'It’s all about the kids to me'

Christopher Cameron
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Archibald glad he returned to boxing

Al Archibald looks around the gym during a training session at the Albion Amateur Boxing Club last week. Archibald, who started boxing at Barry Sponagle’s club in Pictou over 25 years ago, now coaches alongside Sponagle at the Albion club. 

Editor’s note: For the next number of weeks The News will run a story on the Albion Amateur Boxing Club on Saturdays to celebrate the club’s 25th anniversary.

TRENTON – Coachability. That is what Jim Worthen saw in Al Archibald when he started coaching at the Albion Amateur Boxing Club.

A former boxer at the Pictonian Amateur Boxing Club, when he was 10 to 15-years-old, Archibald had stepped away from the sport until he took his son to the Albion club two years ago, which was 25 years since the last time Archibald had boxed.

When he walked in the door with his son he expected to see Worthen, but didn’t know that his former coach, Barry Sponagle, was also one of the coaches. Looking to spend time around the club and the sport again, he made a deal with them that he would help coach the kids if he could work out each session.

Now he runs the entire floor program at the club, which includes the fitness program and running spars as Worthen and Sponagle continue to teach him the technical side of boxing.

“It just slowly progressed to the point that Jim Worthen saw what’s called coachability in me,” said Archibald. “A person with coachability is a rare thing. He told me that before I came along and he noticed my ability to coach boxing that he didn’t know what the future held for the Albion club.

“When he told me that – it’s what made me believe it was possible for me to maybe do the best I could to fill his shoes in the future.”

Although Worthen had faith in him, Archibald admitted it was intimidating when he started out because Worthen and Sponagle have so much experience.

“My first couple weeks of coaching were extremely intimidating because if you watch Jim and Barry and they make it look so easy because they’ve been doing it for so long,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult and something you have to have in you already. It’s something you have to have a knack for to actually run a gym with 25 kids in it.

“It’s Jim and Barry’s faith in me that keeps me afloat because it can be extremely stressful.”

He added that it was also weird coaching alongside his former coach.

“He (Sponagle) was my coach when I was a kid and now I’m coaching with him, standing in the corner,” he said. “There’s no stranger feeling than being in the corner as a coach, with your coach. It’s really cool.”

Now a grown man, Archibald said he’s at the point in his life where he wanted to pass on to the kids what the sport did for him. He said when he was their age that it kept him off the street and taught him a lot about himself that he carried forward in life after boxing.

“It taught me discipline and character both outside and inside of the gym,” said Archibald. “It really teaches you a lot about yourself, how far you can push yourself, what you’re capable of and it carries on to other parts of your life.

“I know what the sport does for the kids because I’ve lived it and hope to be doing it for a long time. Like I said, with some determination and willingness to learn there’s no way I won’t become an incredible coach with mentors like Jim Worthen and Barry Sponagle.”

Currently a Level 1 coach, Archibald is studying to be a Level 2 coach this season. Although that course, as well as the Level 3 course (which he will take next year), is crucial as he continues in the sport, he’s also put in hundreds of hours of research into exercises and workouts.

Although the kids had the summer off, he said that was his time to evaluate the training program in place and determine how to improve it.

“To even come up with a suitable program for hitting the core for instance, you could put in hours upon hours of studying before you actually design the program to a point that you’re satisfied with,” he said. “If you don’t like what you’re doing it’s not something you want to get involved with because the time you put into learning everything you need to know is what becomes your outcome in competition.

“While the kids are off on summer vacation I’m on the computer or in the library studying to make them better fighters or taking courses, but it’s all about the kids to me.”

Last season at provincials was the first time he saw the fitness program, coupled with the technical training in the ring, really pay off for their boxers. Archibald said not only was it an eye-opening experience to see the boxers and what they had learned, but he realized how much he’s learned so far from Worthen and Sponagle.

“I truly never realized until we took two kids with us to the provincials, Shania ‘Tank’ MacPhee and Brady ‘The Pitbull’ MacDonald,” he said. “It really opened my eyes when I saw the way Shania boxed, beating a girl that hadn’t lost her last five fights. She showed up to the ring ready, her confidence was there and the skills she showed in the fight showed that she progressed.”

With the club celebrating its 25thanniversary this year, Archibald hopes that the club will have another 25 successful years. He said as a coach he wants to continue to learn from Worthen and Sponagle until they retire and hopefully help the club continue on.

“Jim Worthen has 25 years in the sport and has been coach of the year five times,” he said. “Barry Sponagle has 40 years in the sport and to be under the wing of those two, with their experience is a one in a million opportunity to become an amazing coach and I plan to ride it and take every single minute I have with them as seriously as I can.

“Hopefully the result will be when Jim and Barry retire from boxing that we’ll keep the Albion Boxing Club alive and well.”

Related links:

Profile with Erin Simpson

Story with club president Marvin MacLennan




On Twitter: @NGNewsChris

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