Maria Gomes is the Practice and Professional Standards Manager at Fight for Peace and manages our relationships with schools across the borough in order to engage young people in boxing and martial arts.

We caught up with her to find out a little more about the sessions being delivered by our coaches and Youth Workers in schools, and the impact she’s seen so far on young people. 

“I lead on the delivery of various different projects in schools in Newham, with the core aim to make a difference in young people’s lives through gaining more confidence through sports.

The way I see it, it allows young people to be more free, it has the power to show them who they are as they realise if they like it or not. Even if they don’t enjoy it, they can start thinking about what it means to really challenge themselves, and encourage them to  change behaviours.

In boxing, the more you do the more you repeat and it becomes automatic – in life it’s exactly that. It’s about you wanting more, not giving up and you believing in yourself and knowing that if you can do this, you can do anything.

Our current schools projects are delivered across a range of schools in Newham, including the London Marathon project which aims to engage more women and girls in sports – through this we deliver sports and personal development (PD) sessions as a tool to achieve this.

Maria delivers a taster session alongside coaches, Nathaniel and Tommy

We also have Greater London Authority (GLA) funding specifically aimed at primary school children which we are piloting in two schools to see if it works. This pilot programme  also combines PD with boxing which attracts young people to come to the sessions at Fight for Peace, which is great.

One of the young people we work with doesn’t particularly enjoy the sessions at school, but now he comes to Fight for Peace to train boxing several times a week – so it does make a difference and we’re always looking forward to welcoming new members to join us here.

We also work with local Pupil Referral Units through our Future Ready programme which has just come to an end for this year – with the aim to see how boxing and PD actually changes behaviour and attitudes among young people who have been through a lot. For example, being excluded from school or attending an alternative school.

Although there can be some challenging behaviour, coming into our gym for a boxing session really helps, especially with the girls – they love to sit down and talk as well, depending on the topic. Sometimes we ask them if they want to train or just do the PD instead of the boxing, and they often choose the talking aspect, which is fine too. It’s nice that they have someone to listen to and they all engage which is great – they’ve expressed they’d like to continue. 

The sessions delivered in the schools are a little different and super fun, we’ve had great feedback so far. One thing I do to make sure the PDs aren’t too boring is to integrate them into the middle of the boxing session. I’ll ask the coaches to give them a hint of what we’re going to do in the PD session, and that way I can always go back and say to the class, ‘remember what you did in boxing with coach Dylan? This is exactly what we’re going to apply here but without boxing, in real life.’

I find this works better than just throwing the themes on them, of which we have a different one every week, depending on the school and what we’re doing.

Students volunteer to try some boxing combinations

The students are loving it so far and we’ve had some really good feedback and this is great to hear, especially given our society and how things are outside.

It’s a real benefit for young people to engage in sports from a younger age and come to like it and have something to do after school at Fight for Peace. It’s a chance for them to get to know their limits through boxing and muay thai, MMA, and judo, whatever they want to do and from there build the confidence and skills needed in other areas of their development.”

Any schools that would like to find out more about our work – please contact our Partnerships Executive, Kenny on kenny@fightforpeace.net.

Maria poses with coaches Nathaniel and Tommy after a successful taster session

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