Birtley Boxing Club is setting the standard
PUBLISHED: 12:31 30 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:59 20 February 2013
Roger Tames visits the impressive new home of the North East's official top team where they're setting new standards for grass roots sport
Tucked away behind a row of unassuming terraced houses in Birtley, is one of the most impressive sporting facilities in the country. Its the 1.2m home of Birtley Boxing Club where a vital role in the community is just as important as producing potential champions, though this club can also boast an impressive roll of honour right up to world class level.
The club started life in a school hall in 1979 before converting the former fire station into a training facility that has seen generations of local youngsters emerge enriched by the toughest sport of all.
Now Birtleys boxers can learn their craft in a purpose built home which would provoke jabs of envy from any world champion. Forget that image of dingy, sweaty gyms behind the pub; were talking light, bright and ultra modern.
The name is the giveaway. The official title is Birtley Young Peoples Club with boxing at its heart. There are two training halls with three full size rings but the building also contains a classroom, club room, weights gym and meeting room.
Ive been involved with boxing for 45 years and Ive not seen a purpose built boxing facility like ours, beams head coach Ronnie Row, bursting with pride. It really is a dream come true but it wouldnt have happened without the work of the clubs committee who are all volunteers. You can have the best building in the world but its people who make the club.
And people is what Birtley Boxing Club is about young people to be precise. Were all about the local community real grass roots sport, insists Ronnie who was virtually the first fighter through the door when the club was formed.
The youngsters who come here are so diverse, added. We get some fairly wayward kids but we give them discipline. They feel they belong here because were a family. Weve more than a hundred members and our big problem is the size of our waiting list.
Boxing gives the boys and girls exercise, provides a focus and a better sense of direction in life. We get kids whove perhaps been bullied because theyre withdrawn. We give them confidence and self-esteem. You can really see the difference in them. You can watch them grow.
Boxing is an individual sport but we have a team ethos here. We all stick together.
Of course some grow into top boxers like Andy McLean who became a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist or Tom Ward who won the European Junior Title.
It was Birtleys achievements right across the sporting spectrum that saw them win the title of Team of the Year at the prestigious North East Sports Awards.
And the future should prove even brighter as the club expands into other sports including football and judo. Its also the base for the Boxing Academy run by Gateshead College.
Were working closely with local schools as well as developing educational programmes for youngsters deemed to be at risk, explains Ronnie who is Birtley born and will soon complete 30 years as a fireman at the Birtley station.
The amateur fight game has always had a reputation for keeping youngsters on the straight and narrow. Birtley Boxing Clubs importance to its local community is an impressive reminder of why boxing is known as the noble art.
The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of North East Life
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