It’s Wayne’s world

PUBLISHED: 12:54 11 May 2006 | UPDATED: 10:09 06 May 2010

Wayne Armstrong with his boxers

Wayne Armstrong with his boxers

WAYNE ARMSTRONG has Olympic hopes for his team of young boxers. He runs the North Herts Amateur Boxing Club and is passionate about the positive impact his scheme is making. Wayne, aged 40 from Letchworth GC, says his club has got teenagers off the street

WAYNE ARMSTRONG has Olympic hopes for his team of young boxers.

He runs the North Herts Amateur Boxing Club and is passionate about the positive impact his scheme is making.

Wayne, aged 40 from Letchworth GC, says his club has got teenagers off the streets and given them a new lease of life that, come 2012, may even become an Olympic dream.

North Herts Amateur Boxing Club was established by Wayne just over a year and a half ago on Letchworth's Jackmans estate.

It now occupies premises near Hitchin railway station and has grown immensely in popularity.

Wayne said: "I set it up because of my passion for boxing and I wanted to take all the bored kids off the streets.

"We set the club up and introduced a couple of coaches and the number of kids coming just exploded.

"We now have about 50 pupils aged between seven and 18 and we're looking to establish a senior team for over 18s."

Boxing is perceived by some as a violent sport that shouldn't be promoted to youngsters, but Wayne believes there are many benefits.

He said: "There's so much good about this club and boxing.

"It gives youngsters health and fitness, and we channel their aggression and give them a goal in life.

"We're keeping them off drugs and drink, keeping them self-controlled and disciplined.

"Boxing also makes them sharper and they're not lounging around on the streets any more.

"It's all controlled, in a controlled environment and the aggression is channelled into bags rather than on the streets.

"They don't need to use violence outside anymore.

"My lads tend to walk away from fights now and if they do cause trouble they know that they'll be thrown out of the club.

"So they have to keep on the straight and narrow to stay here, which is where all their friends are and where they want to be."

Wayne believes his work and the club's ethos have made a real difference to many young people's lives.

A change that he's noticed since its outset in January 2005.

"The progress they've all made is amazing.

"When they first came in, a lot of them had two left feet, but now they're accomplished boxers.

"I've found that a lot of teenagers that come here now find their old company a real bore.

"They know now that life's better when you're achieving things.

"It's a really close-knit club and they come from all over - Hitchin, Letchworth, Baldock, Royston and Biggleswade."

It's not just boys that are benefiting from boxing, Wayne himself, his daughter Ashlee and other girls are also enjoying the sport.

"I'm 40 and I'm fitter now than I've ever been, even when I was in the army.

"Anyone can join - and girls too, of course.

"My daughter Ashlee is nine and she spars with the boys.

"There are a couple of others too, but girls mainly come to keep fit and we run a ladies session on a Wednesday evening, as well as Thai boxing classes."

Wayne's work with local children and teenagers has been honoured by the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire.

His club was a runner-up for a Crime Beat award, Young People Creating Safer Communities, which recognises projects involving young people in activities which have an impact on crime reduction and community safety.

Next on the club's calendar is the chance to compete against other boxers nationwide, which begins in October

"They can't wait until the competitions later this year, especially the chance to spar with other clubs.

"I feel the boys are ready now and with the 2012 Olympics coming up, they all have eyes on competing there and even getting medals."

Wayne has put in significant time and money to the boxing club and now has worries about their future home, as well as financial stresses.

He said: "We're on a short-term lease that runs out in March so at the moment I'm concentrating on finding us a new home for next year.

"I'm hoping the council will come on board because of all the good work we're doing and we'll be applying for a lottery grant soon.

"It's costing me an arm and a leg for all the rent, rates and equipment and it's all been down to me so we're looking for sponsorship.

"We're inviting local businesses to support us so fingers crossed.

"Thinking about the future, I obviously have to keep the short-term in mind as we have to find new facilities.

"We're looking for an industrial unit in Hitchin or Letchworth, but we need some support from the council."

If you think you can help Wayne and the North Herts Amateur Boxing Club, whether via sponsorship or ideas for premises, call him on 01462 457296.

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