IslingtonTribune

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Boxing coach for teenagers who both spars and… listens

'Most people I know have been stabbed - it’s not glamorous'

30 January, 2020 — By Samantha Booth

In the ring: Albert McEyeson

A BOXING club is helping young people turn their lives around – not just through sport, but by talking about their feelings too.

Albert McEyeson, 39, sees hundreds of children a week at schools across Camden and Islington through his organisation Action Youth Boxing Intervention.

He believes some youngsters are being left behind because of a lack of resources to deal help with their “complex needs”, such as trauma at home or learning difficulties.

Albert had more than a decade of upheaval in his life – from getting kicked out of school into a pupil referral unit (PRU) at the age of 13, from two spells in prison, totalling just under three years, for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

He said he was part of the “original county lines” back in the early 2000s, which saw drugs run to smaller towns and cities around the country.

Prison was not a place of rehabilitation for him, he said, but he met people who had been through the same experiences as him and this made him begin to look inwards.

Albert, now a qualified counsellor, said: “In school, I was dyslexic, I didn’t really achieve much. So I built up a defence mechanism within school of being disruptive, distractive – then you end up in a PRU and from there you’ve got low self-esteem, no confidence. “I thought to myself, what else can I do? Where people don’t really judge me like that and being on the road and being active in crime, you’re not judged by your academic ability. It was only when I looked really deep into myself, I wasn’t happy.”

Albert, now a father-of-two, went to drug and alcohol services as a service user and then trained in counselling.

“We use those techniques in boxing as a form of intervention because I feel like a person-centred approach works more than just punishment, and then reform,” he said. “Evidently, sometimes the person is going through these issues, it’s not their fault, and they feel frustrated, and low self-esteem has impacted on them. So I feel they need to get that off their chest, and have a platform to explore and explain.”

He recognises that for some young people, turning away from a life entrenched in crime may be “scary”.

Social media has had a big impact he believes. “It’s just really explaining the frustrations that young people are going through because if you listen to the lyrics for rap music, say grime music or drill music, if you listen to the lyrics there’s a cry for help – it will tell you that, ‘my mum wasn’t in there, I grew up in care’, stories of ‘I had to pay the bills’ so these are young people that go through traumatic experiences and struggles.”

He added: “The whole system in terms of punishment at an early age needs to be looked at. If they know they have complex needs or are struggling with issues, there’s safeguarding that should teach them why the child is behaving in that way, they need help.”

Albert and his team take their work into schools, including Maria Fidelis in Somers Town, and Camden Centre For Learning, which runs pupil referral units.

Funding for Action Youth Intervention Boxing comes predominantly from the charity Camden Giving but the club is looking for a permanent home after recently moving to the Charlie Ratchford Centre

. For information on boxing classes visit www.aybi.co.uk

Feeling trapped

LAST year, 17-year-old Jayden* had been arrested three times and had been permanently excluded from school. After his work with Action Youth Boxing Intervention, he has managed to get his life back on a better path, learning how to box which has inspired him to learn to become a personal trainer or coach.

He told the New Journal: “Albert has experienced some of the stuff that I have so it’s easier to speak to him. Other people will come and speak to me but they don’t know what I’m going through or what I’ve been through, it’s harder to relate.”

He worries young people will become “trapped” in a lifestyle of fast money and need to be shown a different path.

“Most people I know have been stabbed. It’s not glamorous. But kids think it’s glamorous until something happens to them or someone close to them.”

*Name changed to protect his identity

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