Secret coach's diary part 6: walking away
In the sixth part of a candid and revealing series, an anonymous ABA coach describes his experiences, offering an invaluable insight into the highs and lows of life in and around English boxing's amateur grassroots ...
The gym really is getting cold now. The trainers all sit in woolly hats and hoodies. Steam rises off the boxers as they work out, especially the senior boxers, as they train late into the night.
The season is well under way and the fitness and sparring is now 'take no prisoners'. It wasn’t too long ago I was toiling away with the seniors trying to make it onto a show the gym puts on. I remember how I felt exhausted just by the warm-up as well as totally starving as I was following a strict diet.
Despite all that sacrifice and desire I still fell short.
I don’t think many people quite understand how tough it is even being an amateur boxer. You need to be super fit and you need to be bang on weight.
I find it hard when a newbie walks in and they clearly have lots of desire, but feel they only have to train for a few weeks and they will be the second coming of Rocky Marciano.
Do you tell them how it is or encourage that confidence?
The mature student is a case in point. In fairness he has stuck at it. He has been gradually introduced to sparring and he has done ok, although his sparring partners have looked after him.
However the other night, after I had already told him in between rounds what I felt he should do and he waved a dismissive hand at me, he was dropped hard.
The lad who hit him, with a perfect back hand, does carry legitimate power but knows how to pull his punches when in with a new boxer. He said afterwards he felt bad and he’d ‘just tapped’ the mature student.
I got the student out of the ring to check if he was ok but he just walked off.
I am comfortable dealing with upset kids as it happens more frequently - they get hit too hard and cry. They get frustrated and they throw tantrums.
But I didn’t know how to approach this. It was that conundrum again: do I sugar coat it or tell him like it is?
Do I tell him his behaviour is borderline embarrassing? (After all, I noticed a few of the others boxers referring to him as a ‘weirdo'.)
Or do I think, fuck it, you aren’t worth my time?
I tried a half-hearted mixture of the above and, as I spoke, I noticed he had a bit of blood on his gum shield.
He looked at me with a glassy expression and I asked him if he was ok - I was concerned he may have a concussion.
He tried to say something but his gum shield muffled it.
“What?" I asked
He ripped his gum shield out.
“Pad me out!” he shouted at me.
This time I did the walking away.