City Centre Mirror
Downtown Toronto resident Miranda Kamal has earned a prestigious award for her work teaching youngsters the benefits of boxing.
Kamal is the founder of MJKO (www.mjko.ca), a not-for-profit organization that brings ring skills to youngsters in a number of communities throughout the GTA. In a few short years, she has managed to help out over 2,000 children in various venues, working primarily with at-risk youth. She holds regular teaching sessions at Central Technical School, the Harbourfront Community Centre and elsewhere.
For her efforts, she was recently awarded the Ontario Coaching Excellence "Trailblazer" Award, which recognizes coaches for innovative approaches to teaching and for making a difference in young lives.
Kamal was an aspiring boxer herself until a spinal injury cut her career short in its early stages. Rather than quitting the sport, she took up training to stay involved.
"It was quite intimidating when I first started coaching because I hadn't even really competed, and I thought 'how can I coach when I've never competed,'" she said.
Kamal (nee Jollymore) trained under Olympic boxing silver medalist Egerton Marcus, who helped her overcome her trepidation. She remains in contact with her former coach, who has joined the board of MJKO.
After learning under the former Olympian's wings, Kamal has managed to pass along many of his teachings to her young charges.
"I got so much more confident training with (Marcus)," she said. "I thought, 'this guy makes me feel so good about myself, like I'm the best boxer ever.'"
MJKO works with youngsters to help them gain that same confidence while also learning discipline. Through her organization, Kamal trains many new Canadians and even works with children with autism spectrum disorders and developmental difficulties.
It is in those cases where the trainer said she feels she is making the greatest difference.
"The kids put on the gloves and come out of their shells," she said. "You can really see someone grow as a person."
Because of the lessons learned at MJKO, Kamal said she has seen many youngsters blossom. Some have become competitive boxers, while virtually all have seen increased self-confidence and even better performance in school.
"The kids really keep me engaged and knowing I'm making a difference made it easy to keep (MJKO) going when I was starting out," she said.
Kamal will be awarded the Trailblazer Award - the only Ontario coach to receive that distinction this year - at a special ceremony at the Scotiabank Theatre on Saturday, April 14.