Caithness Boxing Club 'promoting a completely healthy outlook on life'
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Young members of Caithness Boxing Club are developing skills such as discipline and self-respect that will serve them well throughout life, according to head coach Richard Thurling.
"Boxing clubs are not just about boxing," he said. "There is a need for the club in Caithness."
There are about 50 members from across the county in three age categories – 8-11, 12-18 and over-18s.
"We're really stacked out in the adult section and the kids' sections are quite busy as well," Thurling said.
"People attend the club from all different backgrounds and it just promotes a completely healthy outlook on life."
The emphasis for Thurling and his two fellow coaches, Cailean Fraser and Lisa Robertson, is on encouraging young boxers to make the most of their potential.
"There are so many temptations for the youth of today," Thurling said. "We look to offer motivation, discipline and self-respect through boxing.
"When they go to competitions they'll have three rounds of hard, full-on boxing, and at the end of the last round, when the bell goes, they fall in each other's arms, big smiles, and they remain friends. They go back to the changing rooms and they talk about the fight.
"For me, that is what it's all about for these lads and lassies."
Thurling (49) used to work as a police self-defence instructor in Norfolk and is now based in Berriedale.
"I've done a lot of sports over my adult life," he said. "Boxing requires a level of fitness way beyond anything I've ever done, and they discipline themselves. They have to hit a weight limit, so for two weeks before a fight they have to strictly monitor their diet and their intake.
"They can't just go out and eat what they want, like their friends. They manage that religiously, they make sure they're training religiously, and they put themselves through this incredibly stressful experience.
"It's something I try to get out to the community – it looks like it's about aggression, but the one thing boxing teaches you is how not to lose your temper. It's a wholly combined skill of maximising what's within you.
"It's a really important lesson that I think a lot of youngsters get from boxing, stuff they carry with them their entire life – this is about discipline and motivation, it's not about losing your temper. And they keep themselves fit and well, because that's a habit you form.
"It's a real test of a person and I am so proud of them."
Thurling emphasised that the coaches all bring their own attributes.
"We've got different strengths and altogether it works," he said. "I'm really proud of the other two coaches that have come on board."
Highlights this year have included silvers for Koby Stewart (16), from Bower, at both national and Northern District competitions.
Last year, when she was 17, Alisha Mackay became the first member of the club to win a national title.
The club's presentation evening took place in the Norseman Hotel recently.
Seven members undertook a sponsored 10k on a tough course at Berriedale earlier this month, raising £870 to help with club expenses.
"We're a voluntary organisation and funding is always an issue," Thurling pointed out. "We haven't got a main sponsor at the moment, so all the money we have to raise ourselves.
"If anyone is interested in sponsoring the club, or donating, that would be fantastic."
Caithness Boxing Club is based at the former Wick South Primary School and anyone interested in going along can get in touch through Facebook. The first two sessions are free.
"It is a club for everyone," Thurling said. "And if we can show kids that they can experience big things in a really positive way, that's got to be a good thing."