Tim Morehouse: Shaping the next generation
This is the fifth piece in a seven-day series featuring US Olympians who in some way lead extraordinary lives aside from their medals and athletic talent. Check out part one on John Orozco, part two on Jake Gibb, part three on Kayla Harrison and part four on Anthony Ervin.
U.S. fencer Tim Morehouse has an Olympic silver medal. He is a two-time individual U.S. National Champion, seven-time World Cup medalist and the No. 1 ranked U.S. men’s saber fencer from 2008 to 2011. The London Games are Morehouse’s third trip to the Olympics, but it’s what he’s doing when he’s not holding a sabre that sets him apart.
In 2011, Morehouse founded the Fencing-in-the-Schools foundation, which is a non-profit aimed at bringing the sport of fencing to underprivileged communities throughout the country. In bringing fencing to public schools, the program works to help improve health, academics, and self esteem amongst youth in inner-city and rural areas. The students get to learn the sport from the best there is: Olympic-level fencers. The program will be launching pilot programs in the 2012-2013 school year, and Morehouse just released a book detailing the daily challenges that led him to becoming an Olympic fencer with a charity launch party in April 2012.
“I have the book and a new foundation called Fencing in the Schools that I hope can bring some of the lessons I’ve learned through fencing to other kids who could maybe use them,” Morehouse told Wired. “Even after all these years, I’m psyched about the sport and about what it has to offer — the focus and strategy and commitment and sense of self that come from trying to do something the best you can do it. I hope kids who watch this week will be inspired to pick up a sword!”
Fencing-in-the-Schools isn’t the fencer’s first foray into helping America’s youth, Morehouse first began working with youth as a seventh grade social studies teacher for three years with the Teach for America program. Meanwhile, he worked as a fencing teacher at his former high school in the Bronx, New York. Morehouse continued with the program, working on staff for four years as a teacher trainer. Fast Company named him as one of Teach for America’s most influential alumni.
He is also an athlete ambassador for the charity Right To Play, which is using sports to improve children’s lives in the most disadvantaged areas of the world. The program uses sport and play as tools to advance development, health, and peace. Fellow Olympians Allyson Felix and Natalie Coughlin are just a few of the popular athletes who also act as ambassadors for the cause.
So where does Morehouse find the time to do so much good while training at the Olympic scale? According to Wired, Morehouse had some trouble himself during his youth. He began fencing as a way to get out of gym class when he was bullied in middle school. When he worked with Teach for America, he trained at night and traveled on weekends to rack up enough points in competition to make it onto the Olympic team.
“Well, I didn’t get along so great in gym class — had the unfortunate nickname ‘nerdy birdy,’ something to do with my, um, stately Roman nose… And I saw this flyer one day that said something like, ‘Join the fencing team, get out of gym class!’ I had no idea what it was but me and my friend Ying signed up,” Morehouse told Wired.
The rest was history, as Morehouse stuck with the sport from seventh grade on.
As for London, Morehouse reached the quarterfinals in the individual event and finished in eighth place, exceeding expectations for the 34-year-old 27th seed. Although the Games are over for Morehouse, he’s certainly making sure there’s a new generation of U.S. fencers to follow in his footsteps.