Pushing Back Against the Doom Sayers

corby's picture

Over the past ten years or so, I've heard a lot about how the average age of the fighters in the SCA is going up, and concerns that we're going to lose a large population quickly as they get too old to keep fighting.

I'll leave aside the bit about how if you fight with proper technique you can still fight successfully after age 50, and just point out:
Last night at the UVa practice, we had eight, yes eight serious new students learning armored combat, all of them under 25, several under 21, one under 18. (Several other fighters were there too, experienced ones outside of that range.)
These eight new guys are made up of a 22 year old who has been coming out for 4 years, two 20-ish guys now in their 3rd, one 19 year old monster back for his second, and four brand new ones ranging from 18-24 or so. 
Three weeks ago our one lefty showed up for his first practice. Last week he brought our new tall guy with him. This week the two of them brought another new guy. An excellent sign. All in all, a very promising crew.
What did it take?
Five years. No wait. Seven.
When I first moved here, (actually, before I moved but after I started working here) the fighter list here was:
  1. Philip ap Griffith
Now Philip had been doing his best. I certainly don't mean to suggest he did anything but work hard at bringing new people in. What Isenfir didn't have was a regular, public practice. I can't emphasize enough the importance of those two things.
Philip and I started practicing at UVa. We moved around a bit, using trial and error to find the best spot. We did demos, especially right around the start of the semesters. We lucked out in getting a pre-made student fighter who showed up our first year, walked up in his armor. But for years, literally years, our practice was often the three of us, maybe a few dabblers, maybe some visitors.
We kept at it.
That's the lesson to take out of this. Keep at it. There are a hundred other things you need to do right too, of course: Let the students run their own group, don't scare people off by just throwing them in armor right away, et cetera et cetera.
Mostly though, you have to take the long view. If you keep holding it, they will come.

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The idea that college students (and UVA students in particular) aren't interested in the SCA is a complete fallacy.  When we advertised AT ALL (just fliers, I think), we got a dozen and a half students at a dance revel for new people, and we regularly had 8-12 people show up for garb workshops.  That level of annual recruitment is more than enough to sustain a student group.

Local drama nipped it pretty quickly, though - things like people being offended that students held a movie night (in a 6x6 viewing room at the library) without inviting the whole shire. The SCA is much more successful at recruiting and keeping new people when the existing group lets new people DO THINGS without the existing members getting their panties in a bundle because uppity new people want to contribute.

corby's picture

Just so

Right with you on all of that.