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October 17, 2004

‘Intellectual’ Sport Helps Differentiate Students, Schools

FROM THE GARDEN STATE comes word of the recent growth of fencing as a high school sport to help get students noticed amidst the huge piles of college applications.

Fencing is seen as a sport for thinking people, and college admissions officers are always on the lookout for candidates with something different to offer.

Says Cindy Bent Findlay of the US Fencing Association, “It’s a great thing for kids to put on their resume. It’s for people who like intellectual sports. It’s a huge mental game, and there are a ton of college programs out there.”

In New Jersey the number of high school fencing teams has zoomed from 25 to 40 in less than ten years. (That’s as many as there are NCAA college fencing programs nationally). New Jersey has the most high school fencing teams in the country.

At Columbia HS, 100 out of 400 in a freshman class have signed up for fencing. Plus, 850 of the 20,000 members of the US Fencing Association are from New Jersey.

Fencing can fill an important niche by providing an opportunity for an otherwise sports-averse student to get involved. One fencing father described his daughter as the one who was chasing butterflies in the outfield during T-ball games. Now she excels at fencing.

At Rutgers, New Jersey’s flagship state university, there are two full men’s scholarships for fencing and three for women. Meanwhile, Rutgers football hands out 85 scholarships.

The 2004 NCAA’s Sports Sponsorship Summary lists 36 men’s fencing teams and 43 women’s teams in the D1-2-3 levels.

That compares to the number of schools sponsoring the following selected women’s teams: bowling (42), gymnastics (86), rowing (143), skiing (43), equestrian (18) and basketball (1022).

The numbers of men’s teams: gymnastics (20), bowling (0), skiing (39), wrestling (223), water polo (46) and basketball (994).

Not only can fencing become one of the methods to satisfy Title IX requirements, it can also be a part of a less traditional stable of sports offerings that schools might gravitate toward in order to differentiate themselves from one another.

Already on the NCAA’s list of “emerging sports” for women are archery, badminton, equestrian, rugby, squash, synchronized swimming and team handball.

How about adding mountain biking, chess, snowboarding, in-line skating and competitive cheering?

More later . . . .


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(this 383 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary—was distilled from an 1800 word article from the New York Times of 10-17-04)