January Club of the Month!
Pembroke and Pembroke Dock Amateur Boxing Club may provide knockout coaching but they are far more than just a sports club.
Run by chairman and coach Chris McEwen, Pembroke is a community hub which prides itself on supporting all members of the locality, particularly those who slip through the cracks.
The club, founded in 1964, view boxing as a hugely significant means of providing vulnerable people with solid foundations such as discipline and resilience as well as a supportive community around them.
Chris believes this service to be vital and therefore offers a variety of boxing sessions including seated classes for disabled women, in-school interventions for vulnerable students and training for disabled young people free of charge.
In addition, during the first lockdown in 2020 their venue was turned into a food bank to support individuals in need.
The club has secured planning permission for a Disability Sports Café where rough sleepers can seek refuge, learn how to bake bread and cakes and earn some money. It will also serve as an honesty café and the centre for a work scheme programme for people with disabilities to gain crucial life and employment skills.
It’s clear the amateur boxing club’s heart beats to support the Pembroke community in any way possible, using the sport of boxing as their platform. They are a thoroughly deserved winner of Parasport’s first Club of the Month award for 2021.
“What makes Pembroke and Pembroke Dock Amateur Boxing Club so special? Community,” Chris said.
“It’s not just a boxing club, it’s much much more. Pembroke Boxing Club is a very special place.
“These are all projects which have stemmed from one thing, boxing. That’s what I love about it, it doesn’t just stop at one thing, it continually grows.
“It’s made me fall more in love with boxing. If I didn’t love boxing before, I certainly love it now!”
Chris, a former member of the Royal Air Force who is himself disabled, presides over a club which has been recognised by Disability Sport Wales for their efforts with the Blue Ribbon insport award.
On an international level, too, the club sets the highest of standards and is working with a number of companies and individuals including former Canadian professional boxer Leo Sammarelli and wheelchair adaptive boxer Luiz Faye to create the first ever regulated boxing wheelchair.
This will be built by Welsh company Roma, who have previously created competitive chairs for the Invictus Games and the Paralympics.
All of which is a testament to the welcoming and boundary-pushing environment at Pembroke which provides not only physical health benefits to its members but also huge positive mental health and behavioural changes.
From their first steps through Pembroke's doors, members are taken on a journey of personal development which gives them the drive to tackle life's challenges and try many more new things along the way.
“It’s not about myself, it’s not about the coaches, it’s about the people who come through your door,” Chris said. “They give me drive, they give me purpose.
“Boxing and the forces are very much alike for me, discipline is one of their core values. It’s a family. When that person comes through the door, each one of them has a different story.
“There’s one kid in particular who I teach, who was the first person to be born with Gomez-Lopez-Hernandez syndrome - a condition where only half the brain develops – since 1914.
“He is the core, for me, of what boxing is about – to never give up. Keep on punching, there is always another round.
“I love the togetherness, the tenacity of the sport. Once you become part of a boxing club you become part of a family.
“It doesn’t matter if I’ve got four people or 15 people in the gym, it is still like it’s a football stadium, it’s buzzing and you just bounce off each other. Boxing is not just about competing – it’s about the social interaction, physical exercise and stress relief which is great for mental health”
For all that Chris and Pembroke & Pembroke Dock Amateur Boxing Club have achieved thus far, he is yet to reach his ultimate goal of developing an environment for disability boxing to grow within the existing national governing bodies where it is regulated and safe for people with adaptive needs.
But that surely is not too far away as Chris continues to work tirelessly alongside England Boxing, Welsh Boxing and Disability Sport Wales to take disability boxing to the next level and allow adaptive boxers not only within the club but worldwide to step into the ring with confidence.
Chris added: “I’ve been able to see some people doing disability boxing and it’s not been safe and it’s not been regulated and nothing’s been done to stop it.
“Anybody can do the training but there’s still a lot of work to be done before we can say ‘yes it’s safe for you to compete’.
“I’m aiming to get to a place where we can get disability boxing approved under amateur regulations so it can be regulated and safe for people to compete.
“Invictus (Games) have said if we can get this recognised underneath a national governing body then they would consider us entering the Invictus Games.
“And if one day it reaches the Paralympics, amazing. If I can be a part of that journey it will be incredible.”
If you want to find out more and get involved with Pembroke and Pembroke Dock Amateur Boxing Club, click HERE