Around The Yard: Duncan Rheingans-Yoo

Returning to for a fourth season, "Around The Yard: Life As A Harvard Student-Athlete" explores life away from the playing fields for select Harvard student-athletes through their own first-person narrativeFor a full list of blog entries, click here.

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Duncan Rheingans-Yoo
February 22, 2018

Last year as a freshman, I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in with the fencing team. I was a quieter type, and it seemed like many of my teammates were louder and more boisterous than me. Add that I was a walk-on, and while the team didn’t treat me any differently than the recruits, I still felt a little out of place, like I didn’t quite belong.

I asked our captain Stephen about it, and he allayed my fears. He showed me that I might be different from some of the other guys on the team, but that made me more valuable, not less. There are many ways to contribute to the team, and not all of them involve being the loudest or most prominent person. He said he was Exhibit A. 

Fencing is typically an individual sport, so translating it into a team sport is really interesting. In a match, our guys fence a series of one-on-one bouts with the opposing team’s fencers, but this disguises the fact that team dynamic and energy are more important than any individual’s performance. Having the team behind you (figuratively and literally) can elevate your intensity and focus above anything you could do on your own, giving the team a critical edge. Many fencing teams never learn this lesson and so never reach their true potential. 

Harvard Fencing Team understands the importance of team mindset, so we pride ourselves on our family-like dynamic. Every night after practice, we all go to dinner as a team. On the weekends, we get together to go into Boston, or play pool, or have after-hours social events. These things aren’t just fun social outlets. The closeness we build feeds into our team performance. And we need all types of people for that. We need people to be the life of the party. We need people to meticulously plan social events and make sure everyone participates. We need people to just keep going during workouts, pushing other people to be their best at all times. And we need people to console teammates after a loss and help them bounce back for the next match. 

It is a cliché to say that diversity is strength, that there is no single way to succeed or contribute. But it’s all too easy to forget that it’s true too. And that’s one of the lessons Harvard Fencing has taught me. I found my place on the team as a hard worker who brings a positive attitude to team practices and events. And through the team, I’ve had some amazing experiences and made some of the best friends of my life. I’m nearing the end of my second season with the team, and I can honestly say I’ve never felt more at home.