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Feedback on fencing article

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by irnsdn, Jul 31, 2010.

  1. irnsdn

    irnsdn New Member

    I interned at a local town paper (weekly) and my article made it on Page 1 as the main story. I just wanted to share it and see if there's any feedback. I can take constructive criticism pretty well, so if there are any formatting thoughts, questions I should have asked or a part where I should have gone into more depth, feel free to let me know.

    (Excluding headline, paper's name and my name from this)

    “There is no secret formula,” said Zoran Tulum. “We have a world full of geniuses without determination, we have a world full of talents without determination, but that’s what makes the difference – when you have a student who is determined to work, and work, and work to improve.”

    Tulum is talking about fencing. The sport is his passion. He has been fencing for more than 40 years, amassing a glittering resume along the way. He has coached at Harvard University for two years, Stanford University for 12, and is a past winner of the Yugoslavian National Championships. He moved to the U.S. 25 years ago after growing up in Yugoslavia.

    He founded the Zeta Fencing Studio in Natick Center 10 years ago, in an airy third-floor space on South Main Street across from the Natick Common. During that span, fencers from his studio have won four national titles and accumulated more than 30 medals at national championship events.

    When he teaches in his Natick-based studio, he does not just teach his students the basics because in Tulum’s mind, fencing is not all about technique. According to him, a lot of success is about who you are.

    “You can have the same move taught by 10 people and you will have 10 different results. I can give you the same technique and somebody else the same technique and the result is going to be the difference,” he said.

    “I can teach you how to change the shift in a car and somebody else, yet you will drive the car totally differently because that depends on your personality. We are a sport in which the personality and character are as important as the physical talent.”

    And in Tulum’s experience, physical talent and success in one sport does not necessarily carry over to fencing, like it can in some sports.

    “I had some amazing athletes who could not fence or do anything interactive because they were uncomfortable dealing with other people — they wanted to do it all by themselves, but only measured by clock or distance,” he said. “And then I had people who were awesome soccer players, who were very bad fencers, because they had to hide in a team.”

    Above all, Tulum thinks the key to fencing is that it is an interactive, individual sport.

    “The worst, or most complicated situation is when you have an interactive sport one-on-one,” said the fencing coach. “Boxing, tennis, fencing, wrestling — because it’s you against another person, and that’s it. Nobody can save you. You cannot say, ‘Oh yes, I played well, but the goalie, it is his fault.’ You cannot share the defeat with anybody, but also you don’t share the victory with anybody.

    “I was always challenged by fencing because it’s not only physical skill but it’s also mental skill,” Tulum said. “We are known as ‘Physical Chess’ — that’s the nickname for fencing — so being tall, or strong, or fast does not help you. You will just die faster, stronger, or taller.

    “You have to use your brain at least 50 percent more than your body, if not more. Something that you do with or against another person and not against a time clock or a measure meter, like diving, or swimming – these are not interactive sports. They’re sports, but there’s no mental challenge where you’re facing another human being who is trying to ruin your plans. So my personality wanted an interactive sport.”

    In his studio, Tulum shares his love for the sport with his students in his classes and camps. But he is sharing more than just his knowledge of fencing.

    “When I’m teaching young kids I see a beautiful source of design,” he said. “I can design a young fencer, I can make him walk straight, I can make him look you in the eyes and have a good handshake to start with!

    “To teach him good manners, to teach him social skills, how to talk to other people, to teach him how to walk straight and sit properly in a chair. Those are extremely important things in life!”

    As well as teaching his students simple life lessons, Tulum has some advice for when his fencers are on the strip competing.

    “Fencing comes from the same family of sport, where control of emotions is important in order to succeed,” Tulum mentioned. “You can use emotions when you compete but you must use it in an appropriate manner. So after you spent all the energy and passion for fencing, and maybe you win, maybe you lose, you are a winner just because of the way you participate.”

    Tulum used a different one-on-one interactive sport as an analogy.

    “You can be as angry as you want if you lose a match to (Pete) Sampras or (Andre) Agassi, but you have to say thank you,” he said while comparing the two sports. “So you don’t feel bad because Agassi won, but you played that tennis match hard all four sets and everyone is applauding and you’re a warrior.

    “You have lost the match, but not the war. And then you go shakes hands, salute and say ‘thank you.’ And you go off the court as a proud athlete.”

    Using the enormous amount of respect he has for the sport, Tulum tries to inspire his students by using that passion.

    “We teach those things. We can say that we don’t teach people how to fence in our club, we teach people how to be fencers, which is a much, much higher category.”
  2. spud

    spud Member

    Too many quotes. Half of those can be paraphrased. You get into this rhythm later in the story where you're basically only using a sentence or two of your own voice to break up these bulky quotes. I also question the thought of leading with a quote, especially one like that.

    The story itself comes off like an infomercial for this guy, mostly because you're leaning so heavily on his words and not your own. What do other people think about him? His fencers? Give it some more color, some more life. Other than that, it's generally well-written, it just needs a bit of restructuring. See how many quotes you can boil into your own words, and typically try to talk to more than just the one guy.
  3. ringer

    ringer Member

    With all due respect... how do you write a fencing piece and not say which weapon he coaches, or which weapon he personally excelled at? The coach may have made you think a fencer is a fencer is a fencer, but you have to do more homework so you can challenge his assertion and have him explain it more deeply.

    I also agree with the previous poster. You have to balance the piece by interviewing other sources. One interview is not enough for an article, particularly a profile.

    It also would have been nice to have included names of his most successful fencers. Had you quoted those athletes, it would have given you an opportunity to kill two birds...

    It was decently written, just under-reported.

    I hope that makes sense. I look forward to reading your next piece.
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