As of last Thursday, Sheridan Fencing Academy has a new home in the heart of Forest Hills, just one block from Austin Street and even closer to Yellowstone Boulevard.
Located at 106-06 Queens Boulevard, the academy offers fencing classes for all ages, from kids as young as four to adult beginners.
The 2,000-square-foot facility is run by Mihail Etropolski, who as a competitor represented the U.S. in several World Cups, as well as the 2010 Pan American Championships.
He is part of a legacy of accomplished fencers: his father won the World Championship in 1983 for Bulgaria and his uncle earned the silver medal in 1985.
Etropolski transitioned into coaching roughly 15 years ago. He realized through working with younger athletes that he has a natural ability to teach the sport.
“I found out I really enjoy the human side of it,” he said. “Especially with kids who may not have found a way to put their personality into something. And when you find a way to explain the nature of the game or a way for them to be creative in it, you’ll see all of a sudden this ownership that they take of their own training.”
Now head coach of the Forest Hills club, Etropolski, who moved to Sunnyside with his family at age nine, began his career with Sheridan Fencing Academy at it’s Manhattan location.
“There’s no serious fencing club in Queens, and when I say serious I mean competitively focused,” he explains. “So it was exciting for me to start a program in Queens where I grew up.”
Sheridan himself also holds an impressive fencing resume. He trained with world renowned coach Zbigniew Czajkowski in Poland, where he became the only American to complete the masters program at the Academy of Physical Education in Katowice.
When Sheridan returned to New York, teaching the sport he loved seemed like the logical next step in his career. He played on what he calls “marketable skills” and got straight to work building what would become an extremely successful fencing academy.
“It’s something I’ve always been drawn to passionately, almost to the point of obsession,” says Sherdian. “No matter what has gone on in my life, fencing has remained a constant.”
In 2007, Sheridan founded the club’s flagship location on the Upper East Side. Sheridan Fencing Academy soon developed some of the country’s top fencers, including the 2012 Junior Olympic Champion, the 2014 and 2016 NCAA Champions, and the National Champion in 2018.
Sheridan is the first American-born coach in history to train a world champion in sabre, having worked with a member of the U.S. junior women’s team that took the title in 2013.
“I can tell you that when she first started, she was an awkward mess,” jokes Sheridan. “But what mattered was perseverance.”
He explains that one of the most important lessons he learned from the sport - one that he says many fencing newcomers can benefit from as well - is that we don’t need to be good at something the first day in order to be able to excel.
“If students put aside concerns of winning or losing and start focusing on skill development, they can become great,” he adds.
The Forest Hills Sheridan Fencing Academy has enrolled nearly 30 students so far, but Sheridan expects to see that number increase, as demand for the sport blossoms.
He acknowledges expanded interest in fencing from parents, who are savvy to the role it plays in college admissions. Since the pool of competition for NCAA scholarships is much smaller in fencing compared to more mainstream sports, athletes have a higher chance of being recruited to compete for universities.
“Beyond that, it’s fun,” emphasizes the coach. “We want to give them a longer career in the sport, so by the time they get to college they still love doing it.”
For more information on Sheridan Fencing Academy or to inquire about coaching opportunities, visit sheridanfencing.com.