“It has changed my life.”
It is not often these words are uttered by young men involved with the police.
But a boxing club which opened in Whitby in the new year is having an extraordinary effect on youngsters between the ages of 11 and 25.
Some were known to the police and some weren’t but the club is building barriers across all sections of the community.
It has been the brainchild of local police community support officer Lynne Butler, who was coming into contact with the same teenagers hanging around after dark on Whitby’s streets and in the town centre day in, day out.
Although, they will readily admit that there are plenty of activities and things to do in Whitby – whether they are accessible and affordable to all walks of life is a different matter.
She had read in a police magazine about the success of a boxing club in the Richmond area and wondered if it would work here, so she put it to the kids she was coming into contact with.
They were up for the idea but didn’t believe that she would make it happen.
It may have taken a year of obtaining funding, premises and jumping through the red tape – but she did and she has been knocked out by the success so far.
On the opening night at the Scout Hut, more than 100 people turned up. Lynne and the 12 volunteers who now help run the club thought the novelty might wear off after a few weeks but far from it.
Kane Brannick (25) said: “For me, it has changed my life. I have been coming since day one and can see a massive change in my fitness levels and feel better for it.
“I can’t wait for Tuesdays to come around, and then I can’t wait for Wednesday and then I can’t wait for Friday. You are just looking forward to it.”
Callum Thorpe (25) added: “I used to do it in Cleveland and we paid £3 but got nowhere near as much action or training as we do here.
“It gives you something to do. You can go to the gym for a fiver but you get more enjoyment down here.”
Sessions are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and if they were every day of the week they would still be able to fill them.
For the first hour coaches work with at least 35 children aged from 11 to 16 and the second hour is for the seniors, aged up to 25 with over 40.
She said: “I said would you be interested in a boxing club and they said ‘that would be mint, but it will never happen’.
“I said I would look into it and started the ball rolling. We want to offer the facility to everybody but for the numbers we get, it is impossible unless we are there until 11pm every night.
“It has shocked me how many kids want to do it and there are one or two that I didn’t think would stick at it because of the discipline but get their heads down and work hard.”
And it is hard work, with the volunteers putting each age group through their paces in three, 20 minute sessions that include fitness, pad work and a skills session.
A new ring was put up for the first time at last Friday night’s session so the members could put their new skills to the test and the atmosphere was buzzing. Seeing the lads, and also lasses – which has been a massive revelation for the coaches – in the ring has surprised the coaches who are now planning to take some of the seniors to a show at Bridlington Amateur Boxing Club next month.
Stewart Lorains is the club’s head coach who came out of boxing retirement to get involved with the Whitby club.
His father, Peter Lorains, was a well-known boxer in the town and was trained by Luis Lavagna and in 1990, Stewart set up Loftus Boxing Club.
He said: “There are ten that are ready to box in a month and we would never have thought that. It is unbelievable how they have taken to it. I only came in an ambassador role but it just snowballed.
“The adrenalin on a night is unbelievable and I can’t sleep when I get home. After being away from boxing for so long I had reservations about coming back but that first night was unbelievable.
“There was a big need for it. We could do with massively bigger premises and I wish the council would have a look at what we are doing here, we are keeping kids off the streets.”
That’s true but the organisers are also starting to see that the true success of this club is the difference it is making to the kids they didn’t think needed intervention.
It is giving, especially the younger ones, confidence, self esteem and is breaking down barriers between different social groups within Whitby.
Coach Alethea Estill works with the 16 regular girls.
She said: “It gives them confidence to stand up to a bully. We teach them not to fight outside the club but now they can stand up to these people without feeling threatened.”
Lynne added: “It is a complete mixed bag. Some wouldn’t have acknowledged each other outside of the club before this.
“I will always remain a part of the club but from a policing point of view we have achieved what we set out to do. We are getting kids off the streets.”