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Women’s boxing captains fight for Holy Cross missions

Catherine Owers | Sunday, November 10, 2013

On Monday night, 78 women will take to the ring to raise money for Holy Cross missions in Uganda in the 11th annual Baraka Bouts.

Nine captains lead these students in their boxing training and fundraising efforts while serving as mentors and leaders for the novice boxers. Senior captain Anna Carmack said she joined the women’s boxing team her freshman year at Notre Dame, not knowing she would love the sport so much.

“I was very hesitant. I had never done anything like boxing before, but I decided to give a shot,” she said. “I ended up loving it, and I was pretty good at it, as well.”

Few women join the boxing team with previous boxing experience, so the captains are responsible for teaching the basics of the sport, Carmack said.

“We’re doing all the instruction. We have coaches who help us a ton, but a lot of the instruction does come down to us,” she said. “We’re teaching the girls how to stand, how to punch, how to move.

“The first few weeks are purely workouts and instruction. You’re not going to be in the ring; you aren’t going to be throwing punches [because] you first have to learn how to stand.”

Carmack said the captains help run eight practices per week, and team members must attend at least four of them.

“It would be a lot for us to try to be at all eight, so we can spread it out and at least have four or five of us at each practice,” she said. “We also divide up the big roles, like being in charge of merchandise and programs.’

The primary goal of Baraka Bouts is fundraising for the Holy Cross missions, Carmack said.

“Each girl has to raise $350 to participate because the whole point is to raise money for the Holy Cross missions in Uganda,” she said. “One hundred dollars has to be through ticket sales, and the rest can be personal donation, donations from friends or family or ads in the program.”

Senior captain Anna Heffron said she visited one of the schools supported by a Holy Cross mission in Uganda this summer.

“I was actually working with a different organization, a palliative care group, but I was quite close to Lakeview [Secondary School],” she said. “It was amazing, and the kids were so great. They were so friendly and welcoming and enthusiastic.”

Heffron said the funds raised by Baraka Bouts often pay for tuition for children from poorer families.

“Fifty dollars will pay for tuition and room and board for an entire semester,” she said. “Additionally, at the school I visited, they were having problems with building integrity. They have to build a new dormitory … so a lot of what we raise will go toward supporting that [project].”

Heffron said the Baraka Bouts captains try to instill the Holy Cross spirit in their boxers.  

“We teach the mind and the body and the heart,” she said. “There’s a point where the motto ‘Strong bodies fight so that weak bodies may be nourished’ clicks, and where the mission of the club clicks.”You have a strong, healthy body, and it’s so easy to raise money through Baraka Bouts and women’s boxing. It makes such a huge difference. If you get five people to come to the tournament, that’s $50, and that just paid for a kid’s schooling for an entire semester.”

Junior captain Tori White said she enjoys seeing the girls develop their skills throughout the season.

“They want to improve, and they want to do well,” she said. “It’s been a lot of fun just watching the growth and the passion that girls develop for it.”

Carmack said she is proud of everyone’s progress.

“We get these girls who have come so far, and I don’t think they realize all the time, until you stop them,” Carmack said. “Then you say, ‘Remember, you didn’t even know where your feet went or what to do with your hands. And now you’re going to go in there and be fighting, and you’re going to have people cheering you on.'”

Even after three years on the team, White said she is still nervous for the bouts.

“As captains, we can also be in their corners, too, and coach them through their fights,” White said. “So you can’t really be freaking out about your fight when you are in someone else’s corner. Part of being a captain is putting your own worries on the backburner.”

White said she always tries to keep the fundraising mission of the women’s boxing team in mind.

“You get to learn a new sport, but you are also doing it for a really good cause,” she said. “Girls can get upset about losing, or they don’t think they fought well, but they’ve raised $350, and that’s going to make such a big difference in kids’ lives.

“That’s the really fulfilling part, and it’s powerful to know that you can make that much of a difference and enjoy doing [it], to.”

Contact Catherine Owers at cowers@nd.edu