With the 20th year of Baraka Bouts at the University of Notre Dame fast approaching, senior captains Sabrina Curran and Piper Shine are ready to carry out their last tournament in their time at the university. The pair have helped the largest women’s boxing club across any campus in the country weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, develop its mentorship opportunities and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.
The pair originally joined Baraka Bouts for the thrill of competition, and to try something new. Curran had been a prolific athlete all her life, adoring contact sports but running track and playing tennis in high school. Curran came to Notre Dame looking for the same sense of “camaraderie, team spirit and belonging to something bigger than [herself].” She found it in Baraka Bouts.
Curran was surprised to see the vast number of girls wearing boxing T-shirts, saying “I did a double take. ‘Those girls are in boxing?’” Curran became interested, and would join in her sophomore year, finding a number of ex-athletes and athletic leaders such as herself. She says it was “inspiring to [her] to use [her] body for good to raise money for the less fortunate.”
Curran also loved the culmination of all her previous activities boxing allowed for, as it contained contact like basketball or soccer on top of the mental calculation of tennis.
Comparatively, Shine joined her freshman year, excited by the prospect of trying something completely new to her. She said she immediately knew she wanted to get involved, and was overjoyed at how open and accessible the club was to members with any level of experience.
“To learn how to do a sport like boxing…there’s no opportunity like that anywhere else,” Shine said.
As these two club leaders have carried on their Baraka Bouts journeys, they have made the transition from wide-eyed freshmen mentees to admired captains and emotional and logistical leaders of the team. They take their new roles as mentors very seriously, just as the captains who were mentors to them did before. And, they bring their same energy and spirit to each Baraka Bouts event.
Curran said her main objective is to “empower each girl from within.”
“Girls come in thinking they can’t do it and it’s too tough for them, and then finish the season with this crazy confidence,” Curran said. “It’s so inspiring to see them find the strength in themselves, especially when it manifests in the tournament.”
Shine put the same emphasis on personal progress and self-belief Curran did.
“The biggest treat is to see them grow. Keeping their hands up or throwing more combos. They’ve worked so hard and they come in and stay late with us,” Shine said. “They totally deserve to be under the lights in that ring.”
Shine also wants to see the girls “push each other” and learn to love the club.
Baraka Bouts has emerged from these challenges as popular and successful as ever. The primary mission of Baraka Bouts, of course, is its commitment to fundraising for Holy Cross missions in Africa. This year, the fundraising efforts and girls behind them have been as diligent as ever. The club has set a goal of $75,000 to collect for Holy Cross schools in Uganda, including a $10,000 in 10 days initiative. The club will divide into eleven teams, each headed up by a captain, and aim to raise 10 thousand dollars in 10 days, or about $85 collected per boxer.
These sorts of fundraising subcommittees are just one of the many methods of charity the club uses. Curran noted that the club seeks to employ “realistic and close relationships with those people in the missions.”
She also emphasized Mission Mondays where the captains highlight the stories of those they aim to aid in Africa.
Curran said that it “makes it real for our boxers, builds a stronger, tighter connection to what we actually do and shows fundraisers are for a greater purpose.”
The club also adopted a number of improvised methods of fundraising retained during the COVID-19 pandemic. They became more creative in their fundraising techniques, such as smaller fundraising teams.
Shine also noted the importance of service in the clubs mission, saying that the club seeks to emulate the missions of the University and aim for a greater meaning.
“There’s more behind it, if I can do eight burpees maybe I can do ten. It’s about asking ourselves to be better for others,” Shine said.
Shine also noted how the fundraising comes from a “place of humility,” and that all the girls in the club are willing and eager to make sacrifices for the mission. They hope to be able to collect enough funds to raise up two dormitories for a Ugandan school, and allow the school population to jump from 88 to 500.
Both women look to leave a positive legacy on the club they have grown to love so dearly. Curran said she hopes to leave a lasting impression of the importance of mentorship in the club and to continue to see girls grow. She hopes that the work she has done for the past three years can create a tight-knit community for the participating boxers.
“[I want to] leave it better than how I found it,” Shine said. “With a legacy of knowing our tradition but also so many ways to grow too.”
Shine hopes her efforts in instruction will allow technique to be taught “better and better” in the future. She also said her leadership is a reminder of the fact that the club “is an emphasis on people and place and not so much just winning a tournament.”
This year, Shine said, you can expect the same level of excellence that always comes from the women of Baraka Bouts.
“There will be beautiful boxing, it’s going to be gorgeous, it’s going to be awesome,” Shine said. “We have some amazing boxers and the energy is going to be unreal.”
Shine has never been able to compete, but prides herself on her diligent instructions of the girls to success.
“[I’m] kind of living vicariously through them,” Shine said.
Curran enters the tournament as the defending champion, winning all three rounds of competition last year and even beating one of last year’s captains in the finals. While she does feel some pressure, Curran is excited.
“[I am] so energized by this sport unlike any other…I have the nerves like anybody else but it’s coupled with excitement,” Curran said, adding, “after the first round I’m completely on fire..boxing lights me up like no other sport has.”
On top of “being a role model and having a fun time,” Curran urges us all to watch out for her dancing rhythm, new moves she has developed, dynamic energy, some aggression and a massive smile.
Through the trials the club has undergone these past four years, both Curran and Shine have played integral roles in continuing to work for the goals, mission and competition of Baraka Bouts. Between their all time highs (seeing her friends win last year for Shine and hyping up her corner coaches after her first bout last year for Curran) and the lows the pair has been there through it all. They both said hope to end their last Baraka Bouts with a bang.
Contact Adam Akan at firstname.lastname@example.org.