The personal benefits of sporting inclusion is something Tralee Boxing Club places on an extremely high pedestal.
he popular club prides itself in offering its facilities to those in the community for whom sporting opportunities are not always ready available.
Tralee man Anthony Ward (44) is a case in point. Anthony has made working out at the club part of his weekly routine for over a year.
He has cerebral palsy and training under specialised coaching has become a focal point and an essential outlet that has changed his life.
Anthony is brought to the gym three times a week by his brother, Thomas, where boxing coach Jimmy Donnelly helps to put Anthony through his paces.
Thomas explains that since joining the club, Anthony has benefited enormously as it gives him a social outlet and the opportunity to enjoy a sporting pursuit that would otherwise not be available to him were it not for Tralee Boxing Club.
Anthony has increased his ability and strength during the sessions, while his confidence has also grown.
“Anthony has come on leaps and bounds in the time he’s been boxing,” Thomas said.
“His personality has changed, and he feels better for it. Anthony would never ring me at work. But now he rings nearly every day to know when I am collecting him for boxing. He loves it. It gets him out of the house. Most importantly, it also gives my mother a break,” he said.
Anthony’s interest in boxing was sparked by his cousin Dominic Donegan – a semi-pro boxer based in County Cavan.
Dominic gave Anthony a pair of boxing gloves and did some light sparring with him. The die was well and truly cast after that.
“That’s where it all started. As soon as Anthony came back to Tralee, he wanted to do boxing, so we got him into it. The work that Jimmy and the club has done with him is phenomenal; Jimmy has changed Anthony’s life,” Thomas said.
“I have never seen my brother so happy since he has something to look forward to every week. There is probably hundreds of kids and adults out there the same as Anthony who probably don’t know about boxing. It should be highlighted. On behalf of my family, I want to thank Tralee Boxing Club for all the help they have given Anthony in the past few months,” Thomas said.
Tralee Boxing Club Secretary Lynda McGrath explains that being able to adapt to the coaching methods to suit Anthony is something the club is proud of. Anthony receives one-to-one coaching and enjoys every minute.
“Anthony enjoys the banter and fun during his time there and loves nothing more than giving the banter back. The atmosphere is always relaxed and happy. This is the perfect environment for Anthony to thrive,” Lynda said.
“He is a part of the club and feels like he belongs there. We thoroughly enjoy having Anthony as this kind of inclusion is hard to find elsewhere.”
She explains that club coaches completed disability inclusion training so that anybody – whether a boxer or individual looking to up skill- gets the best experience in terms of fitness.
“We’re proud to fight to bring as much awareness as possible to people in minority groups that may be struggling to gain an opportunity in other sports,” said Lynda.