New fitness project will help steer young people away from crime and improve their mental health

Tutor James Watts is planning to run boxing and well-being sessions for young people to help steer them away from knife crime.

He has been working with vulnerable youngsters across the Potteries for the last five years and, from speaking to them, has found they have nothing to do and can often exploited.

Now James is in the process of setting up fitness workouts for 11 to 18-year-olds to improve their physical and mental health.

Each session will be an hour long and take place at either The Chris Edwards Academy Community Gym, in Longton, or Impacting Boxing, in Fenton.

Thirty-one-year-old James, from Trentham, said: “During the lockdown, everybody had a bit more time and it was one of them things that came into my head. The importance of health and fitness was all over the media.

“From talking to kids in the local area, they said they had nothing to do and then you read the reports about the potential for them to be exploited. 

“I thought this is something we can do. I got in conversation with a friend of my uncle’s and it all came together.

“I love working with young people. I did law first, so I’ve worked in courts. But alongside that, I also did supply teaching and tutoring.

“I had a group of lads from different backgrounds; it was chaos the first day, but I worked with them really well and it took off from there and I have never looked back since.”

James teaches English at an alternative provision school. His role can also involve counselling and mentoring pupils.

To support his new venture with young people, he has approached Stoke City FC, the Denise Coates Foundation and the National Lottery Trust for funding.

“The boxing sessions will involve boxing training. The fitness would be like those high intensity classes, but it would depend on the child and their ability. We would make sure we can accommodate all abilities,” he added.

They would be held on weekends and after school hours. James strongly believes there is a need for these sessions as it would give young people motivation to do well. 

James said: “Young adults are involved in the activities that are quite concerning and upsetting. There has been an increase in knife crimes across the city. From working with children, there was one lad who said he was attacked with a machete. 

“A lot of it can be to do with home, they don’t always get the guidance. A lot of the time, they are living in low-income households or there are 20-odd per cent living in households on benefits. 

“They haven’t got access to the money to go to the gym or wherever it might be and that is where I’m hoping the funding will come together. 

“The people I have spoken to strongly agree there is a need. I put the idea out on social media and had some really good feedback from parents. The finance side does need organising.”

He added: “I hope to achieve getting kids off the streets. With health and fitness, there is no limit to the potential of them getting into employment too. 

“It helps with the nutrition side and how they feel about themselves. There is so much it can do, the potential for it is enormous. 

“Exercise reduces endorphins and I found it myself. When you do exercise, it makes you feel so much better afterwards.”

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