Getting knocked down; getting up again: What boxing has taught us about resilience.
Resilience is defined as the ability to adapt to your environment, and to manage some adversity or to recover from stressful experiences (Prince-Embury, 2007). This can be a complex area when considering young people’s life experiences. As professionals working with young people, we want to help them feel resilient to life’s challenges.
But we also acknowledge that life is not a level playing field. Some young people face massive challenges growing up, many that are outside of their control and associated with social inequalities, exclusion, or community safety. They are understandably knocked down by these, and we don’t think it’s helpful when resilience is used to “expect” young people to bounce back from serious adversities they have experienced. These experiences need to be taken seriously and thought about compassionately. We try to work with young people to develop a shared understanding of these experiences and their impact on their lives.
At the same time, when we think about resilience, we think boxing has a lot to offer, and many examples where young people can develop this skill in the gym, or put it into practice.
Competitive boxing puts our bodies and our minds through a tremendous challenge. Whether it’s the rigorous training sessions, the need to make weight, or facing a tough opponent on fight day, there are plenty of challenges that boxers must face. No matter what level you’re fighting at, to step in the ring as a boxer you are brave, determined, and certainly have some resilience to face challenges head on.
Read on to find out what some of the In Your Corner team have learnt about resilience through boxing.
You are stronger than you think
Speaking about what boxing has taught her, Dr Kathy Adcock, Clinical Psychologist, and boxing coach, said:
“Boxing taught me that I was capable of more than I thought I was in terms of fitness, strength, and getting in the ring and sparring.”
Assistant Psychologist, Ruth Spencer-Lewis, believes boxing taught her how to be mentally and physically strong:
“Boxing, and sport in general, teaches you resilience and probably shows you how much resilience you already have. For me, it showed me that I have a “never give up” attitude.”
Ella Harris, boxing coach and England Boxing National Title Holder, said boxing shows you’ve got more strength than you think: “You’ve got more ability to hold your ground…withstand things that are difficult in the rest of life”.
Women work harder for respect
In the women’s pro boxing game there has been huge progression, with the likes of Katie Taylor, Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas putting on some great shows of boxing and making headlines this year. However, it may still be a challenge in grassroots boxing for women to be taken seriously. I, and many other women, have experienced what it’s like to walk through the doors of a boxing gym and participate in a male-dominated sport. This can require real resilience and a confidence to stand your ground.
Assistant Psychologist Kalema Powell said, “You get overlooked when you’re a woman, you’re expected to not be as good at the sport as your male counterparts.”
Kathy thinks “Girls and women still have to fight to have their voices heard and respected in boxing, and the default is that women have to over-prove themselves to be taken seriously.”
Speaking about the barriers for women getting into boxing, Ella said “For women you have to really want it, because it’s harder to get noticed. It’s harder to get the attention from coaches. It’s harder to walk into a boxing gym when it’s a male environment.”
Ruth thinks women have to work harder to get recognition or “even just to be treated with the same respect as the men. You have to show you can ‘keep up’ with the men to be taken seriously.”
Impossible is nothing
Boxing teaches us many lessons, not just about the sport, but about ourselves. Boxing really does have the power to change your life and help you believe that more is possible for you. Here are some lessons the In Your Corner team have learnt about themselves.
Kalema learnt about her competitor’s spirit: “I think how competitive I am, I couldn’t stand it if I lost. That is my main motivation. If I don’t want to train in winter conditions, I’m like: “Nope, I’m not going to lose.”
Kathy feels she learnt about commitment: “Boxing really highlighted to me how much consistency, putting the time in, and grit will carry you through.”
Ella said “It’s shown me that I have drive and ambition. Boxing is one thing that I've done without anyone encouraging me, but I decided to do it and have made a success of it. So, I think it taught me that I have that capacity to put my mind to something.”
Ruth: “It gave me a belief in myself and showed me I am capable of much more than I tell myself.”.
Life lessons from boxing
Many things we learn on our journey as boxers, we take away and apply to our day to day lives. This can include consistency, being less self-critical, being focused on a task, and having confidence in yourself.
Kalema: “Consistency and practice does make perfect. Like other things in life, if you are struggling with it, it builds up your personality and your resilience to know that you have to keep going.”
Kathy: “I've tried to apply not giving myself a hard time. Really early on a boxing coach said to me "Stop beating yourself up and take it into the ring" and I've tried to do that…It's a journey, as it is for all of us, to become more confident and respectful to myself.”
Ella: “I try to apply the same focus in life, so when you’re sparring, you can’t really switch off or you get hit in the face. So, I think I bring that same attention to other things and make sure that I’m fully engaged in them.” Boxing has also given Ella much more confidence in life “I think stepping into a ring and being prepared to physically fight means that in other bits of my life, I don’t get nervous anymore.”
Ruth: “I am trying to show myself that I am capable of anything outside of boxing if I work hard, have confidence and self-belief.”
So, you want to start boxing?
If you’re thinking about learning how to box or going to a boxing gym, here are a few reasons the In Your Corner team think you should give it a go.
Kalema: “Something you will learn is resilience. Keep going and eventually you will get there.”
Kathy: “If you're interested in trying boxing, then you ARE a boxer, and you belong in the space. It's super normal to feel scared walking into a boxing gym for the first time. Everyone does. And if they say they weren't scared getting in the ring, they're lying!”
Ella: “Just go for it because it’s a really enriching thing to do, both mentally and physically.”
Ruth: “Boxing is for everyone, forget what you think you know, or have seen. Fighting competitively or sparring may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think boxing training definitely can be, so give it a go!”
If you have things you have learnt through boxing that you would like to share, then comment below or get in touch. If you are inspired, then check out your local boxing club and let us know how it goes. We are In Your Corner. Tweet us @IYCboxing.
Prince-Embury, S. (2007) Resiliency Scale for Adolescents: A Profile of Personal Strengths. San Antonio, TX: Harcourt Assessments.