Boxing and pool fine combination for swimmers

By Shane Hurndell

Fast forward the clock to the 2016 Olympics in Rio and picture this.

Hawke's Bay swimmer Jonathan Burfield-Mills exceeds expectations and medals in his favourite event, the 100m backstroke. He becomes the pin-up boy for the code in New Zealand and upon his return home Hawke's Bay's Battle for Life Charity Boxing event organiser Patrick O'Brien secures Burfield-Mills signature for one of his feature bouts.

"Anything for a good cause," Burfield-Mills said this week as he pondered the scenario.

At least Heretaunga Sundevils squad member Burfield-Mills will have had some boxing experience to call upon should this eventuate. As part of their quest to produce top athletes the Sundevils have introduced boxing into their weekly training programme.

Head coach Andy McLay said the swimmers, who range in age from 12 to 18, will train once a week with the Flaxmere Boxing Academy.

"We see the partnership with the academy as providing multiple benefits to our swimmers.

Boxing will help develop the overall athleticism of the swimmers, provide a change from the pool environment, and further develop their training ethic."

St John's College year 13 student, Burfield-Mills, 16, pointed out the boxing training breaks the monotony of continuous swimming.

"We don't just box. We run up stairs, we do ladder layouts, squats and press ups which all assists with technique. We also did drills with medicine balls and when it came time to swim we felt refreshed and could focus better."

Burfield-Mills has been with the Sundevils since October after previously swimming for the Greendale club. Less travel from his Hastings home was one of the major reasons for the switch.

He is ranked second in the country for 100m backstroke in the under-16 age group and ninth on the open rankings. During a December trip to Australia Burfield-Mills won gold over the same distance.

On the national open 50m backstroke rankings Burfield-Mills is ranked 11th. He will compete in a variety of backstroke and butterfly events at the national age group championships in a fortnight.

At the end of this year he will decide whether he will remain in New Zealand for another two years or move to Australia to train.

Sundevils assistant coach and Beijing Olympic Games swimmer Will Benson boasts first-hand experience of the benefits of boxing for swimmers.

"My best ever season in the pool was off the back of three months kickboxing training, twice per week. Not only are you developing strength and agility, but you get in the pool mentally refreshed and excited to be swimming," Benson, who competed in the 4x100 freestyle relay in Beijing and holds multiple national titles for both freestyle and butterfly, said.

The 18 senior swim squad members would initially be incorporating boxing training and it is planned to extend the offer to junior members later in the year. Boxing will also be included in the squads swim camps.

Flaxmere Boxing Academy head coach Craig McDougall said the partnership was beneficial to both codes, exposing each group to a new sport.

"This is a great example of community groups working together. Both clubs have the ultimate goal of encouraging squad members to be the best they can be."

McDougall will be working with the swimmers to develop their core strength as well as develop co-ordination through body awareness, and develop the skills to be fast and clever.

"Although boxing may not seem to be a natural training choice to develop swim performance, with young athletes it's important to do a range of different activities. Boxing will help to develop their neuromuscular pathways, aiding in developing their co-ordination and physical maturity, as well as reducing the risk of injury from repetitive use or a lack of core stability."

While the boxing academy is located next door to Swim Heretaunga at Flaxmere, home of the Sundevils, training will initially be held at the swim squad's temporary base at the Frimley Aquatic Centre in Hastings while work to improve the Flaxmere building's structural strength, and deepen one end of the 25m pool, is completed. The squad is expected to be back training in Flaxmere from April.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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