Boxing may be the foundation at Snap Back Boxing gym, but the focus is community and helping people.
As well as running the usual boxing and fitness classes, the Palmerston North gym offers classes for troubled youth, special education students, new mums and men’s health.
It also works on raising awareness about mental health and suicide, and has run fight nights raising money for the cause.
The gym held an open day last weekend to show the community what they did, including the newly fitted out equipment room where they offered classes.
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Gym director Filipo Saua said boxing was only a small part of their work and they looked after every aspect of life.
He said they worked to build people’s wellbeing and mental health because they saw a lot of people dealing with issues.
“Wellbeing is quite important. We recognized there was a need for the community to reach out in different levels to help our community.
“We start with our youth and are building the community. There are different services that we provide to build our community.”
He said the program for at-risk youth helped build their self-esteem and they saw “kids changing their lives”.
“We go right through rules, core values, safe aspects of being here, respect.
“We talk about doing better in life, about the goals you achieve from there to when you walk out, decision-making, choosing the right thing to do.”
One girl who started working with them was having problems with violence.
“Her mum said it was the first time she had seen her daughter smile for six months.”
There was also a program to teach young women self-defence and a free class for people with Parkinson’s disease.
They ran a “shoulder to shoulder” course for men to talk to one another and get help if they needed to, because Saua said men usually kept themselves apart.
Saua’s daughter-in-law Courtney was the special education trainer.
She also worked for HealthCare NZ and a few months ago decided to run the fitness classes for children with special education needs, who came in for classes during the day.
“A lot of them said there are no opportunities for them after school or in school to go to because it’s all mainstream. We have created a space for them to be themselves.”
The classes were sensory with no loud noises and were made fun for the children.
She said when some children came in they were nervous but they grew in confidence and fitness.
“They look forward to it, they come and dance around to One Direction and they really enjoy it.”
She said they catered to every need and were creating opportunities for people.
Courtney’s husband Jerry was the main mentor for their program for at-risk youth, who were referred to the gym, where they reminded them it was a safe space.
Jerry said once the young people realized what the training could do they learned to love it.
“We see a lot of confidence growing in them and fitness. Because they have been brought up on a struggling path, we try to help them and guide them back to the good path.”
He said they learned discipline and how to focus on something positive, which led to a big change.
“Respect is the big one we try and drill into them. Respect yourself, respect others around you, because boxing demands respect.”
Joe Salisbury, Manawatū tactical prevention manager, said the police had a strong partnership with the team at the gym.
“We have previously collaborated on several initiatives involving rangatahi and are always impressed with the way the Snapback team engage with young people and serve as positive role models in our community.”