For senior captains, no boxing day is a bad day
Annika Herko | Monday, November 6, 2023
As the Notre Dame Women’s Boxing Club senior captains prepare for their final Baraka Bouts tournament, they are proud of what their club continues to accomplish and are grateful for the friendships and life lessons it has given them.
Pre-professional science major Ellie Hammerschmitt had never boxed before coming to Notre Dame. She joined because she thought it would be a fun way to work out and get some personal training. Looking back as a senior, she’s loved competing and watching herself and her teammates grow.
“It’s very relieving when the match is done and you can look at your opponent and say ‘Great job, I’m so proud of you’ and feel success for your own hard work as well,” she said.
One of the best parts of the club is that while improving themselves, the members help to improve the lives of women in Uganda. Hammerschmitt was moved by a woman who came to speak to the club recently. The woman had attended a school the club funded through Baraka Bouts. The speaker told them that she didn’t know where she’d be without this club and that they had changed the trajectory of her life.
“I love the fact that we are raising money for something much bigger and better than ourselves and for the good of other people,” Hammerschmitt said.
Chiara Thrum has enjoyed how competing brings everyone in the club together. The community has been the environmental engineer’s favorite part about boxing because it allows her to regularly interact with interesting, driven people.
“One of the biggest aspects of the club that surprised me is how strong the friendships are in the club. You’re supporting, training and encouraging the same people that you compete against in tournaments and during spars, which builds a really unique bond,” she said.
Thrum is looking forward to the upcoming tournament and getting back to competing. Her favorite memory from women’s boxing was the first time she ever got into the ring during her first competition. While boxing is very difficult to completely commit to because of its intensity, Thrum is ready to leave it all out there for her last tournament.
“I had no idea what I was doing, and I just made myself do it anyway,” Thrum said. “I definitely took a few hits, but I got out of there so thrilled to do it again. I just couldn’t wait to get back in.”
Women’s boxing has been applied computational mathematics and statistics major Emily Nowak’s favorite part of her Notre Dame experience. She believes it’s the best thing you can get involved with on campus.
“It’s been the biggest blessing of college. It’s been where I found my home and my people. Whenever anyone from home asks about it, I always go on a 10-minute rant,” said Nowak.
Nowak loves that the club has provided balance and perspective in her life. The mission of the club prevents members from only looking inward and gives them something besides themselves to fight for, which she finds very motivating and meaningful. As a senior, she’s also been able to put more time into boxing and building relationships with her teammates.
“This year, I’ve been able to invest in some more relationships with other boxers,” Nowak said. “The first year you’re a captain, you’re so focused on this huge time commitment and learning to teach others to box, while honing your own skills. This year, I’ve been able to look outside myself more.”
She believes that so much of her growth came from being around the other members of the club. As a result, she wants everyone to get as much out of boxing as she has.
Having loved sports all her life, psychology and Spanish double major Kiera Judd is glad she decided to give boxing a try while at Notre Dame.
“The spar process that we have brings up a lot of emotions, on top of all the physical effort that gets put in … When you step into the ring, you’re putting your body on the line but you’re leaving it up to yourself to be confident and mentally stable,” Judd said.
Realizing that there’s someone in front of you who is trying to hit you and knowing that you have to fight back has been really powerful for her and other boxers. As her time at Notre Dame starts to wrap up, Judd knows that her time with the club will stay with her.
Having won her weight class last year, physics major Sarah Nowak is ready to compete again this year. During her sophomore year, she lost in the second round, motivating her to put in extra work. That experience allowed her to be honest with herself and generated better discipline both in and out of boxing.
“Boxing has been really valuable in being able to hold myself accountable, being more humble, and being willing to accept criticism … which will definitely serve me well in the future,” Nowak said.
In addition, she loves that the outcome of their hard work is very visible. Sometimes it’s not easy to see the impact of donations. But their efforts show the good their club has done. Because of Baraka Bouts, Nowak can see pictures of a lab or dorm that they built, and it is very motivating. She also appreciates how the club handles topics of weight classes and body images with such positivity.
“We do not encourage girls to cut weight at all, and you never feel like you have to make it into a certain weight class. There are people of all sizes and fitness and skill levels in boxing. There’s a place for everyone in Baraka Bouts,” said Nowak.
Management consulting major JJ Jorgensen loves how her work in the club aligns with her role in Army ROTC. The toughness that both groups emphasize helps build confidence and control.
“I don’t shy away from conflict. I’ve always been a confident person,” Jorgensen said. “What boxing does is really give you an outlet to not only showcase that confidence and mental toughness, but to develop it in others … You’ll see girls get out of the ring and they’re crying or upset. It’s because it’s a very emotional feeling having someone come at you, but that’s what life is — adversity — and learning that in the ring is really important,” Jorgenson said.
The club both teaches its members how to handle these complex emotions and put them to good use. Boxing is a struggle sometimes, but the boxers are always learning, always trying to better themselves as they better the world.
“If you go into the ring and lose or have a bad day, is it really a bad day when you’re helping your others or trying your best? You’re giving all that you have for a great cause, so no day is a bad day when you’re boxing,” she said.