Looking for a Boxing Gym? How to tell the Good from the Bad and the Ugly
After being the runner up in the Collegiate Boxing Nationals my junior year, I was driven to come back the following year and dominate. That meant going home for the summer and looking for a quality boxing gym. I was on the hunt to look for a great place to workout and come back stronger than ever. I heard about a gym that had an excellent reputation where several pros and amateurs trained. I walked in the door and was instantly in awe of all the fighters, posters, and the boxing ring. I smelled the leather of old boxing equipment, and heard the popping of punching mitts along with the rhythmic sound of the speed bag. I was really excited I found a home for the summer. After finally getting the owner's attention, I quickly signed on the dotted line. I was in. After being in the gym for a few days, I began to notice some things that did not sit right with me. The consistent looks of being "sized up" after shadowboxing was a little odd. It was interesting seeing the condition of some of the heavy bags being salvaged with several rolls of duct tape on them. I began to hear plenty of yelling, screaming, and F bombs coming out of several boxing trainers' mouths to their fighters. A lot of chatting and hang arounds were frequent around the sitting areas and corners of the ring. Now do not get me wrong, I am all for boxing gyms with plenty of blood, sweat, and tears. But I have to admit, the culture of that particular gym was something I did not expect or care for. After a summer in the gym, I experienced a lot of good and some not so good. I held my own and got some great sparring. Although I was not a fan of the teaching style of many of the boxing coaches. I was very conflicted about returning. I finally made up my mind and decided not to sign up again. After many years of working out in plenty of boxing gyms I have come to differentiate from the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here is a list you should consider before joining a boxing gym. WELCOME TO MY BOXING GYM In any line business, you want to feel as if the owner wants and appreciates his or her customers. You want to feel as if the owner takes pride in his facility. Do not attend a gym where you have to go searching for someone to help you. You want the owner to greet you, tell you about the gym, and make you feel welcome. Once you sign up, you want to feel like family. You do not want to be sized up every single day you walk through the door. Egos are something that should not be tolerated and checked at the door. Gym culture is essential boxing gym. KEEP YOUR EQUIPMENT MAINTAINED AND RELEVANT There's nothing worse that putting on a pair a stinky gloves with torn laces and the padding inside ripping out of the seams. It also sucks hitting a heavy bag that is half heavy bag and half duct tape. What is also not cool is holding pads that are old, torn, and with mountains of overlapping tape on it. Sanitize the boxing gloves if they are being used by several people. Buy a new pair if they are ripped or torn. Your knuckles and wrists are being exposed to injury without an adequate pair of gloves. And for goodness sakes, if the gym is too cheap to buy a quality heavy bag or pad, move on! It says a lot about a gym when they do not make equipment a top priority when its shared with multiple people. MAKE SURE THE TRAINERS ARE COMPETENT TEACHERS Being a trainer can be very rewarding and can also be frustrating. Sometimes you want to just step inside the boxer's shoes and just take over. Fortunately or unfortunately (depends on how you look at it) that is impossible. You have to be calm and patient when teaching fighters the ins and outs of the sweet science. But some trainers do not follow this advice. Some trainers yell, scream, cuss, get extremely frustrated, and take it out on the fighter. It is very unfortunate because I have seen many trainers run fighters out of the gym because of personality conflicts. lack of natural talent, or they had the opinion they were not working hard enough. When that happens, the boxer never comes back. They never experience the beauty of what the sport has to offer. Find a competent trainer with a heart of a teacher and motivator. Not a drill instructor. And definitely not a jerk. KEEP THE DRAMA OUT The boxing gym has always been my sanctuary. It has always been a "safe space" for me where I step away from the everyday hustle and bustle. It is an escape from the everyday stress that life brings. But there are gyms out there that welcome with open arms what the outside world brings. There will be people who will have side conversations of who did what to whom. There will be people who want to interrupt your training and want to talk to you while you are hitting the heavy bag. I have even heard other trainers talking trash about other trainers in the same gym! There is not a bigger red flag when gossip is ingrained in the gym's culture. When you see that happening, especially amongst the employees talking to members of the gym, GET OUT. There is no bigger destructive force than gossip. There will never be a "perfect" boxing gym. But there are plenty of gyms out there that DO NOT have the above listed negative attributes. Shop around. Explore your options. Talk to people who enjoy the gym they attend. You will eventually find a home where you can enjoy the sweet science worry free.