LETTERS FROM ATHLETES & THEIR FAMILIES.
This has been a long-time coming — something I’ve been meaning to put in writing since I graduated. We’ve talked briefly about how much it meant to me to be a part of the Boxing team, but I don’t think I’ve ever fully explained it to you. So, as we’ve now just passed the two-year anniversary of my sole amateur fight in Richmond — perhaps the single defining moment of my life — I just want to say quite simply: thank you.
That first day when I showed up at the gym at the beginning of my senior year, you sat us down and told us the score. You said if you put yourself through this, you’ll be different. You’ll carry yourself different. You said anyone can get drunk and start a fight in a bar — it takes a man to set a date and be there in the ring waiting when the time comes. You said you were going to push us, but you were going to keep us safe. From that point on, I was in.
Getting up at 5:30am to run up and down the Exorcist steps 20 times or do interval training up at the field, going out to the gym to train and learn from you and Steve and Lawrence and Al, watching pro fights and having a few beers with the rest of the guys — those are some of the best memories of my life. Looking back on my experience, that last year was the defining one — that time I spent with the team the most memorable by far. There is no close second. Do I have regrets? Sure. I wish I hadn’t second-guessed myself for my first three years and had instead gone out for the team earlier. I wish I hadn’t skipped practice that one week to write that paper. I wish I’d gotten that medal down in Richmond.
But that’s not important. Here’s what is. I’ve been fortunate in my life to have a number of great male role models who raised me to be a man and taught me how to be a man. But I was always scared. I always have been. It’s just the way I was born, I suppose. So about a week or so before the fight in Richmond, I hung back after practice to talk to you. I didn’t tell you I was scared, because I didn’t want to admit that as a boxer — I asked you something about the right amount of preparation. But you knew I was scared. So you sat me down and put your arm around my shoulder and you said something I will never forget for as long as I live. You said, “XXXX, here’s what you’re gonna do, son. You’re gonna be brave. You’re going to get in there and you’re going to fight, and you’re gonna be brave.”
I can’t quite explain how powerful an effect those words had on me, and continue to have on me. I think about them all the time. Whenever I have the instinct to shrink back out of fear, or when given the choice to flee or confront, I always think of that night in the gym after practice, when everyone else had left, and it was just you there telling me to be brave. That night in Richmond, I hobbled back to the corner after the second round, having taken a hook to the right temple that sent the light bulb flashing off, and I told you I was dizzy. You wouldn’t let me quit. You wouldn’t even entertain the idea. You told me — as straightforwardly as you told me that I was going to be brave — that I was going to advance on your cue, and that when you said “Go forward” I was going to fight, and that I wasn’t going to stop fighting until it was over. With my head swimming in the cigar smoke that filled the room, with all the men in their tuxedos shouting, and the other kid across from me seeming not like a person but something coming out of the smog and pelting me with punches — the last thing I wanted to do was go forward into it. But in all the confusion and exhaustion, I heard you yell “Go forward”…and so I did.
Thank you, Coach, for believing in me, and for giving me a confidence and a sense of accomplishment that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Just as you predicted on that first day in gym, I do carry myself differently now. I will always look back at my year as a member of the team as the proudest and most fun and memorable of my life. Thank you for giving me that gift, and for showing me how to be brave.
I don’t know how, but I hope someday I can repay the favor. If there is ever anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to ask. In the meantime, give my best to all the guys. You must be having the time of your life coaching XXXX this year. Unbelievable. Looking forward to seeing that kid rise to the top in whatever he decides to do in life.
God bless, Coach Bruce. Hope to see you again soon.
I was sitting here and thinking how less then 6 months ago, I frantically reached out to you with pain and fear in my heart and soul. Yes, we had previously looked into getting my then 16 yo enrolled into boxing as a sport but I let life and work get in the way. My son was dealing with anxiety and sadness but I thought it was just normal teen stuff. Then The virus hit. Everything was shut down, we were mandated to social distance. All his time spent in the Fire Academy program which counted towards him graduating just stopped, school stopped.. life just stopped and everything went downhill from there. Come June 24th 2020 (I will never forget that date) my son and I were at a local hospital, guards outside our ER room waiting to have him admitted for his first attempted suicide. How we got to that point I don’t know. I felt numb and lost. Like many boys, he didn’t have a male role model or immediate family we could rely on. As soon as he was admitted (I was not allowed to visit due to Covid for 2 weeks) I had to come up with a plan and pray a lot. Besides making more time for him, being more aware of him and his needs, you were one of my first reach outs. All I could think about was the brotherhood and comradery I saw almost 1 year previous at an indoor match being held at Champion & I knew I had to make that happen. We met with you and not only did you reassure me and took him under your wing, but the kids and adults as well as coaches there (all ages) EMBRACED him like family. You guys CARED about his well being, pushed him, taught him and checked up on him when he didn’t go to practice. It took him a little time to open up. His growth was not overnight. He unfortunately was admitted again for self harm but not a suicide attempt. You were the ONLY person to reach out and send him love and prayers as well as said his TEAM was asking about him. His face LIT UP when he saw the message and THAT’S when I started to see hope again. I’m so proud to say that now, you and the team have allowed and guided my son into the strong right eyed young man he really is. He looks forward to practice, hes focused, more respectful and has learned to love, accept and be loved as well. This is not the young man that laid on a gurney being intubated 6 months ago. This version of my son is the best version of himself and I cant WAIT to continue to see him grow mentally, spiritually and physically.
I have and will continue to recommend to any parent especially with a son or daughter with depression, anxiety or to please look into Champion Boxing. Mental Health is so important especially in these currant times. I know in my heart that my son doesn’t just have a “membership” there. He has so much more. WE have hope and a forever family. Thank you and your coaches and kids 1 million times over!!
Mother of an Athlete