After watching only one Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight, sophomore Alissa Belcastro, a Colorado native, was inspired to become a fighter herself. At the age of 14, Alissa was too young for competitive fighting as most associations require participants to be at least 18-years-old. Nevertheless, she began training to become a boxer with support from her friends, family and especially grandfather.
After years of dedication and hard work, Alissa’s dream has come true as a member of the The University of Olivet boxing team. She has fought in four matches since beginning her fighting career, holding a 3-1 record and a champion title as well. In addition, she has found her fit in various other campus groups and clubs, and is loving being a Comet.
“Most of the time, people can’t wrap their head around being a woman and a boxer,” Alissa explained. “They always want to know what it’s like to get hit in the face and how I find enjoyment in that. Honestly, I don’t, but that’s because it’s not about the punches I take – it’s about how hard I strike back.”
Alissa dual enrolled at a large university during high school, followed by a year attending community college in Denver. Neither school was a good fit for her as they lacked the individualized attention she was seeking. Over the summer between her freshman and sophomore years, Alissa was surprised to hear from The University of Olivet Head Boxing Coach Loren Partlo after he noticed her skill set on the national boxing registry. Coach Partlo offered Alissa a Talent Scholarship to box at The University of Olivet, nearly 1,500 miles east of her hometown.
At first, attending Olivet almost seemed too good to be true to Alissa. Could she really continue boxing, earn a scholarship and have access to individualized attention both as an athlete and student? The answer was yes. Alissa didn’t even need to visit campus to help make up her mind.
“Walking onto campus and not knowing a single person made me doubt my decision to attend Olivet at first,” Alissa admitted. “It took me a few months to really settle in and realize how many opportunities to get involved there are. Once I started putting myself out there, joining clubs and making friends, I finally found my true fit and began loving college.”
Hesitant at first, Alissa explored Greek life at Olivet. The sisters of Nu Gamma Xi welcomed her with open arms, appreciating Alissa’s commitment to personal growth in her academics and as a boxer. She also joined the Student Government Association (SGA) and will serve as vice president in the upcoming school year. “Having activities available on campus makes such a large difference in the quality of student experience,” Alissa said, understanding that herself during her transition to Olivet. “I like to be well-informed and am excited to work to provide more opportunities for students to attend events.” Some of SGA’s most popular events include Midnight Breakfast during Homecoming and laser tag, which Alissa looks forward to helping coordinate.
With career aspirations to work in the nursing field, Alissa is majoring in health science with a minor in psychology. She is aiming to graduate in 2019 and is excited for what’s in store over the next two years, specifically advancement in her boxing abilities and involvement in campus life at Olivet. “Time management is the key to success in college,” Alissa said. “Plan out your days ahead of time to ensure you have the time to succeed in every area. Make sure to schedule free time too, everyone needs that.”
In addition to the health benefits of boxing, Alissa describes it as a mental release and outlet for overwhelming emotions. “As a boxer, you’re always facing different challenges – to train harder, beat your opponent, overcome your own negative mindset,” Alissa explained. “I’ve learned to persevere, work hard, ignore stereotypes and always believe in myself through boxing, and I know I can transfer that into whatever I’m doing and especially my future professional career.”
Alissa’s biggest goal moving forward is to box in a significant number of matches and is working to enter a more popular weight class to help her do so. After gaining more experience, she also plans to try out for the USA Boxing Team, and especially continue to advocate for women in the sport.
Learn more about all of the opportunities to join a club or athletic team at The University of Olivet, in addition to boxing and Greek life, by visiting campus or applying. Talent Scholarships for boxing, other activities and non-NCAA DIII collegiate sports are still available!