Heart of Hayling Boxing Academy continues to have ‘amazing impact’ on youngsters’ lives
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Set up in 2019, the Academy welcomes around 150 people - mainly youngsters - every Wednesday during school terms across four hour-long sessions.
Portsmouth FC CEO Andy Cullen is due to pay a visit next month, while Fratton Park stalwart Kev ‘the kit man’ McCormack - a former Commonwealth Games boxer - regularly helps out. He is friends with HoH coach Knox White, the pair having been in the Navy together.
Another Blues link is Christian Burgess, who became a good friend of HoH during the first national lockdown, helping to deliver medicines on the island to the vulnerable shielding in their homes. Currently playing in Belgium, the centre half was made an honorary HoH coach.
HoH last summer welcomed the Second Sea Lord, Nick Hine, who met youngsters and handed out awards.
In addition, WBO Global welterweight champion Mikey McKinson has been made a trustee of a club which has become a registered charity since forming, making it easier to access grant funding.
Mak paid a recent visit to the club to hand out awards. HoH official Richard Coates said: ‘He couldn’t believe how many kids were there.
‘It was the same response when Donna Jones came down - she couldn’t believe how many there were.
‘It’s not just from the island, they’re coming from Southbourne, Emsworth, Leigh Park, Havant.’
As well as talking to HoH members, Mak met Hayling College head Martin Reah, chair of HoH trustees Jerry Widdowson and local councillors Leah Turner and Michael Wilson, who are also trustees..
Shania Harris received an engraved silver locket for giving up six hours of her time every week to assist in the erection and dismantling of the ring, taking charge of equipment storage, as well as coaching.
Mak presented medals to those who had gained their GB Boxing awards, Preliminary, Standard and Bronze.
He presented the annual shield ‘For Natural Talent’ to Harriet Wilson, Ed Silver was awarded the ‘Against the Odds’ shield and Livvy Coates the one for ‘True Spirit’.
Mak was then presented with an endeavour medal by Phoebe Perry for his work in representing the Island community in Parliament.
HoH now put on two hour-long sessions for 5-11 year-olds, each attracting around 60 youngsters.
There are also sessions for youngsters over 12 and for women. ‘The women are really keen,’ said Coates. ‘They see it as a good way of keeping fit. We only run during the school terms but the women have paid for the community centre hall themselves during school holidays, they carry on all year round.’
HoH was set up by Coates’ son Mark - a tutor at Hayling College - in a bid to avoid local youngsters being sucked into anti-social behaviours such as drugs and crime.
The impact has been huge. ‘We did a survey recently, as organisations which provide grants like to see evidence that their money is being well spent,’ said Richard Coates.
‘One hundred per cent, everyone said it’s had an amazing impact. It’s helped with issues like anger management, it’s got rid of frustrations, it’s given people a more positive attitude.’
Though it is easy to see Hayling as a wealthy island, the reality is somewhat different. With that in mind, HoH policy has always been ‘pay a couple of pounds if you can afford it.’
Running costs are around £15,000 a year, with a third of that going on community centre hall hire. There is also equipment to purchase and maintain, and all the coaches’ qualifications - under the tutelage of Q Shillingford at Heart of Portsmouth Boxing Club - are paid out of club funds.
In addition, HoH buy fruit every week to hand out to youngsters. ‘One thing we found is that a lot of the kids don’t get fed properly,’ revealed Coates.
That is an anecdote clearly illustrating HoH are certainly more than just a sports club. The focus is also on the youngsters’ future, rather than just the present. And with that in mind, an RAF recruitment officer will be visiting soon to talk about careers in the Armed Forces.
McKinson, meanwhile, has paid one visit to the club, and went down a storm. ‘He was here for three years and was absolutely brilliant with the youngsters,’ said Coates. ‘We’d love to get him back - it’s important for the kids to see role models.
Longer-term – within a two or three-year timescale - there are plans for HoH to be based at Hayling College as part of new sports facilities. ‘That will result in a bigger increase in the number of young people we can train,’ said Coates.