Ria Ramnarine became Trinidad & Tobago’s first Boxing World Champion in 2005 and has since gone on to not only win a whole host of championships in other combat sports as well as boxing, but has now become a world renowned coach. Working with Olympic hopefuls in the T&T national team, Ria also even runs her own national boxing programme to encourage more girls in T&T to take up boxing.
You have been involved with a number of combat sports such as karate, ju-jitsu, kickboxing, and Muay Thai; what is it that you love about these sports rand why did you get involved with them?
Yes, quite correct. I got involved pretty much through curiosity I believe. From one calculated act of joining Fine Line gym by paying my first fees with one dollar bills and coins to do weight training, I discovered and became involved in the combat sports one by one.
To begin with, there is a certain feeling that can?t be explained, or at least I can?t find the words that easily describe the passion, the intensity, the euphoria that comes with training in these sports; or the triumphant glow that emanates from inside out when your hand is raised in the ring after a competition; or the satisfaction of knowing that you inspire others. As well as the feeling of choking on tears when you feel that you haven?t quite lived up to expectations, or being confused as to just whose expectations you should be living up to; The cloak of despair that shrouds you when something goes wrong ? an injury, a fight that fell through, a bad decision, a defeat, a bad media article. But somewhere amongst all that, there is a certain delight that makes your eyes smile and your heart flutter, your lips grin and your pores raise. There is a pure delight that comes from sweating during training, feeling glove on the leather of the bags and pads, feeling your muscles pumped, knowing you just defended against powerful shot or even connected with a beauty of a punch of your own. Seeing yourself dancing in the ring, or prodding along like a matador. That is the thing that I experienced, that I fell in love with, which made me stay within the sport, and that still has me involved in it.
What were your reasons for becoming a coach – what was the transition like going from competing to coaching?
To be honest, I’d never envisioned myself as a coach. Maybe as an instructor, helping out with teaching the classes and so on, yes. But not a full time coach. I felt that I would want 200% from the athletes, which is what I had to give in order to be successful. I knew I would demand utmost dedication and discipline, respect and adherence to rules and routines. But bit by bit, I got drawn into spending more and more time teaching classes, on the technical side as well as the physical side. Then I got the opportunity and encouragement to participate in the certification courses. Then I learnt that coaching was a much bigger challenge than being an athlete. And so naturally I catered to that challenge and today, I am happy I was led to the path of coaching. Also, I know that I have a lot to offer to both the individuals who just want to learn the sport as well as those who want to follow the road of becoming world champions. The transition wasn?t difficult because I?d always been assisting with instructing or teaching the classes. The hardest part was taking full responsibility of the students who came under my care knowing each athlete, understanding and accepting, becoming a friend, a foe, the disciplinarian, the therapist, the psychologist, the hairdresser, the babysitter, the driver, the opponent all part of being the coach. Your athletes become part of your life and that can be either very rewarding or very stressful!! But all in all, being a coach, in the real sense of the word, is something special.
What are the biggest lessons you have learnt as an athlete that you have taken into your coaching?
- There are no shortcuts, no escalators, no elevators. To reach the top or to achieve your goals, you must climb the staircase, step by step or go up the ladder, rung by rung; or in this case, round by round.
- They say discipline and dedication and respect are the key factors, but patience is a virtue that is absolutely essential!
Can you tell us about some of the boxers you are currently training and what your ambition for them is?
At the moment I am coaching on three different levels. The Boxing Beyond the Ring (BBTR) group, the club group (at Fine Line Fight Factory) and the national female team.
Will explain BBTR later. The Fine Line group is basically my gym group. (Fine Line is the gym I started at 20 years ago ). I work under the guidance of head coach, Bharrath Ramoutar and together, we train males, females, young, old, middle-aged, abled, not so abled. With regards to the female team, they are the ones I am really focused on for competition at the moment. I’ve got two girls who I believe will medal at the Caribbean Amateur Boxing Championships next month. One is a miniflyweight, so being out of the Olympic weights, I’m looking forward to her excelling at the world championships after working her way up. The other is a lightweight fireball who I can see at 2020 Olympics. She’s still very rough around the edges, has her own awkward style and tons of potential! But time, and patience, will tell.
You recently graduated from the The International Coaching Enrichment Certification Program (ICECP) – can you tell us more about this?
ICECP is the product of people who care about the development of sport and the stakeholders of sport, in particular, the coaches. According to the mission of ICECP, the program is aimed at providing national level coaches and those responsible for the development of the sport national coaching structures in their countries with a practical program orientated towards developing proficiency in several key areas of sport sciences, talent identification, athlete development, coaching education, coaching management, grass roots sport development and ethical aspects of coaching at all levels of competition and across multiple sports. The intended outcome is for ICECP participants to return to their countries and to serve as coaches within their respective sports as well as become foundation builders for future coaches and athletes while spreading the Olympic spirit?.
The three directors and who I like to call the parents of ICECP, Carolina Bayon, Dr. Matthew Robinson and Jeff Schneider are the true heroes of this program as they have created a program which give us the opportunity to discover our talents, strengths, weaknesses, ability and power as coaches. It is funded by Olympic Solidarity and is an amazing program.
I was nominated by the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee for the 7th Edition of the program (2014-2015). After a somewhat a shaky start, I grew as a coach, an administrator and also on a personal level. Boxing Beyond the Ring was conceived through ICECP and after many meetings, brainstorming sessions, training sessions and sleepless nights of report writing, I think I delivered a near perfect presentation and report, and happily graduated with Honors on April 27, 2015. In addition to that, I had the honor and privilege of being selected as the Peer Mentor for the ICECP 8th edition and recently performed that role in Delaware. Another fantastic ICECP experience!