Motivational Speaker Fencing Coach, Vivo Fencing Club
Molly Sliney is a motivational speaker, as well as a coach at Vivo Fencing Club. Her talks are mainly given to school age kids from third grade and up, where she discusses her story of having a learning difference. This includes the obstacles she went through; how she learned through, and gained confidence from, fencing; and how she applied these skills to difficult situations. As a fencing coach, she applies and teaches these same skills to her students. She says, “for me, fencing has always been a means to convey what I think.”
Sliney started fencing in 5th grade, when she was at a crisis point. She was diagnosed with dyslexia in first grade, and immediately started programs at school to help with her challenge. Despite this, she was still behind, and it began to affect her self-esteem. She says, “there was a pivotal point…where I made a choice, and I started internalizing my anger.” That was until someone introduced fencing to the family, and she fell in love with it. She says, “what fencing did for me is it gave me a place to put that anger, and gave me a place to prove that I wasn’t stupid.” Sliney ended up becoming a two-time Olympian, competing in the ’88 and ’92 Olympics.
Through fencing, Sliney learned the positives of having a learning difference, and how to overcome obstacles. She learned to break a problem down to make it easier. She was recruited for fencing by the University of Notre Dame, where she was paired with a blind professor to work one-on-one with her for her English class rather than being placed in a seminar. This professor, who had to overcome similar obstacles, taught her tricks for reading and writing that made more sense for her. She learned how her brain works, how her differences made her who she is today and how they were an asset rather than a setback.
Sliney’s advice to younger generations with learning differences is “to understand it’s a gift.” Having a learning difference is “not a disability – it can give you the ability to do amazing things.” She says that, unfortunately, “when we’re younger, we’re told we need to fit into this box. But nobody fits into the box.” Instead, we need to embrace our differences.
To learn more about Sliney and Vivo Fencing Club, visit https://www.vivofencingclub.com.