Meet Zeyad Elashry, an accomplished fencing coach with over 20 years of competitive experience. Having navigated the highs and lows of his fencing career, Zeyad brings his students a wealth of knowledge and valuable lessons. In this interview, we delve into his coaching philosophy, his experiences coaching at various levels and the impact of his international and personal achievements on his coaching style.
Thomas: Bonjour Zeyad, you have been a competitive fencer for over 20 years. What key lessons from your competitive career do you try to pass on to your students?
Zeyad: As a competitive athlete, there are many valuable lessons to be learned. These lessons include managing stressful situations, controlling emotions, and dealing with unexpected challenges.
In my opinion, one thing takes the whole experience to another level: enjoyment. 😂 When you enjoy something, your focus shifts from worrying about winning or losing to the joy of planning and carrying out actions confidently.
Not only does it help you analyze mistakes faster, but it also enables you to handle difficult situations with a calmer mind. Working on your mistakes becomes even more enjoyable and challenging in the case of a loss.
Thomas: You have coached at various levels, from beginners to nationally competitive athletes. How do you adjust your coaching style to suit the skill level and goals of different students?
Zeyad: I also coached internationally, which is much different from coaching in the USA.
For beginners, it’s important to establish the game’s core fundamentals and basic understanding – namely, scoring a point in the simplest way possible. This lays the foundation for learning the rest of the game’s fundamentals.
The foundation for learning the fundamentals of the game is based on mastering the basic actions and improving them.
Regular practice is important! For instance, an 8-year-old who attends classes six days a week for 2 to 3 hours daily can improve much faster than a 13yo who comes twice a week. In that case, the eighth years old kid that practiced more isn’t a beginner, but the 13yo is.
Back to the question, coaching becomes easier and more effective with fencers that practice more. Coaching a competitive that competes in y10 is easier because the fencer is still learning and growing. With international or DV1 fencers, my coaching is more of maintenance & point out some little mistakes for the fencer to avoid.
Thomas: As a coach, you led the first athlete in 11 years at Johns Hopkins University to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Can you share more about that experience? What strategies and training regimens did you implement to achieve this success?
Zeyad: College fencers are different than fencers from private clubs. Fencers come from different clubs with different coaches and different styles.
During my two years as an epee coach at Hopkins, I was fortunate to have a great team. My approach involved identifying key fencing scenarios and emphasizing regular practice to improve overall skills. Also, those kids were crazy competitive 😂 I think I just got that spirit out.
We only had one qualified fencer, but the other two were consistently ranked in the top 8 of the region throughout the entire season.
Thomas: You’ve had significant success as a fencer in the United States and internationally. How has your international experience influenced your coaching style?
Zeyad: I found it very useful to study various fencing styles, including French, Hungarian, and Russian. I incorporated elements from these styles into my approach, focusing on distance control, to create a well-rounded fencing strategy.
Thomas: You qualified for the 2008 Olympics but could not participate due to injury. How did this experience shape your perspective on the sport and your approach to coaching?
Zeyad: It made me learn that nothing is guaranteed! Which is ok! You never know what the future holds! Staying focused on the task at hand and the processes involved is important. If you didn’t achieve your dream, keep fighting and try again.
I attempted to qualify in 2012, but unfortunately, I did not succeed. In the USA, in 2016, I injured my left knee meniscus. I made another attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and reached the top 10. However, when we were planning for international competitions to secure the qualification, it didn’t align with my work schedule.
I didn’t give up on my training. While goals are important, some people give up if they don’t reach them or even after achieving them. It’s important to maintain a mindset of perseverance and resilience, always striving to overcome obstacles.
Thomas: You recently became an AFAA Certified Personal Trainer; congratulations on this accomplishment! Can you share what motivated you to pursue this certification? How do you see it influencing your approach to coaching fencing and potentially opening new avenues in your career?
Zeyad: Thank you 🙏
It all began when I wanted to learn more about the latest training principles. I aimed to find the most efficient and effective ways to work with my fencers and stay in shape. 😂
Zeyad Elashry, Epee coach at Fortune Fencing Club.
Fortune Fencing: Zeyad Elashry’s coaching journey is a testament to his unwavering dedication and passion for the sport of fencing. From beginners to nationally competitive athletes, Zeyad understands the importance of tailoring his coaching style to meet each student’s needs and goals. His experience as a fencer and coach at Johns Hopkins University and his international exposure have shaped his versatile coaching approach, incorporating a deep understanding of various fencing styles and techniques. Zeyad’s commitment to continuous learning is evident in his recent certification as a personal trainer, further enhancing his ability to guide his fencers toward success. With his infectious enthusiasm and emphasis on perseverance, Zeyad Elashry continues to inspire and empower fencers at Fortune Fencing Club and beyond.