Punch Like a Girl Spotlight: Nicola Conroy
January 2, 2022 | by Matt Halfpenny
In February last year (2022), Active Cheshire and Merseyside Sport funded an all-female England Boxing Level 1 Punch Like A Girl (PLAG) Coaching Course. In addition to this, candidates were provided an equipment pack to take back to their clubs, enabling female focused sessions to take place.
Nicola Conroy (pictured second from right), from Everton Red Triangle in Merseyside and Cheshire, was one of the candidates who successfully completed the course. Here, she tells us about her experience of being part of the course, and how she has taken her new skills back to the club to engage more women participants in the club.
Describe the overall success of the Punch Like A Girl intervention and how you have used it at your club.
I have been attending ERT boxing gym for over 15 years and started going to improve my fitness and lose weight. For many years I felt like I wanted to do more in the boxing gym, and help other girls who may be experiencing the same anxieties around fitness, weight and self-esteem.
Before I attended the course, there were not many girls attending the sessions and sometimes there was only one extra coach (male) to support the sessions. It meant pad work was very limited which for most is one of the most exciting things about going to a boxing a class.
Once I became qualified, we promoted a female-only session and the attendance for the female class has doubled. We now have two regular coaches who support each other and it also means that we can continue to accept more into the group.
It has also shown the girls in the group that women can be coaches and can do just as good a job! Many have been asking about the next round of coaching sessions.
Before the project were there any barriers stopping you from becoming a coach? And how did the Punch Like a Girl project help to overcome these barriers?
For me the barriers were my own life and work commitments, along with not feeling like I was good enough to coach others. I love boxing and felt like I had learnt a lot through my own experiences, I knew as manager of a mental health charity I would have good qualities to coach others, but I was lacking the technical support and advice offering.
After a lot of soul searching, I decided to do the coaching course and push my own personal barriers to finally do something that I had wanted to do for such a long time. My own female coach was also very supportive and encouraged me to go for it.
What elements of this project would you want to celebrate?
Women… it was such a refreshing change to be part of an all-female project. The coaches had the right approach that made us all feel comfortable. The pace of the course was good, and you were not overloaded with information.
It was also a lovely surprise to be given the kit to take back to our clubs to be able to support new females coming along for the first time.
How has Punch Like a Girl improved your skills and allowed you to develop?
PLAG made me more aware of my coaching style and how to approach giving verbal instruction to people who may be doing boxing for the first time.
I learnt how to structure a class of my own, how to be aware of different needs of people who would be attending, and it gave me the confidence to ‘coach’ a person through different shots, stance, head/body defence etc.
I started to feel more like a coach by the end of the course instead of feeling ‘silly’ and that I was out of my depth. I felt different when I returned to my club, and I felt that the other girls treated me differently and listened to what I was showing them.
Where were you before the start of the course, and how has the project had a positive impact on your life?
Before the course I was simply attending a women’s group in a boxing gym that I had done for over 10 years. Now I have done the course I feel like I have become part of the club at a totally different level and more valued for my contribution to the women’s class.
I have been able to see and feel first-hand what it is like to coach someone who is new to boxing and watch how they follow my instruction and put it into practice.
It has also been amazing to hear how the women have said they love coming to class, it makes them feel better when they are feeling down and most importantly, they have lost weight and feel fantastic!
If you were to undertake this process again, what would you do differently/the same?
I felt like the approach of the course was perfect. Like I said, I felt comfortable and at ease in an environment where at first, I felt like a fish out of water. I felt supported to explore my coaching style and safe to ask questions without feeling judged.
Thank you for a wonderful experience.
Interested in becoming a coach?
Contact England Boxing’s Women and Girls Officer, Laura Sargeant via email@example.com for more details.