Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Damien: I graduated in 2009, right after the 2008 crash. The job market in my hometown of Tampa was non-existent. A couple of my lifelong friends and college friends moved to DC, so I decided to take the leap and move here without a job because the economy had been in a good place here. Luckily, I found a job in a consulting firm here and didn’t wipe out my savings.
Aaron: We heard you have some very interesting hobbies outside of work, tell us more…
Damien: I am a competitive fencer and a fencing coach!
Aaron: How long have you been fencing?
Damien: About 17 years—since I was 8 years old. My best friend’s dad — a gentleman by the name of Håkan Lonaeus — was like the Chuck Norris of Swedish Fencing. He brought us into DC Fencers Club and hooked us up with Maestros Janusz Smolenski and Robert Suchorski. When you put a sword in an 8 year old’s hand, he never wants to put it down. So here I am at 25 and still playing with swords, and still working with the same coaches I’ve had since I was a little kid.
Aaron: What is the coolest thing that you have done with this sport?
Damien: Nothing comes close to going to the Olympics with my student, Suzanne Stettinius. She has a very unique story. In 2008, Suzanne was thrown head first from a horse into a guard rail. She broke her neck, broke her collarbone, and suffered severe memory loss from the incident. Now she’s going to the London 2012 games as one of the two pentathletes representing the United States. I’ll have the privilege of being in her corner when she competes. It has been a joy to see her progress to this level, and while I’ve had a lot of personal accomplishments in the sport, I think it’s more exciting to see a student grow like she has.
Aaron: Can you describe your coaching style?
Damien: At one of her fundraisers, Suzanne described my coaching style in saying that I am a “Badass Motherf*****.” I think I’m pretty high energy, motivating, and equally concerned with the development of my students as people as I am with their development as fencers. I can sometimes resemble Mick from the Rocky movies. I tend to be in your face, raging, positively abusive, and demanding perfection.
Aaron: Any other cool sports?
Damien: At one point in time I was a competitive boxer, but I value my brain cells, and breaking your nose hurts a lot, so I dropped that hobby. I ran track and played rugby in college, as well. I also love the DC Kickball scene. Shout out to the Declawed Kittens!
Aaron: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Damien: I’m very happy in my job as a human capital consultant right now and would be more than satisfied to continue my career in that field. Quite frankly, I’m just happy I have the opportunity to work given the state of our economy. Dream job though? At one point, I interned with the Baltimore Ravens and had the time of my life; so, like every Jewish guy, I dream of being a sports executive one day and helping run a team’s operations. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be preferable…
Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Damien: I’m a big fan of Bier Baron in Dupont and the Standard Beer Garden on 14th and S. H Street suits my fancy, too. Occasionally, when I’m feeling ambitiously Jewish, I will go to Sixth & I and hang out with my buddies from birth right.
Aaron: What is the best part of living in DC?
Damien: So many things: there are a lot of opportunities for young people to succeed here, and it’s nice to be around people who motivated and driven to be great like everyone in this city is. I also love that we have art museums, zoos, and free events that you can just walk into. Everything here is at your fingertips, so I am a huge fan of the city.