5 June 2010 – By Oisin Fagan
When I arrived home from the USA, almost two years ago now, I expected to jump back into a school-teaching position; after all, I had taught Physical Education, at Columbus Elementary in Oklahoma City, for five years before returning home to Dublin.
However, on my return, I initiated the application process, to enable me to continue my profession in Ireland, but I felt like I was being asked to jump through hoops by our Deptartment of Education for full-recognition of my qualifications. It was a messy process – from sending forms halfway across the world to get signed and stamped, then having them returned, only for them to demand that I send them back again for further analysis and examination. So, I really got fed-up with all the bureaucracy and I ended up throwing the application forms in the bin, while I looked for another way to help make a difference in the lives of our youth.
With regards to my new job, it was an extremely hard decision for me to take a break from the boxing ring, as I felt like I had a few years left in me; however, I was offered employment with the IABA/Dublin City Council partnership as a Boxing in the Community Development Officer and I decided to hang up the gloves to allow me to focus on my new start. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make, but that said, Im still optimistic that Ill make a return to the ring someday.
In fact, I feel it would probably enhance the development officer role, if I still held my profile as a professional boxer too, because, since much of my job is to promote and introduce as many youths as I can into boxing; surely, kids are more likely to be influenced by someone who they can watch boxing regularly on the telly, rather than a guy in a suit. Regardless, I continue to train intensely for 2-3 hours every day after work, in the hope that Ill be able to fight again at some stage.
When the vacancy for Boxing in the Community Development Officer was posted by the IABA and Dublin City Council partnership, a friend of mine, Paddy Gallagher, who was also a teacher and a big boxing enthusiast, whom Id met just after I won the Irish light-welterweight title back in 2006, sent me a text and told me that he thought Id be perfect for the job. He knew of my qualifications from the USA, not to mention that I worked in an impoverished area of OKC, with predominantly Latino children from disadvantaged backgrounds and a strong gang-culture. Thus, from the job description posted, I felt I was made for this development officer job, so I applied and thankfully, I was hired.
Weve been 12 weeks in the job now and things are starting to come to fruition. I am the officer for the South Central area of Dublin City and there are four other officers working in different parts of the city. The rest of the team includes, Olympic Gold Medallist, Michael Carruth, Paul Quinn, Tommy Ahern and Eric Donovan. Contrary to what many people think about our roles, we dont actually have very much to do with boxing clubs, per-se.
Predominantly, we strive to facilitate the youth of Dublin and to get as many kids involved in their communities, by using the great sport of boxing as the tool. The initial part of the job was to basically meet and greet social workers, teachers, school liaison officers, volunteers and project leaders, but now the hard work of recruiting coaches, youth workers and conducting courses is underway and were now in the process of implementing our Gold, Silver and Bronze Start-Box Programmes in our respective areas.
Any young person, who is interested in taking up boxing, will be signed-up for the Bronze Start-Box Programme, which consists of a very basic, non-contact, 6-week course, to introduce youth into the foundations of amateur boxing. Its a fun-filled class, with all the basic drills, games and training exercises that boxers use to develop their skills. Then, on graduation from the Bronze, they will have an option to step-up to Silver and finally then to Gold, where they will eventually partake in their first amateur boxing contest. We, as the new community boxing development officers, are hoping to have three tournaments over the space of the year for brand new boxers that we have helped introduce through the Start-Box initiative. Thus far, we have seen great interest and we have certainly involved huge numbers of youth that would not have normally even thought about boxing as their primary sport.
Of course, as time goes by, we will be on the lookout for talented youngsters and thats where we will be in a great position to feed them into the local boxing clubs to further their careers. Hopefully, on our travels, we will find the next Katie Taylor or Darren Sutherland from our new batch of boxing recruits – perhaps well find loads of them – who knows?
We have a long-road ahead, but I commend the DCC and IABA for their collaboration in establishing such worthwhile structures, for the benefit of Dublins disadvantaged communities. Hopefully, our noted success in these positions will then open the doors for similar posts all over the greater Dublin area and of course, nationwide, eventually. I am excited to be able to promote boxing from grassroots level, all the way up to Olympic level and I am sure that this initiative will be a hugely successful endeavour, not only for boxing as one of Irelands favourite sports, but essentially, for the youth in many of Dublins disadvantaged areas.