Livingston fencing school learns about training during pandemic
Livingston, NJ – Patrick Durkan was a fencing coach for several years in New York City before deciding he wanted to expand his program, making it more accessible to children. In pursuit of this mission, he and his wife, Amy, opened Durkan Fencing Academy in the fall of 2014.
“We wanted to expand the program, make it available to more students, especially children,” said Amy Durkan, co-owner and administrator of Durkan Fencing Academy. “We opened this club in New Jersey because we were able to get a larger facility. We found a 15,000 square foot location so we could accommodate larger programs.”
In mid-March 2020, when the first lockdowns caused by the pandemic were launched, Durkan Fencing Academy switched to online courses, offering both video library and tele-coaching via Zoom.
“We asked our coaches to create video instructions available online, so they could take on-demand lessons to work on their fencing,” said Durkan. “We did that for three months. Then when we were able to open at limited capacity in June, we reopened on several levels in phases with different cohorts of students in small groups.”
Zoom and distance education, while better than nothing, was a difficult format to facilitate education and progression in this specific sport.
“At first they liked the online classes because they could follow their own schedule and it kind of helped maintain normalcy,” said Durkan. “We noticed that in the third month the nature of fencing is very difficult to practice online. The coaches found the online lessons very difficult because you don’t have that tactile experience between the fencer. and the coach. They found it very difficult to do on Zoom, which was interesting because we thought it would be quite easy. “
In July 2020, after an inspection with the Ministry of Health, the Academy was able to organize its summer camps.
“One thing that’s great about fencing is that we could make the students stand out really well in class,” said Durkan. “Our facility is so big, and the nature of the sport, you don’t need to be close to your opponent. We asked the students to wear masks under their fencing masks, which was a USA requirement. Fencing. We adapted a lot of the activities – we eliminated the things where people were touching shared equipment. “
The Academy was able to open with limited capacity in the fall of 2020.
“One of the biggest things that uniquely affected us in New Jersey was the opening of local fencing competitions at USA Fencing and then regional fencing competitions,” said Durkan. Although the Academy was unable to host a tournament in the fall, they were able to host two tournaments in February and March 2021. “We were trying to be grateful that we could stay open and continue to function with our classes. we were able to organize tournaments in February and March. It was a lot of fun. The kids really enjoyed it.
At this point, with the Academy largely reopening, the energy from students and families has shifted dramatically from a place of uncertainty and fear in June 2020 to a place of normality in June 2021.
“Now there is a different energy; there are more parents at the club, they wear masks but they don’t have that fear,” said Durkan. “Most of them are vaccinated, almost all of our staff are fully vaccinated, so there is less uncertainty. American fencing still requires everyone to wear masks, so we always require our staff and our staff. shooters wear masks during training, even if they are vaccinated – we love that they train like they are going to compete. “
With his summer camps enrolled and his students back in the building, Durkan looks to the future of the Academy, as the pandemic continues to subside, with positivity.
“I think there has been a lot of interest in fencing as a safe and fun sport,” she said.
“We have had a lot of growth in the last couple of months of new students. And I think the students and families who have stayed with us from March 2020 until today are very excited about fencing.”
“And what we really appreciate is the families who have supported us so that we can keep our business open, pay our employees, it’s really great to see,” added Durkan. “It created a great community.”