Gloves not Gunz: The boxing club helping young people through the pandemic

A session at Gloves not Gunz. Pic: Gloves not Gunz

How do you run a boxing club during a pandemic? Gloves not Gunz knows how. Whether it’s an intense workout or a calming yoga session, they have a variety of online fitness sessions that continue to support vulnerable young people in the community and their ethos of diverting crime through sport and activity.

The various lockdowns as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic have been hard going for all of us, but young people with difficult home situations are likely to be hit even harder. This is where Gloves not Gunz has stepped in, creating a timetable of online events so that people in the community can still access the support they need. Co-founder Ben Eckett said: “Everybody is struggling at the moment, it’s worse for certain groups of people in the community that have other issues going on, so it’s important to continue to support them throughout this time.”

Like many, Eckett felt that this lockdown is a lot harder than the previous ones. He said: “I don’t think people thought it would last that long in the first lockdown. I think unless you have a good support system of people to motivate you, it is difficult.”

Gloves for Gunz is a youth programme and boxing club set up in 2017 by two Croydon dads Ben Eckett and Adam Ballard, after a double shooting and a stabbing happened in the area. The club is located near Green Lane, which has a history of gang crime. They felt that they should do something to help, and so they set up the club as a safe space for young people in the area who may be affected.

With Ballard’s extensive experience in combat sport and Thai boxing, and Eckett’s over 12 years of experience working with young people, they are the perfect partnership. When Eastlondonlines first spoke to them, they had just set up the club. Five years later, they support around 100 young people a week and have received recognition from the Metropolitan police, as well as multiple partnerships from companies including Nike.

Eckett said that since the first lockdown in March 2020 they have fluctuated between having online and face-to-face sessions while practicing social distancing. They have previously been able to carry out mentoring in schools, however now that schools have shut under new government guidelines, this is no longer possible.

The virtual programme they have put together includes Instagram live sessions on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings where youth workers and coaches carry out home workouts and education sessions. There is also a mentoring scheme in place where young people can get one-on-one support through Facetime, Skype and phone calls, and a scheme where people can play youth workers at their favorite online games and have a chat with them in the process. Their partnership with Nike allowed 50 exercise mats to be donated to people in the community, in order to help them join in with the online fitness classes. 

Their online classes have been a great success. Eckett said: “We’ve done well and have had really good attendance levels. As we have such a good relationship with the young people we support, we were able to help them access the online classes and could encourage them to attend.” He said diverting anti-social behaviour is slightly more difficult online as it is a lot easier to safeguard people face-to-face, but there has still been a high level of engagement.

Anti-social behaviour made up the largest proportion of crime in Croydon from December 2019 to November 2020 at 40 per cent, with violent crime being the second largest at 23 per cent. The club tries to reduce these levels by supporting young people in the community and giving them an outlet in the form of boxing and other sports.

Eckett said: “There really needs to be a push to give more support, due to the mental health implications of the pandemic and people being less active, as well as missing out on learning the life skills they would when attending our session.”

Gloves not Gunz are eagerly looking forward to the post-pandemic future when they can continue with their face-to-face work. Eckett said: “We would love to resume our residential trips and day trips and look forward to doing this when things return back to normal.”

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