The soft sound of a throat clearing interrupted. Coach Dan looked up, saw Kassie holding her hand in the air above her head. He nodded to her silently.
That’s not your fault, the slender girl said behind her straight black curtain of hair. When you fence, she continued, you’re always by yourself, alone on the strip. Maybe Myles was right to think it was all about him, because in fencing, it really is all about you.
Coach Dan raised his eyebrows quickly. “It’s easy to see it that way.” Then he smiled, the short dark curls of his beard seeming to grow as his face brightened. “But — no offense — it’s also short-sighted.”
He walked slowly among the members of the Bark Bay High School fencing team, making eye contact with each as he passed them. “Every fencer has to be a bit selfish. Accomplishing something for yourself is what gives you that drive, that energy to succeed, to get better at the sport. But this sport is too difficult for anyone to succeed on their own. High schoolers, college fencers, people in clubs — doesn’t matter what level you’re at — even people at the national, international level — everyone meets some obstacle they can’t overcome, some skill they can’t master, some opponent they just can’t beat.”
Standing in front of Double-J, Coach Dan raised his right index finger in the air. “That’s when you need help. Whether it’s someone coaching you, working with you on a drill, helping you strategize, or even just giving you moral support. Without people around to aid you when you need it — no, you’re not going to succeed.”
He now walked into the center of the cafeteria, in full view of his students. “And the only way you can get that help, is to give it. To show by your actions, that you’re not just fencing for yourself — you’re fencing for your teammates, your family, your friends. And that, that is what I forgot to teach Myles when he was here.”