I didn't have any real ambition other than I wanted to leave the Air Force. I didn't want to move back to parents or grandparents or anything. I started working as a personal trainer (a PT), in a commercial gym in Aylesbury. That's how I ended up down south. Things picked up quite well, so I left the RAF officially about three or four years ago, and I've been doing PT and coaching ever since.
Active Reach was just through Nikki from Aspire reaching out to me. I think we went for a coffee or a walk and we just discussed the idea and we went from there. It's from the ground up. It's very much like boxing for fitness, teaching the fundamentals. There's a lot of components to it: there's the let's get people together in a social setting and have fun, and then there's the let's get them improving their boxing fitness skills.
One or two have trained before, but they’re mostly beginners. I was a late bloomer into boxing, I feel like I started in my late 20s early 30s, I was never a natural, so I'm super patient with them. There was a guy getting two buses in, and stuff like that. You think about what times he’s setting off to get two buses and the hassle and expense of it – clearly, he perceived great value in the sessions. That was humbling.
I took over after another coach left, who was actually from the same town as me. We had two good sessions in Oxford, lockdown hit, and then we went onto Zoom. Zoom was brilliant, but it was also a challenge. Once you get to week five of Zoom, week six of Zoom, the numbers started dropping apart from two or three diehards. And people had issues with technology; they didn't always have access to Wi-Fi or good devices and tablets, so it was a big challenge for some.
Now we're just so excited to get back to in-person. They've got me down the mosque, training the kids, training the adults, and then training the trainers to eventually hand that over. The numbers there have been really good, the first one had like nine kids, and then ten, eleven, twelve. They're all calling me coach, they’re all excited, and they’ve been practising in the mirrors and stuff. I didn't actually realise that it was going to be kids initially. I've got a lot of experience coaching teenagers, men, women, but not actually kids. It was a bit of a step up, getting them to listen to you and switch on and stuff. An adult really wants to get the ‘why’ but kids get bored. You almost become a little entertainer every now and again, asking who are their favourite boxers, and have you seen this kind of stuff? And it's really the language, the tonality is pretty different.
For Active Reach and Aspire, it was about getting people together and giving them something positive to focus on. I just kind of did my thing, but the wider picture was very much to get people focusing on something positive, to highlight the importance of exercise and fitness, and probably serve as a distraction for some if they had more stresses and issues and frustrations going on in life. It reminded me of my background, I'm a council estate kid. It was almost like, you know, I'm working with the same kind of people that were where I’m from, that kind of area, similar problems or issues or experiences.
I said to my girlfriend, and I think I said it to Nikki – Aspire generally isn’t actually that viable when you wake up, you know… petrol and travel. In a commercial gym I would have back-to-back clients for three, four, five, six hours. But Aspire became something I wanted to do. I felt like I was doing a little bit. It makes you appreciate what you got. Silly little things, like realising not everyone has access to Wi-Fi to do the boxing. It's just such a simple thing you take for granted. Or they haven't got a phone that can handle Zoom. There’re people out there going through a lot financially, physically, emotionally. It just gives you a bit of empathy towards people. Not that I didn't have it, but it just reminds you. And I just like coaching, I love seeing someone go from A to B and improve their standards, and I love when people enjoy something and the value of the coaching.
In school I was called Motor Mouth. If I know what I'm talking about, if I've got an experience, I'll happily talk all day. But in the forces, I was known as the Grey Man, because I hid in the numbers, just kind of blended in. So, it's really weird. PT’s definitely brought me out my shell. I've got my own podcast, although I haven't done one for a couple of months. I do videos in my groups, and Instagram and social media and stuff. My face is out there a lot more. Without boxing-for-fitness, I probably wouldn't have got started as a PT. It's like an outlet if you like. With the whole lockdown and stuff, like time being compressed, I think it was about 18 months, I worked out, since I’d last held pads with anyone. It was really nice to get back to coaching boxing and boxing-for-fitness and pad work. I've not really been sharpening my skills for a long, long time. It was getting back to how it started for me.