Secret coach's diary part 9

Secret coach
13/01/2017 7:50am

In the ninth 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 ...

It’s been a wonderful festive period at my gym. I feel that since my last column I have become a better coach and, by extension, a richer person.

Watching young people grow, physically, emotionally, mentally, is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. And being part of a team of coaches is brilliant - the feeling as you all gel and work together to produce the next generation of young boxers is something else. All this has led to me now taking the lead in the corner and, after losing my first few bouts, I have won a fair few as well.

Cornering is one of the most discussed and speculated about aspects of the sport on forums and online. Some corner men have become almost as well known - if not more so- as the fighters they have in the ring.

Yet, like lots of areas of boxing, cornering is almost shrouded in secrecy in terms of the actual mechanics of it. Corner men get criticised for not ‘stepping in’ to provide fighters at all levels with new game plans and yet are often ignored if they help coax a fighter through a tough fight.

Already I have seen lots of different styles in the corner. I’ve seen coaches bollock a fighter for abandoning a game plan; I’ve seen some almost Rocky style scenes of coaches asking fighters to give them ‘one last bit of effort’ or ‘one more round’; I’ve seen some corner men so relaxed it seems as if they are casually watching Goals on Sunday in their slippers, whilst a room full of family, friends and hardcore fans are going crazy all around them.

More comically, I’ve seen a trainer fall over getting into the ring and a second get the stool stuck between the ropes. I’ve even seen a trainer, and a very highly respected professional one at that, cry when a young boxer got his first win.

The same goes for fighters. I’ve seen some sit on their stools, calm and collected despite being outclassed for the last few minutes. I’ve seen kids who are winning have near meltdowns in corners as they feel as if they are losing. I’ve seen kids cry, laugh, try to quit, quit and refuse to quit.

One kid I was seconding for said on returning to his stool.

“I think I’ve broken my nose,” in a laid-back manner.

“You wanna carry on?” the main trainer asked

“Of course!” the lad said, laughing at the idea that a badly split nose would prevent him from going out for two more rounds.

The bond and respect which is formulated in those precious moments in between rounds really indicates if a boxer and a trainer have clicked. Of course, I still have a lot to learn and improve upon. But so far it’s something I have grown to love, despite the heartbreak of seeing a kid who has worked their arse off lose.

Whilst winning is nice, my main concern is always that the kid had fun, is safe, and, a nice little bonus, boxed well.