Darien fencing can help kids lunge to success
Soccer. Basketball. Football. Gymnastics. Baseball. Fencing. Fencing?
Yes, fencing. A sport that a child can start learning at a young age, and one activity that isn’t normally in the lexicon when it comes to kids and parents talking about the usual suspects of athletic pursuits.
The four-year-old Darien Fencing Club, located in the VFW Hall on Noroton Avenue in Darien, is a Mecca for kids from both Fairfield and Westchester counties to discover how fencing can be a foil (of sorts) to the inability to concentrate or focus on a particular task at hand.
“Fencing is a sport that is intensely individualistic, yet at its core demands consideration of and respect for others,” Jeffrey Binder, owner of the club, said. “It is a physically demanding sport, that is equally mental.”
Darien Fencing Club is a member of the United States Fencing Association and is a fully-insured organization, offering group fencing lessons to children age 7 to 13. Classes meet weekly for one-and-a-half hours, and combine general conditioning and footwork skills with instruction on both offensive and defensive fencing maneuvers.
“The genesis of our business was multi-fold,” Binder said. “First, our daughter Sylvie suggested one day that she’d like to show more of her friends how great the sport was and we thought that opening a small club in Armonk (N.Y.) was a great idea to build interest in the sport while helping the coaches from the Fencing Academy of Westchester make some extra money and develop new students. Armonk went very well and then we decided to branch out to a similar demographic, and Darien fit the bill. Four years ago, we opened Darien and have been going steadily ever since with anywhere from 10 to 15 fencers every Sunday for two hours.”
The coaches at Darien Fencing are former Olympians who come from the Eastern European countries like the Ukraine and Russia. Their full-time club is the Fencing Academy of Westchester, located in Hawthorne, N.Y.
“There are currently 10 fencers training with us with ages ranging from 6 to 13, and about 50% are girls,” Binder said. “We plan and encourage our fencers to compete in at least one tournament every other month or so — the skills they are learning in class must be applied in pressure situations to truly experience the joys of the sport. We just had two of our fencers win gold medals at a recent competition at the Peekskill Fencing Center in New York: Doron Lowenberg won a Y10 mixed foil and Andrew Minton of Darien won the gold in the Y12 competition.”
Binder’s daughter, Sylvie, age 14, is No. 2 in the U.S.A. in her age category and will be fencing for the U.S. in the upcoming Cadet World Cup in Pisa, Italy, at the end of January.
“She started just like all our kids have done in Darien,” said Binder, “with a group class and some privates. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know, you are fencing internationally.”
According to Binder, fencing as an endeavor has the “complete package.” Physically, it is demanding and gives one a strong and flexible body with increasingly quick reflexes. “It is the perfect combination of cardio, strength and speed,” he said. Mentally, it is a constantly changing, very complex problem solving exercise that challenges the mind just like the game of chess or any other strategy game.
“One has to plan, anticipate and constantly adjust to situations unfolding before your eyes. It demands quick thinking and analysis. These are some of the reasons colleges love accepting kids who fence— they are trained to keep their brains functioning under pressure!”
Once students reach the age of 13, they can still continue with fencing at Darien Fencing Club on a private lesson basis. Binder also said that the club is starting to develop a weekday class for more options for the older kids.
“Fencing is very collegial in that the more experienced fencers must fence and willingly impart information to less experienced fencers as part of the sport’s honor and tradition,” Binder said.