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How boxing is supporting improved outlooks for young people

Clinical neuropsychologist and boxing coach delivering strong outcomes for youth participants



After a clinical neuropsychologist and head boxing coach secure £20,000 funding to deliver targeted interventions for at-risk youth, NR Times finds out more about what’s on offer at Fight Factory Manchester


Dr Penny Trayner, clinical neuropsychologist and director of community-based rehabilitation service Clinical Neuropsychology Services began training with Sean Krool, head coach at Fight Factory Manchester, 15 years ago, finishing her own journey to qualify as an England Boxing Coach in 2022. The pair shared a passion for health and fitness, as well as a desire to improve positive outcomes for vulnerable young people, which lad to them securing £20,000 in funding from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to deliver a ten-week training programme supported by the Youth Justice Sports Fund. 

The Youth Justice Sports Fund is an early intervention grant delivered by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), supported by StreetGames, contributing £5million in funding across voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations (MOJ, 2023). The goals for the funding were: 1) to support those aged 10-17 years old vulnerable to risk of involvement in crime, serious violence, and anti-social behaviour and 2) build long-term collaborative relationships between the sporting sector and youth justice services.

Dr Trayner identified interested children through referral pathways within Youth Justice Services and enrolled them within the programme that delivered three targeted sessions a week with the coaches at Fight Factory Boxing Club Manchester. Throughout the project the team at StreetGames provided guidance and hosted both regional and national events as a chance for all organisations within the programme to collaborate ideas and share their experiences. 

Established in 2016, the inspirational staff at Fight Factory have shown the immense benefits of channelling behaviour into sport through their support of initiatives such as the Creating Effective Generations Programme. Staff recognise that the complexities of the participants individual circumstances require a higher level of support than typical community sporting programmes. Therefore, these sessions have focussed on maximising prosocial opportunities for involvement, bonding, and identity. 

When formal sporting opportunities are delivered appropriately, they can have a great effect on the Intermediate Outcomes of at-risk youth, including strengthened social bonds (with family, peers, community etc), enhanced social capital, increased skills and improved attitude and behaviour (Mason et al., 2020). When the sporting activity is sustained over a long period of time, it can be the building block for developing a pro-social identity, reducing the likelihood of them offending, encouraging positive choices, providing status and security, and supporting them to remain engaged and future orientated. 

The positive outcomes from sessions at Fight Factory Manchester are already evident from initial observations. Throughout the programme, one of the regular attendee’s passion, enthusiasm and commitment to boxing was clear and he has hopes of pursuing a career as an amateur boxer and seeking coaching opportunities within the gym. He also managed to successfully return to mainstream education because of the significant improvement in his behaviour and functioning over the course of the programme. It was reported that another participant also engaged more within his educational placement, which he had been out of for some time, highlighting the wider benefits of the programme.

Another regular participant had arrived to the UK as a refugee only the year before the commencement of the programme and had been experiencing issues with bullying and altercations with peers. He was at significant risk of getting into fights and difficulties at school which would potentially have led to a spiral of challenge and difficulties. However, once he joined the programme he attended regularly, engaged in all the activities with enthusiasm, worked hard, and showed significant improvement in both his physical health and his mental health. He spoke openly and candidly with the coaches about his challenges, who helped mentor, support and guide him through difficulties that he was experiencing in his personal life. He also plans to pursue a career as an amateur boxer supported by the staff at Fight Factory Manchester. 

A key challenge established during the programme, was ‘postcode barriers’ where participants did not feel safe travelling through certain areas due to the potential for conflict. Therefore, all attendees were provided with private taxi transportation to sessions, which encouraged regular attendance and allowed positive social relationships to develop with peers. In many cases the children were able to overcome challenges from previous negative interactions with other attendees. They resolved their difficulties and were able to train alongside each other, thus supporting the young people significantly with their conflict resolution skills.

The team at Fight Factory Manchester delighted to continue this work and build sustainable relationships with local Youth Justice Services. The staff are hoping to secure further grant funding to facilitate future programmes.

For more information contact: 

Fight Factory Manchester




Clinical Neuropsychology Services: 

Tel: 0161 726 5833



Charlotte Giblin, assistant psychologist, Clinical Neuropsychology Services

Dr Penny Trayner, clinical neuropsychologist, Clinical Neuropsychology Services