TWO young men who were on a ‘bad path’ following the Covid-19 outbreak have revealed how a community boxing club has helped them turn their lives around.

Declan Reilly, 20 and Connor Gough, 17, are both employed at Bluevale Community Club through Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Glasgow City Council’s Step-Up scheme.

The two young men were offered the opportunities after they started volunteering with the club and slowly improved their skills and confidence. 

Glasgow Times: L: Connor Gough and R: Declan Reilly. Pics: Colin MearnsL: Connor Gough and R: Declan Reilly. Pics: Colin Mearns

Declan was made redundant from his job in retail last year after Covid-19 decimated the sector. He also suffered two family bereavements last year and said he had ‘lost interest’ in boxing. He said: “I got made redundant through Covid and it put me in a kind of bad way. I was earning no money or anything and my uncle died.

Glasgow Times: Declan ReillyDeclan Reilly

"From there I just kind of gave up on boxing. I wasn’t training because my gym was shut.” Declan boxes for Rob Roy but works at the Bluevale.

“I found out the Bluevale were doing outside classes teaching children, so I thought I would go along and give it a try and I kind of found out I had a wee hidden talent of teaching, especially working with kids.

"I enjoyed it so I started helping out more and started helping with the adults’ fitness classes. It just kind of kicked off and I got a job out of it.”

Glasgow Times:

Connor, 17, struggled at school academically before he came along to Bluevale. “I wasn’t doing too well in school. When Bluevale opened, I thought I’d go and try it out. My wee brother went there so I started going and did a good bit of training.

"I started getting my fitness up and we moved gym.

"Covid happened and it hit me hard. I was doing all sorts of drugs. I was smoking cannabis, smoking cigarettes and drinking. Then the gym opened back up and I just started going  back and got back into the fitness. I did my medical on Sunday and I’m hopefully going to start fighting.”

Glasgow Times:

Things have now turned around for both boys. Declan is thinking about becoming a PE teacher and is well on the way to achieving his SVQ 2 and Connor is undertaking a modern apprenticeship.  

Both boys have been employed through the Step-Up programme ran in partnership with Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.  Their salary is set at the Glasgow Living Wage and 100% of the cost is met. 

Glasgow Times:

Opened in December 2019, the Bluevale Community Club has brought boxing to the Dennistoun and Haghill areas. Those with higher incomes are asked to pay a small contribution to cover costs for those on a lower income.

The brainchild of Kenny Trainer and Dylan McKenzie, Bluevale has now helped two young men to turn their lives around through volunteering and employment opportunities and hopes to offer more like this in the future.

Glasgow Times:

Kenny believes the boys’ confidence has increased massively due to the opportunities the club has provided for them. He said: “Connor comes in now in the mornings and he can take warm-ups. He can participates in the boxing classes.”

Connor added: “When I first started helping out with the classes, I was just shy. Then the next morning, they got me to try and do skipping. You had to keep encouraging them to do it.” 

Personal trainer Jamie, who takes the classes, said it was like “two different people.” He added: “It’s like night and day.”

Glasgow Times: Jamie WatsonJamie Watson

Kenny is confident that both young men will go on to the University of Strathclyde. He is hoping that they will act as role models for other young people in the area not going on to positive destinations.

Since the pandemic hit, Kenny said he has noticed an increase of young people loitering on the streets and  He said: “There are young people leaving school who need things like the Step-Up programme. I would love to have young people at Connor and Declan’s age group running youth programmes for younger people.”