Women’s Coach Developement Programme spotlight: Joanne Seward (Winchester)

July 9, 2022 | by Matt Halfpenny


Walking into a boxing gym was one of the best thing the Southern Counties coach has ever done…


How did you first get involved in boxing?

I got into boxing through fitness. Our original gym was in a very small wooden pavilion on the playing field  four minutes walk from my home. They had a large sign advertising new women’s classes, beginners welcome. I was in need of something to do alongside the running I had started the previous year to shift the middle-aged weight that was slowly, but persistently increasing, and also to help with other potential menopause problems.

My first class was run by a young female coach with two of her buddies making up numbers. I was totally useless, but they were encouraging and total beginners themselves. We just laughed our way through the class and by the time I left I was hooked.

I gradually ventured into the guys’ classes, as an extra push to do my best alongside men/boys, mostly much younger than myself. I really don’t know what they thought about my arrival in their very male-dominated space. I persevered until my fitness and coordination improved, it wasn’t a fast journey. I was always the slowest running around the field and I used to go the opposite way around so it wasn’t so soul destroying being the one at the back all the time!

It was one of the best things that I have ever done, walking through those doors. I went on to complete my Level 1 qualification six years later on International women’s day 2020 in an all-women group, which felt very poignant and important for the future of women’s boxing.

We then went into lockdown, so it took a while to be able to use the skills we had learnt. My boxing journey restarted towards the end of 2021 and I now know there are going to be many more adventures to come and boundaries to push for a woman of my age… and I am so looking forward to pushing them!

How pleased are you to be involved in a programme that is actively bidding to push women’s and girls’ boxing forward?

I am beyond excited. The last time I was this excited was when I was waiting to hear about a job that I really passionately wanted to get.

I adore my boxing and having stepped out of my comfort zone to grow as a coach by attending a girl’s sparring day with Terri Kelly and her This Girl Can Box sessions. I was amazed not only by how popular they were, but how many girls had travelled large distances to be there and also how few female coaches there were.

There were three of us, I think, at the January meet up, but something like 70-plus female boxers of all ages. The day was so much fun but, ‘surely that male to female coach balance isn’t right’ was the main thought that was going through my head.

Very recently, I was able to attend a girl’s sparring day at Camden organised by Hawley ABC and Rathbone ABC where it was nearly an equal number of female to male coaches. This didn’t go unnoticed by the boxers and everyone went home buzzing after an amazingly female-strong day. Lots of positive comments from everyone just proved this has to be the way to go.

Thank you, Rachel Bower and Kate Newton, for organising a very thought-provoking session for all of us that were there. There is no doubt this is the way forward and to be involved in the journey to getting there is both inspiring and uplifting. It does feel like history is being made in women’s boxing and this course means I am a part of it.

I now go to sleep thinking about boxing things and wake up thinking about them too!

What do you hope to get out of the FCDP that can improve you as coach?

Firstly, confidence and self-belief, all backed up with the skills I need to become the best female coach I can be. Plus, proof that I am not being silly to be following the dream of getting my level two qualification and maybe even more in the future.

Secondly, visibility and to be taken seriously as an older female coach who doesn’t want to be seen as someone who just coaches the children’s groups. I don’t want to have to hand my young charges on to other coaches if they show promise and want to further their journeys.

Thirdly, to gain a network of female support with like-minded female coaches throughout the country who have been brave enough to push boundaries in the currently male heavy environment of boxing gyms. People who will be happy to listen to the odd rant when things get tough, as they do at times.

How much will attending the WCDP help you in your club environment?

It will back up my self-belief with the skills/knowledge and confidence I need to be taken seriously, despite my age and previous experience.

Coming to boxing so late, through fitness, means you haven’t got sparring/boxing experience. This course is making up for that gap in my history, and I want to show that it really isn’t the problem some people think it is.

It will allow me to prove the doubters wrong by being the best coach I can be and one that any gym would be proud to have on their team.

Who are your biggest boxing inspirations?

This list grows by the week as I meet more incredible people and learn their stories. This is now going to sound like a really bad Oscar acceptance speech as I list them all off, but you did ask!

Firstly, Lucy O’Conner at Poseidon gym, who put my mind at rest when I went to get my DBS sorted out and was feeling very unconfident that I should even be thinking about coaching. She got me virtual sparring with the help of a VR headset, which was the best experience ever… all the reality with none of the pain.

Over lockdown, I heard Amanda Coulson talk on The Box Gathering zoom sessions and I was able to thank her after she told her story. I am so grateful for people like her, meaning that young girls are able to walk into a boxing gym without thinking twice whether they should be there.

Next there was Adam Haniver, who taught our level one course and then sent me a link to those Zoom meetings that they organised over lockdown. I had literally only just passed the course weeks before and had no experience in the coaching world, but he took the time and bothered to say ‘hi’ and send links which then led to the opportunity to listen to so many inspiring people talk about their journeys, whilst sat in my bedroom. A total lockdown highlight.

I then heard Kate Newton and Naadrah Hafeez speak at the first England Boxing Women in Boxing Conference last November, and they inspired me to apply for this course. I can now add Rachel Bower, whom I met at Hawley ABC, with her calm, no-nonsense guidance.

Terri Kelly who runs the This Girl Can Box sparring days and has a computer-like knowledge of all the girls, their clubs, experience, who they would get the most out of sparring with and greets them all with such genuine joy. She then makes sure they have the most amazing day possible. I now know she does so many more things for the women’s boxing world alongside a teaching career.

Then there is Quinton Shillingford from Portsmouth, shouting technical advice and ways to train better, at these events. He is always looking out to make sure people are getting the most from the day, coaches as well as boxers. He looks for any opportunity to get you out of your comfort zone and learn from the experience.

Laura Sargeant, for looking after us all as we start on our journey, for being so down to earth, making us all feel at ease, having patience, issuing continual encouragement and putting the time in to help us on top of everything else she does.

And lastly, Greg Broad, my level two coach home boxing gym buddy, who knows so much about fitness, boxing and kickboxing but is always willing to spend time with anyone at the gym if they look like they could be doing something in a better way. He just quietly suggests things that always help. He has said he’s happy for me to shadow him and learn from him and for that I am so grateful.

They have all inspired me in different ways over the last couple of years and I know there will be many more names to add to this list as my journey continues.

Find out more

For more on the 2022-23 Women’s Coach Development Programme, click here.