Friday, January 13, 2012

Benefits and Risks of Kids' Boxing

Despite its reputation for violence, many boxing gyms offer popular kids' programs. According to kids' combat sport expert Dave Coffman, boxing taught by the right coach offers all of the benefits associated with more exotic martial arts programs. Though it does carry some inherent risks, properly coached and supervised boxing can be a good outlet for young men and women.
Boxing training itself is a vigorous workout, burning up to 400 calories an hour in a child-sized athlete, according to Coffman. Besides building cardiovascular endurance, the drills in a boxing workout build speed, strength, flexibility, timing and coordination. The mental traits built by boxing include perseverance, mental toughness, strategy and even patience. As boxing coach Lee Sprague puts it, "You're going to get hit, and feel pain, and have to deal with that in a constructive way right there on the spot."
Although boxing is a combat sport with some risk of injury, boxing ranked behind football, baseball and soccer for injury rates in a 2002 study of youth sport injuries. Wearing proper equipment and having a qualified coach present helps keep injury rates low. Many parents are also concerned that a violent sport might develop violent children. However, as the "Parents' Guide to Martial Arts" by Debra Fritsch points out, mindset in athletes is directly related to the mindset of a coach. An aggressive ballet instructor is more likely to produce aggressive children than a calm and centered boxing coach.
Proper safety equipment is vital to safe participation in any combat sport. Kid fighters should wear gloves, helmets, mouth pieces and groin protection at all times. Though hand wraps are popular, some trainers prefer to eschew them with children as the extra support might slow the natural development of their wrist muscles. Training equipment not essential to safety includes boxing shoes, punching bags, weight equipment and jump ropes.
Training Programs
Kids' boxing classes will typically run for 60 to 90 minutes. During the class, students will engage in a warm up, practice specific drills, work on punching bags or shields, engage in live practice, such as sparring, participate in conditioning and perform a cool down. Some coaches also will set aside time to teach important ethical or mental concepts, such as ethics, strategy and citizenship. Ex-convict Larry Chisholm specifically uses his Pittsburgh-based program to steer children away from gangs and into a more productive use of their time and energy.
Competition is as much a part of boxing as it is any other sport. A kids' boxing program will include opportunities to compete in the ring against team mates and against members of other teams. Cofffman points out that this can sometimes be hard for parents to watch. However, boxing competition teaches kids about the value of hard work, the importance of mental toughness and how to maintain discipline under serious stress. Like all other elements of boxing training, a boxing match must be adequately supervised, use all safety equipment and be conducted by a qualified referee.

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