Written by Ana Vacas, Fight for Peace Alliance Programme Manager
In December 2021 Fight for Peace awarded Team Mushin just under £5,000 through Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund (TIF) initiative. This fund exists to help to reduce the negative impact of coronavirus and help community groups working with our target audiences to grow and help more people.
We caught up with Sue King, Coach, Founder and Director of Team Mushin to talk about how the fund has helped her stay connected with her young members and get her club back on track after the height of the pandemic.
Team Mushin CIC is a community organisation based in one of the most underrepresented areas in Liverpool. Since 2015 they’ve offered holistic services to local residents, which combine martial arts and wellbeing support. Most people join the club through word of mouth and have come to see Team Mushin as an extended family, using the facility as a social hub.
The effects of the pandemic hit Team Mushin’s community members hard. Young people found themselves struggling with isolation, gaining weight at home, and subsequently the effects that these factors had on their mental health, with many of Team Mushin’s young people facing depression and anxiety.
There was also a significant drop in confidence levels, with young people finding it difficult to engage in activities outside of the home such as the ones they would usually attend at Team Mushin.
As a result of the unpredictable nature of restrictions, fear of becoming unwell, and difficulty in connecting online, Team Mushin saw attendance numbers fall dramatically.
“We probably lost 60 or 70% of our student base during lockdown,” explained Sue.
Team Mushin’s ability to support their community was weakened by the lack of income from member attendance, and from losing some of the volunteers who they relied on to deliver their services due to the demand of the pandemic.
Regardless of these adversities Team Mushin pushed on to pilot a new programme called the Warrior Mindset Programme, to offer support to the young people affected.
The programme worked with a group of six young people aged between 6-14 years old, offering boxing and kickboxing, alongside meditation and mindfulness techniques.
The aim was to help young people better understand their emotions, triggers, and how they can be used to develop resilience, inner peace, and a better understanding of oneself.
Team Mushin found that these six young people gained self-confidence, self-belief, and no longer felt ‘stuck’ as a result of the programme. With some even beginning to support with coaching and mentoring during sessions.
“We’ve learned more towards the mental health and wellbeing side of things, as well as delivering our staple of boxing, Thai boxing and Japanese jiu jitsu. That’s where we feel the community needs that support.” Sue explained.
With access to the TIF grant that Team Mushin received, they were able to roll out a 16-week Warrior Mindset Program, this time with 20 young people engaging in sessions twice a week. This programme was delivered to young people who would not normally engage in martial arts.
John, a young member who joined the programme faces severe mental health challenges and was previously described by his mum as somebody with no friends. He now participates in martial arts sessions regularly and spends subsequent sessions shadowing coaches and mentors.
“After these sessions he spends time in the hub where he engages with other club members, and has made friends,” Sue told us. “John wants to mentor, too. He can see the children who are on the spectrum like him, and he wants to help,” she continued.
This is a shining example of the impact of such programmes and how one young person’s journey can positively impact and inspire those around them, and how adversity can push us to find new ways to deliver support services to those who need it.
Interestingly, Team Mushin’s level of female engagement has also increased to 40%, which is the highest number they’ve seen since they opened. Sue believes this may be down to the increase in female volunteer mentors who support the female students, and there being a female club Director and Head Coach.
Despite Team Mushin having to cap their classes because of continued staff shortages, and the fact that children now need more support due to the impact of the pandemic, they have now been able to offer more sessions to accommodate the same number of students because of the TIF funding received.
And despite having to close their doors for a period during the height of the pandemic, it’s amazing to see how Team Mushin have managed to take these challenges as an opportunity to learn, grow and develop their services based on the needs of their young members, as well as develop young leaders and mentors while increasing female engagement! Well done Team Mushin! We can’t wait to see what’s next for you!
We’ll be sharing more Alliance Stories over the next few months, so keep an eye out for that! We have also been working on a short film which demonstrates the power of the Fight for Peace Alliance, and how sharing our skills and approaches can enable us to become stronger in supporting young people in our communities.