The IBF/USBA has joined forces with one of its members, boxing judge Tom Schreck of New York, to support and bring awareness to the Undisputed Champions boxing program for individuals with autism and other disabilities created by Schreck and his colleagues. The program was started in 2013 as part of the adapted physical education program for the Wildwood School for students with autism spectrum disorders, neurological impairments, and complex learning disabilities in Schenectady, NY.
Tom Schreck, Director of Communication at the Wildwood School, and Adapted Physical Education Teacher Rachel McDermott along with professional boxers Javier Martinez and Sarah Kuhn created a non-contact yet challenging boxing program that brings an uplifting and demanding workout to the participants while building their confidence and guiding them achieve their goals. The training program is held at Schott’s Boxing Gym in Albany, NY.
Schreck explained that people with disabilities tend to not be pushed to reach their goals, adding “that’s not only disrespectful but it breeds complacency.” He noted, “we wanted a boxing workout to show the students that they could go beyond any self-imposed limits, and actually, they absolutely love being pushed past limits they didn’t think they could approach.”
The IBF/USBA frequently supports community based programs and other boxing related charity organizations globally. “When Tom approached us about getting involved and lending support to the Undisputed Champions program we were enthusiastic about the endeavor,” mentioned IBF President Daryl Peoples. “This program is about doing good and providing encouragement to a group of people that could greatly benefit from it. We are helping support the program financially, but most importantly we want to help spread the word about and bring awareness to the positive impact the Undisputed Champions program has had on the participants,” elaborated Peoples.
Since the program started about fifty students have participated in the eight week training camps. They are put through rigorous drills, learn about non-violence outside of the gym and the importance of teamwork. The participants are taught to relax, focus and adjust when life puts up a battle, and that champions fight limits, adversity and never give up. After they complete several workout challenges they are awarded the official “Undisputed Champion” t-shirt, embellished with the mantra they are taught, Relax, Focus, Adjust, on the front and the programs mission on the back:
A Champion Fights Limits, A Champion Fights Adversity, A Champion Keeps Fighting
At first hesitant about incorporating boxing into the physical education program at the school, Rachel McDermott realized the program would be exciting and challenging for the students. “It is a perfect exercise for stamina, balance and strength. And, you can’t beat the enthusiasm that the professional fighters bring to the experience,” stated Rachel McDermott.
“Boxing is both difficult and intimidating for anyone who walks into a boxing gym. That’s the most beautiful thing about the program, in that participants who have been truly challenged throughout life by both circumstance and stigma, can achieve so much physical and mental growth with 12 ounces of leather,” stressed Javier Martinez.
The change in the students is real but the change that occurs in the boxers who lead the classes and the volunteers from the gym is also remarkable. “Boxing is the most brutally honest sport there is. It tells you that you’re not good enough or strong enough. However, it also tells you that through hard work, discipline and dedication you can overcome any obstacle that is put in front of you. I am so proud to be part of a program that empowers young women with disabilities through their own hard work. To see them accomplish something that life told them they wouldn’t be able to do is inspiring. To watch them overcome the physical struggle through sweat, passion and a ‘never quit’ attitude while they overcome the mental struggle every single day is life changing.” Sarah Kuhn commented.
Tracie Killar, mother of one of the participants praises the program noting how her son Jude has became more confident, stronger and has lost weight. “Bringing Jude to the boxing gym opened up a new world to him where he could exercise and be a part of a group of people dedicated to an awesome sport. I appreciate the boxing program for recognizing that our children have so many options and avenues to explore. He is a young man who had been challenged, encouraged and excited about a sport we never dreamed he would have the opportunity to pursue,” remarked Killar.
Tom and his team would like to bring this program to the boxing community to not only include people with disabilities in the sport but also to help everyone involved in boxing realize the importance of inclusion in our society. The team would also like to reach out and be a resource to other gyms and schools so that they too could start an Undisputed Champions program in their community.
The IBF is sponsoring a fundraiser for the Undisputed Champions program. Help the program by purchasing an official Undisputed Champions t-shirt or hoodie with the IBF/USBA logo on it. All the proceeds go directly to the program. The official t-shirt and hoodie are available from Tom Schreck directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.