Queer boxing coach Jennifer Buck not only trains her female clients, she empowers them
Most days, you can find Jennifer Buck riding a desk in the advertising department of Belo, a perfectly respectable office job in Corporate America. Which she’s fine with.
But most nights, Buck is increasingly at a job that couldn’t be further from her 9-to-5 routine. That’s when the four corners of her office become a boxing ring. About two months ago,
Buck graduated from student to instructor, becoming the first female trainer at the Oak Lawn Boxing Gym.
It’s not the most common of athletic endeavors for women, but spend one round watching Buck in the ring and you’d be hard- pressed to refer to her as “the weaker sex.”
Buck had long enjoyed boxing as a spectator sport, but for working out, her interests ran toward a more traditional regime, such as running and playing softball. But starting in 2010, Buck began training at the gym. The benefits of a boxing workout sent her off the charts physically; eventually, she was sparring with other boxers in the gym — all men.
“I felt they held back a bit on me,” Buck, 38, chuckles. “But after a year and a half of training, I knew I could teach.”
Gym owner Travis Glenn saw potential in Buck — not just as a student, but as someone who could pass along knowledge to a diverse range of students.
“Jennifer is very patient with herself and has a very good eye for detail, which is important for a trainer when adjusting the fine points of a boxing student’s form and style,” Glenn says.
“She provides Oak Lawn Boxing with a great opportunity to reach out to specific segments of our community: women — both lesbian and straight — students of color, and students with specific physical challenges. In the long run, this diversity will strengthen us even more as a boxing gym and workout facility.”
The question was whether more women would be interested in taking up boxing. Any misgivings quickly diminished.
“Now I’m working with women on the workout but also trying to get them interested in sparring and actual boxing,” Buck says. In just her first months as a trainer, she has already secured four female students — all of whom, as Buck did, started out brand new to boxing.
But as different as they are from each other, Buck has noticed common factors among them.
“The students are similar in that they want to defend themselves, they want a different workout and they are all over 30,” she says. “Although I’m not sure training is different with women, I think the comfort level works there and there is that woman-to-woman understanding.”
It also helps that they are not surrounded by the usual distractions of a big gym.
“In that environment, men are going to hit on you, but here it’s just me and them. I think that it feels nice to be in that private setting and not feel like a piece of meat,” Buck says.
Buck’s work in the ring dovetails into her charity work in that she feels it imbues her students with a sense of empowerment. Whether mentoring young people as she formerly did at Youth First Texas or running her nonprofit Women of Swarm — which matches lesbian and transgender women volunteers with nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity and Paws in the City — boxing and community involvement align with Buck’s passion.
“I really love my job, but if I could do the boxing and the nonprofit stuff full time, I would,” she says. “I think that’s why I’m good at teaching this. Ever since my 20s, I’ve worked with women. I grew up with a lot of positive female influences and I was one of the lucky ones who came out without any problem.”
Buck advises those curious about pursuing boxing that it helps to go in having an idea of what you want out of the training. If you think of it just as a workout, you’ll be missing out on the unique skills that Buck brings to the table. Whether novices are looking to get into peak physical shape or devoted gymrats hoping to venture into competitive boxing (as Buck hopes to do), the benefits are greater than just a better bod.
“I didn’t think there would be a mental workout to this, but I’ve learned that along with endurance, focus and clarity become stronger,” she says. “A big reason for that is paying attention
to your opponent and reading their body language. There’s a much bigger package to training than just hitting.”
But if vanity is the only concern, Buck addresses that, too.
“I will say that I can eat what I want and it stays off because of the training,” she says.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2012.