conditioning.
We were/are working toward putting fencing back on the map at our university (about 20 core members in 2006, 4 in 2012). Last school year, we started from scratch, but we started out with good interest. As the year progressed, interest dropped and "storms" came. For next year (as it currently stands), we have about two chief members of the club.
During winter break last school year, we were brainstorming how to collect more interest. Two things that came up were:
- The coach being too hard on the "casual" members.
- Lack of diversity within the club.....as in, each member had interest in rpg, magic the gathering, sword fighting, etc and held rpg gatherings twice a week. I would like to see a diverse team stay involved, feel included, and help one another out.
To combat coach being too hard, we "cupcaked" our drills, and that proved to be a huge mistake. We also made an attempt to include others interested in fencing without an outside interest in rpgs and such (this didn't work either...I can hang out with anybody, but this was overkill). On top of all that, all the PR material I made had to be changed when the club president didn't reserve our usual spot for the semester (as volunteers, coach and I have no administrative say over this). That took the wind out of our sails and started a rough semester. At least we closed out the semester well, gathering interest and praise at a local children's festival.
As we brainstorm, I have a general plan of attack as we approach the upcoming year. This includes:
- A monthly newsletter for our e-mail list.
- PR (flyers, brochures, etc.) fresh and hot out of the oven when the school year starts. Perhaps reserving a table in a common area to gather interest and spread the word.
- An interest meeting for new/returning members to see how involved they want to get (casual or competitive) before the annual club fair
- Keep our baggage at the door. This was an issue to a greater extent two years ago, but I believe this also applies to the "lack of diversity" within the club. I would like to see a diversified team, rather than a copy of the same person across the board.
- Keep a challenging workout. We don't ever push people beyond what they can bear, but we also motivate and encourage progress as well.
I know individuals without lack of motivation is beyond our control, but we also want to properly deal with individuals who carry dead weight. For example, one of our chief members started out as a difficult case last year, but she eventually became one of the hardest working members of the club by the end of the year. A former chief member who felt overwhelmed with tasks pointed the finger at others and didn't do much herself, and she eventually quit.
Is there anyone who can share his/her strategy for our situation? The main points I'm asking advice for is team diversity/chemistry and maintaing interest while executing challenging routines/drills to encourage progress. PR is one thing, but how do we gather and maintain a core group of individuals to coach?