"What a fantastic morning...loved it sooo much. Met some very nice people.
It was a sunny saturday morning in Ballycastle, as we pulled into the driveway.
Ireland is a place I have travelled to many times to visit family and friends, but this time the purpose of my visit was a little different.
As we stepped out of the car, the brisk autumn air quickly reminded us not to be fooled by the bright sun and gorgeous view, it was bloody cold. Mark Donald, the founder of the iAM Project, hopped out of the car and made his way to the gym. We had work to do.
I've known Mark Donald since I was around 13 years old. We first met at school, and have been like family ever since. Mark set up the iAM Project after his mother Mary Donald died at the age of 55 years old. She had suffered with depression all her life, and a cocktail of medications over the years had led to a secondary condition which ended her life short.
We had all watched Mary deteriorate over her final years, and it impacted us all deeply. Mark faced his own mental health struggles after the death of his mother, and wanted to help others who had also been affected by mental health issues. As someone who had always appreciated the benefits of exercise all his life, and its importance to wellbeing, Mark set up The iAM Project.
When a group of strangers come together for the same purpose it is an amazing thing!
Briege Hamilton, the owner of The Shed Gym in Ballycastle had donated her premises, and catering was supplied by Sean-Jean Bradley of the Diamond Bistro, who put on a nutritious spread funded by the iAM Project.
The purpose of the event was to get create the right environment where people who currently have, or may have struggled with mental health in the past, can get active, and experience the benefits of exercise, reconnect with others in a group environment, and importantly have fun doing it.
Far too often, when it comes to mental health, the focus is on self-care and the individual, and this is absolutely important, but what we often forget is the importance of community care and human interaction.
Boxing has always been my first love, and growing up through my own troubles, the boxing club was like a second family to me. Boxing provided me with structure, discipline, support, fun, taught me a new skill, how to defend myself and how to build resilience. It was this aspect of the sport that I wanted to share with everyone.
The session consisted of my signature warm up (which quickly escalated in to giggles and laughter), and then we got down to the fundamentals of footwork. Participants learned how to move and the lost art of ring craft (why we move, and the different ranges).
The group were then shown the basic shots and some simple combinations which they could practice together and picked up pretty quickly. As they became more skilled and relaxed, their playfulness came through, which was a joy for me to witness as a Coach.
The emphasis was on quality not quantity. Learning good habits, and gaining confidence in executing them helped to make it fun and engaging. It was clear the participants gained a lot from it.
The iAM Project is set to grow from strength to strength in 2020. I'm looking forward to supporting Mark Donald in bringing a variety of projects to London and the surrounding areas, while is gains momentum in Ireland.
Show your support, become a part of the iAM circle.