Shannia Richardson-Gordon, aged 19, is a coach with Boxing Futures and the Limehouse Boxing Academy. Passionate about how the sport can help others, she travels all over London to teach non-contact boxing and boxercise to mental health patients, people with disabilities, and young offenders.
Richardson-Gordon is part of the UK’s first Movers List, which has been compiled by Lucozade Sport to recognise 50 individuals whose volunteering, charity work, or dedication to sport and exercise has inspired local communities. She recently took part in Street Elite, an intensive support festival which offers support to those who haven fallen into difficult situations, often living on the edge of gangs and criminality. It helps them gain the confidence, qualifications, and self-esteem needed to get a job or go on to further and higher education.
Q: How did you first start boxing and what made you want to teach it?
A: I first started boxing when I was aged 11. My first boxing influence started with my family—growing up boxing was always around me, but I never really paid much attention to it. As a child my parents always wanted me to do sports in my spare time or pick up some sort of hobby. I tried football, basketball, netball, golf, etc… The only sport I felt
some sort of connection with seemed to be boxing, surprisingly. I always wanted to be a school teacher as my main profession, but gathered a passion for boxing as I went through my adolescence.
“You never realise what someone is going through until you get up close and personal with them.”
Q: Could you tell us a little about Boxing Futures and its mission?
A: Boxing Futures is a charity that specialises in improving the mental health and wellbeing of disadvantaged young people around the United Kingdom. It aims to have a positive impact on young people’s lives through sport, and they run projects across London.
Q: Why do you think boxing is such a good method of building community and empowerment for young people?
A: Boxing not only provides discipline in the community, but also creates a safe place for those within that particular community. Boxing provides empowerment for women across the world, especially in religious communities, as women often undertake a domestic labour role within the house and stick to it.
Q: You also work with Limehouse Boxing Academy, which recently took part in the Street Elite Festival. What was that like?
A: The Street Elite Festival was really fun, and the fact it covered quite a few locations meant that it was easily accessible for a large number of young people in London. It was my first year doing the festival and it was a truly positive experience, I’m already excited for the next one.
Q: What was it like running programmes with mental health patients? Do you think boxing and similar activities have a tangible mental health benefit?
A: It was challenging at times, such as when dealing with teenagers that have been self-harming and are suicidal. Working with mental health patients allowed me to have a deeper understanding of what good and bad mental health actually is. You never realise what someone is going through until you get up close and personal with them. I strongly believe that boxing allows those suffering from mental illnesses to get out the frustration that they are holding.
Q: How has boxing helped you on your own personal journey?
A: It has made me more disciplined and, it has definitely given me a true feel for happiness—boxing allows me to express myself as a coach and as a person.
Q: What do you think are some of the toughest issues that young people in the UK are facing right now?
A: One of the toughest issues that young people in the UK face is childhood poverty, which as a result has led to an increase in crime across the UK. People fall into crime as a means of making money so with that being said, if childhood poverty breeds crime, then surely that is the first thing to tackle nationwide.
Q. Are there resources available for people with physical disabilities or other circumstances that make attending a boxing class more difficult?
A: Yes, in some gyms, but not all.
Q: What are your own goals for your coaching and the positive changes that you want to make for young people?
A: In the future I plan to have my own boxing club— one that is open to anyone and everyone despite what disabilities or surrounding issues that they may have. Hopefully, I can open up a boxing club within the next 3-5 years.