Coming off big wins for their fighters, Trisha Sammons and Sandra Bastian are two well-known Muay Thai instructors in Canada. Sammons, residing in Winnipeg and Head Coach at Winnipeg Women’s Kickboxing and Sandra residing in Campbell River coaching athletes on the Island. The road they have both taken to get to this point in their career wasn’t easy. Being a female coach in a heavily dominated sport like Muay Thai has had some of the most intense ups and downs, but these two women are absolute warriors and are paving the way for women in this great sport.
Sandra started kickboxing in Calgary, under the coaching of one of her current day mentor’s Mike Myles. She was an active fighter for 16 years and made it to the World Championships three times. She was fortunate enough to win a silver medal in 2004, a gold medal in 2006, along with the best female fighter of the tournament. In 2008 she took home the bronze medal and went on to compete in the King’s Cup in 2009.
Trisha started kickboxing at the age of 16, after traditional school sports were no longer feeding her hunger for activity. She climbed to the top of her game fairly quickly as she truly showed no fear in the ring. Two-time Canadian kickboxing champion, Trisha had over 45 fights in the ring – a big number for any fighter, especially in women’s kickboxing and Muay Thai. After having three of her four kids, she opened Winnipeg Women’s Kickboxing in Winnipeg. She has since expanded to have men’s, women’s and kids programming.
Kickboxing gyms can be intimidating. As a new person starting out, walking into any gym can be a struggle for many. Often times there is a lot of ego happening, and when starting a new workout routine we all know how debilitating others attitudes this can be. Trisha opened her gym to give women on all shapes, sizes, ages and goals a place to feel comfortable, to train hard, and to have fun.
Over the years both Sandra and Trisha have experienced major sexism when it comes to their coaching. Sandra remembers when first starting out some athletes didn’t want to listen to or be trained by ‘a girl’ coach. “When I first started teaching guys would look at me like I had 3 heads. You could tell they thought I didn’t know what I was doing. I got lots of comments like “ You’re a girl…what do you know “ My first fight some guy told me that I was to pretty to fight. My ex-husband told me that I better not get hit in the face. Sad truth is, sexism will always be around. I now just shake my head at the guys who don’t listen to me and them laugh when the guys that did listen to me kick the crap out of them,” says Bastian.
It hasn’t been an easy road for Trisha either. Other trainers online bullying her and her gym because they ‘are a bunch of girls’, and stating that her male fighters don’t stand a chance because they’re going to fight like a girl. If either of these two women showcase what ‘fight like a girl’ means…I’m on their side. These two women are tough. They are mentally and physically incredibly strong. They don’t take the insults to heart, rather they turn it into fire that keeps them going. Give up? Not an option. These women are fighters, warriors and absolute role models.
I asked Sandra why she does what she does. And her answer was, “Because what else is there? This sport has given me so much in life the least I can do is give back.” And the way that she trains both herself and her athletes, this is no surprise.
Right now Sandra runs a bootcamp four times a week, teaches a fighters class three times a week (which she does with her students), runs twice a week and has a strength program 3 times a week. In addition, she does kickboxing classes four times per week taught by another instructor. And just when you think ‘how does she do all of that’ she adds in that she has recently started a SHEspars group, that we meets once a month and just spar.
Trisha is no stranger to fitness either. Her gym is open seven days a week, and schedules range from 2 – 3 classes per day. The classes she teaches, which she also participates in, include strength and conditioning training, running, core training and Muay Thai kickboxing. She also has a great relationship with many of the gyms in Winnipeg, so they often get together to spar, especially when any of her fighters have a fight coming up. Watching Trisha spar is pretty remarkable – she sees the opening and the opportunity faster than I have ever experienced. Twenty years of training will do that to you I suppose.
What I find remarkable about both of these women is that they don’t allow the negativity of other peoples opinions take any shape into what they are doing. They work HARD. They train HARD. They fight even HARDER. Every time they have a fighter step into the ring they are proud. They stay so humble with everything they have accomplished, but yet are such role models to so many. Their students, their friends, their family – all see them in such a high place. They are highly respected by those that count. And for those who wish to disrespect their talent and experience, they pay no mind. They are so above it they don’t even see it.
I have always said that kickboxing and swimming are the two best workouts as they both use every muscle in the body. These women not only have overcome the physical challenge of getting punched, kicked, kneed and elbowed while competing, but they have grown their minds to be the best they can be. When they are at that space of giving their everything to the sport and to their students, only then does their day feel complete. They practice what they preach. They are sweating beside their students, they are in their corner come fight time not only physically but mentally as well. They want to see their students succeed – and every time they get into the ring, there is success. It takes a ton of guts to get into the ring. Win or lose, Sandra and Trisha are both succeeding in their sport.
With contact sports becoming more popular amongst girls in Canada, these two women are paving the way for not only future athletes, but future female coaches as well. And if I could pick two women to have in my corner in life, these two would be my first picks.