You vs. Yourself: Boltz's Boxing Club helps students push past limits

When you think about boxing, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it is the boxing gloves and hand wraps. Maybe it is bright lights and a boxing ring. Maybe it is full of aggression, throwing punches at an opponent until someone wins.   

Whatever thought comes to mind first, the non-contact boxing club at Poudre School District's Boltz Middle School is not just students putting on gloves and hitting things. Their motto is: Think before you speak, breathe before you act.

Here, students learn discipline, accountability, and how to push themselves beyond what they thought was possible physically and mentally. This club allows students to pursue passions, challenge themselves and find community.   

Students gain confidence, motivation, learning boxing skills 

Seventh-grader Sarai Camarillo is among many students who have found motivation and support in Boltz's Boxing Club. She had always wanted to try the sport but was unable to find a way to participate because her parents worked long hours and she didn't have transportation.   

When Camarillo heard about the free boxing club at Boltz, she jumped on the opportunity, motivated to overcome any challenges.   

“Being one of the only girls in the club is kind of intimidating because a lot of martial arts sports, especially boxing, are male-dominated sports,” she said. “My parents have always taught me you can do anything a boy can do, so it was a good opportunity to show myself how I can do things a guy can do.”   

Sarai Camarillo practices boxing skills
Sarai Camarillo


Throughout these past few months, Camarillo has learned so much.   

She says boxing makes her feel like she can do better than before. Coming to the boxing club with friends encourages Camarillo to work out, and she also highlights that it is more than just physical activity.   

"Boxing isn't just punching a bag or punching someone. It's having control of your emotions and your body,” Camarillo said. “You can get hurt if you get mad, and when you're mad you can't control a lot of things. When punching, you have to punch right or you're going to hurt yourself. All of it comes into play at one point, the physical memory of how to punch and how to control your emotions."   

While boxing is an individual sport, Boltz's Boxing Club encourages students to check in with one another, support each other, and work just as hard in school as they do in boxing.   

Club participants held accountable to meet expectations

The club meets twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Before students even set foot in the gym, everyone heads to the Boltz media center on Wednesday afternoons. For half an hour, students work on their homework. There are weekly grade checks, and it is an expectation that students have no missing assignments, are present in class, put forth effort, and ask for help when needed. Through this, students learn accountability and discipline, two skills necessary for this sport and life.   

Boltz students work on their homework in the media center.
Students get a head start on homework before Boxing Club.


All of this is part of the design of the club. Although School Resource Officer Dexter Rowe officially began this club at Boltz this past January, it has been a plan long in the making.   

Boltz's Boxing Club uses a program from professional boxer Danny O'Connor, who represented the U.S. as an alternate in the 2008 Olympics, among many other accomplishments.    

"When you can get by the brutality of the sport, and you can just realize that boxing is such an individual sport, it's always you vs. you, so to be able to come in here and push past your limits, work hard, and get the benefits out of it is a really good mirror of yourself and how hard you're willing to work," O'Connor said.   

O'Connor came to northern Colorado in 2018 and later met Rowe. Together, they had the idea of bringing this program to a school. Boxing can teach good personal habits, and O'Connor believes it is just one of many resources that can help students.   

“Yes, it’s boxing, but my program is the whole person, the well-rounded healthy aspect of the kids," said O'Connor. "Whether it’s at home, in school, academics, in the boxing gym, as a person, I’m trying to grow good people that are going to do good things in this world and are going to be supported through it.”   

After students have worked on bettering themselves academically, everyone heads to TITLE Boxing Club in Fort Collins with parent volunteers.   

Boxing Club members practice their skills.
Boxing Club members practice their skills.


Volunteer Jenny Sieg said her family is grateful for this opportunity and that it is one of the most challenging things her son, Kash Millette, has ever done. The school club is free of charge and currently runs off donations, so she is happy to help.   

“This is a group of kids that needed this,” she said. “A lot of these kids came in without any boxing experience and they've grown so much in a short amount of time. The team building, not only the physical part of it, and the character building is huge."   

Students challenged to stay focused physically and mentally

Students go at their own pace but are encouraged to push themselves. As they learn footwork and punches, they also practice pushing through difficult moments and keeping their minds in a good place. 

Boxing coaches work with students.
Boxing coaches work with students. 


Milette says that although the coaches challenge them, it is a positive environment, and he can do much more now than he could on day one.   

“It makes you stronger mentally because sometimes you think you can’t do something, but here you push and find out you can actually do it, and you’re fine after,” Milette said. “It just makes you strong.”     

After seeing this club in action, Sieg says soon, everyone will want to be part of this club. Many students have attended since day one, but it is starting to go beyond Boltz. There are students from Blevins Middle School, Poudre Community Academy and their Journey Program, Rocky Mountain High School, and Timnath Middle-High School, with more potentially joining from other PSD schools and others referred from The Center for Family Outreach. 

As part of its growth, Boltz Boxing Club recently partnered with Scheels to help students get proper boxing attire; some students received donated shoes or had the opportunity to purchase them at a discount. 

With such a strong start, the future of a program like this looks bright. Rowe eventually would like to see this program in every middle school. 

“We are impacting kids with this program in a positive way during boxing, at home, and in school,” he said.” My goals are to teach the kids through boxing how to be in control of themselves, mentally, emotionally, and physically.” 


  • A Boltz boxer practices skills.
    A Boltz boxer practices skills.
  • Boltz Boxing Club members support each other with a group high five.
    Boltz Boxing Club members support each other with a group high five.
  • Boxing Club members tackle homework first.
    Boxing Club members tackle homework first.
  • The boxing coach teaches a lesson
    The boxing coach teaches a lesson.