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Hastings boxing academy is “growing the giants within

The Hastings Giants Boxing Academy will have been at their Eastbourne Street location for four years next month, within which time the programme has made a difference to hundreds of young people’s lives.

Supported by the Hastings District Council, the academy is currently home to 110 students, aged eight to 24, for whom the Olympic-style boxing coaching they receive is a vehicle for them to “grow the giant within”.

Founder Craig McDougall, a former New Zealand boxing champion himself, says the driving force behind the initiative, that has a full-time contract with the Hawke’s Bay Youth Trust, is creating a sense of community.

“We get referrals from kids who are already involved, to social workers in schools, principals – there’s a real mix and that’s what makes it work.

“Our vision is to support young people to live lives that they and those around them value, we teach them how to listen, how to teach themselves, and encourage them to have fun and feel good about themselves.”

The success of the programme can be measured by the fact the courses are fully subscribed, with a waiting list of those wanting to join.

While not all of the students are keen to box competitively, those who are are encouraged and become something of heroes for the others.

“That area is slowly growing and becoming more of a focus, and is summed up in one of our mottos ‘belong, believe, become’.

Volunteers are an integral and valued part of the programme, with volunteer coaches supported by qualified coaches, and a pathway to coaching provided to those students who are interested.

A new addition to the programme is the inclusion of girls’ classes following a successful pilot programme last year, which is proving popular, says Craig.

Hastings mum Holly Varcoe’s son Lockie, 12, has been attending the academy for about two years and she says through the classes he has been learning what hard work looks like as well as modelling what a good young man should be and do.

“There are high expectations in the boxing sessions where not only physical discipline and techniques are important, but also attitude and good values.

“Craig is a nurturing and supportive role model for my son, and supports not only the whanau, but also schools and community through his expectation that the boys be respectful at home, at school and in their everyday lives.”

Hastings district councillor Eileen Lawson says the academy’s work is invaluable for the district’s young people and the community overall.

“I am truly grateful to Craig and his team, and incredibly proud of all our young people who are willing to step up and be part of the academy.”


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