We all might know from our own selves that exercise can help with mental health and wellbeing. Harry Skelton, founder of Harry's Boxing Club, explains how tweens benefit in the same way and why his boxing classes for kids are so successful.
Whilst learning to box and coach in the British Army, I had the opportunity to work with a vast variety of men and women. After a while, I was able to put the six-packs and glory aside, and witness the other ways that boxing and fitness was having an effect on people. I observed that when people had a focus and a way to physically exert themselves regularly, there was a massive increase in their mental health and wellbeing. After leaving the army, I formed an adult boxing fitness club and again, started seeing the same results. The camaraderie of the classes, the family feel, the fitness and the achievement when you complete that next boxing or fitness milestone were leaving people with less stress, more focus and a general feeling of wellbeing.
When a fellow parent asked if I did children's classes, I'll be honest, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. Despite having two young children, both of whom have their own boxing gloves, I never really gave much thought to teaching others, and didn’t really think many children in the area would be interested. Nevertheless, I put on a trial class in the local social centre and sat back fully expecting to end up with one or two children to walk through the door.
I was mistaken, and totally overwhelmed when no less than 31 children came to the session all raring to go! Since then, we have progressed to putting on 4 classes a week for children, ranging between age six and 16. The results have been outstanding and now we have a class average of 26 students all varying in age.
After listening to feedback from the parents, it's become apparent that a pattern is emerging. In the same way that soldiers and adults respond to the training, so to do the children. I have received reports from numerous parents that their children are happier, more motivated and focused at school and are generally displaying better wellbeing. Children that have the propensity to give trouble at bedtime, are asleep before their heads hit the pillow or are practising their drills in the mirror and doing press-ups when they get up in the morning!
Teachers are reporting that children who are not usually academically motivated are showing more focus in the classroom finding a common ground for discussion and teamwork in boxing.
One parent came to me in gratitude. Before he started boxing, her 13 year old son, a young man who suffered so severely with anxiety, only made it into school three times a week. Since he began attending regular boxing training, he had not missed a single day.
All roads led to the same conclusion - regardless of age, gender or ability - boxing and boxing fitness gives people something to focus their minds, exhaust their bodies in the right way and concentrate on achieving their personal goals.
Some people want to just get fit, others want to learn how to box but not actually spar or fight, others want to be a champion. No matter what the goal, there is something for everyone in attending the classes. I hope now to spread to the word further, in an attempt to increase the mental and physical wellbeing of as many children as possible, I will offer boxing/boxing fitness to the schools, the colleges and to all the young people in our community in a hope to set young people on a happy, healthy path from the get go.