Secret coach's diary part 3: 'little steps'
In the third 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 amateur boxing season is definitely underway. Fights are coming thick and fast for our junior and senior fighters and we have won significantly more than we’ve lost. Some of our fighters have represented the county and others have picked up regional titles.
It’s a wonderful feeling to see kids you’ve worked on little things with pull them out in the ring and pick up deserved wins. However, I can’t really take much credit myself as the more senior coaches have had a much bigger impact on these young people's careers.
The owner and head coach of our gym is a real character. He had an odd pro career. I can’t really find much footage of him online. I was still a teenager when he last fought, and back then boxing was something I did a bit of but didn’t watch a lot of. He won a fair bit and picked up a few domestic titles and went close with some Euro level belts.
Despite his achievements though he lost when he came up against ‘name’ fighters, i.e. guys who went on to win world titles. People who watched him back in the day tell me he was a ‘brawler’ and an inside fighter. I’ve never heard anyone say he wasn’t seriously tough.
It’s funny therefore that he is such a superb technical coach who discourages most of his boxers from working on the inside and getting into wars. I once read that the reason the football manager Tony Mowbray, a centre back, liked his team to play beautiful one-touch football was because he could never do that as a player himself. I’ve always felt that rationale also explains why our head coach is so desperate to get his students boxing in a way he never did, or perhaps never could, when he was a pro.
Regardless of why he does it, it is paying off massively. I recently watched some of the students' techniques while sparring with the head coach supervising and the movement, shot selection and defence from the kids was wonderful. It sounds daft but it some ways I was in awe. To take a raw product and produce something so refined takes dedication and skill.
I think it all comes off the back of a sense of humour. Coach genuinely makes the kids have fun and laugh, whilst also working hard and learning new things. I, however, have a fairly dry sense of humour and, to be quite frank, it doesn’t really translate to nine-year-olds.
Despite that, I think I have made some solid connections with a few of the younger students. I’ve tried to take myself less seriously and loosen up, and it seems to have worked.
The kid who stabbed another kid with a screwdriver was, unsurprisingly, a real handful at first, but has now turned into a completely new person. It’s little things, but him collecting up cones I’ve put out for an exercise, unprompted, shows he wants to help. If I’ll ever be able to produce title winners, in the amateur or professional ranks, I have no idea. But just making those little steps is a great feeling.
Ultimately almost all amateur coaches aren’t earning a penny from the sport and I guess if you don’t get that buzz, you wouldn’t keep turning up, night after night weekend after weekend.