Boxing in Public Schools?
Including Boxing In The School Curriculum
By Jacqui Snow
While children as young as four are being enrolled in extra-curricular martial arts classes, you'd probably be hard pressed to find a boxing class for youngsters in your town, so it's not surprising that the popularity of professional boxing has taken a beating, so to speak, at the hands of professional mixed martial arts. But it's disappointing, given boxing's long and proud tradition in the United States. 20th century America was rich with boxing superstars like Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammed Ali, to name but a few. A professional prizefighter was considered no less glamorous than the NBA or NFL star of today.
With obesity and anti-social behavior becoming serious problems among today's youth, the time is right to engage a new generation of boxing fans by offering amateur boxing as part of the school curriculum. The modern plagues of drugs, crime and a life on the street are all indicative of a culture that runs and hides from the things kids face in life. In boxing, you're surrounded, both figuratively and literally. There's nowhere to run. You have to face and deal directly with the opponent in front of you. That's why extra-curricular boxing through community centers and boxing gyms has long served a vital role in keeping urban kids off the streets and out of trouble, providing them with what Bert Sugar calls a "social staircase" to rise above their means.
The turn of the 21st century has seen a rising number of teenagers settling their disputes with guns. The despicable drive-by shooting, the ultimate example of lacking the balls to face your opponent, serves as an exclamation point on the escalating rate of murders and shooting sprees among teenagers. Of course, there have always been, and will always be, disputes among youth and it's naïve to think that they can all be resolved peacefully; some disagreements always have, and always will, result in fights. But if boxing classes were offered in the school curriculum, teenagers would be equipped with the skills to settle their differences like men (for want of a better word), with hand-to-hand combat. If you needed to resort to using a weapon to beat your adversary, that made you weak and cowardly.
Over and above providing all age groups with the exercise they sorely need in this sedentary era of television and video games, the inclusion of a boxing program in the school curriculum would give our kids something that they've lacked for a long time and which they desperately need: the tools to fight without the use of lethal weapons. We weep and wring our hands at the rising number of teenagers murdering each other, and rightly so, but it's important to note that these deaths have rarely come at the end of a fist.
Of course, the classes taught would have to be age-appropriate and I'm not talking about engaging 8- and 9-year olds in full-contact brawls. Even at that age, though, kids can certainly be taught general boxing techniques—speed, footwork and such—and start to use jump-ropes and punching bags. As they get older, students can learn the various types of punches—jabs, left hooks, straight rights—and how to defend against them. In high school, these training sessions would be coupled with controlled sparring against carefully matched opponents. Inter-school sparring sessions and tournaments on a local and even national level would add an exciting and fun component.
Leon Spinks training kids in St. Louis
Needless to say, any suggestion to bring boxing into the school curriculum (particularly at the elementary age level) will be met with predictable opposition and outrage. Medical professionals will bring up the risk of injury, even though that's a factor in any physical activity, and well-meaning parents will express outrage over the false belief that amateur boxing training will encourage aggressive and bullying behavior in students, when, ironically, the opposite is true. Children have a lot of inherent natural aggressiveness for which boxing training provides an outlet, while reducing bullying by teaching discipline and mutual respect.
By instilling a respect for boxing at a young age, we can cultivate an early appreciation for the intricacies of the sport, which would go a long way toward restoring the sweet science of pugilism to its former glory.