London riots inspire boxing club
11 August 2011. Thousands of young people rioted in London. But on that very day, the riots inspired legendary football coach Steadman Scott to give these young people something positive to focus on. So Steadman set up Afewee Boxing Club in Brixton.
Four years on from the London riots, Afewee Boxing club is going from strength to strength. Join In helped sport enthusiast Laurie Cooper to volunteer at Afewee. She talks about her experience and the club’s impact in Brixton, as does Head Coach Bobby Miltiadous.
Laurie Cooper and Bobby Miltiadous (centre) are among those making a difference.
Laurie has always been a keen sportswoman, so volunteering at Afewee Boxing club was the perfect new opportunity.
“I used to be a personal trainer”, Laurie said. “So I’ve always been involved with sport and fitness – Afewee was a great way to carry that on”.
“I’ve always been a volunteer in some regard”, she added. “When I moved to Brixton, I wanted to volunteer in the community. As I used to do some boxing myself, the club seemed the right thing for me to do.”
As soon as Laurie saw a tweet calling for volunteers, she contacted Afewee and is now making a big impact. “I work with the youth programme they do on a Sunday morning,” she said. “The kids range from 7-16 years old and I help out as a trainee coach. It’s a really great experience and they’ve put me on a coaching course”, said Laurie.
Women in Boxing
And Head Coach Bobby Miltiadous is very pleased to have Laurie as part of the club.
“Laurie contacted me on the very first day that I posted the ad, within a couple of hours to be exact. Ever since she has been coming down to lead warm ups, taking the kids through their stretches and assisting throughout the session”, said Bobby.
And Bobby thinks that getting more women into boxing is important for the sport.
“The fact that Laurie has come in and she’s a female, the impact she’s made is extremely positive”, said Bobby. “We have a few girls here and they feel more comfortable around Laurie. The younger boys and girls look up to her as a mother figure.”
He added, “Women’s boxing is 100% growing because of the success we had during the London 2012 Games. Women are getting into boxing. But we still need more people like Laurie.”
Inspire a Generation
Afewee has been making an impact on young people in the Brixton community. “I’m a huge believer in creating communities as much as we can in London,” Laurie said. “Afewee helps kids to stay out of trouble and get fit.”
Creating an outlet for these outlet was especially important after the riots. Bobby explained, “The riots in 2011 happened and our founder Steadman said we need to give these young people something to focus on – something positive in their lives.”
“Keeping the community aspect of life alive is really important to me” – Laurie Cooper
Since then, Afewee has tried to help young people in the area. “It’s a very structured club and we have disadvantaged kids who really benefit from coming to the club”, said Bobby. “A lot of them come from single parent backgrounds. The club gives them discipline and focus. It goes way beyond boxing.”
Recently, Bobby was told a story that made him realise the value of his work as a coach and the impact Afewee is having on people.
“One of the dads told me that his kid gets into a lot of fights, but since he’s come in here, he’s channelled his aggression. He told me how he got into a fight but stepped away. That’s a really big story for me to hear. It makes what I’m doing worthwhile. To that individual, the club has had a very positive impact to him.”
Your community. Your legacy.
Laurie is relishing her new challenge and wants to progress as a boxing coach. She said, “I love being able to educate young people about staying healthy and helping them stay out of trouble”.
Aside from her passion for sport, the main reason Laurie volunteers is because she believes in the power and spirit of community.
“I love being part of something worthwhile, and creating a sense of community is hugely important these days,’ she said. “Keeping the community aspect of life alive is really important to me.
A lot of people think London is an isolated place and it’s every man for himself. But when you volunteer, you realise there are communities still out there in London. It’s good to be part of it”.
Afewee Boxing Club has built on Brixton’s proud boxing history.
She added, “Obviously you are giving but you receive a great deal from it – becoming part of a team, helping people for the greater good. And the drive is not money. I really like this because too often people in London are caught up in money”.
As the membership grows week in week out, Afewee needs more coaches. “Volunteers are the heart and soul of boxing clubs – literally, in a sentence,” Bobby said. “Boxing clubs don’t make money, so volunteers giving up their time is so important. Volunteers are priceless to boxing clubs.
To tell you the truth, three months ago I was pulling my hair out because it was just myself running all the sessions. But now people like Laurie are coming in. The team is definitely growing.”
So, if you’re based near Brixton, why not lend a hand for a couple of hours each week? “You can get involved!” Bobby said. “It’s great to give back to the community. It’s all about the legacy and history – being a part of something that will hopefully last a very long time”.
– If Laurie and Bobby have inspired you to volunteer, find your local sports club and get involved.
– Would you like to lend a hand in Afewee Boxing Club? Then get in touch!
– Check out our interview with super-coach Bobby.