IF THEY show up willing to learn and have fun no youngster will ever be turned away.
That is the mantra of a new boxing club launched by more than 25 volunteer coaches in a bid to crack down on crime and anti-social behaviour on Hayling Island.
After months of talks the Heart of Hayling has been made possible thanks to funding granted by the island’s branch of The Lions Club.
Founders committed to the scheme boast backgrounds in the military, the emergency services, teaching and boxing itself – and will run hour-long classes.
From Q Shillingford’s Heart of Portsmouth Boxing Academy, Knox White is the new club’s mentor and will play a crucial role in priming its coaches.
After he passes on his knowledge, they will soon be able to guide recruits aged five to 17 through the six levels of boxing awards – from non-contact up to contact.
‘There is little police presence on Hayling and we wanted to do something to keep kids out of parks at night and off the streets,’ the 44-year-old said.
‘Youngsters can come to us having never put on a pair of boxing gloves before and we will train them from a non-contact level to a point where they can hold their own and box.
‘This club is all about providing a positive pathway and development for young people.’
When the club officially launches at Hayling Island Community Centre on Wednesday, January 9, it will welcome youngsters in staggered age groups for a trio of sessions.
The 13 to 17-year-olds will be up first from 4.30pm until 5.30pm, followed by the five to 13-year-olds from 5.30pm to 6.30pm, before the floor is opened up to ladies of any age from 6.30pm until 7.30pm.
But no matter who shows up for the session, which will return weekly once it concludes, no one will be left out if they do not have the means to pay up.
Club coach and co-founder, teacher Mark Coates, said: ‘It's £2 per session, but if you can't afford that feel free to make a donation of any amount. We will never turn a boxer away.
‘This club is very much by the community for the community and it’s going to bring kids together and make them feel like they belong – giving them a real sense of achievement.’
It was Lions Club member Mr Coates who lodged an official request for funding for the club back in October.
Lions spokeswoman Nikki Shepherd said: ‘Lions have funded this because the club offers a very careful, structured and staged progression plan of initially non-contact boxing.
‘It will be good for so many of our community. It may help some to regain fitness, others to find a direction.’
She added: ‘Our island’s children now have a new means of connecting with adults from all walks of life, where they will be supported, mentored and really have to work hard to get results.’
A launch event for the club took place on December 16 – and coaches are set to be put through their paces in a refresher session with Mr White on January 5.
Men’s senior classes are also expected to run from February.