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Punching Through

The musings of a former GB boxer & club founder

Amateur Boxing – the breakaway

As our nation’s boxing representatives make a fantastic start to their Olympic campaign, winning all four of their initial contests, not all is so rosy back at home.  As we approach the new boxing season there is some disenchantment and discontent within the amateur boxing community of England.  For the last few years England Boxing, formerly Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE), has undergone a number of changes to its governance, its strategy, the competitive rules and most recently to its process of registering boxers, coaches and officials.  For some, the introduction of England Boxing’s new online registration system ‘The Vault’ combined with significant rule changes is a step too far and there is a motion to form a ‘breakaway’ organisation.  But how widespread is this disillusionment and what does it mean for amateur boxing in England?

Well let’s have a look at some of the factors that have sparked disquiet and have prompted img_0068some individuals and clubs to form a breakaway group.  The new online registration system, The Vault, is an initiative by England Boxing (the NGB) to centralise the registration of boxers, coaches and officials.  Each individual, whether they are boxer, coach or official, must register independently with The Vault and pay a fee to England Boxing for their annual licence.  Formerly arranged through geographical regions, this move threatens to reduce power and income from the divisions.  In addition to having to adapt to an online system, registration for coaches and officials requires some or all of the following: electronic photograph, proof of first aid qualification, Disclosure and Barring Service (formerly CRB) certification and child protection course attendance.  An impossible demand and extra bureaucracy are the cries from the breakaway – but these are best practice guidelines, demanded by the Home Office and actually important elements of governance that parents sending their children to boxing clubs would expect to be in place.  A lack of communication by England Boxing is another whinge from the breakaway.  The Vault collects every single individual’s email addresses and will therefore enable the direct dissemination of information to individual boxers, coaches and officials; it doesn’t rely on regions filtering information which it chooses to pass on.  Conversely it will offer the opportunity for individuals to open a direct dialogue with England Boxing – increasing the potential for two way communication.  Finally the Vault will offer financial transparency – which has perhaps been absent to date.  The cost of a boxer’s registration has differed in the past depending on which region they boxer’s belong to and regions were responsible for declaring their registrations to England Boxing – perhaps it is the loss of this financial independence that is causing most consternation for reason which are I’ll leave you to contemplate.

Amateur boxing has undergone a number of rule changes in recent years and such changes are not to everyone’s taste.  We see the somewhat surprising announcement by AIBA (boxing’s world governing body) to allow professional boxers to compete in the Olympic Games, together with the creep towards a professional style of boxing in the form of World Series Boxing (WSB) and AIBA Professional Boxing (APB) alongside the more traditional AIBA Olympic Boxing (AOB) more commonly known as amateur boxing.  Within AOB we note the removal of headguards, a reduction in men’s weight categories from 13 to 10, the change from 4 x 2 minutes rounds to 3 x 3 minute rounds for open class boxers and a change to the scoring system from a cumulative empirical one punch, one point system, to the professional style 10 point must system.  Many of the disenchanted want to return to the old rules and the new England Boxing Alliance (England), the breakaway, coincidentally mirroring the old organisation’s acronym ABAE, have vowed a return to the old rules.  Whilst England Boxing, the sports National Governing Body (NGB), have been held up as the architect of these changes, nothing could be further from the truth.

 

AIBAEngland Boxing as the NGB is a member of the sport’s World Governing Body, AIBA.  It is AIBA who have instigated these changes and it is they who insist that the rules are implemented absolutely with severe sanctions facing those who dare to dissent.  These are not empty threats as England discovered in 2013.  The NGB at the time chose not to comply with some of the new AIBA rules and were immediately banned from all international competitions.  This left both England and Great Britain Boxing impotent, with absolutely no opportunity for competition (at least under the St George or Union Jack flag). This metaphorical checkmate forced the funding bodies, Sport England and UK Sport to question the structure of the NGB and along with the insistence by AIBA that the they towed the line, ‘England Boxing’ was born with a different structure of governance and the NGB acquiesced to the rule changes – and this is where we find ourselves today.  One complaint from the breakaway group is the failure of the NGB to involve its members in the decision to change regulations – but it should be clear that even the NGB are not masters of their own destiny when it comes to setting the competitive rules, so consulting its members is nugatory.    So where does this leave the England Boxing Alliance (England) if they choose to revert to the ‘old rules’?  The answer is in no man’s land.  Such an organisation will be unable to enter their boxers into England Boxing tournaments, their boxers will be unable to compete against England Boxing registered boxers but more importantly they will never have the opportunity to represent their country at either National or International level; they will be limited to domestic contests only.

ball-and-chain1But, says the new ABA(E), if enough clubs decide to break away, Sport England and even the Department of Culture, Media & Sport, will once again be forced look closely at their support and funding of the NGB.  It focuses on the London Region’s AGM, held today, as an indicator of the discontent within the boxing community, dubbing it ‘Independence Day’.  ‘London vote to leave England Boxing by overwhelming majority’ it announces on various social media platforms.  But let’s look at this more closely.  The vote did indeed favour a majority of 75 to 21 votes to leave England Boxing but each club in attendance was given two votes.  In fact only 58 of London’s 125 or so clubs bothered to attend the regional meeting. Out of those clubs in attendance, 37 chose to leave England Boxing, 8 abstained and 13 chose to stay.  So in reality only 37 out of 125 clubs in London have chosen to leave England – not a majority at all I’m sure you’ll agree.  But Independence Day it certainly is- the majority of clubs in London have chosen to give their boxers and members the best opportunities available to advance in their sport alongside 400 plus other clubs in England who have chosen to register using The Vault.  By remaining with England Boxing all of these clubs have broken away from the anchors that have held back the progression and modernisation of our sport for far too long.

Why Olympic boxing is bad for women!

In September 2009 I sat in a briefing room alongside my England boxing colleagues at an international training camp in Sweden.  We were eagerly awaiting the announcement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), that would either confirm or deny the inclusion of female boxing at the London Olympic Games.  We all now know the outcome of that decision and finally the only remaining Olympic sport not to allow women’s participation, finally achieved gender parity – or did it?

 

For me the news was good and bad; good because clearly women’s boxing was finally to become an Olympic sport but bad because it was only to include three weight categories – flyweight (51kg), lightweight (60kg) and middleweight (75kg).  As a featherweight (57kg) this presented me with a quandary.   As an ambitious and driven international athlete, there was no question that I would contest an Olympic place – the question was what weight would I choose?  I had two choices; move up to lightweight or lose half a stone to compete for the flyweight spot.  At the time the scoring system favoured the taller, more elusive boxer.  The one punch, one point judging meant a longer reach and a ‘hit and run’ approach maximised potential success.  With a somewhat diminutive stature, moving up to lightweight would mean I would be relatively short at the weight and subsequently up against it from the outset.  There was only one option in my eyes – so flyweight it was!

 

Scales ImageSix weeks after the IOC’s announcement, the first selection camp for the inaugural Great Britain boxing squad was to take place.  I had only 42 days to lose nearly 8 kilograms and to prove that not only could I make the weight but that I could perform once I was there.   In those six weeks I employed the most extreme weight loss methods to achieve my goal.  I ate no solid foods, choosing only meal replacement shakes.  I consumed no more than 600 calories a day but trained for 5 – 6 hours every day.  I ran over 100 miles a week; first thing in the morning and last thing at night – always in a sweat suit.  I lived in that sweatsuit in fact; hours in the sauna creating a vicious cycle of training, sweating, insufficient drinking and more sweating.  It was a miserable time but I had a goal and I was going to do everything in my power to achieve it.  Before I knew it, the first GB selection camp was upon me.  The first thing we had to do on arrival was to weigh in – as I stepped on the scales I weighed 51.1 kg well within the set tolerance – I had done it!.  But making weight was the easy bit, it turned out – having been selected I now had to maintain it and perform to the highest level at it.  That, it turned out, was easier said than done.

 

I was selected alongside six other potential Olympic boxers; Nicola Adams, Nina Smith, Natasha Jonas, Amanda Coulson, Ruth Raper and Savannah Marshall.  All but one of them had changed weight categories in order to make the GB squad.  Nicola and Nina moved down from bantamweight (54 kg), Natasha and Amanda had previously boxed at light welterweight (64 kg) and Savannah Marshall had to move up from welterweight (67 kg at the time).  The fact that we all had to amend our weight categories, some of us to the extreme, illustrates the negative and often dangerous impact of having only three weight categories for female boxers at the Olympics.

 

Lucy O'Connor flyweight
Lucy O’Connor – former GB Flyweight 

I spent just under two years on the GB squad and my extreme weight loss methods continued.  Having started on that roller coaster ride, I had no way to get off.   As soon as I ate anything solid or drank water without sweating it out again, I ballooned in weight.  After a weekend off I could easily gain a stone just in fluid – it was like looking at the Nutty Professor in the mirror the next morning.  This played havoc with my mental well-being, not to mention my physical health.  I felt sick every time I faced the scales, I was a nightmare to live with, my poor husband (and coach) had to deal with my horrible mood swings.  I most definitely suffered from at least two out of the three aspects of the female athlete triad; amenorrhea and disordered eating. Thankfully I was well past the developmental growing stage so signs of osteoporosis were absent. Sadly I was forced to retire from boxing before the London Olympic qualifiers, as my extreme attempts to make weight over such a long period of time had a negative impact on my health – kidneys and liver began to fail and my mental health was at an all time low, enough was enough.

 

But that was me – surely I’m the exception?  I know many young and talented female boxer’s who, quite rightly, aspire to perform on the highest competitive stage.  They, like me, would do anything to achieve an Olympic spot.  But with only three weights to aim for, many young women will be caught between weight categories and many who find themselves at an Olympic weight in their younger days will struggle to maintain it as they grow.  I know a significant number of young female boxers who have sat comfortably at flyweight, but as their bodies naturally grow, they find it harder to stay there.  The leap to lightweight is huge and the pressure to remain at an unnatural weight is even greater.  It is these young female boxers who are at most risk of suffering adverse consequences from the female athlete triad and this is one reason why Olympic boxing is bad for women.  By contrast  male boxers have ten Olympic weights to chose from, greatly reducing the health risks of moving between weight categories.  So whilst it is fantastic that we continue to see women’s boxing in Rio, we are far from achieving parity with the men.

 

This is not the only reason that the current Olympic boxing structure is bad for women. Because of the limited boxing weights, the world only gets to see a small proportion of the talent that female boxing has to offer.  For the last four year Olympic cycle, UK Sport has funded GB boxing to the tune of £13,764,437.  This fund is designed to support only 46 podium and development athletes.  By comparison England Boxing has received only £5,800.000 to support over 140,000 boxers during the Olympic cycle including elite England athletes, schoolboy/girl boxing, junior boxing, youth boxing, grass roots projects and administrator/coaching salaries. So if we look at the funding allocation per head, each  GB boxer benefits from just under £300,000 in that four year cycle.  By comparison, those not on the GB elite programme enjoy only £41.43p per head over that same four year period.  Why is this bad for women?  Well its not for those seven women who currently reside on the GB programme; they enjoy all the benefits that international boxing has to offer.  It does, however, practically ignore 70% of the remaining female boxing talent out there.

 

Cherrelle Brown
Cherrelle Brown England Light Welterweight Champion 2016

Whilst other countries continue to concentrate on the development of all women’s weight categories, Great Britain puts all its eggs in only three baskets and everyone else is largely ignored.  Take the latest women’s world championships as an example.  As expected GB selected Nicola Adams, Chantelle Cameron and Savannah Marshall for the three Olympic weight categories.  Mindful that UK Sport’s funding is only for those three weight categories one might be forgiven for thinking that home nation boxers at non-Olympic weights may have their chance on the world stage.  Cherrelle Brown, for example at light welterweight (64kg), having convincingly won the National England Boxing Championships in may 2016 should have been the front runner for the World Championships spot.  But low and behold, she was not selected, in fact absolutely no England, Scotland or Wales boxers were chosen in non-Olympic weight categories.  Only GB boxers traveled to Kazakhstan in May.  Instead of Cherrelle, Sandy Ryan, one of the GB lightweight boxers was chosen.  Sandy had competed at lightweight at the National Championships but was still chosen ahead of Cherrelle, outside of her weight category and Cherrelle was denied, yet again the chance on the world stage.  All in all only 5 weight categories were contested from the home nations at the World championships, all of them by GB funded boxers.  Where does this leave the other 70% of female boxers in this country – well the answer is hung out to dry.

 

Stacey Copeland
Stacey Copeland – European Silver Medalist

We have some outstanding female boxing talent in this country.  Stacey Copeland is a welterweight world silver medalist, Nina Bradley (nee Hughes) a former GB boxer is back on the scene at featherweight, Ebony Jones (c.57kg), Ivy Jane Smith (54kg), Demi Jade Retzen (48kg), Tanya Dady (48kg) and of course Cherrelle Brown.  Most of these women are international medalists but all are outside the magic three Olympic weights.  Unless they can somehow cram themselves into one of those three weights – they will be overlooked and will never have the opportunity to achieve or demonstrate their full potential as they so rightly deserve.

 

We need to see more women’s boxing weight categories at the Olympics, both to reduce the health risks and to increase the opportunities for women in the sport.  There are rumours that we may see an increase to five weights in Tokyo 2020 – better, but still only half that of the men.  If we do see that weight increase though, GB boxing will be behind the curve having prevented the development of the majority of female boxing in this country.

 

As ever I welcome comments and discussion and if you like this blog please share.  You never know – the more people who ask questions, the more chance of increasing the weights at the next Olympics!

 

 

 

 

 

Three reasons why amateur boxers are not afraid of the pros

In June of this year the International Boxing Association (AIBA), the sport’s world governing body, announced a momentous decision to permit the inclusion of professional boxers at the Rio Olympics.  The decision captured the attention of the media, outraged professional boxing bodies and raised a multiple questions within the wider boxing community about the how and why this was to be achieved.  So why then, having recently concluded the last Olympic qualifying tournament, will we only see two professionals at Rio; Thailand’s lightweight Amnat Ruenroeng and Cameroon’s light heavyweight Hassan N’Dam?  Where are all the Mayweathers, the Golovkins and the Cannelos of the boxing world?  For me, there are three very good reasons why they’re not there.

1.  The Olympics is not such a big deal for the Pros.

Rory McIlroy MBE , former world number 1 golfer

Northern Ireland’s golfing hero Rory McIlroy MBE has chosen not to partake in the Olympic Games at Rio, despite it being the first time in 112 years that golf has been an Olympic sport. Initially citing the Zika virus as a reason for his withdrawal, he later announced that he wouldn’t even watch the golf.  When pressed about which sports he would watch he replied:

“Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving….the stuff that matters”

So why does golf at the Olympics not matter to the sport’s former world number one and why will Olympic participation not matter to professional boxers?   On the whole they see participating in an amateur tournament as a backward step in their career progression.  Now those of us ‘in the know’ appreciate that in boxing the terms ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ do not equate to ‘novice’ and ‘expert’ as their titles might imply.  They are indeed two different sports and within each sport both types of boxers are experts.  Indeed AIBA launched a campaign changing the name of amateur boxing to AIBA Olympic Boxing (AOB) citing that their boxers are not ‘amateurs’ but sportsmen and women who are as dedicated, capable and professional as those who carry that title.

So why then do amateur boxers seek to turn professional and not the other way around?  It’s quite simple – the glitz, the glamour, the fame and the money.  Unless you are talented enough to be on the Great Britain boxing programme, there is no money in amateur boxing.  Most amateur boxers dream of seeing their name in lights and will strive to achieve the highest level in the amateurs in order to gain the greatest springboard into the pros (except female boxers of course but this is a different blog entirely!) We all know that success at the highest level in amateur boxing, particularly Olympic participation with Rob McCracken’s GB boxing, practically guarantees you a contract with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sports.

So with all the rhetoric we have heard from Amir Khan and his wish to box for Pakistan in the Olympics and the Phillipines allegedly holding an Olympic spot open for Manny Pacquiao, will we not see either at Rio?  For professional boxers the risk versus reward of doing so is too heavily weighted towards risk and this is the second reason amateur boxers are not afraid of the pros.

2.   Risk to Reputation

Both the IBF and the WBC have threatened immediate bans to any professional boxer who enters the Olympic Games, citing that the safety risk to amateur boxers is far too high and in so doing they imply that professional boxers are far superior in their ability.  Now I find this perspective naïve, patronising, hypocritical and quite frankly bulls**t.  It’s naïve because in order to qualify for the Olympics you have to be pretty good in the first place.  The qualification process for the Olympics is rigorous and it is effective at filtering out those who are not competent to the highest level – there are no bums or journeymen at the Olympic Games, unlike the pros.  I find it patronising because many of the amateurs at the Olympics will have boxed hundreds of official rounds throughout their respective careers and hundreds more rounds in sparring, often far more than many professionals will have enjoyed.  In order to call yourself a professional boxer you have to prove that you have no underlying medical conditions, you can lace up a pair of gloves, you can find your way into a boxing ring and spar a few rounds in front of a representative from the governing body; hardly a rigorous assessment!  When Robert Smith, the general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, was asked by The Guardian about his opinions on professional inclusion at the Olympics he said:

“We don’t think it’s a very sensible idea at all and ultimately possibly dangerous……….Professional boxers obviously do longer distances etc, and [have] more experience.”

Robert Smith – British Boxing Board of Control

I find his view grossly hypocritical.  The clear mismatches we are presented with at boxing shows on a weekly basis by our professional brethren is testament to this.  In fact as I write this blog Jamie Conlan is in the process of defeating a little known Czechoslovakian Patrik Bartos in two rounds without breaking a sweat, looking somewhat embarrassed during his quest.  On his win all the pundits on Box Nation could say was ‘well he deserved an easy win’.  Well there are no easy wins in amateur boxing because no coach would agree to the match over concerns about the boxer’s safety.  The gulf in experiences within professional boxing is further illustrated if you have ever tried to put a bet on a professional boxing bout.  Just look how many of the fights are 1/100 in favour of the better known boxer!  This can hardly be a fair fight and inevitably a foregone conclusion.

 

 

Vasyl Lomachenko
Vasyl Lomachenko WBO featherweight & super featherweight world champion

Ukraine’s featherweight, Vasyl Lomachenko, having turned professional after the London Olympics, won the WBO International featherweight title on his first ever professional bout.  He contested for a WBO world championship featherweight title on his second bout but lost to an opponent who weighed 11lbs more than Lomachenko at the start of the contest.  On his third professional bout he defeated Gary Russel Jnr to win the vacant WBO featherweight title.  He is now a two weight world champion in only his 7th professional bout.  Does this sound like a novice?

 

Lets look at the issue of weight in a little more depth.  In professional boxing, the weigh in occurs the day before the fight.  This gives the boxer 24 hours to re-hydrate and re-fuel prior to their bout. Many of the boxers put on a significant amount of weight, especially if they have dried out to make weight in the first place.  Amateur boxers don’t have that luxury, they weigh in on the morning of their bout and not only that, they do it every single day that they box.  Could professional boxers adapt to this significant change?

 

Let’s just look at the GB boxers who turned over after the London Olympics.  When Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua stepped into the ring for the first time in the professional game they were considered novices despite their years of boxing experience as amateurs.   They were matched with opponents who were actual novices in the boxing game and we all know the inevitable results in their early professional careers.  So if the IBF or the WBC wish to address the risk element to boxers, perhaps they may wish to look closer to home.  I suggest that the risk in question does not concern the amateurs but it is the professionals who face the risk – not a physical risk but a risk to their reputation.  So despite the rhetoric by Khan and the open invitation to Pacquiao we will not see them at Rio because the adverse risk to their reputation is far too great.  It is highly likely they will get defeated at the Olympics and a defeat will ultimately end or at the very least stymie their career.  The risk of losing to an amateur is too high for a pro.  This brings me on to the third and final reason why amateur boxers are not afraid of the pros.

 

3.  Amateur boxers are better at amateur boxing

The difference between amateur and professional boxing has been likened to the difference between a marathon and a 100m sprint.  The boxing rules, the physical demands, the boxing scoring and the competition structure are completely different between the two sports.  The two professional boxers who have qualified for the Olympics will have to box almost every day for two weeks and be on top of their game every day to ensure their path to the gold medal. With only three rounds to convince the judges that they are the superior boxer, no longer do they have the comfort blanket of the first few rounds to ease their way into the fight or to measure up their opponent.  Amateur boxing is explosive from the first bell and with only three rounds within which to make your mark, the chances of the judges favouring the amateur guy is high.

 

Amateur boxers train day in and day out to compete in three, three minute rounds.  Amateurs at the highest level train to do this almost every day for a week or even two.  With the ten point must boxing scoring system, amateur boxers know that every single round counts.  Unlike pro boxing with the luxury of 12 round championships, an amateur has only three rounds to convince a judge that he or she is the victor, the chances of close split decisions are high and if you are on the losing side your Olympics is over and so is you career and reputation as a pro.

 

There is no scope to wear the opponent down and take advantage of his lesser endurance in the later rounds of a competition as there is in the pro game.  Amateur boxing is a multiple sprint, not an endurance sport and you can guarantee that every amateur boxer at the Olympics is capable of maximum output for all three rounds, every single day.  Olympic boxers face a different opponent in every round of the competition; there is no scope to hand pick your opponent and chose those that best suit your style or maximise your chances of success. Moreover there is no option to avoid those who are the greatest threat as we see, frustratingly, time and time again in the professional game.  All in all, the amateurs have the upper hand at the Olympics and this makes participation a huge gamble for the pros, even for a contemporary Mohamed Ali.  In the future we are only likely to see two types of professional boxers at the Olympics; those who have nothing to lose or those who’s performance in professional boxing have dwindled in the hope that Olympic participation and success will re-ignite their boxing careers.

Mayweather, arguably, has nothing to lose.  He has achieved everything there is to achieve in the professional game and he has more money than he knows what to do with as a result.  The only thing he doesn’t have is an Olympic gold medal having been controversially defeated in the semi-final by Serafim Todorov in his amateur days.  Is was never going to take the risk for the one thing he has never achieved.  His elusive, negative boxing style would not fair well in the amateur game and his chances of reaching the final, if indeed he was to qualify at all, would have been slim.  The other types of pros likely to attempt the Olympics are those who’s professional careers have stalled, but are those boxers likely to qualify for the Olympics in the first place, I think not?

Dr Wu Ching-kuo, AIBA President

So why has AIBA agreed to include professional boxers?  Many in the professional boxing world feel that the AIBA president, Dr Wu Ching-Kuo, is making attempts to take over boxing in its entirety.  These suspicions are further supported by Dr Wu’s statement that the changes were part of his ‘master plan’.  In reality Olympic boxing is the only sport which does not permit inclusion of professional sportsmen and women.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also has grand plans, and those are to ensure that the Olympic Games is the platform that showcases the best athletes in the world.  AIBA have been put under extreme pressure to include professional boxers by the IOC and likely threatened with replacement by one of the professional governing bodies as a penalty for not complying.  It’s not surprising therefore that 84 of the 88 of the delegates at AIBA’s special congress in Lausanne, Switzerland approved the decision.  The final selections, however, remains firmly with each respective National Governing Body ensuring that any budding professional Olympian is subject to the same selection criteria as an amateur boxer and ultimately ensures each country’s NGB has complete control of its Olympic selection.

Whilst the IBF and the WBC have been unashamedly vocal about their objection to professional boxer’s participation at the Olympics the WBA, by contrast, have been suspiciously quiet. Rumours are that they have signed a contract with AIBA – what will this mean for the future of both disciplines – only time will tell?

Boxing is an individual sport…or is it?

img_0045-1

Those of us who have laced up the gloves, climbed through the ropes and heard the first bell, know that boxing is an individual sport.  Once that bell sounds and the referee shouts ‘box’, no-one can help you in there until the bell sounds again.  You are solely in charge of your destiny for those few short (or sometimes very long) minutes.

 

Of course boxers are not alone outside of the ring, they at least have a coach, even as a novice.  Lucky boxers may have a strength and conditioning coach, a nutritionist, a performance coach and a sports psychologist – particularly at the elite level.  So from the most novice to the elite, boxers are part of a team.  The bonds and the trust within that team will effect the development and performance of that boxer in the ring.  Nothing new here, you all cry in unison.  But I am not talking about the number of people in your team, or the skills that they bring to the table – I’m talking about the role that team spirit plays in boxing.
As a former boxer, I was fortunate enough to compete at the highest level and whilst on the Great Britain squad I had support from all the sport science expertise that the English Institute of Sport (EIS) had to offer.  It was a highly competitive time, we were jostling for a single spot at the Olympics and so team spirit, particularly within the same weight category, was limited.  Here, boxing truly was an individual sport.  Despite the incredible technical support, large team of coaches and talented boxing colleagues, I felt truly alone in my quest for the Olympic spot.  Only those with unwavering self belief and an unabashed determination to succeed at all costs would make it through.  These are the qualities that are required of a champion you might argue – and you are right.  But how many more champions could we see if we embrace the power of the team.

 

I did not have such qualities and I know that I did not perform to my full potential.  By contrast my performance was inextricably linked to the strength of the team spirit in the group with whom I trained.  As a full time boxer with the Royal Navy, our camaraderie was second to none and I drew tremendous strength from those around me and their mutual support.  You would expect this, you may say, from a military group.  But even here boxers are in competition – the same as the GB team.  But in the Navy Boxing Team, the strength of the teamwork was infinitely greater. Everyone went through the same hardship of dieting, anaerobic training and sessions after which you could hardly raise your arms – day in, day out.  This group suffering generated a team ethos that improved, not only my performance, but that of every boxer in the team.

 

Look at the Iceland and Wales football teams.  Certainly not comprised of the most expensive or talented individual players but they are outperforming teams of individuals that should, on paper, walk all over them.  Why is this?  I suggest its down to the team spirit, mutual support and resounding belief that they are stronger as a team unit than the sum of its individual players.
But back to boxing.  How does this Gestalt theory help an amateur boxer?  When looking for a boxing club or a coaching team look for one with a strong team dynamic, one which want to work together to better you as a boxer rather than wait for you to prove yourself before they pay you any attention.  With a strong team camaraderie, team spirit and mutual support – boxers can draw strength and confidence from those around them.

 

As co-founder of Poseidon Amateur Boxing Club I have drawn from the experiences I have had in competition and alongside my husband and co-founder Stuart, we work as hard developing team ethos as we do coaching boxing techniques and tactics.  With the help of our performance coach, Dave Bebbington from 2Six Leadership, we are adopting strategies to strengthen our boxer’s resolve, confidence and self belief using the power of the team.  Techniques to ensure effective communication of both coaches and parents, teamwork activities and regular social events have undoubtedly contributed to the continued improvement in the performance of our boxers.

 

By concentrating on the team element in your club, not only will it be a nicer place to belong, it will attract more members and you will set the environment for your boxers to maximise their true potential.

 

For more information about our performance coaching, visit www.2sixleadership.com.

 

 

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