Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to Get Started in Boxing

by Doug Ward on May 23, 2013

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For the past two installments, we’ve dispelled some of the myths that relate to safety and explored the philosophical question of “why boxing” at all?  Assuming you’ve made it past those first two rounds and now want to know how to actually get started, there are some basic steps you can take and moves you can make that will help you find a gym or a coach that fit YOU like a glove.

Find a gym.  Boxing gyms aren’t typically found in the yellow pages, but there are resources on the internet that can lead you in the right direction.  You can look online or contact your local Golden Gloves, who typically keep a record of gyms in the area.  Another option is to do a broad, general internet search for gyms in your proximity.  Just type in something like “Cleveland Boxing Gyms” or “Boxing Gyms in Las Vegas,” for instance, and see what all comes up in your area.  You can even track down and find gyms by doing a basic search on Facebook.  You won’t know exactly what you’ve found until you follow-up with an email, a phone call or messaging someone in charge, but just finding the gym is the first step.  The discovery process comes a little later.

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Once you find a gym, expect to get registered with USA Boxing (the amateur boxing national governing body), purchase a mouthpiece, hand wraps of your own and, in some cases gloves too, (although some gyms keep numerous pairs on hand for use by their fighters.)  Those are all somewhat simplified, but basic beginning steps, just so you know what to expect.  Once you land in a gym that is right for you, a good coach will step you through the process and lead you in the right direction.  The next consideration for you is researching the gym itself.

Be sure the gym is within striking distance.  The old real estate adage that the appeal of a property is all about location, location, location holds some truth when selecting a gym too.  That’s not say that you can’t or shouldn’t be willing to drive several miles to find a boxing facility, but it can certainly impact your ability to be dependable and train there with the level of consistency you need.  It doesn’t have to be convenient, but be realistic and know that if the distance is too great, it might make your decision to get there more of a challenge.

Be open-minded.  Not all gyms look like the rusty, dusty, broken down sweat boxes from the movies. Gyms come in all shapes, sizes and settings.  They can range from home-run businesses to traditional brick and mortar operations, from store-front facades to vacant warehouses.  There is no real standard when it comes to boxing gyms.  So, the important thing is to choose one that fits your goals and personality.  If you’re not comfortable going into a large group setting, you may want to start with a more personal, one-on-one approach that you’d find with a home-based gym and personal coach.  Even more than the boxing equipment and a fancy ring, you’re buying into the coach.  What you learn is more important than where you learn it.

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Choose your coach carefully.  This is the most crucial element.  The Trainer – Boxer relationship is a two way street and it has to be a good fit, for both parties.  The fighter has to be able to trust and rely on his coach.  In turn, the coach has to feel that his prospect has potential, is dedicated, disciplined and is coachable.   When first meeting a potential coach, the interview process should happen from both ways.   The coach will want to know why you’ve chosen boxing, what your boxing aspirations are, what you hope to accomplish and how much you’re willing to do, sacrifice and endure.  In turn, ask the coach about his coaching philosophy, how soon he has his boxers start sparring after they begin, how soon the fighter should expect to compete, what takes place during a workout session, what is expected of you, the boxer or your child throughout the process.  If any of these questions cannot be clearly answered or you feel uncomfortable with the answer that is given, it might be worth your while to keep looking.  As an example, if the coach talks about sparring and competition before he’s even seen you or your kid work out, has gotten a sense of his ability or competencies, you might want to visit other gyms before settling on that one.  Or, if a coach waxes-on about his own boxing  exploits, his great successful history in the sport and vast level of expertise, but never mentions teaching your kid the basic fundamentals, it’s probably a good idea to move on.   There are many phenomenal coaches in this sport.  There are also a great number of pompous wind-bags.  Don’t assume a coach knows what he’s talking about just because he has a towel draped over his shoulder.

There are any number of signs that will lead you to a good trainer and gym, but at the end of the day you will need to follow your gut.  If it feels right and good, then it is probably a good fit.  If you’re uneasy about the gym or coach, then don’t be afraid to keep shopping.  Overprotective is one thing, but it is you or your kids’ physical and mental well-being at stake so don’t ever be ashamed to say thanks, but no thanks and look at other options.  A good coach and credible gym will not be offended by you wanting to look at all of your options and find what’s right for you, your child and everyone involved.

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Do judge the gym by its cover.  Look at the gym closely.  Survey the surroundings.  A good gym doesn’t have to be new, but it should be clean and maintained.  If there are bags not inflated, heavy bags that are packed-down and hard as a brick to hit, trash in every corner and equipment thrown about, then there’s a good chance that the fighters and the coach are either too busy or don’t respect their space.  They may not respect each other and don’t place real value on what they’re trying to accomplish in the sport.  Again, the equipment and surroundings don’t have to be new, but they should be clean and kept up.  New costs money.  Clean only requires effort.

As far as the environment goes, see that the fighters in the gym are working.  They shouldn’t be standing around watching others train, talking and milling about.  That’s not dedicated training and won’t teach you or your kid the level of discipline that boxing requires.  It won’t help develop the kind of single-mindedness it takes to succeed in the sport of boxing.  If you want a rec center or someplace to dump your kid off for a couple of hours or a new dive to hang out in, then that’s great.  But if you’re looking to learn how to box, then the fighters in the gym should be doing it…not just hanging around it or talking about it.  Real gyms and fighters are actively engaged in training and boxing.

Your success in the sport will can be greatly impacted by the gym you start in, the coach who teaches you the fundamentals and, in the end, what you do with all of it.  Your coach and other boxers in the gym will influence the kind of fighter you become so choose both partnerships wisely.  To some degree, you will be a reflection of them and they will be a reflection on you.  Either way, you will want to like what you see.

Doug Ward is the President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company.

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