Boxing gym fights to make a difference for Nelson youth

Becoming a boxing coach after twenty years as a teacher might seem like a strange choice to some, but for Paul Hampton, founder of Victory Boxing Charitable Trust it was a natural progression.

His journey started six years ago, when Hampton, then deputy principal of Victory Primary School, and with twenty years teaching under his belt, realised some of the young boys and girls at his school needed extra attention. They were struggling at school, lacked structure and were making poor choices.

Hampton wanted to give them something to do which would boost their self-esteem. “We sat them down and told them they had lots of potential, but they needed to focus their energy positively.”

“We asked the kids what sort of activities they would like to get involved in.” The response was overwhelming – boxing. Victory Boxing was officially born.

Hampton says he always had an interest in boxing. “I felt, however, parents might be concerned about the physicality of boxing. I didn’t need to worry, they all jumped on board.”

In the beginning, it was all about the fitness and learning basic technique.

Twenty boys kick started the programme in 2011, which operated initially out of the YMCA centre for the first two years with the help of Marty Grant. Soon 20 became 100 and the rest as they say is history.

“The growth was quite a surprise. The numbers kept doubling while we were still at the YMCA, so managing that was challenging, but we were always driven by passion for wanting to help the kids, so we always found a way.”

Hampton soon found he had to make a choice between full-time teaching and the burgeoning Victory Boxing. He took an extended leave from teaching.

It soon became clear the programme had outgrown the YMCA space. After a generous $50,000 grant from the Goodman Foundation and having raised $50,000 from their first major fundraiser Fight 4 victory, Hampton was ready to commit fulltime to the Victory Boxing programme. With a new gym venue on Vanguard Street made available by the Gibbons family, the programme was ready to grow.

From there the focus was on sustainability.

“I knew we needed to set the Programme up like a school with all the back end organisational processes to make it successful in the long term. The best thing I did was to ask Scott Gibbons to be Chairman. He formed the Charitable Trust and brought our Coordinator, Lauren Walker, on board to set up the structure for the organisation,” says Hampton

Since then Victory Boxing Charitable Trust has become a real place of belonging in the community.

From its beginnings in the Victory community, it now caters for kids from all over Nelson, community groups and many adults.

“It provides many of those involved with a sense of belonging and for some their involvement is life changing.”

Hampton says it is healthy for kids from different backgrounds to learn, work, train together, and discover that in the end those differences are not such a big deal.

“We don’t win all the battles when it comes to helping at-risk youth, having people who help behind the scenes is a huge contributing factor to success.”

Victory Boxing ensures the services they provide are wrap around, keeping up regular contact with families, schools, police, youth agencies and social workers.

Last year saw over 400 young people involved in the programme.

The programme has equal appeal for both boys and girls, with 40 percent of youth participants being girls. Māori participation is also at a good level - 37% of participants are Māori.

In 2015, he won the Nelsonian of the Year and the Youth Workers Award.

“The award was completely unexpected, but so cool to see community recognition of the programme itself and its impact on the kids.”

“That was a time when I stopped and reflected. My Mum rang up and we said “Yeah, wow, that’s cool”. Up until then I had just been in it, working it, but that was a moment to stop and see how far we’d come.”

“Right from the word go, we’ve had the intention if we’re having an impact on even one kid then it’s been worth it. Or if a teacher or family member comes in and says thank you, you’re making a real difference, then it’s definitely worth it,” says Hampton.

Hampton, along with those involved in Victory Boxing, live the gym’s four-word mantra. It is front and centre for the kids to see as they walk through the doors: “Responsibility, respect, caring, determination.”

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