We had first met Arnold when he was 13  and had attended a few of our boxing sessions. He returned after he was referred to us after being excluded from school. He immediately engaged in the boxing fitness sessions that we ran at both Earlsfield ABC and the Carney’s Community Centre.  Whilst he could be disruptive at times, we found that he was always keen to achieve a goal, when set one as a challenge.  Soon after this we felt that he would also benefit from mentoring, so we allocated him to one of our mentors.  We then met up with Arnold’s mother and put an action plan in place. This was was based around Arnold working on his academic studies, both at his centre and with his mentor, and also on keeping him busy with sports based projects (Arnold demonstrated real ability at boxing, but also engaged in regular football sessions with Kicks, a football based project).

Arnold was great at all of the sports, but he struggled to knuckle down on the academic side. Our mentor met with both him and his centre and started doing mock exams with him. The boxing sessions were a reward for him completing the exam papers.  This seemed to work, so we would see Arnold at all three of our sessions for his age group and also sometimes at the older age groups boxing sessions.

It was clear that Arnold had a keen interest in sport, but also that he was an intelligent young man, with a lot of ideas on how he could develop.  We soon started using Arnold to help out with events that we ran at local schools and youth centres and he demonstrated great coaching qualities and enjoyed training some of the younger generation. So when a project called The Agency (delivered by Battersea Arts Centre and Contact in Manchester in collaboration with People’s Palace Projects, an independent arts charity) contacted us asking for referrals of young men from Battersea, who could have ideas about activities that would benefit the local community, we immediately referred him over.

Arnold was accepted on the project and his plan was to join forces with another young man that we knew, called Mohamed, and set up a fitness project for Battersea Young people aged 7-11 years old. Arnold and Mohamed decided on this project was because there had been a recent study into the levels of obesity in Wandsworth and Battersea had come out as an area with very high child obesity levels.  We supported Arnold and Mohamed in developing a pilot session which was presented to the Judges at The Agency.  The judges were impressed and granted Mohamed and Arnold £2,000 (the pilot was funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian foundation and the programme is currently funded by The Big Lottery) to get their project started.

The Agency and Carney’s Community then supported the two young men in setting up “Get Fit Fast”, a fitness and boxing project that uses games and sports to engage 7-11 year olds.  We helped them to promote it at a number of festivals and events such as Wandsworth Get Active Day, York Gardens fitness event, the Southbank Strive festival and numerous small local sports events. We also managed to help them with publicity by get them to feature in a documentary about Carney’s Community by the TV channel Box Nation. They also featured in the Telegraph Magazine alongside other young people who have developed projects through The Agency in London and Manchester.

The result is that the project was a huge success and both Arnold (now 16) and Mohamed (now 17) are now paid Carney’s Community members of staff, who deliver free boxing fitness sessions to 7-11 year olds (funded by both the Agency and William Wates Memorial Trust), every Saturday, under the supervision of one of our qualified staff.

The sessions have been very well attended by a variety of young people, including some who have been diagnosed with autism and also some who have been referred directly from social services.

A parent of a participant diagnosed with Autism and who has just been excluded from a Special Educational Needs school, said:

R’s school told me that R is too disruptive to engage in any classes and that they cannot handle his behaviour, but when he comes to Get Fit Fast he is fine for the whole hour!

The sessions continue to be a success, (so much so there is now a waiting list) and Arnold and Mohamed have also recently both qualified as ‘Junior Boxing Organisers’ through England Boxing.