Boxer Jen Hamann took on the extra match of becoming Gym Homeless in the face of preparing for Nationals. She took the risk with me leaving a well known and established gym to go in the direction of the complete unknown. She left an entire community of workout support and had to train alone and often with only me in the room. A big change from a bumping, music blasting, high energy environment that takes your mind off the discomfort of training.
Previously Jen was promised a monthly stipend so she could train full time, go to school and not have to worry about working to make ends meet. I decided to go for this promise too, though I had no idea how we could pull it off. Fundraising is stressful for athletes, especially because it doesn’t feel like an activity that is improving their performance skills set like traditional training. Jen went door to door asking businesses and people to support her dream. Often times, doubts of credential would come up as we hit different stressors. The Inkind donations would come in, but then there was the question of how to pay bills that couldn’t be covered by services. Would people invest in someone who hadn’t achieved a big championship yet? Could we get enough funds to keep her above water? Jen often had to interrupt training or make her days even longer to meet fundraising commitments. Some events seemed futile in their production of monies but would be necessary for exposure. Would these commitments derail her preparation for the ring, or enhance? There were so many ups and downs through the whole process. Worries about how the next bill would be paid on top of wondering if we could even make it to a crucial sparring session or boxing event.
When we started, I had the naive belief that I would have gym walls for her to quickly embrace and that we could settle down to business right away preparing for Nationals. I had no idea the lengthy, heart breaking process that is involved in finding space.
January 31st officially began the long hard trek of driving around to available boxing gyms and non boxing gym spaces. I’d get a lead on a place and something would fall through, or we would have a perfect space for awhile and then something would change. We had many a meltdown during this time period and I often wondered if we were going to stay in one piece and get all the way to Spokane. I doubted my choices daily and when her sass-o-meter blew past level 10, I really wondered if I was making the right choice. Was I doing her in or making it possible for her to be stronger?
Jen is a fierce competitor like none I have ever seen. She wants to win from depths I didn’t know exist in a person. She embraced these past 4 months with an intense conviction and dogged determination. This person/boxer who put the hundreds of hours under a lot of duress is who showed up every day at Nationals this past week to make weight and to win each match with certainty.
Boxers and Coaches have close and tumultuous relationships. After-all, the boxer is putting themselves in the vulnerable position of taking and giving punches on stage in front of a crowd and relying on their coach to give them trustworthy advice.
Everything a coach does everyday influences whether the boxer will trust him/her. As a person, I have my own anxieties, doubts, sass-o-meter explosions. I take wrong turns, do mindless things, have quirks, make strong choices, stress out over simple things, feel insecure, look stupid, feel confident, feel hurt, need attention, need time off, have temper tantrums, act controlling etc. These behaviors affect my boxers exponentially.
The recipe of coach/boxer always involves ingredients of trust, doubt, belief, frustration, getting sick of one another, increased respect and a multitude of other things. These experiences are all behind those 8 minutes of performance in the ring. These experiences are what no one hears about when the champ is being interviewed for 20 seconds. These experiences are what Jen went through to earn that gold.
I still don’t have Gym Walls to house Jen’s efforts and have no idea what the journey forward looks like, but I do know that Jen is a boxer and person who will be successful in achieving her dreams no matter what/who is put in front of her. She will drive, flurry combinations and create interesting angle changes to deal with any opposition.
Next week Jen finds out if she is to travel to a training camp in Colorado Springs on April 21st then off to Venezuela for the Continental Championships that last until May 21st. She will accomplish all this while doing her pre-requisites for Grad School.
I’ve no idea if I will be on this entire journey to 2016 with Jen, but I do know that she will be there representing the U.S. and that I am forever changed from having worked with her so intensely for the past 4 months. Jen Hamann is truly the people’s champion. She has endured a lot and showed you how to be successful with adversity.
Her accomplishing Gold on Saturday is a deep and rich story that was captured by the show of relief in her body after her hands were raised.
Congratulations Jen- you earned this big win. I thank you for all you have taught me personally and as a coach.