High Sheriff knocked out by boxing academy's support
A Shropshire boxing club is showing how the sport is more than left hooks and uppercuts as it uses the skills of the sweet science to help people get back into work or recover from addiction.
The High Sheriff of Shropshire, Dean Harris, has been learning first-hand about the support offered by Bright Star Boxing Academy, in Shifnal.
She visited the club to present certificates to members who have completed their Boxing Leaders qualification, and the Bright Star Boxing Awards.
Head coach Joe Lockley said that 32 people had taken part in the qualifications – starting with a group where the individuals had been in recovery or homeless.
The sessions to gain the qualifications started on Zoom during lockdown and have now been taking place physically at the academy's Old Smithfield base for the past six weeks.
The programme has also been expanded to those who are unemployed.
The leaders qualification enables members to run their own sessions. It has proved a success so far with some members taking on their own sessions using pads and gloves provided by the academy, while others have progressed to helping out with training at the gym.
Joe said: "We started up a group for people who were in recovery or who were homeless and initially ran that group for six weeks. We found it had such an impact on their mental health that we have continued it and the feedback has been amazing, we have had people telling us how the sessions and the structure have changed their lives."
Mrs Harris praised the work carried out at the academy.
She said: "I was delighted to be asked to make the presentations for the bronze and silver awards to group members.
"The work that Joe and the team do at Bright Star Boxing is truly exceptional. The impact they have on their services users is transformative whether they are struggling with addiction, self-esteem and confidence issues, physical disabilities, mental health problems or simply wanting to get fit.
"Their positive, ‘can-do’ attitude towards achieving goals is infectious."
The funding for both groups has been provided by Landau, the Marches LEP, and the EU Social Investment Fund.
Joe said they were extremely grateful to all of the organisations for their support, without which they would not have been able to run the programmes.
He said: "Thank you to all three, they have allowed us to run programmes which are making a real difference to people's lives."
Joe said it had been rewarding to see how the sessions had broken down barriers between people from different walks of life who are dealing with varied but challenging issues.
He said: "It is great to see everyone with such different backgrounds coming together. People with different goals using boxing to achieve the targets they have set."
Wayne Ecclestone, one of those who has been taking part in the sessions explained their impact, saying: "When I recovered from drug addiction I found I had an empty space, I had to replace my drug and alcohol addiction with a positive addiction. Boxing is a positive addiction and is something that helped me and will continue to help me for the rest of my life."
Joe said that the confidence and achievement of boxing training also provides a gateway for people to see how they can take on other real-world challenges – such as employment and dealing with housing issues.
He said: "As a boxing coach you can build such a rapport with people you work with that they will value your opinion.
"When you have finished a boxing training session, with the endorphins going, you are ready to take on the world, but it is the guidance and support they lack and what we can do is channel that feeling and say 'have you thought about this?'.
"We also have coaches with lived experience – who have been through the same things. They can work with the service users and say 'this is my story, this is what happened' and mentor them through to get qualifications – it is a lot wider than just becoming a boxer."