Participants who complete the 11 week programme gain a Health Related Fitness Level Four Award and a QQI Award in Personal Effectiveness and Active Leadership.
Throughout the programme, the participants (many of whom come from marginalised backgrounds and are early school leavers) cover a number of topics such as Anatomy and Physiology, Lifestyle Habits, Communication, Benefits of Exercise, Team Building, Session Planning, Active Leadership and Nutrition.
They also engage in a range of physical activities, such as Soccer, Boxing, Aerobics, Spinning Class, Rugby, Surfing, Tennis, Muay Thai, Circuit Training and Yoga.
“The main idea is that participants are introduced to local activities, sports centres and clubs and get to know where they are, how to get there, and the costings involved,” explained Fiona Laffan, Project Worker with Treo Port Láirge.
Treo works with young people between the ages of 16 to 23 and encourages and supports them to make more positive choices and move forward with their lives.
It’s hoped that many of those who participate in the Active Body Active Mind programme will become further involved with sporting activity or could possibly go on to become coaches and mentors.
Fiona says that the feedback from last year has been very positive and believes the programme has potential to grow even further.
The Active Body Active Mind programme involves two hours of classroom based studies on a Wednesday morning in the Treo Port Láirge Centre in the Lacken Road Business Park in Kilbarry followed by two hours of activities.
“In the morning, we do classroom based work and the students are all extremely interactive in the classroom,” said Fiona.
Each week, the classroom session is followed by a different activity related to that week’s chosen sport.
Last week’s classroom based session involved how to plan a sport activity session and was facilitated by Brian O’Neill, Youth Sports Development Officer with Waterford Sports Partnership.
During the class, he highlighted the importance of communication and encouragement and provided different tips and helpful insights on how to effectively coach.
“A lot of the participants are early school leavers so they don’t have a Leaving Certificate. This course enables them to get an award and you can see the sense of achievement when they get their certificates,” said Brian.
Last week’s afternoon session took place at Waterford Warriors Gym which is a state of the art strength and conditioning gym located in the Six Cross Roads Business Park.
This session was facilitated by gym owner Gary Walsh who was on hand to put the group through their paces.
Activities involved a fun warm-up follow by a strength and conditioning class where the group worked in pairs using body weight exercises, followed by the use of Kettlebells, Deadlifting, Squatting and Burpee Hops.
The session concluded with a cool-down and some stretching.
It’s hoped that sessions such as that at Waterford Warriors Gym last week may inspire some participants to get further involved with CrossFit or with any of the other sports which they have been introduced to.
“This may be the first time that many have tried these activities,” explained Brian O’Neill.
“We provide a taster of many different sports and we go from low impact sports such as walking on the Waterford Greenway to the high impact sports such as CrossFit. We did boxing last year, and now there are three or four lads going to a local boxing club on a regular basis that never would have went before.”
One participant from last year has gone on to enjoy significant success following his involvement with the programme.
Craig McCarthy (30) from Kilcohan completed the Active Body Active Mind programme last year and says it has helped him hugely in different aspects of his life.
Craig has been boxing since the age of 13 and holds an Irish amateur title.
He has participated in over 150 fights, with his last fight being against a five times senior champion from England.
However, he admits that “the fire was gone” and he was “tired” of the amateur boxing scene so he walked away from it all.
“I always wanted to go pro but didn’t know how to go about it,” he explained.
He says that after joining the Active Body Active Mind programme, he gained an “extra drive”.
Craig says he has gained a lot from the programme and has grown in confidence.
He recently coached primary school kids in boxing as part of a programme run by Waterford Sports Partnership.
The Boxing Fitness programme was delivered to two fourth classes from St. Paul’s National School.
Every Friday, for three weeks, the students made the very short journey next door to St. Paul’s Boxing Club.
The aim of programme was to increase physical fitness amongst the students through exercises associated with boxing.
The programme consisted of a warm-up, Shadow Boxing, Bag-Work and Circuit Training.
Each session concluded with a fun activity game.
“The kids got a lot out of it and I got a great buzz from doing it as well,” said Craig.
He also returned to the Active Body Active Mind programme this year to deliver a class in boxing as a tutor.
“I took a class a couple of weeks ago and did boxing with the students. It suited me down to the ground and I’d like to do more of that as I feel I have a lot to give,” he said.
Craig says the Active Body Active Mind programme equipped him with more knowledge and he is now striving to give something back though his involvement as a tutor.
From his own personal experiences, he is aware of the importance of having something to focus on.
“When I was younger I wasn’t a saint by any means and I had a lot of troubles but boxing helped me out of that,” he said.
“Boxing has helped me a lot and it can also help others.”
Along with involvement as a coach and tutor, Craig looks set to finally realise his overall dream of becoming a professional boxer.
He is currently in discussions with a promoter/manager and says plans are progressing well.
As he attempts to make the transfer from the amateur to the professional boxing scene, he is now training at Celtic Warrior Boxing Gym in Dublin every week and getting on very well.
“All of my last fights have been against top men, so there’s no reason why I can’t be fighting world class professionals within a few years,” said a determined Craig.
“In six months, I would like to be making my professional debut. There’s no reason why I can’t be fighting world class professionals.”
He looks to Irish mixed martial arts superstar Conor McGregor for inspiration.
“He’s self-made, and he reminds me of myself!” said Craig.
“He’s so positive and I try to be as positive as I can in my life”.
Craig says he has a great support network around him, including family, friends, his girlfriend and two kids.
In particular, he thanked Seamus Cowman from St Paul’s Boxing Club for all he’s done for him over the years.
“And hopefully he will be doing more with me in years to come,” said Craig.
“With the right people around me, I have the knowledge, the experience and the power to go very far,” he added.
Craig advises anyone who may be hesitant about doing something to “feel the fear and do it anyway”.
“The hardest part about anything is getting up and doing it,” he said.
His favourite saying is “Built to Last” – a phrase which he has tattooed on his back.
“That saying has stuck with me since I was young,” he said.
“Boxing is symbolic of life, you might get knocked down but you get back up again”.
We may be hearing a lot more about Craig McCarthy in the future, and could well be hearing about some more Active Body Active Mind participants if any of them also decide to embark on a new sporting adventure.