Clubs and boxers must be patient on restart says coach Michael Hawkins
EXPERIENCED coach Michael Hawkins insists amateur clubs and boxers will have to be patient as they work their way back into the ‘new normal’ from the start of next month.
Last week the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) confirmed that clubs across Ireland could reopen their doors from August 1 and Hawkins’s Holy Trinity, like hundreds of others, have been considering the best and most careful way forward from that point.
“We had our first meeting last week, all our coaches were there and everybody’s enthusiastic about getting back,” he said.
“It left a massive void for the kids. Their parents were getting on asking when we were opening, or what they could do, it was such a big change. We just had to play the game. At the beginning it looked very serious but after about six weeks you could see it maybe wasn’t just as bad, and now we are where we are.
“The important thing was to take the time off and make sure you come out of it the other side, do everything properly and by the book, and thankfully it all looks good at the minute. Jolene Donnelly at the Ulster Council was brilliant, she kept the coaches focused with different things on Zoom.
“We’re all coming back now, and it’s just how we manage it from here.”
That is the difficulty. The IABA said there will be national championships until “at least the start of October”, so clubs now have time to work out a strategy of reintroducing boxers of all levels and age grades.
For one the size of Holy Trinity, however, that is easier said than done.
“Some clubs have maybe 20 or 30 boxers - we’ve got around 150 on the books,” said Hawkins.
“There’s the keep fit kids, the ones who want to box and are just breaking through, and the kids who are very good. There’s maybe 60 from 9-13 so we might have to leave that until September, and phase everyone in gradually as we go along. We’re very fortunate to have 10 coaches and they’re all eager to play their part.
“At the beginning a lot of it will be outdoor, so we’ll be using Falls Park. We just have to make it work. There’s a lot of hurdles that have to be overcome, and you have to remember that everybody’s trying to do that with volunteers.
“But we’ll get there.”
It’s not just the boxers who have been knocked out of their stride either – for a man like Hawkins whose life has revolved around the game for the guts of half a century, it was “a complete and utter change”.
“We had a good break… it’s the first time I’ve had a break in about 50 years. Boxing, the two businesses, everything was shut down just like that.
“People say ‘sure you get three months off in the summer’ – we never had any summer where there wasn’t a boxer at a certain level preparing for a championships somewhere. There was always something on, and if it wasn’t as major as someone going to an Olympic Games or a Commonwealth Games, it was a club tournament.
“We had five solid weeks off everything and it was great to get a break, but since then you’re looking to get back at it. We’re glad now to have a date to work towards, so it’s all systems go from here.”