Boxing coach showcases Ultimate School ContenderBy Fergus McEwan
June 15, 2012
A COACH at Woking Amateur Boxing Club has been invited to demonstrate his innovative school performance programme at an exhibition about Muhammad Ali.
Retired professional fighter Ollie Wilson will showcase Ultimate School Contender (USC), designed to improve students’ attitudes towards education, at the opening of In The Rings With Ali on July 19.
The exhibition, being held to mark Ali’s 70th birthday, has been timed to coincide with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and takes place at Forman’s Smokehouse Gallery, which overlooks the Olympic Park.
Mr Wilson, a former light middleweight and middleweight British champion, will also deliver a week-long version of USC called the Muhammad Ali Outreach Programme to a group of troubled young people from Holland.
Part of the outreach programme will include a ‘boxing extravaganza’ in Guildford on July 20, coinciding with the arrival of the Olympic torch relay, which will be attended by Ali’s brother Rahman.
Mr Wilson hopes his partnership with the organisers of the exhibition, sponsored by the Dutch and American embassies, will lead to the outreach programme becoming an ongoing feature in the UK, Holland and the US.
He is also confident that the USC demonstration in front of 400 dignitaries at the exhibition opening will attract much-needed support for the programme, which has been hit by government funding cuts.
He said: “I feel very honoured and privileged to be in this position. Being involved with this exhibition will shed new light on USC and hopefully attract new sponsors to keep the programme going.”
USC was devised by Mr Wilson and Norman de Laune, sports co-ordinator for the North Surrey School Sports Partnership (NSSSP).
Participants compete for the title of Ultimate School Contender, and a champion’s belt, in a points system where they are rewarded not just for their boxing skill but for improving their attendance and achievement in school.
It began in 2005 as an eight-week pilot programme for a handful of students at Jubilee High School in Addlestone, but became so popular that within a month it had been increased to three sessions a week for 120 students.
Within six months, USC had received lottery funding to be delivered in 10-week courses to 12,000 pupils across all 60 schools in the NSSSP with the help of students trained as ‘young leaders’.
Mr Wilson said: “The programme helped kids to become full citizens by making them believe in themselves and building their self-confidence so they felt they could fit in at school and within society.
“I got them to chant slogans about having a positive mental attitude, much like Muhammad Ali himself. The effect was amazing. We had kids on medication for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) who found they didn’t need it any more.
“Every session started with the three As – appearance, attendance and achievement in school – and ended with the three Rs, namely respect for yourself, respect for others and respect for the environment.
“We created what’s called a ‘sense of loss’ where any kid who saw another kid doing better in the programme wanted to get to the same level. We also encouraged them to think about where their behaviour would lead them in the future.
“A lot of girls got involved, which was good for their self-esteem. Some of them had been bullied but that stopped.
“Our young leaders loved having a sense of power and responsibility. We took USC to special schools, which was an eye-opener for our young leaders from mainstream schools.”
However, the NSSSP was ended in 2010 and funding for USC dried up. Mr Wilson and Mr de Laune responded by launching the Ultimate University Contender (UUC) programme at the University of Surrey, which has just crowned its first champion.
UUC is designed to tackle the lack of boxing coaching at universities but also encourage graduates to run their own USC programmes by becoming certified by the Amateur Boxing Association, which makes them eligible to apply for funding.
There are plans in the pipeline to expand UUC to other universities in the region with the support of the ABA and Police Community Boxing Clubs.
Mr Wilson said: “Our kids at Woking Amateur Boxing Club are already very proud that we have Olympic athletes training there. Now they’re involved in this programme too, which will introduce a new generation to a sporting icon. Next year, we might even be able to go to Chicago to meet Muhammad Ali and show him what we do by working with disadvantaged kids over there.”
For more information on the project visit www.boxinginclusionzone.com. In The Rings With Ali is open to the public from July 20–26 and August 13–28. For more information, go to www.cjansenphotography.com.