Boxing clever – Laura Sargeant fights to empower North-East girls

AS one a top North-East female boxing coach Laura Sargeant is fighting to ensure the girls she trains achieve success – both in and out of the ring.

Once they were a rare breed but more and more girls are signing up for the sport and making a big impact thanks to trailblazers such as double Olypmic gold medal winner Nicola Adams and Savannah Marshall from Hartlepool who reached the quarter-finals in Rio.

The sport doesn’t just offer girls exercise and a place to hang out with their friends, it also provides them a strong work ethic, self belief and empowerment – essential qualties for teenagers living anywhere in the North-East but especially in Middlesbrough, a town depressingly dubbed ‘the worst place to be a girl’ in England and Wales according to a new report released recently.

Laura holds weekly sessions at East Middlesbrough Amateur Boxing Club near where she lives but also runs the monthly Tyne, Tees & Wear Amateur Boxing Association female regional squad based in Peterlee which sees girls from the 90 boxing clubs around the North-East come together to spar and spur each other on.

And the squad is already making a name for itself – out of the six boxers she picked to compete in Hull this June, they won five gold medals and one silver.

Laura is now focused on taking a team of young boxers to the international ‘Golden Girls’ competition in Sweden in February.
“Last year I’d just taken over so we didn’t go but this year we are ready to show the talent we have from the North-East,” she said.

Laura Sargeant with the girls she trains to box at East Middlesbrough Amateur Boxing Club.

Laura Sargeant with the girls she trains to box at East Middlesbrough Amateur Boxing Club.

“The girls I’m going to take are the ones who are the most dedicated who come regularly to squad training but many are not the financial position to come. Many have not been out of the area and most have not flown before but this is such a massive opportunity for them we are determined to get them there.”

“There will be girls from all over the world so this is their chance to compete on an international stage.”

Fundraising has already started to try and reach the £15,000 target needed to take a team of 20 girls plus coaches.

The sport doesn’t just offer girls exercise and a place to hang out with their friends, it also provides them a strong work ethic, self belief and empowerment – essential qualties for teenagers living anywhere in the North-East but especially in Middlesbrough, a town depressingly dubbed ‘the worst place to be a girl’ in England and Wales according to a new report released recently.

The study, by the charity Plan International UK, looked at factors including child poverty, educational attainment and teenage pregnancy rates, and found a stark geographical divide for girls’ prospects.

Laura shakes her head. She’s used her hometown being slurred by derogatory headlines but argues there’s another story to tell. Pregnant at 16, on paper her future would have looked bleak to statisticians but she’s still with boyfriend, now husband, Martin and the couple’s two children  are now in their twenties.

It was through her family that Laura, now 42, was introduced to boxing and now she juggles coaching the next generation of pugilists with managing an off licence six days a week. “Martin used box and then became a boxing trainer and when our son started I would drive them both and would stay to the end so would end up watching – it wasn’t long before I wanted to get involved so I did my qualifications too, I’m now a Level 2 England Boxing Coach and I love it.

Top North-East female boxing coach Laura Sargeant.

Top North-East female boxing coach Laura Sargeant.

“Girls boxing is massive at the moment. When I first started fourteen years ago I was the first female boxing coach in Middlesbrough and there were very few in the North-East. The attitude then was ‘you’re a woman – what do you know?’. One man told me I shouldn’t be there as I might break a nail. After what i said in response he never dared question me again,” she said with a smile.

The North-East is a hotbed of female boxing talent with realistic hopes of reaching the Commonweath Games and the Olympics Laura firmly believes. In Middlesbrough, she highlights Macy Kilkenny 16, who is on the GB Boxing development team and Sophie Haw, who has been training at East Middlesbrough Amateur Boxing Club since she was six and is naturally gifted at the sport.

“The girls I’m going to take are the ones who are the most dedicated who come regularly to squad training but many are not the financial position to come. Many have not been out of the area and most have not flown before but this is such a massive opportunity for them we are determined to get them there.”

Laura Sargeant

“I would say girls are more technical than boys and they are easier to teach,” Laura added. “Often there is only one girl in a gym so they are sparring with boys, the regional squad lets the girls come together and spar with each other which they really enjoy as they become good friends.

“Each month you really see them progress and their confidence grow because the sport gives them discipline and they work really hard to achieve.”

CONTACT:

To donate to the Tyne, Tees & Wear fundraising campaign click here.

For more information about the Tyne, Tees & Wear Amateur Boxing Association regional female  squad and the ‘Golden Girls’ fundraising efforts email laura.sargeant@ntlworld.com

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