Updated: Jul 29, 2020
I never imagined that my skills as a waitress would be exactly the training I needed to win my fights in the boxing ring and become a champion athlete.
From all positions in the front of the house to pillar to post in the boxing ring, my 9 years working in the #hospitality industry was just the experience I needed to get me through some of the toughest opponents I faced in the square circle. The skills and lessons I learned from deep in the trenches as a hostess, waitress, bartender and eventually manager really solidified my hustle in and out of the ring and as an entrepreneur until present day.
I knew I wanted to compete in boxing since that very first time I hyperventilated during sparring. I was fascinated by the demand of the sport and drawn to the intense level of focus it required. I was hooked and the timing was perfect because working in a very busy restaurant at the time meant that I had flexibility in my schedule so I can get to the gym during off times and full-time. Plus, a good steady income meant that I could train without stressing about the many different expenses involved. Most notably however, was the great crew of people who I worked with that supported and encouraged my dream of becoming a boxer.
Here are the top 3 skills I cultivated as a waitress which contributed to my success in the ring and an undefeated fighter:
1) Keep your head on a swivel and always skim/scan your section.
The establishment where I worked took customer experience and product development / presentation very very seriously. Take note, presentation includes yourself and how you show up for every shift. I was fortunate to be exposed to exceptional training and trainers when I was learning the ropes in the hospitality industry. So when I first heard this term 'keep your head on a swivel and always be scanning your section", it made complete sense and I could immediately see how this practise would help me be a more efficient server. And let's face it, being more efficient means more turnover in your section and money in your pocket. The customer doesn't know any different because they still had an amazing experience and left happy feeling that all their needs were met.
As I habitually and constantly scanned my tables, looking at my customers and making eye contact from afar, I could anticipate their needs and save myself many unnecessary trips running down extra napkins, another drink or a side of butter. Overseeing and taking in information using the swivel and scan method really helped me to appreciate the art of anticipating small details which lead up to the bigger picture. This skill was incredibly helpful in the ring when fighting on the outside vs fighting on the inside and being able to 'see' punches coming.
Practising anticipation keeps us sharp and one step ahead. 2 different pictures, big vs small: helpful to know one in order to understand and maximize on the other.
2) Memorizing food orders:
These days we have computers for that - hand held devices to punch in food orders right at the table, on the spot. Although this might be more efficient, I do still find something so special about eye contact, head nodding and smiling while taking a customers order. As a waitress I would challenge myself to see how many people's orders I could remember without writing them down: hold the onions, dressing on the side and medium rare more on the rare side? No problem!
What was my trade secret? Well, I would visualize the customer as the food item itself and create an association that I could remember. For example, seat number 1 with the blue shirt was a burger, no pickle with salad and dressing on the side. And it worked! My best score was a table of 8 people, modifications and all. Although my customers were impressed and I was having fun challenging myself, this practise is not recommended after a late night out or when having an off day:-) This memorization and brain training really complimented my game in the gym. If you have ever tried boxing, then you know that it requires immense concentration to repeat the required patterns and punches: lefts and rights, slips and ducks, back and forth and putting it all together into combinations. As a fighter, the different patterns we practise and commit to memory become part of our arsenal, and the tools in our toolbox are only good if they are accessible. Working our memory is like working out our muscles: repetition and consistency is key so that the result is more reliable. As a fighter, I would constantly visualize myself doing different boxing combos that I wanted to execute in my upcoming fight, just the same way I would visualize my customer's food order as if my customer was the food they were ordering. This system worked for me in the ring, and this practise really built up my confidence as a fighter.
"It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction. Things begin to happen."
- - Muhammad Ali
3) Foot work and managing time with a boost of adrenalin:
Want to improve your footwork and agility as an elite athlete? Work in a super busy restaurant with hungry customers who demand (and rightfully so) high quality efficient service and timely hot food.
As the saying goes, if you want something done, give it to a busy person!
Maneuvering around tables avoiding other people's sudden and unpredictable moves, sometimes customers jutting their chair out into the only precious narrow space you had for reaching, bending, leaning. Navigating from the super bustling kitchen on a packed Saturday night, slipping and sidestepping around to deliver the customers their food still hot, without a sweat and a full smile in tact. Placing down items on the table strategically and in the same swoop removing items which are used up to be discarded out of sight. Being in charge of and orchestrating the esthetics of the experience. Pivoting around other fellow servers trying to get to their own section, rushing in and out of the small server station where we share all the tools of the trade and sometimes have to fight for our turn for use of the computer to desperately punch in our orders. Trying to avoid kids running around while carrying a full tray of drinks: the footwork required, stability, agility, spacial awareness and sense of depth, timing and anticipation: all sounds like a sport to me!!
By the time I started boxing, I was already doing my road work and complimentary training without yet knowing it in my waitressing job. It made me a better athlete and more conscientious boxer.
In closing, we call boxing the school of hard knocks because sometimes the lessons learned are very painful. The best way we learn to keep our hands up, is to get punched in the face. If boxing is the school of hard knocks, then working in a restaurant is the school of life where you learn about people first hand, acquire patience, build communication skills, practise time management, self regulation and so much more.
Just like #boxing, not everybody can do it well, but there are certainly transferable skills you will gain along the way when you stick with the training and stay true to your craft.
Related: How boxing can help you during COVID