Growing up in small town in France, when he was 11 years old, Benoit Bouysset accepted a neighbor's invitation to try fencing.
He was hooked.
But the fencing club was small, with less than a dozen members, and there wasn't really a coach. By 15, Bouysset started to coach the youngest and newest to try the sport.
"People are learning something from you, and you're giving some information and make them better," Bouysset says. "And that's something very interesting... I love to see my students improve their skills."
Bouysset started training as a coach at 17, and he graduated top of his class in earning a master of arms degree in 1997. He earned his second level master of arms degree two years later, and spent five years as a resident coach at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, serving as the national coach of the men's Epee team for four of those years. He coached Seth Kelsey to a fourth-place finish at the 2012 London Olympics.
But Bouysset loves coaches all athletes, and he was nominated for the 2020 SportsEngine TrueSport Coach Excellence Award by one of his young athletes at Houston Sword Sports.
"Whether my student is a recreational fencer or an Olympic athlete, I will teach them with the same passion, focus, and dedication," he says. "I want my fencers to know that they received the best coaching there is, win or lose. A coach's greatest legacy is when their student becomes the teacher. If I can impart my fencers with skills they can use beyond the world of fencing — such as problem-solving and strategy and good sportsmanship — then I think I did a decent job."
Bouysset says most of his fencers are young, but he's also got some students who are in their 60s.
More than anything, Bouysset's desire is to share his passion for fencing. He loves the strategy of the sport.
"I had one skill, and if my skill was working, I can do well at the tournament," Bouysset recalls. "But if that wasn't working, I wasn't tempered to adapt, and it's like a chess game."
Bouysset says he sometimes get discouraged because of the pandemic, but he says being a finalist for the award was "a boost."
His virtual training sessions at least allows him to stay connected with his students. Besides, the virtual training has allowed him not to be constrained by geography; his students are spread all over the world. And if students can't afford to pay for classes, he offers them free through his foundation, the International Academy for Fencing Education (IAFE).