Boxing and Marty Hill
Boxing is for everyone! Now, you might not think so if all you can picture when you think of boxing is Ali and Forman in the Rumble in the Jungle or Pacquiao and Mayweather banging each other around the ring. But ,there actually are multiple levels to boxing. Some are surprisingly comfortable and do not include getting punched in the nose or belly or at all. The key to discovering those levels and to incorporating them into your workout and conditioning routine lies in having the right person to introduce you to them . Marty Hill of the Sweet Science of Boxing Gym in Atlanta is absolutely that person.
Last week I flew from Boston to Atlanta to spend 3 days with Marty Hill and 8 other adults from around the country to attend Marty Hill’s Sweet Science Masters Boxing Clinic. That was quite a commitment for all of us. It was the the type of commitment that makes a responsible person question what the return on investment (ROI) for the commitment is. Having thought about that since the event I can unequivocally say that there was more return on that investment for myself and for the other attendees, than any of us could ever have wished for. Frankly, I was shocked at the ROI.
I mentioned that boxing is for everyone and that the key to discovering where your boxing comfort zone lies is in finding the right person to introduce you to the sport. This person needs to be someone who has the people skills, the personality, the experience and the lack of selfishness that is needed to not only determine where you fit comfortably at the time but also how to actually get you started.
So, what are the requisites that are necessary and why? Let’s start with discussion about the lack of selfishness. A discerning and effective coach in any sport has to be a giver and be about the player and /or the team. The coaching or mentoring has to be selfless and it can`t even remotely be about themselves. For two days and sixteen hours of coaching and teaching every second spent by Marty was spent on us. Before we attended the session all of us received questionnaires related to who we were, what our boxing experience was or was not and what we sought to achieve through the clinic. I can guarantee you that Marty read each questionnaire several times because when we showed up, he already had an accurate perception of who we were and what we sought to achieve.
Second, to be an effective coach you also need to have excellent people skills . Especially in boxing since it carries with it a certain amount of anxiety, even for the experienced. Marty’s people skills are exceptional. He’s very perceptive and it doesn’t take him long to figure out who you are and what you are about and how to apply himself properly to help you be comfortable and more able to learn. His application of himself to you and the teaching process is to help discover a level of comfort for you but also to instill in you the confidence, and the discipline needed to make the experience meaningful. Marty came more than prepared to achieve this comfort and confidence with us as he actually had a boxing curriculum prepared for the entire 16 hours of the clinic. Each segment of the curriculum was layered or built upon the previous segment. All of it designed to create a sound and comfortable base upon which to build skill after boxing skill. None of us even dreamed that there would be a boxing curriculum prepared for us that was so well planned? Remember that this was a clinic involving 9 individuals not just 1 individual so the curriculum had to be one that could be shared by all who attended with all having different levels of skill, conditioning , age and more.
Coaches need to be focused forward yet also be aware of all going on around them. At the clinic for every minute of every day Marty was certainly focused – focused on us and on instructing us. Yet he was also aware of the energy and attention the classes generated and how that was effecting us. When he needed to he adapted and /or showed us how we needed to adapt. He was never on the phone, the cell, the desktop or out the door doing anything else. His level of personal energy and dedication was not only surprising but it was inspirational and motivating. Hosting this boxing clinic and what we got out of it were important to him and it showed.
There was a ton of Marty energy and it was generated externally toward us. In order to create the curriculum and energetically and meaningfully share it with us Marty had to prepare it specifically for this masters boxing clinic and he also had to personally be in the condition required to teach and demonstrate each skill and technique. Teaching and coaching us required that he constantly move from athlete to athlete or from pair to pair of athletes when pairs were skill building as a duo .He was constantly interacting with the athletes while also teaching the group. Not every minute was spent in a drill as there was plenty of instruction and discussion. However, in the span of eight hours, it was required that he exert bursts of energy demonstrating proper technique or mixing it up with individuals to give us a feel or a look at what the real experience should be like .
I left the two day session impressed on many levels but the most impressive part for me was Marty‘s selfless giving of himself to us the entire time. This clinic and Marty was the complete package . There was no cutting corners or filling in space with empty or meaningless drills or wasted time. This clinic was well planned and more importantly…. Well executed.
Another major coaching attribute is that coaches act as guides or mentors. To be an effective guide you have to know and understand the person that you are guiding. You have to be able to map a proper path for the athlete to follow for them to achieve success. Then you have to guide them along the path. This requires that a coach form a bond with the athlete based upon trust and the athlete`s confidence in the coach to successfully guide them to that higher level of athletic performance. Coaching well requires that a coach be able to constantly build better athletic skills and/or teamwork skills in his/her athletes. Marty’s coaching skills are also exceptional. He’s able to instantly gage where a person’s comfort and skill zone is. He also is able to estimate where an athlete`s discomfort zone is. Discomfort zones can be in multiple places or at multiple levels for different aspects of different sports. In boxing, for instance, one may experience discomfort differently in the conditioning phase as opposed to the skills phase or the sparring phase of the sport. Marty was able to gauge that instantly for each of us and to then work with each of us related to our own comfort and discomfort zones. .
Boxing for everyone finds that for some athletes spending more time working in their comfort zone is where they are happy.While, for others sometimes working in or on the edges of the discomfort zone is where they want to be. Marty was exceptional at gauging the proper comfort zone time as well as discomfort zone time for the group as well as for the individual.
Another rather apparent area that coaches need to excel in and that Mary actually owned was: knowledge and experience in and of the sport. The best way to describe Marty’s ownership of boxing knowledge is that he lives boxing constantly. He takes the steps necessary to become more knowledgeable and to become a better coach. He has taken multiple trips to train and work with the nation’s most well-known professional and amateur coaches, trainers and teams. Marty himself is a tremendously skilled and accomplished boxer. He not only talks the talk but he walks the talk. He practices everything he teaches and can execute everything that he asks his athletes to execute. He can not only tell you what to do but he can show you how to do it properly. He can also accomplish this in the ring with you since another key attribute that Marty has is the ability to scale his level of intention and energy to meet the students at their level or slightly above or below depending upon the exercise or technique. Our array of 9 athletes was varied in skill and experience. They ranged from athletes who are United States Boxing Association (USBA) National Masters boxing champions to others who have not yet had a sanctioned boxing match. Marty was instantly able to climb into the ring with each of us for significant amounts of time and work in a meaningful and comfortable way. That ability and approach allowed each athlete to practice what we had been taught against Marty in the ring . Thus, it allowed us to practice our skills live with the coach . In each case Marty that knew exactly what level of participation he needed to apply to the sparring session in order that get the most out of the session for the student.
Once again, everything practiced at and during at the clinic was was designed specifically for us. Marty, at no time, felt that he had to flash his abilities in front of us to impress us or gain our attention . His ego did not require that and was left at the door. What his ego did require was that he provide us with the best two days of boxing education he could.
Coaches are teachers and Marty is as skilled a teacher as I have ever met. Our clinic was a classroom. The classroom came with a curriculum. It was a very challenging two days. The skills sessions and conditioning sessions were tough. The curriculum was cutting edge yet the basics were not overlooked. At the end of each session we were drowning in sweat, gasping for air , usually bent over and looking for something to lean on, yet still ready for and able to take and give more in the next part of the session. Our being able to do that consistently over the eight hours was based upon Marty’s ability to judge for us, what the levels of our tolerability were.
I`d like to drop back to my original statement of “Boxing is for Everyone” again. I mentioned that there are the many different levels of boxing, which most of us would not know about unless we had someone to show and introduce us to them. Something Ive learned over the past few years through my own participation in boxing is that women excel at boxing. Yes, excel. Dependent on what level a women is looking for, it is one of the most rewarding conditioning exercises that they can undertake. In actuality I know many women who excel at all levels of Boxing. . Those women I know that have pursued Boxing become extremely comfortable and adept at it at the level they choose to pursue. They have made Boxing a significant part of their workout or conditioning routines.
At Marty’s Sweet Science Boxing Gym he coaches people through all of the different levels of boxing. In our masters clinic Marty could not assume that any of us were adept at or experienced in the basics as he teaches them at Sweet Science. Thus, Marty very rapidly took us through both the basics and skills as he teaches them at Sweet Science, To many of us this exercise was not basic. It was new and different but it was also a new set of tools to add to our boxing tool boxes.
It’s only 3 days since I’ve left Atlanta and I can’t wait to go back and spend more time with Marty. This time I will invest in some private time with him as a coach as well as participate in some of the classes. I also intend to attend another master`s clinic at Sweet Science Boxing. Boxers have big hearts. You have to to get in the ring. Surprisingly to most those hearts extend far out of the ring into life and the camaraderie created in the clinic atmosphere is hard to describe.
Finally, what I`d like to share with Atlantans is: If you’ve ever thought what it would be like to learn to box or to incorporate boxing as a conditioning piece into your workout routine you absolutely have the best person that I can think of to introduce you to the sport right there in Atlanta. Whether you attend classes for conditioning, footwork and shadow boxing; or for bag classes where you work on the heavy bags or any of the other skills classes offered ; or whether you retain Marty as a personal coach and get to enjoy one of the most fun aspects of training …Hitting the mitts …….. I suggest you contact Marty at the Sweet Science Boxing Gym and schedule time with him. I assure you that, as it was in my case, the experience will be an exceptional return on your investment and that it will be workout time well spent.