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Why I love TAMU Fencing

October 5, 2010

Vs. tuSince I have lived in Oklahoma longer than I have anywhere else, I technically should call myself an Oklahoman. Yet, I am not a Sooner.

My parents are from Texas, and I attend Texas A&M, yet I can’t in any meaningful way call myself a Texan either. My experience as stranger in a strange land — an out-of-stater guy on expedition — affects and impacts my viewpoint as an Aggie. I don’t pretend that this makes me neutral, unbiased, or objective, but I’d like to think that I have a bit of a different perspective on Texas schools and their campus personalities.

I say this to point out that I didn’t grow up to bleed maroon, and I didn’t grow up to despise burnt orange. Yet, from my own outsider perspective, I have come to see, so to speak, that other Texas university’s chosen tint of orange as a tad unfortunate, and likewise, I have come to see maroon as more sublime a shade than that of sanguinis.

How is this? Let me illustrate what I have come to love about TAMU just from fencing. This is not only my tentative codification of an organic code of values and conduct I have seen evolve within the fencing club, but also my announcement to all we meet of the standard to which we should be held and to which we should hold ourselves.

When Texas A&M goes to intercollegiate fencing tournaments with SWIFA or USACFC, we have several goals to achieve. The first goal is to represent our school well. The second, of course, is to beat the hell outta the tournament!

In representing Texas A&M well, there are several things that Aggie fencers do that I love.

  1. We are proactive with gestures of good sportsmanship. After matches, we make sure to shake the hands of all of our competitors’ team members regardless of if we have won or lost and regardless of our feelings to some call or judgment. We want to be humble winners and humble losers (but of course, we hope more often to be the former than the latter.)
  2. We strive to be approachable and down-to-earth. Between matches, we are affable with other teams. We do not act as if we are “too good” to talk with other teams before or after encounters, because we recognize that we are all first and foremost people trying to have a good time, and only in a secondary or tertiary way are we competitors and opponents.
  3. We are helpful. If other teams report missing equipment, we tell our team members to search for the equipment as if it were our own. If we can lend spare equipment, we do so. Whenever we see new fencers, we offer helpful pieces of advice to them if they are open to it. We recognize that the entire intercollegiate fencing scene benefits when all fencing teams improve.Whenever I attend tournaments, one of my favorite things is seeing how fencers whom I recognized as new at previous tournaments have improved since the last time we met. For me, I am just as glad to see new fencers from other schools improve as I am to see fencers from A&M improve because I know that will provide me with more opportunity to test myself.
  4. We do more than our fair share. Whatever we bring, we take back. In the bustle of a tournament, it can be enticing to leave trash or water bottles lying around, but before TAMU Fencing leaves a tournament, we make sure to clean up our areas and clean up all of the things we have taken. If the tournament hosts need help with some issue, we are available for volunteer.
  5. We are the AGGIES! All of what I mentioned above establishes our reputation, I believe, but these things alone don’t brand us particularly as A&M. Anyone can be helpful or friendly. That just takes a particular approach to what the goal of fencing at tournaments is. But TAMU fencers go a step further. Before we compete, we host our own yell practice so the other teams can know who we are and for what we stand. And of course, we give all of our fencers Junior Privileges because we fully expect Ags to whoop for Ags. It’s easy to find us at tournaments — just follow the whoops and you’ll find either our foilists, epeeists, or sabreists and their supporters.I can understand that some people might get annoyed by some A&M traditions. It can seem pretty overwhelming and weird. Yet we have to some extent accommodated to consider others while still staying recognizable to our traditions — rather than B-ing THO any particular team (like t.u.), we BTHO the tournament itself.

This list isn’t exhaustive. For example, of course, the talent, skill, and dedication of our fencers are other things I love. Of course, the fact that we fare very well in these tournaments is another thing I love. Of course, the fact that our club members are all pretty cool guys and girls who don’t afraid of anything is another thing I love.

And it’s true that there are some things we don’t have at tournaments. We don’t have coaches who wear school-colored ties and bowties as they hover stoic to see every point. We don’t have team warm up drills where we circle our arms as we run around gyms in synchronized unison. We don’t have what suspiciously appears to be an orc war banner.

But!

It has been this informal code of conduct of which I have shared part, this informal organizational culture manifest through actions, that has really allowed me, even as a reluctant Okie, to see the real competitive advantage of A&M.

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5 Comments
  1. Part of the reason the sport of fencing can be like this is because “going pro” doesn’t pay jack squat.

    The moment there’s actually some money and TV deals in fencing, it’ll be just as full of douchebags as baseball and football.

    Something I like to remind people of when they are all bitching about how our sport doesn’t get any respect.

  2. True, true.

  3. Well, I had a good friend in law school with a shattered jaw as a result of a bad fencer. There are good sorts and bad sorts in all sports.

    But there are only good Aggies.

  4. I found the worst collisions or jarring hits are usually primarily one person’s fault, but rarely only one person’s fault. Sure, one guy may be charging in and jabbing like an out-of-control idiot. But there are ways for the other fencer to minimize the impact.

    The worst impacts are when you’ve got two guys (usually guys), and one of them is out of control – then the other guy gets pissed and starts trying to dish it out as much as he’s taking it.

    That’s when the nasty bruises start happening.

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