Our lives are shaped by a multitude of factors, many of which are present as we grow up and some we encounter throughout our lives. One of the most significant and shaping experiences during my life has been my participation in the unique sport of fencing. For those who know me now, finding out that I fenced for the better part of a decade comes to no surprise, but back in junior high, announcing that I was trying out for the Ward Melville fencing team came with a few raised eyebrows. Most could be brushed off with some canned responses like, “Oh I was a musketeer in a former life.” No one ever thought the choice was one that instantly called to me and that decision would fundamentally shape me into who I am today.
At the time, there was no way for me to know just how vital this team would be to me, and that the very year that I joined, the girl’s fencing team would embark on an unprecedented winning streak that would last almost 15 years and 195 consecutive wins. The other night I watched my team lose for the first time, and the fairytale of the undefeated champs had finally found its stroke of midnight. As I sat on the bleachers, surrounded by the parents of the current team, and watching my best friend now coach these girls through, I couldn’t help but be surrounded by my own memories of my former life.
That loss hit me harder than I could have anticipated. True, I have been out of high school for enough of a period of time that it bears no effect on my current life. That legacy was still one that belonged to me, and to every other fencer who once stood en guarde within those halls. Even today, some of my closest friends, including their current coach, were made on that team. Finding a former fencer provides an instant link, you’ll usually see us light up and ask the standard “what weapon did you fence?” When I reflected as to what fencing means to me, even now, I can’t help but realize that so much of me is made from what I learned from them. The way I tackle problems, my sense of self, my need for honor, integrity, and fairness was fortified by the blade and by what our coaches instilled in us(yes, my competitiveness too). Fencing is still seen as a “gentleman’s game,” a sport still rich with the vibrancy of tradition and codes of conduct in every movement. Like the teaching of kung-fu, it becomes a way to live your life.
Even in loss the lessons come. When I was on the team we had a drill that we would run regularly. We would be expected to do 5 push-ups, flip over and do 5 crunches while repeating “We. Will. Fence. To. Win. From the beginning.” And we continued the drill until it was clear we understood. The mantra was simple, it was a reminder that our win wasn’t guaranteed. That every bout, every point, must be earned from the very beginning. We were expected to demand a lot from ourselves, and despite this recent loss, that tradition will continue. And it will always remain a part of who I am.
To my Ward Melville Fencing girls… you are still part of the team that has inspired greatness. The record might now be cleared, but nothing has changed. We will fence to win…from the beginning.
Courtney Kidd, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer
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