Palmerston North Gym 'changing lives' through support and exercise

Palmerston North Gym ‘changing lives’ through support and exercise

Boxing may be the basis of the Snap Back Boxing gym, but the focus is on community and helping people.

In addition to hosting the usual boxing and fitness classes, Palmerston North Gym offers classes for troubled youth, special education students, new moms, and men’s health.

He also works to raise mental health and suicide awareness, and has hosted fight nights to raise money for the cause.

The gymnasium held an open house last weekend to show the community what they’ve been up to, including the newly furnished equipment room where they’ve been offering classes.

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Coach Courtney Saua cheers on a student in one of Snap Back Boxing's special education classes.

Warwick Smith / Stuff

Coach Courtney Saua cheers on a student in one of Snap Back Boxing’s special education classes.

Gym director Filipo Saua said boxing is just a small part of their job and they take care of all aspects of life.

He said they were working to improve people’s well-being and mental health because they were seeing a lot of people struggling with issues.

“Well-being is quite important. We recognized the need for the community to reach out at different levels to help our community.

“We start with our youth and build the community. We offer different services to build our community.

He said the at-risk youth program had helped build their self-esteem and they had seen “kids change their lives”.

“We go over the rules, the core values, the safety aspects of being here, the respect.

Jerry Saua (right) says once kids learn what they're capable of, they love it.

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Jerry Saua (right) says once kids learn what they’re capable of, they love it.

“We’re talking about doing better in life, about the goals you achieve from there until you leave, about making decisions, about choosing the right thing to do.”

A girl who started working with them had problems with violence.

“Her mother said it was the first time she had seen her daughter smile in six months.”

There was also a program to teach self-defense to young women and a free course for people with Parkinson’s disease.

They held a ‘side-by-side’ course for the men to talk to each other and get help if they needed it, as Saua said the men usually kept their distance.

Courtney Saua holds the bags for the students.

Warwick Smith / Stuff

Courtney Saua holds the bags for the students.

Saua’s stepdaughter, Courtney, was a special education trainer.

She has also worked for HealthCare NZ and a few months ago she decided to organize fitness classes for children with special educational needs, who were taking classes during the day.

“Many of them said there were no opportunities for them after school or at school because everything was ordinary. We created a space for them to be themselves.

The classes were sensory, without loud noises and fun for the children.

She said that when some children arrived they were nervous, but they gained confidence and fitness.

“They’re looking forward to it, they’re coming to dance to One Direction and they’re really enjoying it.”

She said they meet all needs and create opportunities for people.

Trainer Jerry Saua, right, assists one of the students during a training session.

Warwick Smith / Stuff

Trainer Jerry Saua, right, assists one of the students during a training session.

Courtney’s husband, Jerry, was the lead mentor in their program for at-risk youth, who were directed to the gymnasium, where they were reminded that it was a safe space.

Jerry said once the youngsters realized what the training could do, they grew to love it.

“We see a lot of confidence growing in them and in shape. Because they were brought up on a difficult path, we try to help them and guide them to the right path.

He said they learned discipline and how to focus on something positive, which led to a big change.

“Respect is the biggest thing we try to drill into them. Respect yourself, respect others around you, because boxing requires respect.

Manawatū Tactical Prevention Manager Joe Salisbury said the police had a strong partnership with the gymnasium team.

“We have previously collaborated on several initiatives involving the rangatahi and we are always impressed with how the Snapback team engages with young people and serves as positive role models in our community.”

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