Sport can change lives

The Heart of Portsmouth celebrate another Champion: Mateusz Ziolkowski

Mateusz pictured after his win at this year's CYP National Championships

Coaching Hampshire & IOW have been supporting the work at the Heart of Portsmouth Boxing Club for the last 12-months.  We’ve provided coach scholarships, employed seven trainee boxing coaches through the Future Jobs Fund and have used ‘Q’ Shillingford, the club’s effervescent and inspirational leader, to support leadership training across the county.

A few months ago we had the good fortune to interview a number of students from the Charter Academy, a secondary school based in the heart of Somers Town, Portsmouth, one of the most deprived areas of the city.  Nevertheless, since the school became an Academy under the leadership of school principle, Dame Sharon Hollows, staff and pupils at the school have made some great strides.  The school prides itself on investing in the needs of pupils and taking innovative approaches to delivering on that aim.  Amongst these innovations was to accept an invitation from Quinton ‘Q’ Shillingford to host an after school boxing activity.

“My initial response was ‘no way’, but Q can be very convincing, so we decided to give it a try.” said Dame Hollows.

Since then, the Heart of Portsmouth Boxers has supported hundreds of young people as well as developing a unique relationship with many parents who previously had been very suspicious of getting involved with the school.

Coaching Hampshire & IOW interviewed a number of teachers, pupils and parents at the school, to find out what impact the boxing activity and their coaches were having on them as people.  We were hardly surprised to find out that good coaching is not just about developing athletes, but also about promoting valuable life skills like inter-personal skills, confidence, goal setting and establishing a work-ethic.  On the whole students were physically stronger, had a more positive self-image and enjoyed making new friends.

One of these pupils was Mateusz Ziolkowski.  Mateusz has only been in the UK for a few short years, hailing from Poland.  He now talks confidently about how he used to dislike school when he first moved to the area.  He was bigger than most kids his age and his limited English made him very self-conscious.  However, some 3-years on, Mateusz has little problem communicating, as he explains,

“I remember back in Year 7 and Year 8 I didn’t attend school ..everyday, every week. Now I’m here everyday, so I guess [Boxing] has made me a bit more disciplined.”

Winning the Championship

And its this new found discipline that led to Mateusz clinching a national boxing title.  The 2011 Clubs for Young People (CYP) championship event was held in Harlow, Essex.  Seasoned young fighters from all over the country competed for the coveted title, but it was novice Mateusz that not only sealed the victory, but has caused a stir amongst selectors of future national squads.

The Heart of Portsmouth hero stunned the capacity crowd in Harlow in dramatic style with victory over West Leeds’ rising-star Dexter

Thomas and Ziolkowski go toe to toe

Thomas.  Ziolkowski’s success is made all the more incredible, coming in just his ninth amateur contest – and only two years after taking up the sport.  It was a stunning victory for the Charter Academy student, who also overcame a Welsh champion, along with a multi-national champion and European silver medallist, on his way to success.

The win was a nailbiter, with the contest ending 12-12 after three exciting rounds of action.  Shillingford believes Ziolkowski has stunned the boxing world, with his title coming so early in his amateur career.  The victory means that Ziolkowski may now be a serious 2016 Olympic Games.

Coach Shillingford explains:

“It’s an unbelievable story.  No-one can believe a kid can come in and do what Mateusz has done.  To win a national title after nine bouts is unheard of, and to do it the hard way by beating national champions and European medallists makes it even more incredible.

Now Mateusz [I believe] is on course for the 2016 Olympics.  He has to keep working and hopefully get some international experience to build towards becoming a senior.  Mateusz is the most dedicated boxer I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and I’ve had 15 national champions and 12 international boxers.

The Leader

Ziolkowski’s proved a beacon for the Boxing Awards programme piloted at HOP and Charter Academy, with the noble art helping him to grow in all aspects of his life.  When he’s not training before, during and after school, he helps out with the younger students, helping them to enjoy the sport and develop their skills.

Shillingford said:

“Mateusz didn’t want to go to school when he first came to the country. But getting involved in boxing has made him more confident and he has found new friends.  His character has come out and his education has rose as a result. He is now a head boy at his school and speaks English fluently.  Mateus is a success story for all the coaches who prepared him – his teachers, his club, school and Portsmouth.”

Mateusz explains:

“Its made me a lot more confident and I enjoy being a bit of a leader”

There’s little doubt that Mateusz will be a role model to many more young pupils at the school, but also to many other young people who see what he has achieved in such a short period.  It has not been without some considerable work, discipline and determination, but a success that the school, his parents, the coaches and Mateusz himself, will all cherish for a long time to come.

Watch our video case study on the Heart of Portsmouth Boxing Club and their phenomenal work.


Posted on 29/11/2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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