The newbie coach thread
So recently my club sent out our very first "home brew" fighter; a guy with empty cup, no prior experience, 100% trained at our club and affiliates. My club is a fairly new (3 years now) on-campus kickboxing club. It is taught by whoever happens to be the most experienced member at the time and our style is a mix of muay thai, sanda, american kickboxing and boxing. I happened to be a part of it for the last three years since the founding days.
I remember this kid coming to practice; did some backyard boxing with his friends, college freshman. I thought he'd be a meatheat showing up for a few months like all the other big kids that come.
Boy was I wrong!
He stuck with it, and now he was ready for a fight.
I've had no cornerman experience except being at the IKF world classics last year with one of my coaches. I tried to learn as much as I can from that experience. I also teach whatever I can at my club along with my co-instructor, who used to be a national level competitor at the junior level.
Anyways, I know I tend to rant on but I'll get to the point: I wanted to share my experiences as this kid's coach at the event itself, and what I thought worked and what didn't work. Please tell me your opinions, your input, your experiences, criticisms.
Crew: Me and my fighter's boxing coach, named J.C. JC was also my former coach. Very experienced in both his fight and coaching career, past golden gloves champion and made it through olympic trial qualifiers. Thanks to him, a lot of the boxing at my club isn't crap-kickboxing-boxing.
The fight: IKF continuous point kickboxing tournament in Hialeah, Florida. A short bit about the tourney: the skillset was low; imagine your typical 0-0 new guy in IKF, but not good at all. The skill levels seemed a bit higher at the lower weight classes.
Contact level was full-contact (though its advertised as "semi contact"), and the only thing missing was super-haymakers. Other than that it was a real fight. Funny thing is I've seen some other PKB matches and I don't think this was supposed to be a full contact match at all. Better for us; turned out to be a much better stepping stone experience for my fighter.
I spent a lot of time sparring, training with, coaching and preparing this guy. I'm a good friend of his and I really care for him. Also, because he was my first fighter I really gave him a lot of my attention. Knowing his strengths, weaknesses, personality and being able to predict his reaction to jitters and pressure helped a lot.
My last fight I lost because I had folded to pressure. Because of this I realized how important your psyche is before and in the ring, and figured out that my mentality really made the difference at the fights that I had won. This is what I did:
I had him relax pretty much all day, sitting and lying down facing the wall and not looking at other fighters. I had him either listen to music or use my earplugs, draped towel over his eyes, and just relax. If a guy came into the room and started shadow boxing or did padwork, or whatever (we had some real meatheads staring people down and walking around) I casually stood in between him and my guy. Every once in a while I'd repeat to him what to do and how the most important thing is to focus, not think about things too much and that he cannot be expecting anything until he is in the ring.
Meanwhile I did everything I can to ascertain who his fighter is going to be, when he is fighting, how the fights are going down, what the ref and judges are like, crowd, etc.
His opponent turned out to be the other huge guy; my guy and him was the biggest guy in the tournament. He was much older, tattoos everywhere. His padwork looked good and he looked very calm. I was afraid he was sandbagging this tournament. Still, I didn't deliver any bad news and generally kept him shielded from his environment. The other coach referred to him as "viking" "convict" "gangland" to me, it was pretty funny but of course we kept that **** off of my fighter. Very early in the day I had told him don't worry about what pants he is wearing, tattoos, scary looking guys, staredowns. I told him what I experienced: I'd beat up almost every tattooed guy I fought, and then I lost to a guy who I'd won a staring contest with. I was glad I did.
We started warming up a bit too early, but that had the side benefit of getting his opponent to do padwork too soon as well. Me and the other coach had plenty of time to observe him. He started breaking a bit; I could see that when he realized how big his opponent was, he wasn't so calm anymore.
I did enough padwork to get his sweat going and to take his mind off of things. Second wind wasn't going to be needed here: his first match was two one minute rounds, his second fight against a guy who got a by (so he was gonna be fresh) was going to be three 2 minute rounds, but by then his first fight would have gotten him going.
As he was getting into the ring (actually, it was just a marked mat) I blocked him from his opponents view, the JC huddled next to us and blocked him as much as he can from everyone else. The JC talked in a calm, quiet voice the whole time right into his ear. As soon as he was done receiving instructions, I had him put his gloves together, close his eyes and do his best to meditate. I think this worked. It worked for me for sure.
Protocol was simple. We had only briefly talked about it but I'd been working with my fighter and JC for a long time and it just happened naturally. Only one guy gave him instructions between rounds, only I got to yell during the fight.
Between the rounds, I got to work right away cooling his body down. Here we did some secret cornerman **** that I am not going to discuss. We did not overload him with instructions, kept **** simple, and didn't waste any time. During the fight, my instructions was primal, very simple, and very similar to what I'd shout at him during training. He listened and reacted to me so I guess it worked.
My guy won his division, which had three guys total.
My post fight reflection: honestly, I was nervous as hell. I really put a lot of effort into hiding my nervousnesses, and I was very conscious of how I was acting since it would affect my guy. I think I was more nervous than when I was fighting. A different kind of nervous though. Everything this kid knew was from me and JC. If he screwed up, that was my fault. Fortunately I was confident enough in what I taught him and the kid followed me all the way through the fight. It was a damn good feeling, not as primal as winning the fight myself but in a way much better than that.
Yes, we were all very happy. Kisses and hugs went around, and everyone was cheering. But even post fight I realized I had to be conscious of whats going on; this tourney was just a stepping stone, and he had to stay sharp, edgy and train hard for his upcoming challenges. I learned that mindset is really everything, and when someone is getting trained there is a lot more going on behind the scenes.
By the way, the fights went down straightforward. My guy won both rounds in the first fight, and tied at round one in the second fight. His opponent gave up in round two. My guy was tired but he literally outwilled his opponent. I was quite proud.
On a side note; I also learned people loooove white fighters and heavy hard hitting matches. My guy was the only white boy in the entire place except for the viking, but my guy has this "boy next door" look and viking could have told my guy that hes got a pretty mouth. Everyone in the crowd was latin or black (and I was the only yellow guy there), but even when he went against a latin fighter people were cheering on my guy. Maybe its the UF Kickboxing shirts we were wearing..
Anyways, here is the video. Yes, the technique is all sloppy; certainly sloppier than my first fight. Yes, we're already formulating plans and goals for more training so he can bring more of what he knows in sparring into the ring. Thanks for reading my incoherent story and TIA for the input.
Didn't want to continue reading without letting you know we do have a coaching section.
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