Coach is turning thirty-something soon, as I learned yesterday – he made us do burpees in honour of his bday. What better way to celebrate this momentous occasion than by writing a blog post?
Y’all might remember how disagreeing with Coach is scarier than fighting a three-round boxing fight. Or how he has a very intimidating duck face. Obviously, those are two essential elements to understanding his character, but there are so many other things to write about.
Like how during training yesterday, he smacked DD‘s guard, then mine, almost gently, so half of our teeth rattled upon impact. Satisfied, he told the group that he was getting me and DD ready for some abusive boyfriends. Because when our boyfriends would try smack us around, saying “Awwww yeah“, we could be all “nuh-uh!“, and then knock them out.
Like how 2 years ago, he decided to dedicate 2 hours every Saturday, just for women’s sparring. The boys already had weekly Friday night sessions that were a glory to watch. But until Coach created the Saturday noon sparring sessions for girls, our sessions were always ad hoc, impulsive moments, dependent on a vacant ring, and both girls having their mouth guards with them. We were 4, sometimes 5, girls back then – he had trouble arranging safe sparring partners since we ranged in weight from 115lbs to 175lbs. He would grumble, “Girls, I wanna see some good shit – make it worth my while, getting up this early. Friday is a big night for me, but I still show up on Saturdays. So don’t waste my time, girls. Bring it.” Which we did, and when we didn’t, boy oh boy, did he let us know. Nowadays, we are a group of 12 girls, and the boys come watch us.
Like how Coach once told the class he’d had a dream that he would show up at a provincial boxing tournament with a bus full of female boxers, and we’d devastate the competition, sweeping all weight categories, and all the other gyms would know we were his Amazons. Like how he calls us Amazons.
Like how he asked me why I didn’t come out to support my teammates at a boxing competition, and I told him I’d been out of town, visiting family. Offended, he replied, “We are your family.”
Like how even at his pissiest, moodiest moments, he can’t last 10 minutes without finding something funny, and his eyes twinkling, no matter how hard he tries to still look angry.
Like how he coaches a couple of teenage boys with stern kindness. Occasionally he throws in a few life-lessons about how to navigate social situations with confidence. He follows those wise moments with a back-thump, “You’ll thank me later, I’ve got good game.” Like how they trust him.
Like how one night after training, I was taking the escalator down into the subway and two guys tried, but failed, to snatch my iPhone from my hands. They ran away, swearing viciously. Laughing, I texted Coach that I was too vanilla to even successfully get mugged. Coach’s reply included concern, which I expected, and a request for a visual description of the miscreants, which I didn’t expect. “I don’t tolerate that kind of thing happening to my boxers.” So, I gave a generic description, “One of them was tall and thin, one was short and stocky. The tall one had a ‘fro, and the short one was dressed all in black” thinking that the lack of details would render it useless. But Coach is surprising, and despite Montreal being a big city, he promised me that the next time he saw them, they’d have a “friendly chat”. And I believed him.
Like how we were out drinking one night, 10 boxers and Coach. Waiving over the waitress, Coach explained he was thirsty. 2 minutes later, a full bottle of Jack Daniels and a platter of shot glasses appeared. Much enthusiastic drinking followed. Once that bottle was finished, all the boxers had mellow smiles. Coach waived over the waitress again because he was still thirsty. A full bottle of tequila and a fresh platter of shot glasses appeared. Gamely, we tried to keep with Coach, but there was noticeable slackening in our pace. No one was thirsty after that bottle, except for Coach.
Like how he took care of his long-term girlfriend, when she underwent extensive, hard-core cancer treatment last year. He announced to the class that she was sick and warned us he wouldn’t tolerate any lack of punctuality – we owed it to him to not waste his time, especially at a time like this. Like how I caught him staring off into space, with tears in his eyes after that class. He never mentioned her sickness again, and ran the gym as though everything was fine, even though we knew it couldn’t possibly be. We all began to relax after a couple of months, once he started laughing again.
Like how he is both friend and Coach. Every one of his boxers has many such stories to tell, and so, on behalf of them all: Happy Birthday, Coach.