Fencing isn’t a “real” sport and can be pretty dangerous.
None of that is true, according to the founder of the Tim Morehouse Fencing Club, which recently opened its fourth location in Greenwich. Part of his mission, Morehouse said, is “to grow the sport and give kids more opportunities to experience it.”
Morehouse is determined to fight against the aforementioned misconceptions about the sport, whose history dates back to the 1400s. As for whether fencing is a sport, one need look no further than Morehouse’s resume for proof. He won a silver medal competing in the men’s sabre as a member of the U.S. fencing team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, also competed on the 2004 and ’12 Olympic teams and has won a slew of other awards and accolades. He even gave then-President Barack Obama a fencing lesson on the White House lawn in 2009.
It may come as a surprise that the 41-year-old more or less fell into fencing by accident.
“I was in the seventh grade at Riverdale Country School (in the Bronx) and had no idea what fencing was,” he laughed. “I took it just to get out of PE.”
Even then, Morehouse said, “I kept skipping fencing, but my first coach saw something in me and kept encouraging me to start taking it seriously.”
Struggling with school and self-confidence, Morehouse followed that advice and was soon well on his way, going on to compete at Brandeis University where his various honors included being voted by coaches and athletes as the NCAA men’s sabre fencer of the year in 2000.
“Once you put that mask on, you take on a different personality,” Morehouse said. “Fencing requires quick strategic thinking and can definitely help with self-confidence.”
As opposed to other sports, “You can’t be on the bench,” he continued. “No one is going to prevent you from competing. And you own your outcome.”
As for danger, a University of Oslo study found that fencing was one of the six sports that resulted in the fewest injuries. Its 2.5% injury rate was only slightly higher than that of diving and synchronized swimming.
Founded in New York City in 2015, the Morehouse Fencing Clubs offer programs for children and adults alike. Classes last 80 to 100 minutes each with a 6:1 student-teacher ratio. In 2017, the club opened a large facility in Port Chester, added classes at Hommocks Middle School in Larchmont last year and now holds classes at Greenwich’s Western and Eastern civic centers.
Aiming to have up to 10 locations in operation within the next 10 years, Morehouse said Fairfield County was always a target.
“There are fencing clubs there, but there really hasn’t been a franchise like ours that has multiple locations,” he said.
“I love Greenwich,” he continued. “We have some friends there and it’s just a great place. We met with (Western Greenwich Community Center Building Director) Frank Gabriele and he was enormously supportive and helpful.
“It’s a competitive club. Our goal is to have them competing four to six months after they start.”
The clubs have mined success in four years. A brother/sister pair from Greenwich brought back a gold and a bronze medal at the Pan American Youth Championships in August, while a fencer from Rye went on to Notre Dame and is now getting ready for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The club qualified its first fencer (from Mount Kisco) for the Cadet World Championship team for Team USA.
The club also has multiple Youth-10 boy and girl fencers ranked in the top 10 of their respective divisions.
“There’s a lot of growing interest in fencing,” he said. “There are only so many people who can play baseball, football or basketball. We’re proud to be part of that journey for the kids and to help build the sport.