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Assistant coach Adi Nott had a prolific collegiate career as fencer, which she uses to help guide Penn's fencers.

Photo by Penn Athletics

It’s often said that those who can’t do, teach. But Penn fencing assistant coach Adi Nott's incredible résumé as a fencer would suggest otherwise.

Nott is currently entering her second year as a full-time assistant coach for the Red and Blue’s fencing program. While Nott will be one of the first to admit that the pairing is a match made in heaven, how the partnership came to be is quite remarkable in itself.

Nott’s collegiate fencing pedigree is no less than stellar. A member of Notre Dame’s class of 2009, Nott competed for the Fighting Irish as a foilist. She served as squad captain for her team, and was a four-time All-American, three of those honors being first-team distinctions. In 2008, she finished in fourth place in the women’s foil division at the NCAA Collegiate Fencing Championships.

And one cannot overlook her success at the national level.

The Pittsford, N.Y. native has previously served on the U.S. Junior National Team, and the Junior World Championship Team (2006). In 2011, she made the US Women’s Foil team. ESPN Magazine listed Nott among their recognized CoSIDA Academic All-American athletes in her junior year at Notre Dame.

With her extensive list of accomplishments, it may be surprising to learn that it was graduate school that helped lead Nott to her current role with the Quakers.

“I started with Penn about four years ago. I was a graduate student at SP2 (School of Social Policy & Practice),” the four-time All-American said. “I was working out on the stairs and I ran into coach [Andy] Ma. He basically was like, ‘why don’t you come in and volunteer?’”

And that’s exactly what she did.

Following Ma’s invitation, Nott began volunteering with the fencing program during her time at Penn. A couple of years ago, she graduated with a Master of Social Work degree. Upon graduation, Ma offered Nott a full-time job with the program. In that same season, the men’s fencing squad secured its second straight team Ivy title.

Nott has gradually increased her involvement in the fencing program. She first participated in practices a couple of times a week. Eventually, her involvement grew to traveling with the team and strip coaching for the team. As her involvement grew, Nott made sure to balance her studies with her commitments to the team.

"I worked with my social work program to make sure I was at practice every day,” the former junior world team member said.  “I started giving some private levels and continued coaching the team at all of their dual meets and NCAAs.”

To improve on her coaching, Nott turned to some of her best coaches: a club coach, and one of her coaches from college. The two helped give the Notre Dame graduate “lessons on how to give lessons.” The most important part of giving a good lesson?

“Pick one or two things to work on in a lesson, rather than trying to fix everything at once,” Nott said, recalling advice that her club coach gave. “My coach from Notre Dame pointed out that since we’re college coaches, we get students that are more developed technically. As a college coach you don’t want to change their style too much.”

With Penn holding an impressive stable of foilists, such as junior Justin Yoo, sophomore Willie Upbin, and siblings John and Nicole Vaiani, Nott’s teachings will only fine-tune the skillsets the Quakers possess.

What makes Nott stand out above other coaches is her ability to serve as both peer and mentor. She can empathize and tailor her advice to the rigor of elite NCAA fencing, which takes an otherwise individual sport and adds a team dynamic. Nott provides an additional resource to help newer squad members adjust to the shift in mindset. She just might be Penn’s secret weapon.

And as for if she has plans with her SP2 degree?

“Probably not,” Nott chuckled. “I feel like coaching is the best job I’ve ever had.”