Boxing & Beating the Odds

Hannah Beharry is a professional boxer and motivational speaker. We were very pleased to have her lead a boxing session with our Year 8 and 9 boys and speak to them about her journey to success…

What is your background in boxing and how did you get into the sport?

I’ve been involved in boxing for 12 years and out of those 12 years I’ve been No1 within the UK for 9 years and ranked No3 in the world. I was one of those kids that had a lot of energy but didn’t really know where to channel that and then one day I walked in the youth centre and the youth worker suggested that I go to the local boxing gym. When I went down to the boxing gym the Head Coach told me I wasn’t allowed to take up the sport because I was a female and, he kicked me out of the gym! That inspired me and motivated me to carry it through. And this is where I am 12 years later.

Do you think it’s a good discipline to learn? How does it benefit young people?

Yes massively. When I first walked through the gym the first thing you get taught is discipline  - you’re not allowed to swear in the gym, you’re not allowed to misbehave; the coach makes you learn discipline. For young people nowadays there’s so much energy going across and sometimes young people have low manners so as soon as you go into the boxing gym discipline is the first thing you learn. You also learn how to defend yourself, the kids get confident, they lose weight and on top of that you also get taught that you can’t use sport outside the ring; so not only are they taught how to defend themselves, they also become young, mature adults and be responsible for their hands, which are effectively weapons and they’re not allowed to use them outside.

Your students were amazing young people to have worked with, they were enthusiastic and they’ve got a long way to go in terms of their journey. They’ve got a lot of energy and they’re passionate about what they want to do. I’m sure if they carry on with that energy and the motivation of their teachers they’ve got bright futures ahead of them.

What kind of skills did you teach them?

Today was the initial sessions so we did activities so that I could get to know the group and see what they were like. They’re also doing a project with their teacher which is about raising awareness of sport in their team and friends in their year group. It’s also getting them to have a little bit more confidence as some of them are quite amazing sports stars but aren’t on the sports team just yet.

Clearly there is more to boxing than just the punches!

How important is PE in school nowadays?

PE has a massive effect on young people. It’s in  the news at the moment and they are talking about  obesity taking over and costing the government so much money. Where does it all begin? It stems from the time when you’re young.  If young people don’t have PE and that healthy lifestyle drilled into them at a young age then what do you expect when they get older? They are just going to follow an unhealthy route.

And the fact that the government is only leaving 30% of practical sport within the GCSE’s is absolutely mental at the moment because where does that leave our young generation moving forward? I grew up on the outdoors and doing sport and that’s how I got to enjoy what I was doing.

So it’s a bit heart-breaking at the moment but I’m sure sooner or later things will change again and we’ll have more PE fingers crossed.

Would you say boxing put you on a positive path in life?

Yeah it’s really simple, when you’re young you fall in with the wrong crowd.  I was in the wrong crowd with the wrong friends and in the wrong direction in terms of negativity. And boxing opened my eyes up to where I could’ve gone down to a life of gangs but I went into the boxing gym and everything changed from there.   

We were just doing the normal 1-2 straight punches but we focussed a lot more on footwork. It is more about throwing a few shots and learning the basis of boxing so you see dodging and weaving, and attacking and not getting hit back.

The boys didn’t put their gloves on for the punches – what’s the reasoning behind this?

Most boys want to put on the gloves and as soon as they put them on, they want to hit each other and go from there.  I was like: ‘No gloves, you need to learn discipline’, it is the discipline factor. Eventually they will put the gloves on but they have to wait a little bit.

What is the Sky Sports Living initiative and how did you get involved?

It’s a partnership built up between Sky Sports and the Sport Youth Trust. It was created 11 years ago because they found that elite athletes inspire young people through their athletic journey. But they also realised there were life skills that young people had but didn’t really know how to use them. So the athlete comes into the school to spend the day working with the project group. They go through the ‘6 Keys’ (6 different component skills) so it’s easy for young people to understand that you need to work on all the areas of your life and through this they get inspired to be athletes.