What My Kids Have Learned From My Taking up Boxing

What My Kids Have Learned From My Taking up Boxing

For years, I’ve made a habit of letting people try to punch me in the face. I’ve stepped into the boxing ring with some of my clients, fellow attorneys whom I face off against in court, and just about anyone else. Becoming an amateur boxer has changed my life for the better in many ways. Recently, I discovered the positive impact it has had on my kids as well.

My daughter, 18, was thinking ahead to what her adulthood may be like. She wants to be sure to stay active and healthy, and asked what drives me to keep boxing several days a week, no matter how busy or stressed I may be. I had to stop and think about the answer. Since then, in more conversations with her and my son, 13, I’ve realized there’s a slew of lessons they’ve picked up.

Pursue a skill you love, no matter how hard it gets. I first experienced boxing when a client invited me to join him at the gym. The coach gave me an assignment: Defend myself against a 6’5”, 250-pound professional until I couldn’t keep my gloves up. Obviously, the pro took it easy on me, nevertheless I felt pretty proud of myself for how long I lasted — until the coach informed me it had only been two minutes. I enjoyed it though. I decided then to pursue “the sweet science” even if that meant a very long road ahead. There’s humility in doing something regularly that you’re not yet good at — and courage in taking a chance.

Prioritize physical and mental health. To box well, you have to stay fit. It also brings a host of mental health benefits. Research finds the sport can relieve stress, lower blood pressure (in both men and women) and help people sleep better. In my hypercompetitive legal career, stress is inescapable. Finding healthy outlets to let go of it, so I don’t bring it home with me, helps me live a better life and be more present with my family.

Respect the rules. I’m comfortable taking on a match because my opponents and I know what the rules are. I support a zero tolerance policy for rule breaking. The rare times someone does, I have no qualms about giving them a taste of their own medicine. Once, I was boxing against one of my favorite clients and he hit me on the back of the head — an absolute no-no. So I hit him below the belt. We looked at each other angrily and finished the round. Afterward, he said, “You know, I didn’t mean to do that.” I replied, “You know, I meant to!” I told him to be sure not to do that again. He agreed. We shook hands, and our relationship stayed as strong as ever.

Be gracious in victory and defeat. At a time when civility is on the decline in many parts of our society, boxing demands the opposite. You can go at an opponent fairly while still respecting them, and leave your battles in the ring. As boxers, we recognize that there’s inherent honor in choosing to participate. We are expected to be gracious whether we win or lose.

Find time for yourself. It’s common for people, especially parents, to find themselves very busy and overwhelmed. Exercise can easily fall to the wayside. The latest statistics available from the CDC, tabulated in 2018, found that less than a quarter of adults met the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. (Research shows that the pandemic led to fluctuations in exercise time, in many cases decreasing the amount.) It takes active effort to commit to fitness. I’m fortunate to have found a sport that I love and am passionate about, that keeps me coming back.

There are more lessons as well. By dealing with broken noses and black eyes, I’ve shown my kids the value of patience. By training to learn every move an opponent can make and how I can counter it, I’ve shown them the importance of preparation.

I don’t expect my kids to box. My daughter likes jiu jitsu. My son likes team sports. Hopefully, they’ll apply these lessons in physical activities and other parts of their lives.

My advice: Find an activity you love and make sure you don’t give it up no matter how hectic life becomes. If you have children, or any other young people you’re in a position to influence, make sure they know why you put in all that time and effort. You just might find that they’re learning more than you realize.

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