If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I have, up to this point, never written or spoken in first person. The reason is that I didn’t want this blog to be all about me, but instead be very technique and teaching focused. In my opinion there are variety of principles and ideas about boxing fundamentals that are pretty black-and-white so I didn’t want to let an editorial approach get in the way or cloud the message. Having said that, it’s time for a departure. I’m coming out of my shell and, from time to time, I am going to start sharing more insights about my own personal experiences, learnings and perspectives on the sport.
So, the first place I’m going to start is with something I learned from legendary trainer, Eddie Futch. Mr. Futch worked with fighters Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Riddick Bowe, Michael Spinks, Alexis Arguello, Marlon Starling; just to name a few. I had the privilege of meeting him at a boxing event shortly before he passed away. In the brief moment we talked I asked him one broad-sweeping question that he had a quick, specific and decisive answer for. I asked him, “What’s the best advice you can give for coaching fighters?” He said, without hesitation (although I’m paraphrasing here) it is having non-negotiable, clear and unwavering expectations in your gym. He said that the most important thing is laying it on the line with your fighters and spelling out exactly what you want from them and then not deviating from it or compromising. Clearly identify how you want them to perform in the gym, what you expect from them in the ring and how you expect them to behave. Don’t allow your gym to become a rec center where fighters come and go as they please and do whatever they want. Give them an exact routine and insist that they follow it to the tee.
For today’s coach that may mean not allowing loud music during training or not letting your boxers wear their baggy drawers to hang down to their knees. It may simply mean being respectful, not being late and not using foul language. It might mean not making excuses and just putting in the work…no matter what. It’s your gym, so your rules can and will be tailored to how you want your fighters to act. Keep in mind though, that they are also a reflection of you and are they representing what you and your club is all about?
It’s also important to understand that this advice or perspective doesn’t just apply to the coach. It’s also about being a fighter. Looking in the mirror, you have to ask yourself if you have clear expectations of what YOU are doing in the gym. Are you reliable? Are you hard working? Do you have a sincere, clear focus on what you want and why you are there? Having the answers, especially when you’re dealing with internal emotions and your character, isn’t the coaches job. As a fighter, a boxing-fitness enthusiast or a legitimate, career-driven athlete, you should be performing at a greater level than even your coach has set for you. That’s when you will be taken seriously by your peers and by the professionals around you.
Whatever your Laws of the Gym are, it means sticking with them and standing by them, in every case and for every fighter. By Mr. Futch’s estimation that was and is the most crucial component in establishing respect and laying the foundation of a successful athlete. Without clear ground rules; technique, tenacity and skill have no real direction.
Yeah, it sounds a little bit like common sense, but are you, me or we really spelling it out to the fighters? If not then maybe begin by creating clear expectations for yourself. Something tells me that the fighters are sure to follow.