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Amateur Scene – Washington boxing club going beyond the sport

Washington boxing club
From delivering Christmas hampers to providing mental health support and more to their community, Washington boxing club has a unique focus, writes John Dennen

WASHINGTON boxing club, like gyms across the country, has been closed over the latest lockdown. But the club hasn’t let that hold it back from continuing to support their local community.

Washington has placed a special emphasis on this social aspect of their work. They have invested in training welfare officers who help the members of the club, and their families, particularly with mental health, a serious issue for some of the young people and also their parents. “During lockdown I’ve been in contact with a few of the people from the club but just over the phone, just giving them support and someone to talk to,” Kelly Brown, one of Washington’s welfare officers, said.

They’ve been maintaining that connection with their members as best they can remotely. “What we’ve been doing is sending them, on Whatsapp, different kinds of fitness programmes they can do and healthy eating just to keep their mood up and their exercise patterns going,” Brown said. “It’s knowing how they are, how their sleep pattern’s gone.”

Brown had initially been involved with the exercise and fitness side of the gym, but then through the club became one of two welfare officers. “After speaking to the kids and the families I wanted to stop the exercising part of it and I said I wanted to actually gain some more qualifications with mental health and suicide prevention,” she explained. “I talk more to the families so I can see when some of the families are going through rough times.

“We’ve got a lot of female boxers that we like to bring in, focus on them and keep them out of problems.

“I think that half the families actually come to the club because they know it’s more for mental health. It’s a very happy place.

“It’s like a boxing family we’ve got.”

It’s a significant provision. The welfare officers are able to flag, for instance, someone with suicidal tendencies to other services. Once the club can reopen they’ll be running in person groups with Mind. “Just to support people that were having problems, people had lost their jobs so coming in to help support people with money, giving them some guidance, suicide awareness also,” Kelly said.

“There’s always something to do in the club other than just the boxing. It’s not just about the boxing, we’ve got a lot of things going on.”

As well as completing their own refurbishment of the gym, the club has also been raising considerable amounts of money for charity, seeing real generosity in people. Over Christmas they got together substantive hampers of food and gifts. They delivered these to families who, without the hamper, wouldn’t have been able to enjoy much of a Christmas at all. “When we were taking things to the doors, the families were getting really emotional,” Brown said. “I think especially with the emotions that are going in the world right now with the Covid situation, people losing their jobs, being isolated, they just don’t know how to think sometimes. It gets so hard for people and it’s just nice to know that other people are thinking of people and stepping in just to give each other a hand. It didn’t cost anything to be kind. It’s just nice to know that other people are there for each other.”

‘JOE FORTUNE, THANK YOU’
Leith Victoria mourns the death of coach and president Joe Fortune

COACH and president at venerable Scottish club, Leith Victoria, Joe Fortune has passed away. He was 90 years old.

In a statement the club said: “It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Joe Fortune. He was involved in the club since the age of twelve, a total of 78 years during which time he was a boxer, coach and later our president.

“Joe as a coach was hard and fair. He loved a joke. He put his heart and soul into his role, always showing the lads respect, patience and understanding. On occasions being a surrogate father figure to many. He was an inspiration and role model over the years.

“Joe was responsible for developing the boxing and social skills for many who later became world, Commonwealth, European and Scottish champions.

“No matter the weather Joe could be relied upon to open the doors to the gym, ready to coach whoever turned up.

“During the lean, hard years of the club, Joe along with others ensured the club continued to thrive, he gave his all. He has been an anchor for the club throughout and will be sorely missed.”

Former WBO champion Alex Arthur said, “We lost my childhood coach, a man that taught me so much about life and boxing. A good amateur and a tough pro in his day Joe really lived through some trauma and hardship. He taught me to be mentally tough. I’ll never forget you. Joe Fortune, thank you.”

KEEPING ENGAGED
Olympia have been continuing to deliver their community work

OLYMPIA Boxing CIC are continuing to deliver throughout the lockdown, helping to keep communities active, having fun and engaged in boxing. They are currently delivering eight community and 20 school virtual programmes.

They rapidly re-designed their programmes so they could be delivered online through live Zoom or Microsoft Teams sessions or pre-recorded programmes. Director Wayne Smith said, “Our team have worked very hard to adapt our coaching so we could continue to deliver high quality, fun, engaging and progressive sessions online for our schools and community groups.”

Olympia Boxing provide sessions catered for all ages, abilities and disabilities. From over fives to the eldest currently, a married couple both at 88 years young! The sessions delivered are Boxing Youth, Community BOX Fitness for adults and their successful Boxing 4 Dementia and Boxing 4 Parkinson’s programmes. All of their sessions are fully adaptable no matter someone’s ability. They have members standing, sitting down and it shows boxing can be accessible for everyone. Little space and no equipment is needed so barriers are broken down. All their sessions also are free.

To find out more, Olympia Boxing CIC can be found on Facebook, @olympiaboxing on Instagram and Twitter. To register for any of the programmes please email info@olympiaboxing.co.uk for any information and registration links.

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