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Ethan Sabetta is using his years of experience on the fencing strip to lead North Branford as a junior captain this winter. (Photo courtesy of Ethan Sabetta )
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Most members of the North Branford fencing team picked up the sport in high school, but not Ethan Sabetta. Ethan started fencing in 4th grade and uses that experience to help both himself and his fellow fencers improve. Now in his junior season, Ethan is leading the T-Birds as a captain this winter.
Ethan began his career at the Fencing School of Connecticut in Guilford. He honed his craft while working with coach Matthew Catino before enrolling at North Branford.
“The whole aspect of sword fighting sounds pretty cool for a 4th-grader,” says Ethan. “I dabbled in other sports like soccer when I was younger, but I wanted something that was a little different, and I thought sword fighting sounded a lot of fun.”
Ethan started out competing at the novice and JV levels at North Branford, but his experience helped him advance to varsity pretty quickly. Ethan has won 56 percent of his bouts while exclusively fencing varsity this year. Last weekend, he finished in 11th place out of 68 competitors for the foil division at the Individual State Championship.
Even though he liked fencing from the get-go, Ethan truly found his passion for the sport at North Branford. Ethan says that competing for a team, especially one like the Thunderbirds, has made him realize just how much the sport means to him.
“Once I started fencing with the team, I saw the same group of people every day. I got to practice the sport with those people. I got to improve alongside them, opposed to on my own,” Ethan says. “I realized that fencing was more than just the sport. It has a team aspect to it. I was looking for other people to latch onto with the sport. When I had the team, I enjoyed it more than just fencing itself.”
Fencing is just as much a team sport as it is an individual endeavor. North Branford’s fencers are always practicing against one another and helping each other get better. Head Coach Jacob Sweet appreciates that Ethan uses his veteran savvy to assist the newer fencers in their quest to improve.
“It has been an immense aid for me. I can rely on Ethan to really help facilitate the things that I’m driving home during practice,” Sweet says. “Ethan has been able to utilize his knowledge in order to help facilitate smaller group practices. Since I don’t have an assistant coach, Ethan has pretty much filled that role. He’s set the bar for his teammates, but has also been a great friend and a great advocate for them.”
Ethan puts all of these attributes to good use while leading North Branford as a captain. Although Ethan has experienced plenty of success, he gets the most satisfaction from seeing his teammates make strides on the strip.
“I love the team. I love that I get to improve alongside them. I get to help them improve from an authoritative kind of position,” Ethan says. “Not every fencer has the same kind of experience that I do. It’s nice to have the role where others come to me for decisions and encouragement.”
Outside of fencing, Ethan is also a musician who plays alto saxophone in the North Branford jazz band, as well as clarinet in the concert band and wind ensemble. Ethan says that some of his favorite aspects of being in the band are the same things he likes about competing for the fencing team.
“I enjoy the family, and it’s sort of the same thing with fencing where, before high school, I didn’t have much of that family with my music career,” says Ethan. “It’s also like fencing where I enjoy competing, I enjoy that drive to succeed. When it pays off, it feels great.”
Coach Sweet has spent the past three years working with Ethan. While Ethan’s individual results are impressive, Sweet says that his commitment to the program shows just how special of a person Ethan is.
“Coaching Ethan has been a real treat. He’s a genuinely good kid,” says Sweet. “Ethan sets the bar high for himself and his teammates. He’s a leader on the team, and that has been an absolute pleasure. Next year, the sky is the limit.”
Ethan’s goals for his senior season are to continue sharpening his skills and help the North Branford fencing program keep growing. Fencing has given Ethan an opportunity to shine, and he feels honored to compete for the T-Birds in a sport that he loves.
“Fencing above all has given me an identity. When people ask me to describe myself, fencing is usually the first thing I bring up,” Ethan says. “Fencing is a culmination of my ambition and the work I put into my accomplishments. Fencing is who I am, and these are the people I identify with.”
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