Every day our coaches and therapists see first-hand the impact that deprivation and trauma can have on young people’s mental health.

Young people arrive at our doors with a range of behavioural and emotional issues, including anger, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Their distress is often expressed in ways that can lead them into trouble rather than care and support.

Sadly, referrals to our psychologically informed programmes are at an all-time high, and we are seeing more severe mental health and behavioural issues among those who are referred. This is tragic, but not surprising, given the difficulties many faced during the pandemic and the record waiting times for overstretched NHS mental health services.

In the communities in which we work, poor mental health is often considered a weakness and not talked about. That’s why we’re so proud of how our coaches and therapists get young people to drop their guard in a non-stigmatising environment, help them to better understand their mental health, and transform their lives in the process.

We’re halfway through Children’s Mental Health Week, the theme for which this year is ‘Let’s Connect’.  Connection is one of our keys to success; our coaches and therapists form meaningful connections with the young people they work with to allow them to talk freely about the issues they face. Our coaches also support young people to improve their relationships with family and friends and strengthen their connection to their wider community.

We sat down to speak to Senior Coach Courtney about Empire Fighting Chance’s impact on young people’s mental health and how we support them to build better connections.  

Q: How does Empire Fighting Chance support young people to build healthier relationships with family and friends?

We encourage young people to build and maintain healthy relationships with friends and family through personal development (PD) points. The specific PD we use around connection is “kindness is the cure”.

In this PD point, we stress that to be able to maintain positive relationships with friends and family we must be kind and aware of others’ emotions, and to treat people how we would like to be treated. This may seem like an obvious bit of advice to some people, but many of the young people we work with come from homes where emotions are not respected, and abuse takes place.

Q: How does Empire Fighting Chance build positive relationships between coaches and young people? 

We have a great coaching team at Empire. Importantly, we all share the same values and a passion for transforming young people’s lives. Young people who come to us often lack support networks and adults who listen to their concerns. And many of our coaches can relate to them from our own life experiences.

We make sure that young people are at the centre of everything we do. We strive to make sure every individual leaves the gym with a positive feeling and that they feel they are being heard and they matter. This could be as simple as asking how their day was or remembering something that they have told you before. 

Q: What makes us special when it comes to mental health support? Why do our interventions work when others may not?

I believe that the thing which makes Empire Fighting Chance so special is the environment we have created at the gym.

We do our best to make sure that every young person has the chance to succeed and create a safe, youth-centred space.

Box Champions is also a 20-week programme, a length which shows our consistency and commitment to each young person. That consistency may be something they haven’t experienced before. But we also have pathways for young people once they have completed one of our programmes, such as through Box Careers or Box Juniors, and they can still use the boxing gym for free whenever they want. This makes them really feel like they are part of the Empire family!


To refer a young person to any of Empire Fighting Chance’s programmes, email info@empirefightingchance.org

Senior Coach Courtney (left) in a session with a young person