Friday, July 05, 2013

Sparring Concerns

Matching up people properly for sparring can be problematic.  It's a learning tool, so it is important that the right people be paired off to spar.  However, in most gyms there is never a situation where everyone who's training is able to have a sparring partner who is perfect for them.

Compromises usually have to be made in order to give everyone a chance to practice their skills.  For example, I sparred with both Taheerah and Robert the other day, and the both of them are close to my height.  In the past, I sparred with Oscar a lot because of the same reason.  But usually, everyone I spar with is way taller than I, which makes for some interesting choices in how I will throw punches.  In instances where there's a lack of fighters in the gym who are close in weight and height, match ups may have to be made based on the experience that the fighters have.

I've often heard those new to boxing say, "Oh, no!  I can't get in the ring with that person.  I'll catch a beat down!"  after the coach has decided to put them in with someone who's been fighting for awhile.  Yeah, the coach could match them up with another new person who is new to the sport.  But what will either participant really learn?  Pairing them with someone who has experience will give the new person a better idea about how punches, movement and footwork work.  It will really explain the meaning of "bags don't hit back", and teach lessons about keeping focus.

In gyms where there are more males than females, pairing off people for sparring can even be more tricky.   Sparring with the opposite sex won't be a big deal for some.  But those who are really uncomfortable with it may not attempt it at all.  In that case, they'll have no choice but to wait until someone of the same gender is willing and available to give them some work in the ring.

Age is a big factor, as well.  I remember reading an interview with actor George Clooney, who joked about thinking that at age 40 (which he was at the time), he could still move as well on the basketball court has he did twenty years earlier.  Well, Clooney and I were born in the same year, and I'm sure there are plenty of things that neither of us can do as well as we used to do.  I always have to be mindful of the fact that mostly everyone I spar with is ten to thirty years younger than I am.  The last actual boxing match I had was with a girl who was seventeen years old, which proved that my reflexes aren't what they used to be. Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of older fighters around in the gyms.  Most of us can still move around in the ring, but we have to make adjustments.  A coach is seldom going to be able to match an older boxer with someone close to their age for sparring purposes.  The best thing to do is to match them up as close as possible based on weight, height, and experience.

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