Boys living in rough neighbourhoods are being encouraged to throw a punch at a bag instead of in a fight at Hamilton Community Boxing Club.
Volunteer and coach Andrew Stirling created a boxing academy at the Enderley Community Centre with the aim of giving support to boys aged 9-12 who live in unstable environments.
“The whole vision of the class is to train boys to become men of integrity through boxing,” he says.
“The likelihood is that the majority of the boys in this area in 10 years’ time will be in jail, so theseboys are the ones I want to reach and give them something positive to focus all their energy on.”
The launch of the academy was inspired by boxer Billy Graham’s book Making Champion Men. The book discusses Graham’s own rough upbringing and how he created a youth boxing academy to help kids going through similar issues in his hometown Naenae.
“I really felt this was something needed in Hamilton, and all around the country,” says Andrew.
“I spoke with Billy and he said they are wanting to roll out 32 boxing academies all around the country, so they were happy to support me.”
The Enderley Boxing Academy (EBA) is now into its second year and has eight boys registered, with six of them regularly attending.
Andrew admits that when he first started the academy he struggled to keep the numbers up and often had lessons with one or two and occasionally no students.
“I’ve learned that the number of boys who turn up is less important than the time I spend with the few who do.”
Thanks to his patience, Andrew has slowly started to see a difference in the boys’ behaviors, and has received positive feedback from their teachers and caregivers.
From a school teacher:
“xxxxxx is a lovely boy and I really think being involved has given him confidence and he is making good choices about who he wants chooses to hang out with. He is also really taking his learning seriously and electing choosing not to sit with students who he knows will be a distraction to him. So xxxxxx (the other teacher in our class) and I are really pleased with the progress he is making and I am sure the discipline and confidence he is learning through your academy is hugely beneficial to him.”
From one of the mothers:
“Not having a dad around and uncles/aunts/family friends who love him and spend time with him but are busy themselves and grandparents and great grandparents who have passed away; I find xxxxxx as he becomes a teenager is struggling to find who he is and where he fits in, especially as he knows only my side of our family/culture. Being mum to xxxxxx is the best thing in the world but I find as he is getting older that he is looking for more male role models and support and he has found that in boxing and his mentor/coach Andrew.”
Andrew says it is the little things that make a difference.
“The boys will walk into a room and shake hands with everyone, and have grown more confident in their own abilities. They have learned skills in fighting, but have also learned when to use them.
“I get a buzz out of seeing them interact with each other and seeing/watching their growth and success. It’s more about training the boys to become champions and strong men, if they want to do boxing in the future well that’s great, but that’s not the be all and end all.”
Hamilton City Council supports the class by allowing the use of community facilities for no cost/free and also provides some equipment to run the class.
The EBA, which runs 4-5pm Monday and Wednesday from 4-5pm is now recruiting boys for term 4. For more information, go to ebahamilton.wixsite.com/ebahamilton.