Learning to be assertive in and out of the ring is serving me well. The shift in mindset begins in Houston Texas.
The moment it all changed
25.01.2018: The 10-second bell had rung to signal the coming end of the first round. I had been boxing well up to this point. I was in control of the space and the tempo and rhythm of the fight. I pushed forward and my opponent backed up into the corner. My head was clear and focused on executing nice long straight punches. I went in with a straight right hand to the body – it landed cleanly – then pushed back out to have a look and reset. I created an opening and threw a beautiful long fast straight right; my opponent thought I was going to throw a straight left so she moved forward a little preparing to throw her right hand over my jab. She didn’t see the punch coming. It landed cleanly on her jaw and she collapsed to the ground immediately. I had knocked her out with a single punch… She lay in the ring while the doctors checked her over. My first thought while standing in the corner was, “Please let her be ok.” I was overwhelmed and teary-eyed in my concern for her. My hand was raised a few minutes later but the win didn’t feel shiny.
Why it didn’t feel shiny
In the days that followed, I was trying to figure out why the win didn’t feel shiny for me at the time. It came down to the ideas I had formed about who and what I was and who and what I was not. To me Alexis Pritchard the person was a kind, caring, smiley being, a helper and healer. She was not aggressive and not a thug (seemingly aggressive people and thugs are the only people that knock each other out, even in sport). I subconsciously decided to be a nice technical boxer. Because apparently nice technical boxers don’t hurt people. I liked to be liked, I like the idea that I am a nice person and nice people try their utmost to not hurt other people. Also, Alexis the person has a hard time with confrontation and would rather avoid it. So why then, I hear you ask, is she boxing? I box because is challenges every part of my being. You never stop learning and improving. You can always work on being better the next day. It pushes me to expand mentally emotionally and physically.
Now this irony is not lost on me. But for the first 13 or so years of my boxing career I navigated this fight landscape with the idea that I am a technical boxer, I don’t need to hurt my opponents I just want to box nicely and score some points. I am chuckling to myself as I write this because even in combat I want to be liked! I am also reminded of what my dad said to me after watching me fight, “It seems you don’t like flying above the radar.” There was a lot of truth in that statement. There were many fights where I was fighting to survive rather than fighting to thrive when I was in that head space. But the knockout in January took that explanation from me. And I have had to reassess my notions of good nice people.
Assertive Vs. Aggressive
The word “aggressive” has never sat well with me. I don’t want to be aggressive or of thought of as aggressive. For me there is a loss of control and an undercurrent of violence to aggression, there is not respect in this state of mind. In boxing, you are in a contract/agreement with your opponent; when you step into the ring both of you aim to overcome the other. However, you also agree to fight within the parameters of the rules of the game and respect both those and your opponent.
I tried the concept of “controlled-aggression” for a while, but as my most recent mental skills coach Dave Neithe, pointed out, there is no control in aggression. A better and more fitting attribute is to be assertive. There are various definitions of “assertive”; in them, what stands out for me are “confident” and “unafraid”. Being assertive means behaving confidently and not being frightened to say or, in my case, do what you, believe or need to do to work towards the outcome that you desire. But how does this translate into my reality?
Give yourself permission
To thrive, Boxer Lex needs to be assertive; she needs to hit them hard, she needs to put her foot down and capitalise when she sees an opening. She needs to assert her dominance over her opponents, even then they are hurting. They need to feel her power. Because sure as night follows day her opponents are not thinking about just boxing nicely. Their objective is to box well and box hard and make me feel their power. They want to win and, in this case, “nice” doesn’t cut it at the top of my sport. The attributes that I described above are not bad nor are they good. They are what is required of me in the boxing ring to thrive rather than just survive. I needed to give Boxer Lex permission to be assertive and I did. There was an immediate and noticeable change in how I carried myself in the ring and the intensity and fierceness I brought to training and competition.
Boxer Lex is a fierce badass chick and she is me and I am her. Over these last few months I have noticed a change in me. I no longer only keep the assertiveness for the ring, I am becoming assertive outside of the ring too. I am going after what I want rather than holding back and hoping someone will notice. I speak up even when my voice is a bit shaky. I am letting people know how they can help me achieve and grow. By speaking up I am creating opportunities and I am starting to become very “lucky”.
Give yourself permission to be assertive. Give yourself permission to be great.