New Era’s ‘Time to Talk’ sessions tackle mental health alongside boxing
February 25, 2019 | by Matt Halfpenny
Northwich’s New Era Boxing has developed a free weekly session called ‘Train and Talk’, which combines the chance to box with sharing thoughts, ideas and concerns in the company of like-minded people.
It has been set up and delivered at the Cheshire club in a bid to raise awareness of mental health issues and play a part in helping within the local community.
Members at New Era initially received training and support from Fight for Peace – who use boxing and martial arts alongside education to assist young people in communities affected by crime – to get things off the ground.
Sessions have been open to all and the intention in the future is to run them outside the club, such as in workplaces, schools and colleges.
“’Train and Talk’ is light-hearted, relaxed and open,” said New Era’s Senior Head Coach Mark Bebbington.
“We talk about how each person’s week has gone, and any concerns members have. Members are encouraged to stay around after the session and have a cup of tea or coffee and discussion is not led by anyone in particular. It’s just a conversation about what people are comfortable to talk about.
“During the sessions, we have attracted both existing members as well as new ones who didn’t previously feel comfortable or confident in a gym environment.
“Established members have enjoyed learning new skills and some of the new members have joined in with other club sessions.”
Inspiration for the sessions came from one of New Era’s coaches, Tom Bunby, who suffers with mental health issues.
The club soon recognised the benefits he got from joining and, after first simply training, he soon became involved behind the scenes with shows, fundraising events and welcoming new members.
Having a friendly face at New Era who can understand how nervous a new member can be has helped the club retain those people and given it a family feel.
After two years at the club, Tom was put forward for the Level 1 England Boxing coaching course and, since passing, has been given the role of Coach Mentor.
He said: “It’s a frank discussion during ‘Train and Talk’ – there’s no use keeping quiet about mental health issues.
“If you’re not feeling great then tell someone… don’t just say ‘Yeah, I’m OK’.”
‘Time to Talk’, Mark says, has given him a different outlook on boxing and mental health that he hopes to use to his advantage in his future coaching.
“What I’ve learned during these sessions is that it’s OK to relax,” he added. “For the first couple of sessions I would want to start right on time, like in many boxing clubs.
“But Tom advised me to allow people extra time to prepare. By giving them a few extra minutes, you can reduce any anxieties that they may have. The session is fun and every member brings something different to the sessions.
“As a coach, this is a very unique session for me and one that I have gained new insights into coaching with.”
England Boxing is planning to run a series of workshops on mental health called Box in Mind. You can find out more details here.