WEST WINDSOR: Lehrman returns to fencing

Former Temple foilist is new Pirates coach

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   Rebecca Lehrman dived into a career as a personnel trainer after fencing for four years at Temple University.
   ”After that, I didn’t think fencing would come back in my life,” she said. “I’m a personal trainer. One of my clients was talking about how her daughter fences. I do in-home personal training. She told me there was a job opening at West Windsor South.”
   Lehrman found it to be the perfect opportunity to return to fencing, and she is the new boys and girls head coach at West Windsor-Plainsboro High South. She takes over for Ed Chang.
   ”Like any change, change is hard for everybody,” Lehrman said. “I do think the kids are responding well to me. It hasn’t been a difficult transition at all. I think everything is going pretty smoothly.”
   The Pirates swept Princeton Day School last Tuesday, a match Lehrman missed due to illness. The Pirates then split against North Hunterdon on Thursday, with the girls winning and the boys losing. WW-P South also took its girls team to the Santelli tournament and placed 34th paced by its 23rd-place saber team. The Pirates did not take their full team of regulars, and it gave several of their younger fencers a chance to compete.
   ”They did OK,” Lehrman said. “I think for the fencers that were there, it was a new experience for them. Being in that large setting, it’s a bit overwhelming. It’s a great experience for them and it’ll help them for their competition the rest of the season and even next year.
   ”The thing is there’s no prep for something like that,” she added. “You can’t prepare for it. You just have to dive right in. That’s what these girls did and I’m proud of them for that.”
   Lehrman got into the sport when she was in high school in Long Island, N.Y. She came from a strong program and continued to fence foil at Temple.
   ”It was a great experience to be on a Division I team,” Lehrman said. “It was great competition. It was a great experience. I think it helped me more in life than it ever would have helped me in a fencing career.”
   It wasn’t so long ago that Lehrman was actively fencing, and not so long ago that she was in high school herself.
   ”I am a fairly young coach,” she said. “I think that does help with the kids responding to me. The age gap isn’t that far off. The communication level is pretty beneficial.”
   Lehrman remembers well what she liked about her high school fencing experience and what she found to be most useful. She is taking pieces from her career to use as a coach now.
   ”I pull from everything, what I learned from high school and college and I also use a lot of techniques I use with my clients,” Lehrman said. “I’ve coached for other sports for their offseasons. I use those for our team as well.
   ”I came in pretty open minded,” she said. “I wanted to get feedback from the kids what they wanted to work on, what they saw that was a struggle in years past. I have worked their input into my coaching.”
   The Pirates are a collection of experience and newcomers. The experienced fencers can help the novices, and Lehrman has seen steady work.
   ”There’s a little bit of everything for boys and girls,” Lehrman said. “We do have a lot of new freshmen on the team and I’m excited to work with them and build them up.
   ”Things are looking good,” she added. “The team is pretty strong right off the bat. I’m excited to be working with them. I think they’re a great group of kids.”
   The schedule picks up quickly with the New Year. The Pirates will face Hunterdon Central on Thursday, and Lehrman is learning the strengths of the schedule as she studies who will be the top competition when it comes time for districts.
   ”I am new and I was never in this fencing district ever,” she said. “I have nothing to compare it to. So far, we’re doing great. If everyone keeps their attitude positive and keeps focused, we’ll do great things this year. I don’t think it’ll be easy, but I think we’ll do great.”
   Helping Lehrman this year is Richard Chang, who coached at Moorestown Friends.
   ”He’s familiar with this district,” Lehrman said. “He’s been a huge help.”
   Otherwise, Lehrman and her young fencers are learning on the go. It’s how she developed in her fencing days, and it’s how the Pirates are coming along.
   ”We’ve only had practice about three weeks,” Lehrman said. “We started and went on break and then had this big competition. There hasn’t been much time to see any progression. Going to these competitions and diving right in is the only way to learn. It’s how I learned.”