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The boxing club in Cardiff empowering the community with support from the Be Active Wales Fund

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A boxing club in Cardiff is using the power of sport to tackle issues in the local area with funding from the National Lottery.

Apollos Boxing Club has transformed itself from a male dominated club, where only competitive boxers could train, to an inclusive boxing gym at the heart of the community, where the door is open to anyone.

With £5,500 from the Be Active Wales Fund, the club have bought new boxing equipment to meet the demand of their growing numbers, and coaching courses to upskill their volunteers. 

Thanks to the funding from the National Lottery, the club will be able to continue their amazing work within the Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn communities.

When Head Coach Carl Stephens brought Nicola Wheten in to evolve the club, little did he know that Apollos would more than double its membership and establish a thriving section for women and girls, making up a third of the total membership.

After experiencing the buzz of boxing, Nicola, who won the last ever Womenspire’s Women in Sport Award in 2023, has empowered women who have experienced abuse, and improved the mental health of women at the club through the power of boxing.

Nicola said: “We’ve been building up the female side of the club and sessions for young people, who don’t necessarily want to box competitively but want to feel a sense of belonging and a place to go to train and feel safe.”

“The Be Active Wales Fund has enabled us to buy new equipment and refresh existing equipment. Things get used to the maximum, so with this funding we’re able to keep up the quality and standard expected within a club such as Apollos ABC.”

What did the Be Active Wales Fund award funding for?

Apollos were awarded funding by Sport Wales because of how their work is creating an inclusive environment and removing barriers so more people can participate in boxing.

They received National Lottery funding for:

  • Sparring Gloves – Providing sparring gloves can encourage more people to join without the worry of having to pay for their own kit.
  • Boxing Bags – The boxing bags will become part of a ‘Ladies Corner’ where women can box and train in a comfortable environment.
  • Smart Boxing Machine – An interactive wall mounted machine which is a fun way to introduce children with ADHD or autism to boxing.
  • Blaze Pods – These flashing lights are also effective in engaging children with neurodiversity, helping to improve balance, coordination, and reaction time.
  • Coaching Courses – Volunteers at the club will undertake coaching courses to deliver boxing sessions and receive training in safeguarding to ensure the safety of Apollo’s members.
  • Other boxing equipment – A boxing swing bar, pads, kettle bells, slam balls and skipping ropes have also been funded to ensure there is enough equipment to accommodate the growth in participants at the club.
A young boxer with his hood up prepares to punch pads

How have Apollo Boxing Club made a difference in the community?

Apollos is more than a boxing club, it uses boxing as a tool to tackle issues in the local community such as crime, unemployment, and mental health.

The Cardiff-based club has helped people who have experienced abuse to turn their life around, educated young people on knife crime and acts as a foodbank, with support from their local Morrisons, to ensure their members don’t go hungry.

Head Coach, Carl Stephen’s coaching and mentorship helped Owain Harris-Allan to avoid a potential life of crime. The young boxer achieved a Bronze Medal for Wales at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022 and is now training with Team GB. 

But Carl measures success at Apollos in more than just belts, medals, and championships. 

He said: “We have one lad with autism who came here. He couldn’t look at you and his confidence was rock bottom. If you see him now, his confidence has gone through the roof. That to me was as good as producing a Welsh or British Champion boxer.”

Another member who has benefitted from Apollos Boxing Club opening their doors and Nicola’s focus on boxing for women and girls is Rachel Michael.

She said: “I wasn’t in the best of spaces and Nicola said to come along and join her boxing classes. I loved it! I found myself again. So much so that Nicola said she saw a spark in me and asked me if I wanted to go into coaching which I absolutely did.”

Owain Harris-Allan throws a punch at the Commonwealth Games
Owain Harris-Allan (right) turned his life around at Apollos ABC.

 

Owen Hathway, Assistant Director for Insight, Policy & Public Affairs at Sport Wales, visited Apollo Boxing Club. He said: “It was heartwarming to see the amazing work that Apollos Boxing Club have been doing in the local community. This club has made a huge difference to women, girls and young people in Cardiff since opening their doors to everyone and creating a more inclusive environment.

“We were delighted to support their project with National Lottery funding through the Be Active Wales Fund to enable them to continue to empower the community through boxing.”

This year, the Be Active Wales Fund has seen more applications than ever before. This means that applications are taking a little longer to process. Please be aware that any clubs planning to apply for the Be Active Wales Fund this financial year need to do so by Wednesday 31 January 2024. Any applications made after this date will not be processed until April and will be counted in the 2024-25 round of funding.

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