Beyond the boxers, who are the persons who make special the boxing world? The Noble art is made up by thousands and thousands of very skilled, experienced and passionate people, who help and support the boxers from their never-ending days inside the gym to the ringside during their matches. The coaches, obviously, are the “best friends” of boxing athletes because they spend the most of their lifetime with those who are used to putting on gloves and mouthguard. If it’s hard to do this job in the men Boxing Area, it’s more complicated to do the same inside the Women’s Boxing Planet.
And so, Today article is the first of a series of depicts about Coaches, Referees/Judges, ITO’S who stand out to make European Women’s Boxing World better and better. The first one to be in the spotlight is….. Amanda Groarke England level 4 – Advanced Coach and a UK sport assessor – 3° Star AIBA Coach…..
I am a married mother of three boy (aged 27, 13 and 11) and as well as currently working as a Performance Coach for Great Britain I am the head coach and co-owner of ‘Hook and Jab’ Boxing Gym ( Warrington, England). I am an England level 4 – Advanced Coach and a UK sport assessor and deliverer of coaching courses. At present I am the highest qualified and most experienced female boxing coach within Great Britain
I first became a qualified England coach in 1997, the same year we established Bridgefoot Boxing Gym, which later changed its name to Hook and Jab Boxing Gym (2014).Following this I became an England coach in 2005 and have attended International training camps and tournaments ever since. These include EUs, European and World Championships at Junior,Youth and Senior level.
Running my own very successful Boxing Gym alongside my husband is a major passion and we have produced a number of English champions, both male and female over the years. I lead and organise all female squads (training camps) for females from 8/10 years-40 years, many of these ladies have developed to competing internationally.
I first started boxing in 1992 when my eldest son was five. I was always very fit as a child, representing my school in athletics as well as participating in karate. On leaving school I became a young mother, determined I would provide for my son I worked doing a number of jobs. I needed to keep fit and had participated in every sport you can imagine, although I tended to get bored quite easily. I was attending a local sports centre weight training daily in between my shifts at work and my sons school, but I needed something more stimulating. I have always been interested in contact sports so decided to go along to my local boxing gym (Hook and Jab). I persuaded my cousin to come along with me. I just wanted to be able to defend myself, living in what is classed as a deprived area. Silly as it sounds I thought what if someone ran off with my son, could I catch them, if I was attacked could I defend myself!
After my first session I was totally hooked. I felt for the first time I had found a sport that I really enjoyed. I was the only female within the gym but no one seemed to notice! I was treated the same as the lads, training and sparring with them. Unfortunately I could only train because in Great Britain females were unable to box until 1997. Due to this, my coach decided he was going to affiliate to the amateur boxing association of England and asked if I would like to partake on a coaching course to enable me to train boxers within our gym. Of course I felt honoured and accepted.
The assistant coaching course (level 1) was the hardest course I have ever done. The instructor made it perfectly clear from day one that females did not do this (as he said). He made it as hard as possible for me, although the harder he made it the more determined I became, excelling on the course, wanting to come top of the class, and have taken this determination and will to excel on every future course. I thank the tutor though as he had set me in good stead for how I would be treated in what was then a male dominated sport. This was proven as I continued to progress through our coaching system from level 1-4.
It wasn’t until I had been coaching for three years and was pregnant with my second son that I was acknowledged. It may have had something to do with hosting my own show heavily pregnant still in the corner. The day after my show I was in the corner at England national championships then gave birth a day later!The birth of my second son changed everything, he was born with down syndrome as well as a serious life threatening heart defect. I thought my world had ended, the pain I felt was like nothing I could ever explain, my son took priority although my boxers had been training hard for championships and bouts. I remember my husband leaving the hospital in the evenings to take the boxers to compete and returning to the hospital at 12am. The nurses were fantastic, and we felt we were not letting the boxers down. However when it came to our son having his open heart surgery he was our priority, we were both by his side 24/7.
Our son was unbelievable; he surpassed all expectations and was discharged from hospital quicker than any other child at the time had ever been a true little fighter.A few weeks after his surgery I was back at work, covering two jobs, as well as being back in the gym. At this time I was working within a university; managing fifteen university sports teams as well as a sports tutor for adults with supported learning.
Twenty two months later I gave birth to my third son. When my youngest was thirteen months old I lost my father who was one of the most important people in my life and I found it very difficult to cope. I felt I could not go out of the house. The only place I felt comfortable was at home and at the boxing gym. I was around people who supported me and this helped me through a difficult stage within my life. It was at this time that I made a productive decision I was going leave my work and become a full time boxing coach. I did this and although I missed my students it was the best decision I could have made. I could now dedicate all my time to a sport of which I loved.
In 2003/2004 I became involved with the England female team, and ever since I have been travelling all over the world to different tournaments and competitions as coach and on lots of occasion’s coach and team manager.
Nothing can prepare you for how you feel from getting a boxer prepared for a contest and taking them into the ring. Some boxers want you with them constantly, not wanting to be left in the changing room alone, whilst others like their space. What you say in the corner can not only determine whether the boxer performs well or not, win or loses but also is safe or not! Knowing your athlete is crucial, each individual is different and you need to treat them different. Boxing is like a roller coaster full of ups and downs, if your boxer wins you feel amazing, if they lose you feel deflated. The most difficult thing is when you have a number of boxers boxing one after the other, you have not got time to spend with them directly after a contest, to share in their joy or their disappointment.
I remember in the beginning of my career I used to get quite nervous for the boxers, although I had to hide my feelings, whereas now I no longer feel any nerves. You just need to reassure them that you believe they can win!
After a number of years coaching with England I was approached by Great Britain to assist with their development team and I jumped at the opportunity. I was learning more than I had ever learnt, working with some of the best coaches not only within Great Britain but the world. This was an exciting new challenge and as if that was not enough I was reunited with my old England team who were now competing for GB. Here I was given the opportunity to work with both male and female international athletes; I loved it.
As time went on an opportunities arose for positions as a GB performance coach and so I applied. After rigorous assessments and interviews I was given a position within team GB, working with not only inspirational athletes, and coaches but also a phenomenal sports science support team. To be told I had made a massive impact in creating opportunities for female coaches within our sport was totally overwhelming.
Being part of team GB I was given the opportunity to participate on the 3* AIBA course in Italy, this was an absolute honour. Here I met more inspirational people, new friends who will be friends for life. Learning more not only about boxing but about other cultures and coaching techniques, working and helping each other was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience.
As a coach I am continuing to learn daily. I am thankful every day of my life, for the opportunities I have been given, for the inspirational people I have met along my journey who keep inspiring me to achieve my goals, and for the amazing family I have who continue to support me throughout my career. If I can achieve this any other human being can also achieve the same. Always remember if you work hard and believe within yourself you can achieve anything.
Boxing has given me so much within my life, It has seen me through some tough times, and brought me out a better person, most importantly I met my soul mate, my husband from boxing who continues to support me, looking after our boys and running the gym whilst I am away.
I have experienced both good and bad within our sport, observing change, not only within the sport but with fellow coach’s opinions and attitudes towards females and their acceptance of us within our sport. I have worked so hard to be accepted and hope I have assisted in making the road a little easier for fellow coaches to follow.
I would like to thank England and GB boxing as well as AIBA for giving me the opportunity as well as believing in me, I will continue to work hard to become the best coach I can possibly be.
I cannot ever imagine being anything other than a boxing coach, I love everything about it! From observing boxers develop from club to international level and playing a small part in their success, to working and learning with fellow coaches, I even love the smell of the boxing gym!
Being given the opportunity to travel all over the world experiencing different cultures and continuing to develop as a coach as well as a human being is truly PRICELESS!