We spent Halloween weekend in the Iowa City area–my brother got married to the love of his life (yay!)–and decided to pop in to the Iowa City Fencing Center. It’s always fun to visit other clubs and see how they set up their space. According to the friendly young coach who welcomed us, the club has been in their current location for five years. Unfortunately we arrived just as all the 6-10 year old foil fencers were leaving practice so we didn’t get to see anyone in action.
The space is pleasant, tidy, and well-organized. A big “Thank You” to the Iowa City Fencing Center for the warm welcome and for letting us snoop around a little!
Judy O’Donnell, the owner and Head Coach, graciously emailed me with the answers to a few questions about her club and its culture.
1. What’s your favorite moment/ memory about your club?
I have had so many wonderful moments at the ICFC, it’s hard to pick out my favorite. Maybe it was when an extremely shy student finally spoke to me in his second lesson. What he whispered was “This is a dream come true for me.” Or maybe it was the time an autistic child put on a mask and was willing to look at someone’s face for the first time. Or maybe when I came back from a trip and found that my students had been busy making improvements to the ICFC while I was gone, and knowing they care about the place as much as I do. But most especially I enjoy the many moments when a student who has been struggling with something finally gets it, and the big smile that results.
2. What’s your fencers’ favorite activity at your club (besides fencing)?
Besides fencing, I think my students enjoy balance work the most. Although, while they do claim that my footwork classes are torture, they keep coming back for more…
3. What is the most important thing you teach at the club?
Probably the most important thing I teach at the ICFC is mental training, because it applies to all aspects of life, not just fencing. I love it when a student comes in and tells me they were really nervous about a presentation at school or work but that they used the mental training techniques I taught them and it was suddenly easy for them!
4. Show us how you organize your gear (refer to the pictures I posted above as well).
We have an armory room where we keep all the repair equipment and the electric weapons and lames and knickers. In the main fencing room we have a long clothes rod with jackets and plastrons, and a shelf above it with masks. We have cubbies for gloves and chest protectors, and weapons are hung at the other end of the room on dowel racks. Our other training equipment (fencing dummies, electric target, etc.) is in the exercise room.
5. What symbol best represents your club?
We really don’t have a symbol.
6. What else do you want us to know about your club?
We love to have visitors come to fence!