“Boxing has always been a personal journey for me, everything centred around having to do what’s best for me.”
Tyrone “The Cyclone” Tongia is describing his life as a professional fighter in the not-too-distant past, a time when he gave everything to the sport and it gave him three Australian light-middleweight titles in return.
Injury saw him give up the sport in 2012, despite being at the peak of his ability.
“You can choose to be defeated by it or you can choose to grow,” says the 34-year-old father of two.
A mantra that fits neatly with the corporate ideology of Pensar.
So much so that Pensar’s managing director Karl Yunker hired Cyclone as a personal coach … for the entire workforce. He modified Pensar’s head office to accommodate a gym and boxing ring, where Cyclone now holds sessions for our Pensar people twice a day, six days a week — at no cost to them.
“Karl’s always been quite innovative and progressive, in terms of how he wants the company to operate,” says Cyclone.
“He’s always been a big advocator of personal development, a healthy lifestyle and physical activity.”
‘The stats on mental health are clear’
Cyclone’s message of strength from adversity resonates with Pensar’s HR Manager Shane Kelly.
Shane has spent the past 15 years working in heavy industry — eight of them as a fly in, fly out subcontractor to Rio Tinto in Western Australia — and says that employees most want to work for companies that prioritise the physical and mental wellbeing of their workforce.
“In our industry the stats for mental health issues, are unfortunately higher than in other elements of society, so we certainly have to make sure we’re targeting the right areas to help employees.”
Shane says where once workplace wellness programs focussed on fitness — “to make sure people were fit for work” — Pensar have adopted a holistic approach, encompassing mental wellness too, “to make sure people are in the right frame of mind when we put them on challenging projects.”
“Boxing has been a great hit. Cyclone’s sessions also create a bond between the team, Shane says,
“I think, it wouldn’t have worked as well if it wasn’t for having Cyclone in that role, he’s a natural choice. He’s not only an expert in boxing, but also fitness and coaching, and I’d say team building as well.
Reese Deaves, Director of Pensar’s Civil Infrastructure division, is a regular at Cyclone’s training sessions, preferring the afternoons and Saturdays so that he can fit it in around work and dad duties.
“The first thing about it is it’s convenient. There’s no excuse not to work out because it’s right there. Too often if you’ve got a gym membership you’ll go home and then you’ll not be able to get yourself to go to the gym.”
“What I get out of it is a stress release, too, at the end of the day. It’s a time that you can honestly not think about work, you can concentrate on boxing, and that’s a big benefit.”
‘Iron sharpens iron’
Cyclone says the challenge of overcoming personal fears and improving working relationships are among the benefits of his style of coaching.
“In boxing there’s an element of contact, and a lot of people don’t know what it’s like to be hurt and have physical contact. So, there’s that element of fear, but once you get past all that and you’ve gone through the journey, it’s more about personal development than anything — character building, pushing yourself,” he says.
“We all have different goals, but at the end of the day it’s about helping each other overcome some limitations and working together, and supporting each other to reach our goals.”
“There is an element of trust as well, because there’s controlled contact: the rules being no contact to the head, and controlled contact to the body. So you have to trust your partners to a) not hit you in the head, b) be controlled in their boxing.”
“People have to be partnered up for a lot of drills and exercises, so you’re working and relying on someone else. Whereas, anyone can do a push up in a small bedroom or a hotel, anywhere in the world, doing it with another team member and being guided by others… well, they say, iron sharpens iron.”
For more on how Coach Cyclone is impacting the culture at Pensar and the fitness of our people read the latest news article by ABC News.