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Coach Profile: Emilia Ivanova

Coach Profile: Emilia Ivanova

Emilia Ivanova (right)

A seven-time national champion in foil for Bulgaria as a fencer, Emilia Ivanova is currently the head coach at Heartland Fencing Academy. Her students have not only achieved success at national events, but have gone on to earn scholarships at programs such as Princeton, Stanford and Yale.

How and when did you get started in fencing?
When I was 10 years old, a fencing coach came to my school in Sofia, Bulgaria. He was recruiting students for his fencing club. I decided to give it a try. During this time, I was doing track and field, but shortly after I switched only to fencing. This coach is Stefan Tabakov, and he was my coach for most of my fencing career. He shaped my love and understanding of the sport.

When did you decide you wanted to coach, and what made you want to do this?
I was not planning to become a fencing coach. I graduated with two majors in physical therapy (kinesitherapy) and physical education. I was planning to work in the field of physical rehabilitation. I enjoyed studying, as well as working with some great professors and teachers in this field. But the funny thing is every time I traveled internationally for tournaments or camps, I would spend a lot of time after my events watching the individual lessons and preparation of the other teams.

I was also incredibly lucky to work with some of the best fencing coaches of Europe during my competitive years, which help broaden my knowledge of the sport. I started helping to coach the junior program in my fencing club, and I realized that I loved it. A few years after, the coach of the National Women Foil Team broke his leg and asked me to substitute him at the Balkan Championship in Bulgaria. I knew all the fencers on the team since I used to be their teammate and captain.

The team did great, and shortly after I started working first as an assistant national coach and then as the national omen's foil coach. We worked extremely hard and accomplished great results: top eight at the World Championships in the Netherlands 1994 and two of the fencers qualified for the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. In the Summer of 2000, I moved to the USA, and since then, I have been coaching here.

How do you coach new fencers/beginners to encourage them to improve while enjoying the sport at the same time?
I try to give them the basic knowledge of the sport as well as the rules, and instill interest in the game. With different sport games, we teach the young fencers to learn to work together, solve problems, overcome obstacles and enjoy the great sport of fencing.

Can you provide three words that describe your coaching philosophy and explain each?
Work hard, play by the rules and enjoy the game!

I always believe in hard work and perseverance in everything you do. Play by the rules and win or lose with dignity because cheating doesn’t take you far. I have always been competitive, and as a young coach I used to strive to win in every bout. With time and experience, I understood that the journey and the love of playing the game are the most important. That is what I teach my students.

How do you measure success in your students?
It is easy to see the success in medals, and victories but the true success is in everyday practice, in the small improvements of the drills, or the ability to apply the drill in bouts, the courage to stand up, and continue after you failed. To make a child love the sport and come to practice eager to fence!


Date Created: October 2020