This is an old story I’ve told before, so please forgive my repetitiveness.
I was 10 years old in the Colorado mountains. A pristine existence in a place called Summit County that was ideal for a tomboy like me to express myself via activities like climbing trees, building forts, racing dirt bikes and snowmobiles. I played army at recess and refused, along with my best friend, Buffy to be nurses. One day while tromping around with my father, I saw a Golden Gloves poster and immediately blurted out my desire to participate. My father cupped my head and using my childhood nickname said, “Smitty, girls aren’t allowed to box!” I thought what any self respecting girl would think, “Boxing is the stupidest sport I’ve ever heard of.”
This wasn’t my first run in with this type of experience nor was it to be my last. Both myself and another gal in Summit County played baseball from elementary all the way through 9th grade when we were told that upon entering 10th grade we were no longer allowed to play. The only reason was because we were girls. None of this made sense to me, as we were both on the all county all star team. This experience certainly didn’t deter my goals as an athlete.
Somewhere inside a fire burned and I learned that I just couldn’t be told what I could or couldn’t do and that if I was to be waylaid by bureaucracy then I would find another outlet or another way to accomplish my desires.
In life there is no real safety except self-belief- Madonna
One of my biggest lessons came on the basketball court playing with a bunch of guys. After years of fits and tantrums because I wouldn’t get the ball passed to me, I learned how to use actions and self-belief. I finally decided that I would quietly pay my dues. I would run up and down that court without a peep and when the ball landed in my hands, I would do something impeccable with it…..whether it be sink a shot or make a perfect assist- I would let my skill speak. I started to be treated more as a teammate than a girl complaining about not being passed the ball.
35 years later, I’ve boxed as an amateur and as a pro and now I own a gym. While I’ve plenty ability to fight, I’m still determined to apply my lessons from the court. I’ve worked hard to be treated as a coach. A boxing coach. I’m proud to be a woman, but I don’t need that to precede every label put upon me. I’m proud to be a coach that allows all types of people to express themselves. I’m not interested in having folks boxing for me having to fight to have their voices heard…..I want their fight to be contained in the ring, to put their punches to use in a very specific occurrence so they can calmly and confidently face their matches in life.
It’s true, I learned at a young age that I would probably have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously……….but I also want it to be true that those coming after me can put their efforts into effect and not have their efforts be used for only getting a fair shake on the field or in the ring.
I will continue to quietly show up with my skills until one day they break through and I know it will happen because of all the fight I’ve given and laid down. But mostly because of my strong burning self-belief.
I’m thankful for all the trailblazers before me and I owe it to them to widen the path.