Women’s Coach Development Programme spotlight: Sherri Walker (White Rose Boxing Club)
August 13, 2022 | by Matt Halfpenny
The Yorkshire region coach has been passionate about boxing from a young age, saying the WCDP has helped boost her confidence – and enabled her to introduce a women’s session to her gym.
How did you first get involved in boxing?
I was first exposed to boxing at a young age, where my dad would take me along with him to watch Ricky Hatton, which is when I became a fan. I even went to Boston to watch him box ringside and loved the atmosphere. The lights, the ring girls, the action. I knew I wanted to be a part of it but didn’t know where I’d fit in.
Later down the line at the age of 18, I decided I wanted to be a ring card girl and got the job immediately with my confidence and (at the time) physical attributes. This way I was getting paid to be ring side. I worked as a ring card girl for years on MMA and boxing shows up and down the country, until one day I was put on a white collar show in my own town – Wakefield.
I immediately signed up to box on their next show with eight weeks free training, raising money for cancer research. I then did the same thing a year later – but this time I knew who I was going to be matched against, and I knew she was going to beat me if I didn’t put some extra work in! (Her name is Sanchia Suffield from Evolve Boxing Club in Morley; she also turned amateur like myself, where we faced each other again, and she is now an amazing coach in her own right, so I’d love to put her name out there.)
This is when I found White Rose. I didn’t even know it existed before my dad’s mate told me he coached there and so I went straight down. It was then that I was told that white collar isn’t really what they’re about, but they’d help me if I turned amateur after the charity boxing match.
I agreed (not knowing what I was letting myself in for.) I stuck by my word and after the charity fight I went amateur and was coached to a new level I didn’t even know existed; I was in the best shape of my life.
So I boxed amateur for a while and did reasonably well considering my limited experience, but was carrying an insufferable injury to my back, having to take pain killers on a daily basis which I still have to do, and I knew that I was not ever going to be able to go much further myself, not to mention I was 25 by this point so I knew time was ticking. By this point, I had made a good impression at the gym and had already been asked If I’d do my level one and help out coaching, which is when my coaching journey began…
How pleased are you to be involved in a programme that is actively bidding to push women’s and girls’ boxing forward?
I feel so proud to be involved in the programme, representing not only my club, but Yorkshire. Coming from a club where I was one of only two to three females, I hope that when people see how actively involved I am with trying to push women’s boxing, that more women and girls will be brave enough to come and try it out.
We recently have started a female only group (a decision I made because of the programme to hopefully attract more women), and we have had a positive response to it so far.
We have young girls that are strong amateur prospects, as well as some of the boxers’ mums coming to try it out which is so pleasing to see. We have had great feedback so far and I look forward to being able to coach them to the best of their abilities thanks to the programme for giving me the confidence to go for it.
What do you hope to get out of the WCDP that can improve you as coach?
Due to lockdown, as well as having a baby, I have had a fair amount of time away from the gym up until June 2021. My confidence was rock bottom due to having a lot of extra weight, no fitness and having to start completely from scratch – we had no boxers at all when we re opened.
So the thought of coaching classes of new people I’d never met was daunting. I felt like I wasn’t fast enough, wasn’t experienced enough, wasn’t good enough to be a coach. I let the male coaches take over and took a back seat. I was still present every night but having a more organisational role rather than being an active coach.
But I realised by doing this I was sitting in my comfort zone and not doing what I should be doing, which is coaching the boxers. Coming to Aspire really showed me that it doesn’t matter who you are, your level of experience or even your weight / image, anyone can be a coach and there’s more to coaching than doing impressive pad combinations like Floyd Mayweather’s coach.
Being involved with the WCDP is building my confidence… I can take a class without any help. I am capable of taking boxers to shows and cornering them. I just need to get on with it and not allow myself to sit back in my comfort zone and let the men take over.
So confidence is the main thing, but the support I’ve been offered is also invaluable… I have expert opinions and answers to any questions within seconds. No more having my head in my hands trying to understand the club matrix. Help is on hand!
Finally, seeing the Institute of Sport, seeing all the different methods of coaching in action with talented boxers, has given me aspirations for my boxers, and I am now much more informed about how to help them succeed.
How much will attending the WCDP help you in your club environment?
As I have already mentioned above, I have taken more of an organisational role within my club since taking it over, which I am very good at, but I am allowing my insecurities to get the better of me by not getting involved in coaching as much as I should.
The WCDP is already helping to build my confidence by giving me experience with talented boxers at Aspire, giving me the opportunity to get involved. This has helped give me the validation I have needed to realise I am just as capable as the other coaches in the gym, but I need to get the pads on/ take charge and coach.
Not just this, but I am now more informed about various competitions I previously didn’t know about, which our boxers can enter, meaning our boxers will get to compete more. The WCDP has also given me the push to introduce a women’s class at the club, which is going extremely well.
In a way, the WCDP has helped me realise that us girls don’t necessarily need to be “one of the boys” in the gym, which is how I’ve previously felt, that I need to act a certain way in order to fit in with the masculine energy in the gym. But I now realise that there is a place for a feminine energy in the gym environment and in fact, we can be girls, and we can box, and we can coach and we can do so by just being ourselves.
Who are your biggest boxing inspirations?
Terri Harper is a massive inspiration to me. She has gone from working in a fish and chip shop (which I also did as my first job for a number of years) to world champion with limited amateur experience, which is phenomenal. And even when she reached the top she reached out and helped to coach others including myself and was so down to earth and humble. Hopefully, even in the face of adversity, she will come back stronger and become world champion again. Massive thanks to Terri for the one-to-ones she did with me.
I like Ebanie Bridges, due to having a lot in common, having also been a ring girl then turned into a boxer. I think she has a great sense of humour and I love how she hasn’t lost her femininity, unapologetically showing up to weigh-ins in her matching sexy lingerie. Why shouldn’t attractive women box?
I am a massive Anthony Joshua fan. I like how he started late at 18-years-old and he managed to accomplish so much in such a short space of time. I like how he doesn’t make excuses for his losses… he just goes back to work and tries to rectify them. Hopefully, he’ll be world champion again this summer.
Vasiliy Lomachenko for his unbelievable skill – and bravery – fighting for his country rather than boxing for the belts he lost. My son is named after him.
Wladimir Klitschko not only an incredible boxer, but how he is incredibly intelligent and tries to use his platform to educate others and do good for his country and the world. Humble in victory and gracious in defeat, the sportsmanship he shows sets a great example to young boxers.