Inspiring Young People To Be Active
A summary of the Hampshire School Games 2023.
Date: 13 July 2023 Author: Energise Me
When teacher strikes began earlier this year, Winchester based boxing coach, Rocky, decided to open the gym to young people who couldn’t go to school. He created a safe space and an opportunity to get some physical activity in their day.
I’m Rocky – which is really fitting for a boxing coach. I’ve been involved in boxing for almost 40 years. It’s a family thing, starting from a young age and my Dad in particular had a passion for it. Though I’ve been competitive, I always enjoyed coaching, especially with young people. So, that was the direction I followed in this sport.
I’ve worked with various clubs across the South. Then, about a year ago, Filipe, the owner and head coach at Winchester Boxing Club, approached me and asked if I’d like to join the club full-time.
Rather than the kids being sedentary at home, I saw an opportunity to offer an additional day of training.
We already work with charities such as Street Reach, to provide a space for some disadvantaged young people that need structure, often whilst suspended or waiting for a space for school. So, when the teacher strikes started it was a natural next step. I thought that even more young people would be in that same situation. Rather than the kids being sedentary at home, I saw an opportunity to offer an additional day of training.
We posted about it on social media and told people at the end of sessions so that they knew we were a place that they could come to during the strikes. Most of the boys and girls are really committed so were really excited about the opportunity. Parents were also happy as it gave them the chance to go to work for a few hours and not have to worry because they know their children are safe. All we asked is that they keep their phones near them in case anything changes.
We’ve found people have travelled from Basingstoke, Andover and Eastleigh to get here as facilities closer to them just haven’t been open.
At the start of the day, I wrote a plan on the board to provide a bit of structure. It felt like a normal training session. So, maybe they’d do circuit training or come in the ring and do pads with me. The youngest attendee we had to a session was about 10. The sessions were mostly aimed for our members as they would be used to the set up and the content.
But as word got out, we did have interest from outside the club. One lady asked about her 12-year-old daughter attending. We invited her down for a free, taster session to see if she enjoyed herself and get familiar with the environment. Then she could come and join the open session.
We’ve had great feedback from both parents and the children. Parents that work from home especially, have told us how helpful it’s been. We’ve found people have travelled from Basingstoke, Andover and Eastleigh to get here as facilities closer to them just haven’t been open.
Across our participants, we see huge improvements in mental health compared to when they started. They gain confidence and make new friends. It doesn’t just end in the ring either. Boxing teaches self-discipline and commitment.
Increasing the availability of an opportunity that benefits people in such a way can only be good in my eyes.
Give them the freedom to do their own thing and discover what feels good.
The most important thing for me as a coach is that the children come in and have fun. You’ve got to enlighten, and for the youngsters treat it a bit like a game. Rather than it being technical and repetitive, give them the freedom to do their own thing and discover what feels good.
Like a lot of sports, take athletics for example, you’re not expected to come in at the beginning and run as fast as someone who has been doing it for 5 years. You just have to let them get out there and run. It’s the same mentality in the club. I just say, right this is your stance, this is your guard, get some gloves on and hit the bag. Enjoy it. Let them go with it. Soften the approach. That way you find they have a lot more fun.
Opportunities like opening our facilities during teacher strikes, that informal physical activity environment, lets these young people do that. They put in as much effort as they want. Focus on what techniques they want. They socialise. They grow their confidence. And that’s much better that sitting at home with nothing to do.