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Coach Profile: Viveka Fox

Coach Profile: Viveka Fox

With over 40 years of fencing experience, Viveka Fox is is a two-time Vet World Team member and referee, as well as the head coach of Vermont Fencing Alliance. She also founded the Green Mountain Division.

How did you get started in fencing and what made you want to coach fencing?
I was introduced to fencing at summer camp in 1974, at age 12. Through most of my middle and high school years, I was the only junior fencer in the Western PA division. My mentors, clubmates and competitors were all adults or college students. Being accepted into the fencing community as an equal, and not treated like a kid, was a formative experience for me.

In high school, I discovered I could get gym credit if I volunteered to teach a fencing unit, and I enjoyed it. I moved to Vermont in 1990 and started the Vermont Fencing Alliance in 1992 when some students at the high school where I taught asked if I would teach them. I like the idea of being part of a long chain of knowledge transmitted generation to generation. While there are books and videos about how to fence, the best way to learn is still from a person who learned from a person before them.

How do you measure success in the fencers you coach?
My goal is to instill a lifelong love of the sport. I want all my students to see themselves as athletes, regardless of age, gender, innate talent (or lack thereof), body type, affluence (or lack thereof), and all the messages that tell us that sports are for elite athletes and the rest of us should just watch. With that in mind, a successful student in my club:

  • Keeps coming back for more.
  • Makes incremental progress toward their own goals, and eventually can look back and say "now I can do things I didn't used to think I would ever be able to do."
  • Develops a deep enough understanding of the sport to serve as a good training partner to others (I teach all levels almost entirely in a group setting. You are ready to move in to the advanced class when you can coach someone with less skill and experience than yourself).
  • For most students, competes in local tournaments with enthusiasm, resilience and a desire to learn and improve.
  • For the most talented or dedicated individuals, moves up through the ranks in our divisional league, earns medals and new ratings, and (if life circumstances allow) takes on the challenge of seeking new and tougher opponents beyond our local tournament scene.

What are the qualities of a good coach?
I imagine we all think a "good coach" is either the best one we had ourselves, or the ideal one we wished we had had. So for me: 

  • Supportive, relatable, even-tempered, generous in spirit, genuine, enthusiastic, fun to be around, no big egos
  • Deeply knowledgeable of fencing as a complete game, rather than a series of moves; analytical, able to give advice specifically tailored to the student and the situation, can explain things clearly
  • Leads by example, inspires and motivates

What, if any, are the differences when coaching a beginner vs. an intermediate or high level athlete?
The analogy I use with my students is that it's like learning a foreign language. The beginner is learning vocabulary, the intermediate student puts words into sentences, and the advanced student engages in conversation with someone else.

  • Beginners - one word at a time. Break it down into simple movements. 
  • Intermediate - put together simple combinations, learn tactics for scoring an individual touch.
  • Advanced - learn strategy for winning a bout. Also, the advanced student gets more self-direction in practice, more say about what they want to learn and what their goals are.


Date Created: February 2020