Declan Erhardt finds friendship through fencing

Declan+Erhardt+during+one+of+his+fencing+practices

Declan Erhardt

Declan Erhardt during one of his fencing practices

In our lives, there are some moments that feel so ethereal it’s almost illusory; they are moments that seem to stick with us forever. They are simply unforgettable. For sophomore Declan Erhardt, that moment occurred when he met an Olympic fencing coach. 

Despite it being a moment that Declan fondly reminiscences about, he, ironically, doesn’t remember the name of the coach. Even so, it doesn’t take away the fact that it is a moment he had enjoyed experiencing.

“Over the summer in the airport, I met an Olympic fencing coach,” Declan said. “He taught all three weapons [of fencing], and he, surprisingly, spoke English [even though] he coached for the Swiss team.”

Although Declan may not have remembered the name of the coach he met that day, it doesn’t diminish any of the passion he has for fencing. Despite Declan only starting fencing four years ago, it has quickly become a large part of his routine—permeating into a multitude of aspects of his life. 

Through fencing, Declan has gained more than just the confidence to strike someone with a foil—the sword he fences with. It has also allowed him to build his confidence in talking to other people. 

“Most days, [my fencing coach] doesn’t assign who we fence, and they leave it up to us to decide,” Declan said. “My ADHD makes me bad at social [interactions], but I feel like being forced to go up to someone and ask them if they want to fence [has] helped me with that.”

With each class that Declan attends, he slowly gets closer and closer to the plethora of people surrounding him—no matter how infrequently they may or may not show up. Fencing has given him the opportunity to augment his confidence with other people, but, more importantly, it has given him everlasting friendships.

Out of all of the friends he has made through fencing, his friendship with his classmate, Oliver, is one that he especially cherishes.

I feel like fencing is something that could open a lot of doors for me, and I could go to a lot of places with fencing.”

— Declan Erhardt

“Oliver is a guy I met at fencing maybe a year into it,” Declan said. “There wasn’t really a spot for us to put our fencing bags, so I put mine down on the floor, and he happened to put his next to mine. I made a joke, and he laughed. [Then] he made a joke, and I left. I don’t remember either of the jokes. At fencing, he’s the person I tell about my life [and] he tells me about his while we’re waiting for all of the little kids [in] the earlier class to leave.”

Fencing has given way to unforgettable moments with friends Declan has come to care greatly for. However, the people that he surrounds himself with leave him with more than just entertaining memories to reminisce about: they drive him to do better.

Whether it’s because he wants to beat them, or to simply fence for longer, the people he has met through the class make him strive to continue on and improve.

“There is a kid in the class who has been fencing for way longer than me,” Declan said. “His name is Caleb, and every time he comes, I try to make it a point to fence him because it makes me better. Another [one] of my friends, Eileen, did fencing for five years. She quit maybe two years ago, so I am determined to fence for at least six years just to one-up her.”

Although the friends that Declan has gained through fencing are a large aspect of why he enjoys fencing, it is not the only reason. On top of the moments he spends with his classmates and friends, the moments where he gets to fight are more than enough to keep him coming back to each class. 

The methodical patterns within each attack are something that Declan has found pleasure in decoding.

“It is a lot of fast thinking—like anything else,” Declan said. “You are analyzing the patterns of what people are doing. I have to think and then respond quickly to my thinking.”

As the future comes fast approaching, the one thing that Declan knows that will stay constant throughout all of it is his love for fencing.

“One of my requirements for a college is that they have to have a fencing program,” Declan said. “I hope to continue [fencing] through adulthood. I feel like fencing is something that could open a lot of doors for me, and I could go to a lot of places with fencing.”