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Post by: Lucy Walder  |  October 29, 2021

We are now halfway through a new term and Autumn is definitely upon us. The last 18 months have been anything but predictable so we are delighted that it finally feels like we are returning to something resembling normality. With that return also comes the return of crowds and a 67,000 person crowd watching Anthony Joshua versus Oleksandr Usyk at the end of September. I watched it from the comfort of my sofa but imagine the atmosphere must have been electric. And what a fight. It reminded me of why we use boxing as a means to deliver coaching to our young people on the programme. There was so much richness and life lessons within this fight.

We use the three themes of connection, contracting and communication in the programme and every aspect of this was illustrated so beautifully. Like blinkers to a race horse USYK walked on wearing a space mask. As most communication as non verbal it was difficult to gauge what was going on underneath the mask until the mask was removed revealing steely determination. This was a man who was focused and meant business. In contract AJ emitted a relaxed vibe, soaking up the support from the crowd and looking like someone who felt comfortable and relaxed.

Round one saw them establish their territory with the jab, sussing each out. By round 4 AJ no longer looked comfortable and his body language revealed a different demeanour to less than an hour earlier. Clearly rumbled by USYK ringcraft his support team were there, keeping his emotions under control and reiterating the game plan. Unable to shift up a gear he persisted, keeping his composure until the 12 th round when he was saved by the bell as USYK mounted the pressure trying for a late knockout.

When USYK was declared victorious a different picture of a man who refused to listen to the critics who doubted his smaller size would be enough to overcome the likes of Joshua emerged as emotion showed in his face. Most of communication is non verbal and despite USYK limited English you understood exactly what this meant to him. This illustrates the skill of being able to be both in control of your emotions but also the power of being vulnerable in the right surroundings. We encourage this within the teens on the programme – it is not about suppressing your feelings but rather being a container for them and allowing emotional vulnerability in a safe space with the people in your corner.

AJ too was an example to our young people. Personal responsibility lies at the centre of the GRIT programme and AJ summed this up so perfectly by saying in his press interview:

“It was a great lesson today. I know we can look at it from a negative point of view but, for me, I’ve got to take it as a great lesson and build on that situation. I never tend to look at the opponent. I just tend to look at myself and realise where I went wrong. So it’s not so much what he’s done, it’s the opportunities I gave him. It’s not so much him. I’m just going to go back and look at myself and correct my wrongs”

Anthony Joshua

Life can present us with adversity at times and it is about our resilience to this that determines our success. Whilst it might not be our fault when things go wrong it is up to us to put that right for ourselves. This is what we mean by personal responsibility. When we can do that, we are empowered and we are no longer giving our power or opportunities to our opponent, whatever or whomever that opponent might represent. It’s not losing when things don’t go the way you planned, it is a lesson. Whilst getting into the ring may be for very few of us but there are very few of us who won’t benefit from some of the life lessons it can offer.

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