My First International Tournament with England Boxing

Back in January I travelled out to Serbia for the Nations Cup boxing tournament with Team England. As a support coach I assisted the two full time England coaches with a team of girls in the Schools, Junior and Youth categories.

Our trip was nine days in total which was a long time for the adults let alone the boxers, the youngest of whom was 12. Bleak weather, lukewarm Serbian food and weak WiFi signal for the entire trip intensified the homesickness of the group but the team stuck together through wins and loses and remained in high spirits.

The competition schedule meant the girls didn’t box everyday and when they were knocked out of the competition (figuratively not literally thankfully!) we utilised the mornings for sparring. This was a great opportunity to gain much needed experience, boxing different nations (and therefore different styles) regardless of whether it was during the competition or in morning sessions.

Some of our most promising boxers drew tough opponents in the first round and didn’t progress into the medal stages however they got double or triple the rounds in compared to those still boxing for a place.

We always come for medals but this time there was a bigger picture – a ‘major’ tournament on the horizon and the Nations Cup was our prep. Some of the team, who had all boxed internationally before, had only had a handful of bouts, or had only boxed on the big stage a handful of times.

Boxing under the spotlights, live streamed around the world and sparring European and world champions gave the girls the confidence of knowing they can mix it with the best and so it under pressure. Boxing, everyday while being on weight (rather than the typical binge after weigh in) prepares them for the tough reality of Amateur tournaments.

A contrast to the single bouts which some of them would only get a couple of times a year due to lack of competition domestically. Robustness is one of the qualities Team England try to foster in their athletes and this is exactly why, boxing every or every other day for the duration of a tournament is common. 

The girls brought home a haul of medals, we were high enough in the medal table to get third placed Schools and second placed Junior team – a feat when we had such a small team compared to the likes of Russia and China.

The boxers also gained valuable experience and confidence in preparation for the European Championships. However, they weren’t the only ones. My first International tournament as a national coach taught me a lot about playing the long game in this sport and seeing past immediate gratification.

So that’s what I’m going to do, take my coaching journey just one step at a time.

Author: Rachel Bower is a former national champion who now runs Rathbone Amateur Boxing Club in central London. She also coaches for England and holds a position on the England Boxing Coaching Sub Committee. 
Follow Rachel on Twitter: @RachelBower6