John Stanley is back from his first assignment overseas as a kickboxing coach and it was, in his words, an incredible experience.

The co-owner of Stanley Boxing and Fitness helped take charge of Team Canada at the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) World Junior Championships in Venice, Italy, earlier this month. As a team, Canada won a total of 22 medals — six gold, seven silver and nine bronze — good enough for 15th overall in the final standings out of 66 countries that sent competitors.

Stanley, who helped look after the ring sports portion of the team, said most of the medals were won on the mat side of things, but the fighters all acquitted themselves very well.

“We went up against a lot of the former Soviet eastern bloc countries and they’re tough,” he said. “We won a majority of our medals on points.”

Muzammal Nawaz, WAKO Canada’s president, posted his thoughts on the team’s performance shortly after returning home and said it was a young team, but there were some incredible performances.

He also highlighted Stanley’s appearance as the first coach from the NWT.

Stanley travelled to Ontario to help oversee a couple of training camps in the weeks leading up to Venice and said not knowing a lot of the athletes helped him in his preparation.

“I didn’t have the emotion that personal coaches would have because I didn’t have any fighters in it,” he said. “That was a bonus because it allowed me to provide support. The personal coaches could handle the technical side of things and the fighters could warm up the way they normally do. I’m there just in case they need some support or extra help.”

When it came to scouting the opposition ahead of the trip, Stanley said unless they were well-known, it was difficult.

“Some of the higher-ranked fighters you can see online, they may have videos on YouTube or something like that,” he said. “It’s tough to put a game plan together when you don’t know who you’re up against. The big thing for our fighters was the mental preparedness. A kick is a kick and a punch is a punch, but if you aren’t mentally ready, that’s where things can slip.”

The mental aspect is something Stanley said he was going to implement with his athletes in Yellowknife. He said that was perhaps the biggest thing he took away from his time in Italy.

“I’ve been in thousands of corners, but the exposure to that many people was phenomenal,” he said. “We got to have sit-downs with people who are experts in psychological training and how to re-frame the mind. That’s one thing I’m going to start doing with our crew here and show them that there’s a reason people train that way. A lot of really good programs have a good sport psychology portion already in place.”

The next international duty for Stanley will be the Intercontinental Challenge in South Africa; the date has yet to be determined.

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...

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