June saw the School boys and girls of England, Scotland and Wales battle it out in the annual Three Nations tournament. This was my first experience cornering for England after having to turn down the opportunity last year due to work commitments. It was a first for many of the kids too and a life long dream, though at only 13 I have been boxing longer than they have been alive!
With 56 children in our care our coaching team of 10 (plus team manager) had their work cut out over the weekend. Long hours, little sleep and missed meals were however rewarded with 56 smiling faces as the boxers realised their dreams of competing for their country. Like teachers on a school trip we laid down ground rules and the time table for the weekend. Away from the venue our responsibilities included training those who had received straight finals or needed to sharpen up, ensuring they had eaten/slept/recovered enough and managing boxers weight. The latter being the hardest due to the age of the boxers. The lead coach, Amanda Coulson (more about her in another post) having to make some difficult decisions. These were done in consultation with the other coaching staff and underpinned by our primary role: safeguarding the boxers in our care. The use of dehydration is often used by boxers to make weight and she had to make a tough call around how much weight certain boxers could lose safely, balancing their desire to box for England and the potential medal haul for the team against our duty of care and the safety of the boxers. This resulted in a couple of boxers being unable to compete however they were reminded they were still part of ‘Team England’ and had roles as supporters and advocates for the team.
The tournament itself was run very well and everything ran smoothly, something which isn’t always the case, especially when boxing abroad. Taking place in Barnsley in the North of England meant that as the host nation we had two places in each weight category meaning our team was double that of the other countries. This enabled a semi final on the Saturday and final on the Sunday.
As a coach I’ve always tried to get the best from my boxers by getting to know what makes them tick. These boxers had automatically been selected due to either winning or being a runner up in the recent championships. This meant I did not know the majority of them. There was also a huge variety of experience. Some of the boys had competed in over 40 bouts while one of the girls had only had three due to no competition at her weight. This meant having to adapt coaching style, terminology and tact for each boxer I was responsible for in a very short space of time. There were nerves and excitement aplenty and I tried my best to help the kids channel them. There was some brilliant boxing, a haul of golds and a great camaraderie. I was fortunate to lead a couple of corners with a very experienced coach who provided valuable feedback on my coaching. I’ve always felt I need to improve my technical game and have focused on this when cornering, trying to sound calm to put the boxer at ease. It was interesting to hear that he felt this was a strong point but I needed to show more passion. This is something I’d actively tried to curtail – I didn’t want to be seen as an emotional female. But it made perfect sense. Yes, some boxers need calm in the corner to settle their nerves and get their head back into the ring but others need a motivational push and need to see the coach is emotionally involved in their success. I’ve learnt to have more confidence in my knowledge and more faith in my personality traits and to utilise them to get the best out of the boxers. The weekend was exhausting but I had the chance to work with some of the best coaches in the country and unusually in boxing, there were no egos or agendas. We were there for the kids. Seeing the joy on their faces when their hands were raised reminded me why I do this.
Author: 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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