As the only female member of UD’s Club Boxing team, Laura Bender has never felt ostracized and sees boxing as “me time” while she balances a double major. Photo courtesy of Christian Cubacub, Flyer News.
The only female member of the current UD Club Boxing team is finding her place on the team and fueling a passion developed in high school.
Laura Bender, sophomore Pre-Med and Philosophy double major, has been recreationally boxing for several years. She started boxing in high school, and was inspired by a video on the internet of supermodel Gigi Hadid boxing. Bender began boxing by trying to imitate YouTube videos.
“In high school, I always thought it would be really cool to be able to get involved in a sport or something that was more like something that nobody else was doing,” Bender said. “Once I started doing it, I felt so powerful I was like, this is my cardio.”
Bender continued by reinforcing that she feels empowered when boxing.
“I think boxing has been an outlet for me whether it’s to get out anger, or just to focus on myself and the sport. It’s a very focus-oriented, cardio workout. A lot of times, I couldn’t do running because I just get so distracted and caught up in my own thoughts, but boxing gives me a goal… that makes me feel uplifted instead of trying to focus on a certain image. I think it’s pretty easy, especially for women in sports to want to look a certain way instead of feel a certain way and I know that boxing for me has definitely been a way for me to feel stronger instead of focusing on being skinnier.”
Bender suffered from an eating disorder last year, but said boxing and weightlifting exercise was a way for her to shift her focus to being stronger and feel better about herself.
“It’s honestly changed the game.”
Disclaimer: Bender also realized that boxing or physical exercise is not the way for everyone to overcome an eating disorder or other mental health issues. She doesn’t want talk of eating disorders to be taken lightly, and recommends that anyone suffering from an eating disorder or worry about their mental health should go see a professional.
“That being said, finding something that I love and that helps me feel strong kick-started my getting-back to myself again, and I couldn’t recommend the catharsis of boxing enough!”
Bender was eager to join Club Boxing when she discovered there was a place on campus for her to improve her skills, and she said she loves the sport.
“I think being able to do a sport that I’m interested in at a higher level, with people who have similar interests as me is really awesome. I think it definitely beats YouTube videos in my room, right? I have a better understanding and better appreciation for what people go through when they’re training for a fight.”
In joining the team, Bender never felt ostracized for being the only girl.
“So I actually remember after the first practice, I texted my friends and I was like, ‘You guys, it’s the perfect line between respecting me and treating me as just one of the guys,’ I was so excited.”
Bender was nervous about the tryouts, though.
“My mile was garbage. I think I ran an 11-minute mile and I remember thinking, even a normal girl can do better than that, I’m just not a runner. So it was really exciting when I got the message that I would be being called back, and it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t easy for any of the newbies, and I’m just happy to be part of it.”
Practicing her form and getting to know her teammates have been Bender’s favorite parts of the team and she appreciates her experience so far.
“It’s a great way to exercise and challenge myself physically,” Bender said. “Plus, the endorphins are awesome!”
“I feel like I’m learning so much and I absolutely love being able to train as a team,” she exclaimed. “I leave every practice optimistic.”
Club president Joshua Griffin emphasized the organization’s hopes to expand membership. While Club Boxing uses 1850 – the online CampusGroups engagement program – and posters to promote the organization, Griffin said, “it is difficult to reach everyone that is interested”.
The organization has an interest in increasing their virtual presence by way of an Instagram page, which is in the works. Fall tryouts were unable to take place to limit exposure to COVID-19. Up the Orgs, one of their main recruitment events, took a hit due to COVID-19 as well. Despite a downturn in attendance, Griffin said he was pleased that 54 students signed up for tryouts
The semesterly tryout process consists of a mile run and a circuit workout, which is four to five stations of primarily cardio exercises. Griffin said the club does not require a high skill level and they look for if you put forth that effort and are committed to sticking with it. With an emphasis on positive attitudes and dedication, candidates who want to be there and improve their skills are likely to be chosen.
The organization was impacted in several ways by COVID-19. The addition of new members in the fall and recruitment tactics in the spring were hindered and training methods adapted. Griffin remains optimistic.
“Fortunately we can do about two-thirds of what we would normally do,” Griffin said. Initially, Campus Recreation put guidelines in place for indoor/outdoor sports and low impact/high impact sports.
Due to boxing’s high impact and indoor nature, they had to adjust their habits. During practice, they are no longer allowed to spar or engage in hand-to-hand contact due to social distancing regulations. The team took this in stride and prioritized instructional and technique-based training. According to Bender, practices so far have consisted of 10 minutes of jump roping, followed by roughly 50 minutes of drills and then an ab workout.
Griffin’s favorite part of Club Boxing is that everyone wants to get better and is committed to training. Through his leadership role, he has learned what goes on behind the scenes of planning events, how to work with the university, and how to get students motivated to participate in the organization.
Bender and Griffin encouraged interested Flyers to check out Club Boxing on 1850 for more details.
“You never know what you can do until you try,” Bender said.