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The boxing and dancing holiday sessions helping to teach Sheffield school children important life lessons

This summer, if you walk into the Wincobank gym where boxing legends such as Kell Brook were trained, chances are you will see children aged between five and 16 participating in sports such as non-contact boxing and dodgeball and making friends.

As I visit on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, laughter and excited cheers fill the air, accompanied by the rhythmic thud of the punchbag and the piercing noise of the buzzer.

The sessions with the Brendan Ingle Foundation are open to children on free school meals, and take place Monday to Wednesday, with Thursdays set aside for trips out to the cinema or locations such as Whirlow Hall Farm.

Kids enjoy the holiday club at St Thomas Gym in Wincobank under the guidance of Amer Khan

Boxing trainer Jay Bunclark said that in addition to children learning about discipline and exercise through the sports on offer with the sessions, they are also taught about healthy eating, lessons which are mirrored by the fresh fruit and vegetables given out at lunch time.

Every day, the children are divided into two groups, with one participating in high-octane group activities like non-contact boxing at the Newman Road gym, and the other taken over the road for dance classes.

Andy Nice, a trustee at the Brendan Ingle Foundation, described how Brendan Ingle’s footwork system of movement helped to make champions of boxers such as Johnny Nelson, adding that dancing has always had a symbiotic relationship with Brendan’s successful methods.

“Boxing works very well with dancing, Brendan always liked to get his boxers dancing. It’s also produced lots of world champions, that’s why we always try to include dancing,” said Andy.

Some of the children who have been taking part in the holiday sessions with the Brendan Ingle Foundation

The sessions are paid for through the Holiday Activity Fund from central Government, and mean the families of the children taking part do not need to pay either for the sessions or day trips.

They form part of Sheffield Council’s Healthy Holidays Programme, through which children can gain access to a range of different activities – including a number of sports.

Councilor Abtisam Mohamed, who is involved in developing the council’s physical activity strategy, is watching the hubbub of activity taking place when I visit.

Brendan Ingle Foundation trustee Alex Nice and Councilor Abtisam Mohamed

She said: “There are a range of different sessions taking place across Sheffield, and I think this is considered to be one of the best, in terms of the sporting provision, including boxing and the other activities.”

Both Abtisam and Andy say the Brendan Ingle Foundation is also well known for getting children who are on the cusp of, or already have been, suspended to engage with boxing as a form of alternative educational provision.

Former professional boxer, Amer Khan, has been coming to the gym since he was 13 and is now passing on his skills to the next generation through his work as a coach, which he juggles along with working full-time as a firefighter.

“Brendan passed away some years ago, and I feel like we’re guardians in trying to continue his legacy. I know he’s looking down on this with a big smile,” Amer said.

Kids enjoy the holiday club at St Thomas Gym in Wincobank under the guidance of Amer Khan

He adds that the success of the holiday sessions the Brendan Ingle Foundation offer are down to the collective efforts of Wincobank residents and local business owners such as Richard Plant from GW Price; Jim Viggars of Sterling Meat who provide the healthy food given to children at lunchtime, the latter of whom has also brought along benches for children to sit on.

Some of the food given out to kids taking part in the holiday sessions with the Brendan Ingle Foundation

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