INSIDER: Bouts give Carroll greater purpose
Tony Zappia | Friday, February 26, 2016
The Bengal Bouts tournament came to a disappointing conclusion for Kieran Carroll last year, as the junior reached the finals for the first time, only to fall to the senior defending champion in the 149 pound division. Now a senior himself, Carroll could easily focus on only preparing himself for a return to the finals to avenge last season’s loss. But, as a captain, Carroll said he sees the purpose of Bengal Bouts as far beyond the scope of his own personal career. Being a Bengal Bouts captain is about maintaining the tradition and the values of those who have come before him.
“I’m just trying to continue on the tradition,” Carroll said. “I was so lucky to come up with such great captains as my leaders freshman, sophomore and junior year, and they instilled the values of the program in me more than just getting me in shape and teaching me how to box. They really tried to teach me an appreciation for this program and what we do.”
Carroll said he recognizes that being a part of Bengal Bouts connects him to a tradition and a set of ideas much larger than himself. This tradition forges the strong bond between new and old members, and fosters a sense of community that keeps Bengal Bouts alive, he said.
“Tradition is huge. That’s what it’s all about,” Carroll said. “Tradition is what has kept this program alive and made it so special. It’s what connects all the generations of boxers. That’s why we have these older guys in their sixties and seventies hanging out with us and telling stories about their older days in Bengal Bouts. Tradition is what’s going to make me want to come back here, so it’s very special.”
Sharing the tradition with the younger boxers and keeping up the sense of community Bengal Bouts fosters are especially important to Carroll because these qualities initially drove him to join Bengal Bouts, he said. A former soccer player with no boxing experience, Carroll joined Bengal Bouts during his freshman year because of the boxing culture among the upperclassmen of Duncan Hall.
“I’m a Duncan guy, so there was always a big boxing culture in Duncan,” Carroll said. “A lot of the older guys would do it, so I would tag along with them.”
Carroll progressively improved after he joined the club as a freshman and lost in the opening round of the tournament. He reached the quarterfinals as a sophomore and then the finals last year as a junior. It is this dedication and steady improvement which Carroll said allowed him to become a captain this year.
“I was pretty deeply involved since freshman year,” Carroll said. “I tried to be a regular and come to as many practices as possible, and I guess I performed well enough in the tournament last year that they decided to make me a captain for this year.”
Carroll’s dedication to training and improvement in the ring may be why he was named a captain for this year, but it is his understanding of the values of Bengal Bouts which allow him to embrace his role as a captain. And for Carroll, there is no value more central to Bengal Bouts than understanding the blessings that all Notre Dame students, especially Bengal Bouts participants, have been given, he said.
“Just being involved is a blessing,” Carroll said. “Not many people get to go to Notre Dame in the first place, and even fewer people have the physical capabilities or the means to participate in an amateur boxing program, so really we’re the luckiest kids on campus.”
It is from this humble and thankful perspective that Carroll comes to truly appreciate the Bengal Bouts’ mission in Southeast Asia as well.
“The mission is what it’s all about,” Carroll said. “It’s not about coming in here and learning to box, so we can look cool in front of our friends. The mission is about being able to take advantage of everything we have here at Notre Dame, and Bengal Bouts to me is one of the easiest ways to make a tangible, immediate impact.”
For Carroll, this year in the ring might be about finally capturing a title. But outside the ring, being a captain is about passing on a tradition and sharing in a mission much larger than any one fight.