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Lydia Chambers – Fencing

The Chatham Athletic Foundation grant helped bring fencing to the students in Chatham.  The grant helped start the Chatham Middle School fencing enrichment program and the Chatham High School Varsity Fencing Team. The parent-steering committee is grateful to the CAF for donating funds to help us establish this interscholastic sport for our boys and girls.

The CAF grant enabled us to kick off a fencing enrichment program at Chatham Middle School last year. Without the seed money to purchase the 4-piece practice sets, the program never would have gotten off the ground. It turned out to be wildly popular – filling two classes of 20 students in the first year and the same in the second year.

These CMS enrichment classes have become a valuable feeder program for the Varsity team at the High School. It gives middle school students a chance to try the sport before committing to a full season of competition in High School. This opportunity is especially critical for a sport like fencing that is relatively unknown and where the cost of the gear presents a barrier to entry.

The CAF grant enabled us to join the other 55 high schools in New Jersey with varsity fencing teams by helping us launch the first parent-funded sports team at CHS. Fencing is a sport for both boys and girls that appeals to the non-ball sport athlete. The team has a no-cut policy and is committed to developing novices into varsity fencers.

At the very first Varsity meet against Governor Livingston High School in December of 2010, our squads bravely faced one of the top fencing teams in the state. Of our 33 fencers, 26 were complete novices with only about 3 weeks of experience. We didn’t win the meet, but we did win some bouts. And the look of sheer joy on the faces of those fencers was unforgettable. Those few victories propelled the team to work hard, celebrate each small victory, and work together as a cohesive and supportive group.

The final meet of the second year was another unforgettable experience for both teams. With three more bouts to fence, the boys were down 13-11 to Morris Hills High School. Then, each of the remaining fencers, one a novice, managed to win his bout to clinch the meet in an upset victory. Just after the boys victory, the girls team found themselves in the same predicament, down 13-11, with three bouts to go. The girls rallied and stayed steady to win three in a row and clinch a victory as well! It was an exciting and rewarding end to the second season.

Each of the 33 fencers in year one and 44 fencers in year two were thrilled to have the opportunity to learn new skills, enjoy the camaraderie of the team, and benefit from improved fitness. For many of these students, being on the fencing team has been a life-changing experience.

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