Secret coach's diary part 5: A lonely place
In the fifth 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 ...
They say that a boxing ring can be one of the loneliest places on earth and I don’t disagree with that. But I think being a coach can sometimes be fairly close.
Picture the scene...
I have a group of around 15 kids, of various ages and abilities. I am trying to teach them to slip and block punches by pairing them up and getting one kid to throw very, very light straight shots while the youngster on the receiving end ‘makes the choice’ of what to do.
Do they catch the shot, use head movement or parry?
Except, three kids are already sitting down, refusing to work with the partner I gave them.
"Come on, let’s give it a go!" I implore them, as they look up at me with disinterest and then look back at the floor.
Some kids are going at it with enthusiasm but are utilising none of the techniques we have been running over, in some cases, for weeks. Instead they drop their hands, laugh, run around, and turn their backs on their opponents. It is chaotic but at least they are having fun.
In contrast, most of the older kids think they are too advanced for this and put in minimal effort. Thankfully some of them attack the task like they do the rest of their training - with complete focus and seriousness, working on all the pointers I’d suggested. If only I had a class full of students like this.
Suddenly, two kids start fighting for real. I catch sight of them out of the corner of my eye; one kid punches the other full whack and the 'punchee' has a bloody nose straight away as he tackles the puncher to the ground. The duo roll around and a commotion starts, all the kids are screaming and carrying on.
Some seniors are sparring at the same time in the big ring and their coach loses it, screaming at the kids (and me) that they need to be able to concentrate whilst they work.
I try to get the kids refocused but to no avail. The two who were fighting are still glaring at each other and 'evil eyeing' across the class.
I still have 15 minutes to go and my plan has gone to shit.
I relent and let them play a game, which has very little to do with boxing aside from fitness. They all love it and some ask as soon as they arrive if they can play. They all know the rules.
But as soon as we start, it’s chaos again. Equipment is flying everywhere, kids are swinging and running and screaming.
I feel frustrated, humiliated and a terrible coach. To top it off, as we wind the shambolic game down, some parents have turned up early, and they look on with steely eyes.
I let the kids all leave early and, as I make my way out to my car, I question if I should keep going.
This isn’t the kind of environment where you can share your doubts with other people.