This year I attended the annual Golden Girl Amateur Boxing Tournament in Borås, Sweden, with a small female team from the Metropolitan Police.
We secured funding from the club for two coaches and three boxers however one of the girls turned the trip down due to not wanting to be away from her young child – another additional consideration when coaching women that often gets overlooked. So using the spare place as an opportunity to develop our new coaches we took a recently qualified coach on what would be his first experience coaching at an international tournament. He would also be, most unusually in boxing, the only man on the team.
The tournament is the largest open female competition in the world seeing boxers enter from as far a field as Canada and Thailand. For the girls from ‘The Met’ this was a huge step up for them. Most Met boxers only box other police officers so mixing it with the best Amateur girls could be a little daunting. Even though the categories entered reflected their experience (0-5 bouts) the girls greatest obstacle was their own self confidence. They had started their boxing careers only a year previously boxing each other in the Met championships, the Lafone Cup. The winner had since been inactive and the loser going on to box three more times but was yet to have her hand raised. This tournament wasn’t about seeking gold, it was about gaining valuable experience, proving their ability to themselves and to getting that much deserved win.
Preparation went well with on average, three team training sessions a week and lots of sparring. Its often frowned upon for coaches to spar with their boxers but I started off moving the girls around so they could practice what we had been working on in our sessions. I then called in favours from friends and had a number of girls join our sessions to offer variety in sparring. The girls were sparring with more experienced boxers, one of whom won gold at Golden Girl the year before. Coping with the different styles of boxer and being able to execute their skills against more seasoned athletes gave the girls a huge morale boost. Well planned preparation, injury management (and contingency planning) and a few well timed pep talks meant the girls overcame their psychological barriers and were able to enter the competition with their minds, as well as their bodies, in top condition.
The competition itself brought out their team spirit, helped along by snowball fights and bonding over having to make weight. For girls who struggle for female sparring in their home gyms, seeing hundreds of female boxers all under one roof competing to be crowned ‘Golden Girl’ of the tournament was eye opening. I was also pleased to see an increase in female coaches on previous years and was particularly proud of our all female corner team for half of our bouts.
The boxers gave it their all and both reached the semi finals. They didn’t return with medals but came back with a much needed win, belief in themselves and a fire in their belly’s for the sport. We used the opportunity to make some contacts and spent the last day sparring with those who’d also been knocked out of the competition.
Following the trip one of the boxers has utilised her new sparring contacts and the other has joined her local club. I couldn’t be prouder as a coach and team manager that both girls are continuing with the consistency of training and supplementing their usual sessions with their area coaches. I plan to cut back on the coaching I do with the police to concentrate on their community programmes instead. I hope they continue to attend Golden Girl and look forward to watching next years team and female coaches in action.
Bio: Rachel Bower, is a boxing coach at Earlsfield ABC. A former National Champion and England representative she now coaches Novice to Elite Amateur boxers at club level, the London Female Squad and the Metropolitan Police boxing team. She also holds a position on the England Boxing Coach Education Sub Committee.
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