You may have heard about The Young Boxing Woman Project. A project to build confidence and leadership skills disguised as a boxing program, leveraging the evidenced based links between physical achievements in sports and achievement in education and career. Lisa Longman is the Co-Founder of the project and shares why embracing discomfort is actually a good thing.
I am an unlikely advocate for women in sports. Because I am one of the women who stopped competing. Who took off each bit of myself someone objected to, until I forgot who I was. And then, I co-founded a not for profit with the idea that encouraging women to master the complex skill of boxing, would increase their view of themselves as strong and confident.
Unlike the other members of our team who are competitive boxers, I started boxing alongside our first group of participants. It has been an incredibly challenging year, but it has also shown me first-hand the changes that come from learning to do what you didn’t think you were capable of that you don’t have to be the best, or the fastest, you just have to continually show up and try.
And while I’m not a great boxer, I am a lot more confident.
By the age of 14, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys, and by age 17, after most girls have gone through puberty, more than half of girls, fifty one percent will have quit sports. Conversely a global study by EY found ninety-four percent of women in the C-suite played sports and that sixty-one percent of female executives said sports contributed to their career success.
Competitive sports such as boxing force the participants to step-up, embrace discomfort, be heard and claim their space. The first time you face a training partner with focus pads, you find yourself constantly apologizing. You soon find that, as in the corporate ring, there is no room for sorry. Being willing to make mistakes and fail is the only way to learn and improve.
In our first year, we planned on running two programs and ended up with eleven. The demand for a proactive approach to issues women we’re encountering has been phenomenal. In two years we’ve had 150 participants, trained three to become peer coaches and mentors, and employed 8 program facilitators.
Our biggest success story has been the involvement of our participants. They have taken ownership of the concept and made it thrive. Connecting with each other outside of the sessions and offered support from eating lunch together to avoid bullying in school, to providing one on one training to participants who felt their skill level was falling behind the group. Each week stories are shared of them engaging in new sports, doing more than they thought they could, and standing up for themselves or others in situations they found confronting.
We’ve engaged female leaders to take an active role as guest speakers, advocates and mentors to provide our university aged participants with pathways and networks into their chosen careers. It’s still uncomfortable. It’s still a challenge to train, to juggle work, family and running a not for profit.
I am embracing that discomfort and learning to thrive.
If you’d like to find out more about The Young Boxing Woman Project head to www.theyoungboxingwomanproject.com