Areeq Hasan ‘20, an avid sabre fencer, is finishing his last season as a captain of Lawrenceville’s boys’ varsity fencing team. As the team prepares for its final match on February 12, against at the Hun School, Hassan describes the greatest roadblock he had to face before arriving at this point.
Ashley Duraiswamy: How did you start fencing?
Areeq Hasan: I think it was in seventh grade. At my school, PDS (Princeton Day School), we were required to do a sport, and I didn’t really have one. I guess I just needed to find one, and I thought that sword fighting sounded really cool. I showed up, we started learning footwork and all these different things, and as soon as I started actually fencing, just the feeling of the blade in my hand— it just felt right.
AD: Was it difficult to transition to fencing at Lawrenceville from PDS?
AH: That’s actually a great question because middle school and high school fencing are completely different. I was used to some style of fencing that was really slow. [On my first day of fencing practice at Lawrenceville] we had exhibition matches and we watched people fence. I’ll never forget how fast they were moving and how quickly they were reacting. It felt so much more professional—it just felt really cool. That transition, I thought it was going to be much harder than it was, but over time, it sort of just happened. We just grew and by the time I was a senior, it didn’t feel so different anymore.
AD: Were there any challenges you faced during that process of getting better at the sport?
AH: It’s difficult sometimes: when you’re starting out, you’re faced with a lot of losses because you don’t really know what works and what doesn’t work just yet. You have to try it out. In that first phase, it’s hard to have the emotional support to keep moving through it. But, once you get past that roadblock, which I would say is probably the largest roadblock—it becomes much easier. Passing that mental block leads to a physical change.
AD: Do you think that developing the confidence to get over that mental block has transferred over to other parts of your life?
AH: I guess I’ve never really thought about it, but yeah, I’m sure it [has]. Yes, that level of confidence is something that manifests in many different aspects of life. I feel like it in many ways changed my personality. Before I used to be more shy, I guess, and more reserved, but after that roadblock I sort of opened up and stopped caring about the repercussions of putting myself out there as much. I guess I’ve changed as a person. Wow, I never thought about that—that’s really cool!
AD: Is there anything you’ve done either this season or in previous seasons that you’re particularly proud of?
AH: I would say probably one of the things I’m most proud of—well, two things. One thing was during sophomore year. I was in the middle of that transition: getting over that barrier. It was very difficult for me because that was the first time I was on the varsity strip, and I saw how much better people were than I was and how difficult it would be for me to get to that level. At the end of that year, the coach gave me the “Most Improved Fencer” award, and that really boosted my spirits a lot. It wasn’t necessarily the getting better but the attitude of wanting to get better that was what actually changed me.
When my captain [Jamie Ren ‘19], who was a nationally ranked fencer in Hong Kong [graduated], that was very difficult for me. He was like my rock the whole way. He was an amazing fencer and a great mentor for me. Seeing him go was very hard for me because I would have to fill his shoes, in a way, be mentoring others. But the advice he gave me—thinking back on the ways he taught me how to boost my confidence or change certain things about my fencing style—I always remember those things when I’m helping other people. I guess his advice is just invaluable for me now.
AD: Are there any other techniques you’ve used to help people improve?
AH: I would say the one thing that Jamie told me that really changed the way I thought about it was regardless of what you do or plan on doing, commit to it. If you’re the one who’s guiding the conversation, guiding the bout, then you will find success. That’s what I’ve been trying to instill in my fencers: commit to your actions. That applies to so many aspects of life [as well as] fencing.
AD: Now that you’re a senior and you only have two matches left, do you have any hopes for how the team will continue to improve in future years?
AH: It’s hard for me to process it, but I hope that especially for my sabre squad…It’s difficult because of course I want them to find physical success in doing well in bouts and in tournaments. I would love that, but I think even beyond that, I know that sometimes [my teammates] get really discouraged. We’ll sub them into the varsity strip, and they might lose a bout, and they’ll be really discouraged by that. I hope that they’ll start to take those experiences as a means by which to improve their style and as a way to become a better fencer rather than looking at the negative aspects of it. Because I think that shift from pessimism to optimism was what defined crossing the barrier for me.
AD: Are you planning to continue fencing in college?
AH: That’s a really great question. I’ll probably pursue it in club and maybe not necessarily in varsity. Because I really enjoy it. Just the feeling of fencing is almost therapeutic for me: it’s a way to vent all my stresses and forget about things. That’s why I love it. But if I made it work then it would lose that aspect of it. I feel like reserving it as this thing I can always come back to, as something that will fulfill me, is very useful, but I don’t know if I want to pursue it professionally or on the varsity level.
For additional information, please contact Lisa M. Gillard Hanson, director of Public Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.