Is learning competitive sports like boxing and the lessons learned restricted solely to the ring?
For a very long time researchers have been unable to show a direct link between psychological qualities learned and displayed in competitive sports and the transference of those qualities into every day life. As a professional coach, I would not hesitate to say that the psychological qualities developed in my competitive sports of boxing and Mixed Martial Arts most definitely transfer into every day life as well as into the corporate environment. I am after all my own best example.
Shy, timid, loner are only a few of the personality traits that describe most of my formative years. Once I began competitive sports, boxing in particular, which I have kept up over the years, I have been able to transfer the strengths that are required to become a champion in boxing into my every day life. Today I feel confident, I am no longer afraid to talk to people and I am definitely no longer timid. In fact most people would describe me as being tenacious. Every now and then I have a client who begins training with me who also coincidently knows someone who went to school with me. When they tell this person what I do for a living, coaching people in the martial arts and boxing, none of them can believe that they are talking about the same person they knew at school. It is comments such as these that that make me realize how important boxing has been in my life and what I have managed to achieve.
Competitive sports like boxing develop several psychological strengths that I believe are excellent qualities to build for day-to-day life. Firstly competitive sports like boxing develop dependability in a leader. I always had problem with authority figures, especially school teachers. I rebelled every chance I got. Yet I would always listen to my boxing coach. Over the years it has taught me to trust leadership and to respect what is advised to me by those far more experienced than I am in any particular field.
Although competitive sports like boxing have a moderate level of sociability, they do allow me the opportunity to socialize with other fighters. The common bond we shared always gave us something to talk about and essentially afforded me the opportunity to develop and hone my social skills. This was a far cry from the kid who would miss school the day a speech had to be made.
Depending on the boxing gym environment, boxing coaches you about being competitive. Under the right coach this can be a very positive experience. In order to compete a boxer needs to develop psychological skills of resilience, focus, a never give up attitude and humility. There is no other endeavor that I know of that has the ability to humble a person quicker than a good 1-2-3 combination. The amazing thing about boxing and yes under the correct healthy tutelage, is that it actually teaches you not to fight, it teaches you that there is a right and wrong place to compete and that tough is not how you act, but rather tough is how you train.
Competitive sports like boxing require high levels of concentration and mental focus. Lapses in concentration could mean possible injuries. You need to be present, free of distractions and perform in the here and now. When growing up I tended to be very unfocused, today I have a strong sense of focus and I am not easily distracted. This has allowed me to continue my studies as well achieving things if never though possible. I am now always able to keep my eye on the ball. What many of my clients say is that when they box, they are so focused on the process that everything else takes a back seat. For that hour all that matters is what is at hand, not the mortgage, their business or any of their worries. It is a process of purifying the mind, filtering out all the harmful chemicals of stress while coaching you how to remain focused under fire.
I think what makes competitive sports like boxing exciting is that there is definitely a level of risk of injury both physically and psychologically. It’s an adrenalin rush! The ability to come back even when one is been beaten both strengthens your psychological resolve as well as your bodies ability to recover quickly. Every night in boxing when you step into the ring to spar you have to face all your inner demons, there is no greater peak experience than to go in anyway, confront your fears, anxieties and the possibility of injury and coming out on the other side stronger physically and mentally.
To a smaller degree competitive sports like boxing teach you cooperation and how to work with another person. When you team up with a partner to drill you both need to have mutual respect and you also both have a common goal to become better. With that in mind you both work to uplift each other’s performance. There are very few opportunities in life where someone is able to do that for you. Because you are always competing against yourself to get better you also learn about intrinsic motivation and why it is so important to reach personal goals. People who make it in boxing are highly motivated internally. The environment and the participation in boxing itself often develop this motivation.
Many people see competitive sports like boxing as an aggressive sport, but so are many others. What makes it aggressive to some is that it is two people purposely going out to knock each other out. Sports like Ice-Hokey, Soccer, Rugby have an equal share of violence both on and of the playing field but the critics seem to be silent about these outbursts because for the most part it seems they where incidental rather than purposely been set up. What I have learnt about boxing is that in fact it coaches you how not to be aggressive. Over aggressiveness and anger in boxing never really leads to someone winning a fight, actually it causes the opposite. The angrier you become the more you loose focus and make mistakes. These errors lead you to loosing. To be really good at boxing you need to know how to remain focused and composed at all times- how to channel your aggression with meaning and not random violence. The more years I box the less aggressive I have become. Today the thought of getting into as fight on the street just appalls me. And I believe it does for many boxers who have spent years hoping their skills and channeling the anger in a controlled, healthy environment.
Lastly competitive sports like boxing are a balance between spontaneity and control. When you are sparring an opponent it can be very unpredictable you never really know what he is going to do. In this lies the paradox, in order to react to the spontaneity you need to be in control. This means in control of your mind, your body and especially your emotions. The skills learnt here are very important ones, especially in light of the increasing stress related illnesses. For many people the constant changing environment of our world has created us into wired up balls of stress- boxing teaches you how to control your mind, body and emotions in an ever changing world, by keeping mentally focused, centered body and balanced emotions.
You don’t need to become a world champion in competitive sports like boxing (Or Mixed Martial Arts) to be exposed and to take on many of the positive psychological benefits of boxing. All you need is the desire, the right coach, who teaches from a place of trust and has a healthy outlook on life and you are set to go. The greatest way to gain insight into these psychological benefits would be to do one-on-one personal training. Even better find a coach who has training and experience in mental game coaching, stress management as well as boxing and martial arts and you will be amazed of the results.
By Rodney King©2005
Rodney King is a Performance Enhancement and Mental Games Coach. He is the innovator of the Crazy Monkey Defense ProgramÒ, which is taught in over 15 countries worldwide. For more information on Rodney and mental game consultation go to CrazyMonkeyDefense.com.