Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Behaviour - Boxing Clever for a Fighting Chance

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Behaviour - Boxing Clever for a Fighting Chance

Article excerpt

It sounds counter-intuitive, but sports such as boxing can teach aggressive and disruptive children about the rules of life.

Even though I was one of the more supportive parents with children at the school, my son's behaviour was still appalling. He took it upon himself to ruin everybody's day, and in the end he was excluded. So I understand the total devastation that being kicked out of school can cause families.

The lives of most children who end up being excluded are a mess, with no consistent adult presence. They become rude, disruptive and unable to comply with any sort of instruction. I've known children who were so violent at school that they attacked teachers and injured themselves; one smashed up a classroom and caused Pounds 10,000 worth of damage.

Mainstream schools are not equipped to deal with that level of destruction. So they send the students home, and the children think they've got their way: they're king, playing at home on their PlayStations or, far worse, getting involved in gangs and fights out on the streets. They think they are in charge, untouchable, because no one can be bothered to take them on.

This is the point where schools, pupil referral units and charities need to think slightly differently. Traditional interventions are not working, so it's time to think outside the box. This is what my organisation did: we set up the Boxing Academy and, as the name suggests, we got excluded children in the ring, boxing.

Ringing the changes

Using boxing as a means of tackling aggressive, disruptive conduct might seem counter-intuitive. Some children can't understand why, if they're getting into trouble for fighting, they are sent to learn to box. But we're not trying to improve their fighting technique, we're trying to change the way they think about their futures. It's about so much more than boxing. One boy who was always getting into fights realised after six months with us that he was walking away from street fights because he no longer felt the need to prove anything. That is invaluable; that is saving lives.

The boxing ethos is all about control and discipline. We have a clear system of rewards and punishment that we are able to tailor to each child: doing push-ups for some, writing an essay for others. We will even go to their homes and confiscate precious belongings until their behaviour improves.

Punching the bags, weight training and skipping not only improve fitness but teach children to control anger and resolve conflict in a safe environment. More importantly, by accepting that there are rules to the game, children subliminally start to understand and accept that this is how the world works.

All our mentors are trained by the Amateur Boxing Association and many have also had their lives turned around by a boxing gym. They coach children four times a week in groups of seven, and stay with them from the ages of 13 to 16. …

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