Guest Blogger: An Interview with Andrey Geva – U.S. National Coach

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About once-a-month (starting this month), we invite a guest blogger, who has been influential in the sport of fencing, to share their insight and perspective on our favorite sport of fencing.  This month, as the start of the fencing season is only a week away, we asked Andrey Geva, the U.S. National Coach for women’s epee (and 2016 Olympic coach and head coach and owner of Alliance Fencing Academy in Houston), to answer a few questions  about the upcoming season and insight that other fencing fans might have an interest in.  Below is the interview.


Q: Can you provide us with a little information about your background as an athlete and as a coach?

Andrey: I started fencing back in the 70’s and was developed into a high level competitive athlete in St. Petersburg, Russia during the Soviet Union. I was a “Master of Sport of the USSR” as well as a member of several national junior and senior squads.

In 1989 I immigrated to Israel where I became a four-time national champion. I have represented Team Israel in numerous World Cups, World Championships, and World University Games. I started my active coaching career at Hebrew University of Jerusalem where I developed 6 national champions, a Cadet World Championships bronze medalist, and several Junior World Cup medalists.

In 1999 I was invited to coach in Houston, TX at local fencing club, and 4 years later, I opened Alliance Fencing Academy. As of today, Alliance Fencing has produced over 30 U.S. National Champions, NCAA champions and medalists, won over a dozen national team titles, 2 Cadet World Champions, and we have over 20 winners and medalists at top international competitions.

I have served as the Team USA national coach for women’s epee since 2013, and in 2016 I served as the head women’s epee coach for the Rio Olympics.  

Q: If a young fencer was interested in making the Olympic team, what would be your advice to them?

Andrey: Love the sport, all aspects of it. Train with passion, come to practice 15 minutes earlier and leave 15 minutes later than everyone else. If your coach asks you to do 10 lunges, do 15, if you are asked to fence 15 bouts, fence 20. Watch Olympic videos, read books and articles about Olympians, talk to Olympians and ask them questions. Have ambition to be the best by setting goals to win Olympic medals at the beginning of your fencing career.

Q: What do you see as your top strengths as a U.S. National Coach for women’s epee?

Andrey:

  • Successful coaching experience. I have coached for almost 30 years producing national and international champions and medalists
  • International exposure and experience. As an athlete and coach I have participated in fencing camps in Soviet Union, Hungary, France, Israel, and Germany. I’ve been in over 20 cadet, junior, and senior World Championships, over 50 World Cups, and one Olympics
  • My demeanor is patient, friendly yet demanding, and I bring a structured approach to the training process and strip coaching. I develop an individual approach that varies from one fencer to the other.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for you in coaching a team at the international level?

Andrey: I am used to working with fencers from the very beginning of their career and developing them into high-level mature international athletes. Now, as a national team coach going to international events, I have to deal with fencers who come from different coaching philosophies and I have to create a positive team dynamic so that the entire team is on the same page.

Q: Heading into the 2017-18 season and the 2020 Olympics on the horizon, what are your goals for the U.S. women’s epee team?

Andrey: My goal is to medal in both the individual and team event.

Q: What are your strategies for reaching these goals? (2017-18) and (2020 Olympics) if they are different.

Andrey: For the team event my strategy is to develop “shooting”, “stopping”, and “sniping” skills for my fencers.  I also plan to develop an individual strategy for each top team by watching and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and testing these different strategies during the 2017-18 season in order to determine which one works the best.

For the individual event, my strategy is to analyze the top potential opponents and find what techniques work the best against each of them, as well as develop a general rich fencing arsenal with the Olympians and fencers with whom I work. Finally, I want to fine tune the psychological preparation for my athletes so that when they arrive at the games, they are at the very top of both their physical and mental game.

 

—- The End —

Mind over Matter

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Courtney

 

Have you ever had a problem that you can’t seem to think your way through?  I mean, something that seriously affects your success at work or school? In school, it might be that you just can’t seem to understand math and you need math to graduate or at work, perhaps your co-worker is the biggest drama queen that has ever lived but you need her support to complete a project on time.  Most people think that fencing isn’t really a career but it has been my career for 12 years.  As with most careers there are  hills and valleys but you have to hope the trend line has a positive slope.  With a great deal of confidence, I can say that my fencing career has had a positive slope. While that is true, I am struggling with one major problem: winning in PRIORITY*. Flash back to the 2012 London Olympics in the Bronze medal bout with the Russian team. If you remember that bout (and if you don’t, you can still find it on You Tube) in the final bout, I scored the winning touch in the PRIORITY period. YIPPEE! We won a Bronze medal. Life couldn’t get any better. Fast forward to the Rio Olympics, in almost an identical situation (albeit not the Bronze medal bout), I lost the PRIORITY touch against Romania (btw, I also lost in PRIORITY in my individual bout in Rio).  As the anchor for the USA women’s epee team, my discomfort with PRIORITY situations is a real problem.

I am determined to overcome the fear of PRIORITY!  My goal for this season is to work on developing a strategy to overcome it; to marginalize it and to wipe it off the face of the earth! I’m open to your ideas! If you have strategies that you have utilized to conquer this fear, please send them to me (you can comment on this blog post or send me a message on Facebook or Instagram. More to come! Check back to see what I’m working on!!


*[For you, non-fencers out there, PRIORITY occurs when regulation time has ended and the score is tied. The referee flips a coin and the fencer who wins the coin toss, has PRIORITY.  The fencers then have one more minute to fence and if no touch is scored (rarely ever happens) then the fencer with priority wins. However, this is a “sudden death” period where the fencer who scores the first touch, wins.]

Strategy for Future Success

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Kelley

I have been competing at the international level since I was 15 years old. Now I am 29. When I was in the cadet and junior divisions, I was always at the top. Now that I am solely in the senior division, it feels as though my success has plateaued. For 14 years, my training regimen has been pretty much the same: I fence, I do a ton of footwork, and I run and swim for cross training and aerobic conditioning.

After the Rio Olympics, I knew I still had something to conquer on the strip; I still had a hunger to win but I knew I had to approach things differently in order to reach the top!  Albert Einstein is quoted as once saying, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”  With this in mind, my mother and father pulled us together last Fall (2016) and we closely examined successful fencers to find out what it is they are doing differently than Courtney and me. Accordingly, we examined the workout practices and strategies of many international teams from countries like France, Korea, Russia, Estonia, Italy, China, and Romania.  In general, the athletes on these teams have three huge advantages:

  1. The athletes are professionals – they are paid a salary to train and fence (some are officially employed by their country’s military).
  2. The teams are surrounded by other professionals such as coaches and trainers who are dedicated to their success.
  3. The teams train and live at national or regional training and fencing centers that are supported by the state.

Recognizing that fencing will never be a state-sponsored sport in the USA, earlier this year (2017) teamHurley (which includes me, Courtney, my mother, and father) began to develop a strategy to address these three issues in a truly American, entrepreneurial way.

Follow us for more details about what this new strategy is, how it is coming together, and what the results are!