The Sheffield boxing club that is proving to be a knockout success in this city community
An ex-boxer has shown how building a safe and nurturing environment in a troubled neighbourhood can help young people to turn their lives around.
Opened in 2016, Firth Park Boxing Academy now has more than 200 members of all ages and backgrounds and has been the heart of the local community.
In an area that has one of the highest crime rates in Sheffield, the boxing club aims to help kids stay off the streets by focusing their energy and providing good role models.
Hussein Nasser, head coach of the club said: “I grew up in Firth Park and I know it’s always been a rough area. For those kids who end up on the street, what I think they need is a place they can go to and an activity they want to put their energy into. The second thing they need is a bit of love and attention.
“Sometimes I think if I didn’t have boxing when I was younger, I could have been on the streets as well, it’s possible. And that really motivates me to run this club well to provide something these kids can rely on.
“It’s really inspiring and encouraging for the younger kids at the club to see how their elders train and what they can achieve. When they know what is possible, they want to train hard to get that level themselves.
Hussein has worked with many young people who were considered violent and dangerous in the past and turned their lives around with his training and teaching.
He said: “One of the members we have here used to be involved in gang crime and had been causing lots of trouble in the area. His dad brought him in, I sat down with him and had an honest and open chat. I said: ‘If you keep doing what you are doing, you are either going to get killed or end up in prison. If you really like fighting, why not do it the right way?’
“He’s a completely different person now and he has been trying to get his friends off the street as well. He’s got an amateur game coming up and I’m really excited to see what the future holds for him.”
When Hussein first started coaching in 2016, he took on six members and they were all his friends’ and his children. In a few weeks, almost 70 young people came to his sessions and that’s when he decided to open his own gym.
He said: “Most people come here from word of mouth, some of them are bullied in school and lack confidence in themselves, some of them are overweight and are here to get fit and some of them were trouble-makers in the area.
“Whether they are competing or not, this has become an important part of their life.
“We started to have young girls coming in as well, one of them is 14 and comes in regularly. I think she can achieve great things if she keeps up the good work she’s doing.”
Hussein thinks boxing is more than a sport and he has been seeing these young people grow both inside and outside the club.
“I took these kids to do things in the community such as litter picking because I’m not only teaching them about boxing, but also about life.
“Boxing is about respect and discipline and that’s what I want these kids to learn. We have a system here that when you come in, you are going to say hi to everyone training in the club. Although it’s an individual sport, I want them to train as a team and care for each other.”
On 14-15 August, boxers from the Firth Park Boxing Academy took part in the Riviera Box Cup in in Torquay, England, alongside other amateurs from over 100 clubs in the UK.
One of the club members, Nazir Younus, who has been training with Hussein since 2016 won the gold medal in 64kg/69kg.
Hussein said: “I couldn’t be prouder for him. He’s been with me since day one and it was such a great feeling seeing what he achieved. It was priceless.”
Hussein became a full-time coach in 2018 and has since recruited five other volunteer coaches to provide different levels of training according to members’ needs and abilities.
He added: “I’m not doing this alone. During the seven months we had to close because of lockdown, the landlady didn’t charge us any rent. Even when we reopened, she gave us a huge reduction because she said she wanted to give something back to the community.
“I want to provide training for my members to compete professionally in the future. I know some of them who are in the amateur league are thinking about it and if they are going to take that route, I want to be able to support them.”