Ilsa Hoffman started fencing when she was 14-years-old. At the time, she was a self-described “lump.”

“I didn’t really do anything, I wasn’t very motivated and my grades weren’t very good. Then fencing at The Phoenix Center changed my life,” Ilsa states. “It helped me develop a work ethic and focus. Once I started, I was all-in in every aspect of my life,” she adds. Ilsa has had a meteoric rise in the sport of fencing, becoming an International Competitor, and one of the top-rated fencers in the entire county.

A transformation on and off “the strip”
As her fencing career took off, so did her grades. Ilsa is now a straight A student and is being recruited by colleges such as Notre Dame and Northwestern. Ilsa’s transformation is what the sport of fencing is all about.

“When you put on that mask, you become someone different. You get to show your true self,” says Coach Dennis Kolakowski. Coach Dennis has worked with Ilsa since day one and has been able to witness her evolution to one of the sport’s elite. “It’s such an amazing experience. To know something great is inside a kid, and through their hard work, they get to see it too,” continues Coach Dennis.

Together Ilsa and Coach Dennis, along with The Phoenix Center Team, have traveled all over the world. “We’ve been to some amazing places, and I’ve gotten a chance to see the world in a much bigger view,” Ilsa says glowingly. “My first National event was in Richmond, Virginia. Since then, we have been to Anaheim, Cleveland, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Memphis, Kansas City, Detroit, Milwaukee, Portland, Oregon and even Germany!” she lists excitedly. Ilsa adds, “We’re going to Belgium in a couple weeks for a World Cup, then we have a North American Cup event in Milwaukee a couple weeks after that.”

The sport honed her focus both on “the strip” (their playing field) and in the classroom. “All of the dedication I’ve put into the sport has really made me much better at time management, having a clear set of goals and a plan on how to achieve them,” Ilsa reports. Beaming, she says, “The Phoenix Center is like my second home and family. They’ve helped me achieve so much, more than I ever knew possible!”

Better your child’s life at the Phoenix Center
The Phoenix Center is The Hudson Valley’s only full-time, fully insured, fully licensed by USA Fencing, fencing club. Their coaches have a vast experience in the sport. They train a multitude of international athletes from the ground up, and their students are regularly recruited by top collegiate programs across the country. “We’ve had our students get recruited to Ivy League institutions such as Cornell, Harvard, UPenn, and Columbia, as well as other top colleges like Stanford, Boston College, Penn State and Vassar to name a few,” says Club Owner and Coach Eric Soyka. “It’s been amazing to have so many kids use fencing to help make their lives better!”

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