Haringey Box Cup is the biggest open boxing tournament in Europe with over 500 boxers from across the world taking part. Bouts are fought over three days in five rings, with the boxers striving for a gold medal and clubs battling it out to win the coveted cup. It’s always a busy weekend for coaches but this year was even longer for me as I participated in the preceding youth day for the first time.
The day is run as the ultimate outreach programme with 3500 children invited to watch boxing demonstrations and interact with exhibitors such as the Army, London Fire Brigade and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. I always seize an opportunity to merge my day job and my love for coaching so I organised a joint venture with the Met Police Boxing Club and my Amateur club, London Community Boxing (LCB).
Using equipment from LCB and coaches and boxers from the police team we held an interactive exhibit coaching, padding and demonstrating technique to what seemed like a never-ending supply of London school children. The majority of them had never even put on a pair of boxing gloves before but really engaged and I felt we introduced some to a sport they would spend years enjoying. We made sure everyone could get involved regardless of size, gender or ability and at times I think we enjoyed it more than the kids. The day completely exhausted us but was worth it. I haven’t coached children for the last couple of years and I’d almost forgotten the satisfaction it brings. There’s nothing like a look on a kids face when they achieve something like mastering a new technique or coming out of their comfort zone and discovering they are actually really good at something.
The weekend did not stop there for me though. The next three days were spent with the LCB team and consisted of early weigh ins, long days of boxing and late nights after the journey back to the gym and then home. Our team was small this year but due to bad luck in the draw all our bouts were on within minutes of each other. This meant we had to be organised as a coaching team and split our responsibilities.
As bouts can be cut short due to the referee stopping the contest it’s never known exactly when a boxer will be on, time keeping and flexibility are key so we ensured we keep abreast of what was happening in each ring and that the boxers took personal responsibility for their warm ups. They put their all into their bouts (we secured two silver medals) but there was a notable difference between what they produce in the gym to what happened in the ring. As someone who often suffered the same fate I have always been interested in the psychological aspect of competition and the effect nerves can have on performance. I learned over this weekend that this is something we need to address as coaches, even at a novice level.
The Box Cup also saw England enter national teams for the first time. In a special dual match, the Female Youth Team boxed against Australia and I was given the opportunity to help warm up the boxers with pad work and hand up in their corners. A couple of months ago I went up to Sheffield to the English Institute of Sport to see the male and female youth boxers sparring in a selection camp for the Europeans and Youth Commonwealth Games. I had the chance to work with some of the girls and got to know them a little which helped when dealing with any pre-bout nerves. The dual saw seven bouts back to back with only four coaches but the girls boxed brilliantly and won 6-1. I know I am very fortunate to be given opportunities such as this to develop as a coach and hope that I will be in a position to do the same for others one day.
It was a long hard four days but I took a lot away and look forward to doing the whole thing again next year.
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