Friday, January 04, 2013

Coaching Thoughts

I've always liked this photo of Brandy and Alan, which was taken during last year's Golden Gloves boxing tournament.  Brandy is all smiles, while Alan looks like he's going to give orders to some associates later on: "Saul, Reuben. . . .it'll happen at the warehouse at midnight.  There won't be any slip-ups this time."

Now that the new year is here, I realize that it'll be time to renew my coach's license soon.  I originally went to a coach's clinic and got a license out of frustration.  I wasn't getting any actual fights for the longest time, then I was diagnosed with diabetes, and there went my chance to compete in sanctioned matches.  There was a point when I was going to walk away from boxing completely, then it dawned on me that I liked coaching.  I had been assistant coaching unofficially down at the gym ever since Steve was the coach, so I decided to make it official.

There's no school for coaching.  Every coach I know picked it up by working next to a seasoned coach and observing what they did.  It also helped that most of them had boxed, whether as amateurs and/or professionals, so they knew what all goes into that.  Learning how to coach also involves observing other boxers in the gym and analyzing what they do. 

Each coach has their own style.  Some are very hands on, stepping into the ring themselves to spar in order to better show fighters techniques.  Other yell orders and curse from the sidelines like drill sergeants.  Some are better in one-on-one situations, while others can work with large groups at one time.  I've done the group lesson approach from time to time, but I feel I do better with one or two people at a time.  Sometimes, I think I sound more coherent around a few people than with many.  I'm always concerned about either rambling too much or repeating myself unnecessarily, too. 

My mother used to say to people, "You know I can sing, so that means I know how to scream loud, too."  Sometimes, I use that same phrase on people, depending on the situation.  But I'd rather not scream and yell to get points across in the gym.  Most people tend to be more receptive to advice when it's delivered with an inside voice as opposed to an outside one.  But I'm an urgent encourager, and I try to show that I can relate when a fighter is trying to push through and master a concept.  A few years ago, Momo (Muhammad) was in the middle of a sparring session.  He had barely got to the middle of the second round before complaining about, "I'm too tired!  I can't go on!"  Momo was running from the other person, not returning punches, etc.  "I need to lose some weight, and I'm got arthritis in both knees, but I keep going.  Momo, you're about twenty years younger than me - you can do this," I told him.  He completed the round.

Watching a lot of boxing matches is another good way to develop an eye for what works and doesn't work during fights.  I don't mind listening to the boxing analysts while watching fights, but it might be a good idea to record the fight on the VCR, DVD player, or the TiVo, then play it back with the sound turned down.  See if your opinion matches up with what the analysts saw. 

I've helped out coaching kids, and I've helped out with coaching adults.  Which group is easier?  It depends on the people involved.  The younger the kids are, the more eager they seem to learn and the closer they listen.  Some teenage boys walk into gyms with the "I know everything already" attitude, however.  Some adult men do the same thing, and that is hard to work with.  Females can be a mixed bag.  Some are game to take on challenges from day one regardless of what level of experience they had before they got to the gym.  Others will recoil in horror as soon as I start talking about taking and giving punches.  Most women are not afraid to ask a lot of questions, and they will usually investigate thoroughly before signing up for lessons. 

Patience is valuable in coaching, because all kinds of personalities show up at boxing gyms.  The coach has to work with everyone, but they're not going to click personality-wise with all who come through the door.  When people in the gym are showing out, the coach can't always go there with them.  My father would often say, "I don't want to say anything, because I know it's going to start an argument."  But Dad would always ignore the filter and make his remarks anyway, and then the shouting matches between him and I would begin.  There's been a many a day in the gym where I kept my filter on in order not to make a tense situation worse.  The few times I did blow up -- on Igor,  and on Jordan, in particular -- I still made an effort to carefully measure out what I was going to say. 

I'd like to attend another coaches' clinic at some point.  Unfortunately, most of them are held way out in the 'burbs, and I can't get to them easily.  They're also usually held on days and times when I can't go due to something else on my calendar. I'm at Level 1, and I'm thinking maybe it would be to my advantage to move up to the next level. 

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