As our youth combat events of the fall get underway over the next couple of weeks, I wanted to remind everyone to take things slow and remain cautious as we all get reaccustomed to our game.
RULES: Eighteen months is more than enough time for any of us to forget some of the more esoteric aspects of our rules. I encourage you to set aside fifteen minutes to flip through the rulebook so it’s all fresh in your mind. As we open our first full-scale events, begin the day with a recap to ensure the kids all have a good grasp of the basics, and feel free to pause bouts as needed to make sure everyone’s being safe and playing fairly. The rule book can be accessed here.
DIVISIONS: For nearly all of the kids who fight in the coming months, this will be their first time on the field in a year and a half or more, over which time they’ll have grown larger and stronger. Consider which youth are ready to move up to the next division, remembering that the age guidelines allow for some flexibility based on the kid’s size and temperament.
CALIBRATION: It can be particularly challenging for kids to remember the calibration standards, so it will be useful to work through calibration drills at the opening of each event or practice to make sure that their force is regulated and safe, and that they’re prepared to acknowledge blows appropriate to their division.
INSPECTIONS: Foam and duct tape both degrade over time, and the armor and weapons that just got dragged out of the closet after eighteen months may look okay on the surface but crumble when they take their first hit. Be extra thorough in inspections, keep an eye out for kids who no longer properly fit into their armor, and check weapons throughout the day to make sure they remain safe.
DISTANCING: With regards to Covid, remember that most of our younger fighters aren’t yet eligible for vaccination, and are about to start mixing with their peers in school again. Discourage youth from crowding together, and make sure there’s enough space outside the lists for them to armor up and shed their gear with separate zones designated to avoid everything ending up in a jumble. Work with your event staff to make sure that kids can stay hydrated without sharing water bottles.
MASKS: Kingdom guidelines make an exception in the mask requirements for outdoors combat, allowing people to remove their masks while fighting, but I would treat this as a last resort for youth, and would very strongly encourage them to keep their masks in place at all times. While adult fighters are in a better position to negotiate these risks for themselves, the potential for disputes between kids and parents with different expectations makes this a minefield we should be reluctant to enter.
CLEANING GEAR: Although surface transmission does not appear to be a significant vector for Covid, nonetheless you should clean or disinfect any gear that will be shared between fighters. If you’re bringing loaner gear to an event, grab a canister of disinfectant wipes or spray and give armor and weapons a pass after each kid uses it and before the next one grabs it. I have heard that some regions in the kingdom currently require this for sports gear, and the adult armored combat program is following a similar rule, so it seems like a reasonable step and should also help with all of the other non-Covid crud that kids so often pick up every autumn.
PAPERWORK: Remember that full marshal status requires a current paid membership and a current Society background check. If either of yours have expired, now’s the time to begin the renewal process. While you are waiting for that paperwork to be completed, you may assist with youth combat but may not run an event or practice without the presence of a full marshal whose paperwork is up to date.Thank you all for the work you do for our kids — I’m excited that we’re finally getting the children of the East back onto the field, and am confident that working together we can do so safely and in the true spirit of our game.
— Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin, East Kingdom Marshal of Youth Combat