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UK Coaching Team
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How Great Coaching Can Tackle Crime, Improve Well-Being and Change a Life

For the launch of the Open Goal campaign, Jack Kelly caught up with Bright Star Boxing Academy director Joe Lockley, who is leading the fight in empowering vulnerable people to make positive changes to transform their lives

Founded in 2016, Bright Star provides hope and direction to people from disadvantaged backgrounds through high-quality coaching and mentoring.

Boxing Academy director Joe Lockley says:

Coaching isn’t just about making champions, it’s so much more than that. We’re the voice that can make a difference, the mentor that can change a life, the trust that if we can do it, then so can they.”

Joe’s determination to make a difference for youths from disadvantaged backgrounds can be traced back to the challenges that he faced himself, including in relation to his identity.

“I was always trying to fit in,” Joe says, “to the point where I’d do anything to stand out in a crowd. In trying to be someone else, I lost myself, I made mistakes and I forgot how to live how I should.”

An opportunity to get involved in coaching proved to be a powerful turning point.

“But that changed when a local football coach asked me to coach with him. At first, I wasn’t keen at all, but it changed when I saw they had created a tracksuit with my name on it. That little gesture meant so much to me, I felt like I was wanted for the first time.”

What had been a simple opportunity became a calling when he started to see the impact that coaching had on children and young adults.

Coaching was an opportunity for me to make a change in my life. But it wasn’t until I started to see the impact it had on kids that it truly felt like my calling. There was a moment when a child came up to me and told me I was his role model. I was incredibly touched.”

Having overcome his own challenges, Joe believes that his experiences not only give him great insight – they’ve also made him the coach he is today.

“I have a lot of empathy for the youth I coach because I can see myself in them. It puts everything into perspective how lucky I am to have made it through. I see and hear about their backgrounds and challenges, and it hurts knowing how difficult they have it.”

Coaching people from disadvantaged backgrounds

Joe believes that sport and physical activity are key in improving health and well-being in individuals who are struggling.

He says: “They don’t believe in themselves because no one ever gave them belief. I was approached by an athlete recently who thought he lacked intelligence because he wasn’t doing well in school. But when he was learning and training with us, you could see how smart he was. Sport gave him rules and aims that everyone can follow.

“It’s all about learning, whether that’s from a workout or reading a textbook. Two of the key values of boxing are discipline and respect. I see teenagers come into training with slumped shoulders and hunched backs, which makes them feel lazy and negative.

But when you teach them the basic concept of keeping a straight posture and a pushed-out chest, it can change their perspective on life. It can make them feel positive and that they can make a change.”

The importance of being a mentor and a role model to tackle inequalities

Joe wants more coaches to be mentors. He believes if an individual can see themselves in their coach, then they can believe that they can make a change in their own life as well.

“At Bright Star, most of the coaches have been through tough times. We have a former heroin addict, a former prisoner, a sufferer of PTSD who once tried to take their own life after returning from Afghanistan, but we’ve all made it through that adversity. Now it’s our responsibility to show the youth who are going through similar challenges that they can also turn their life around.”

Great coaching can change lives

“I believe great coaching makes great opportunities. Giving younger generations a focus can help them process their issues and challenges. We will never know the answers to all the questions, but that’s okay, because we can ask open-ended questions instead. It gives them the opportunity to think about their answers, rather than be told what is right and wrong.

“When I first started coaching, I had no idea how important open-ended questions were, but it shows them that you care. Just being there for them makes all the difference, they know they can trust and talk to you. Whatever they are going through, they can talk to me without any judgement or consequence.”

Joe makes a massive difference to younger generations daily, and his work and passion show the world how important it is to ensure that sport and physical activity are accessible to all.

We need to do more, we need to make a difference from the very top down to the grassroots. I have seen people who have hit rock bottom with suicidal thoughts and a loss of hope. But through sport I have seen them thrive and inspire others to achieve. It’s not  about champions, it’s about making a change to those who need it.”

Find out more about the 'Open Goal' campaign.

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