Typically, college athletes are recruited to score touchdowns, hit home runs, or sprint on a track–but what makes my experience unique is that I was recruited to fight with swords.
My name is Firoz George–I am a former Saber Fencer for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and I am going to take you through a day in my life as a college athlete.
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I have morning classes every day, so I usually wake up around 8:00 am and immediately head to the dining hall to grab a quick breakfast. My go-to is typically bacon and eggs with fruit on the side. Then I start walking to my first class and on the way make a stop at the student-athlete fueling station where athletes can get food for their day. Options include: protein shakes, power bars, fruit, sandwiches, beef jerky, yogurt, and other snacks. While there, I usually stock up on some sandwiches and protein bars. This is essential for me because during the day I do not have time to eat lunch at the dining hall. I strategically have my classes scheduled back to back, so I have time to get ready for practice afterwards.
After my classes, I head over to the fencing gym where I meet with the saber coach for a private training session. Private fencing lessons are one-on-one training sessions where fencers have the opportunity to work with their coaches on their footwork, blade technique, and tactics for bouts (fencing matches). It allows coaches to identify small details that the fencers need to fix. I am required to have two of these training sessions a week.
When I finish my private lesson, I usually have some time before our team lift, so I stretch or roll myself out to stay loose. I also sometimes go to our team trainers for treatments. I have bad knees so at treatments I usually do exercises that focus on strengthening them, but many of my teammates also go to get taped up or receive cupping. Cupping is a therapy in which heated glass cups are applied to the skin along the meridians of the body, creating suction as a way of stimulating the flow of energy. After the lift, my team and I go back to the fencing gym to begin our regular team practice. We only lift two to three times a week, so some days we have longer practices than others.
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Our practices usually end around 6 pm and afterwards my teammates and I get dinner together. If it is the end of the practice week, I typically take an ice bath as well. It initially feels like i’m going to turn into an icicle, but it is worth it because it immediately reduces the swelling while flushing lactic acid out of my body. When I am done, I head back to my dorm to shower and then go to either the student-athlete academic center or the library to finish my homework.
I usually get back to my dorm around 12 am, and I pass out within a couple of seconds of entering the room. I wake up early in the morning just to do the same thing over again. We do get rest days, and those are the best because we can relax or catch up on school work.
Being a student-athlete is a huge commitment, but I have found it to be super rewarding as well. I have had so much fun being on a team, creating great friendships and competing at the collegiate level. I would not trade it for anything in the world.
For the high school student-athletes, I hope this gives you some insight on what it takes to be a saber fencer at the college level. Stay focused and work hard.
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* Originally published on March 1, 2023, by Firoz George