Explanation of the USFA Letter Ratingswebmaster
Know your A, B, C, D’s!
Fencing ratings are a sign of achievement, and each earned letter represents a step forward in a fencer’s skill level.
Once you started your competitive fencing career, it’s going to take a while to start earning ratings, but fencers who train consistently and compete often will get there.
Ratings make you work harder and help to clearly observe and celebrate progress!
What are ratings?
- Ratings range from U (Unrated) to E -> D -> C ->B -> and A (the highest).
Fencers will have a separate rating for each weapon they compete with (unrated for weapons they do not compete with).
- Each letter rating has a year attached to it, indicating when it was earned (E20 is from 2020, A19 is from 2019, etc.).
Letters with a recent year are ranked higher than older ones because they are a more accurate depiction of the fencer’s current skill level.
Whether you earn a rating at the start of the year or the end of the year, they are valued equally.
The year is important because it impacts seeding: A 2014 will be seeded higher than A 2013.
- Letter rankings degrade after four years.
Athletes must renew their ratings every four years and go down one letter each year after that.
For example, a non-renewed C17 will degrade to a D21 in July 2021. Any 2016 ratings were given a bonus year because of Covid halting tournaments, so rating degradation occurs in July 2021 instead of July 2020.
- Rolling point rankings up to a certain amount could supersede the letter rankings.
Especially relevant in youth events, an unrated fencer ranked third from points will be above someone who is E rated but only 14th on points.
Some ratings are harder to earn than others: a “C” rating can be earned without beating other C fencers (C2), while one can “earn” a “B” multiple times before finally getting an “A” rating.
The rating system is not perfect, and at the international level, there are no international ratings.
A fencer world team member from another country can show unrated while not depicting its actual fencing level. Athletes can be over/under-ranked, but eventually, the rankings and levels will balance after a while.
How ratings affect a fencer
- At the Senior level, divisions are categorized by rating.
For example, Division 1 only includes fencers rated A, B, or C (who are also 13 or older).
- Events at competitions are often classified by division.
For example, an event may be for C or higher, meaning that your rating can qualify you for events.
- Ratings are used for seeding at competitions.
Better seeding gives you more chances to fence longer in DE’s, and get better results.
How to start earning ratings?
Start by registering for a qualified, USFA-sanctioned event. What makes such an event?
A competition must be big enough, and the fencers registered must have a high enough rating at the time of the competition.
For each level of event, USFA provides a chart that details how many total fencers need to compete and how many of those fencers must hold certain ratings, in order to define the “rating” of the competition.
Youth competitions must be C1 or higher in order to award ratings.
For example: if a fencer is competing in Y10, Y12, Y14, or Cadet events, the event must have 15 fencers, including six rated fencers to make this competition at least C level, and some of those fencers must finish in the top eight.
Here is a scenario:
Number of Fencers: 18
Ratings of Fencers: 1 B, 2 Cs, 1 D, 5 Es, 9 Us
This event clearly qualifies for a C1 event. Why?
All the requirements are fulfilled:
- There are enough fencers (15 are required).
- There are two Cs, but only one D.
However, the B is higher and covers the requirement for a second D. You can also think of it as cascading down with the B covering one of the Cs and one of the Cs covering one of the Ds—whichever makes more sense to you!
- We have five Es.
Finally, at the end of the event, these are the results by fencer rating:
3rd: C & C (no bout for 3rd place)
5th – 7th: U
There are one B, two Cs, and a D in the top 8.
The B covers the second required D, making the event a C1, and ratings are awarded:
1st place: awarded a C rating but is already rated B.
He will keep his B rating as long as it’s valid.
2nd place: awarded a D rating and may upgrade his year to current.
3rd: Awarded D ratings (but are already rated C, so they will keep their C ratings)
5th – 7th: Awarded E rating for the previously unrated fencers.
8th: Awarded E rating and may upgrade his year to current.
Until fencers and their families become more familiar with ratings, for more questions always see your coach!