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Henrico boxing club helps youth champion boxing skills, mental health

Therapy Undefeated, a program that combines peers support group sessions and boxing, is expanding to include more outlets for youth
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 7:03 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - A boxing club on the east end of Henrico is helping teens champion their mental health and boxing skill-set with the help of a unique program.

Providing an outlet for kids is especially important after the last 18 months of the pandemic, and for some kids at the East End Boxing Club in Henrico, blowing off some steam on a few boxing bags has provided a lot of relief.

But for trainers and mentors like Coach Elwood Patterson Jr. or “Coach Pat” as the kids call him, the focus goes beyond physical training.

“When they [the kids] come in here, one of the first things I ask the kids is why do you want to box?,” said Patterson, who has been coaching sports for 20 years. " You’ll be amazed to hear the kids say ‘you know I want to box because I’m dealing with anger issues.’”

“A kid who’s eight or nine years old, for him to identify that its peaks volumes,“ Patterson said.

When Patterson and his son opened the gym, they wanted to provide a safe outlet for kids to pick up a skill, do something constructive and stay out of trouble. He tells NBC12 that some of the kids have been through a lot of trauma and it is important to help them work through it.

“Definitely a lot of trauma that happens in their community, in the household [ and there ‘s] substance abuse,” said Patterson, who also pointed to poverty and the issue of gun violence that has impacted some of their lives.

Each year the club hosts an event called ”Gloves over Guns " which is aimed at curbing youth gun violence. This as homicide continues to rank among the top three leading causes of death for youth between 15 and 19 years old, according to CDC data.

“It hurts,” Patterson said. “It really gets all of us emotional when we think about it because we have resources out here.”

One of those resources is Therapy Undefeated, a behavioral conditioning program that Ticeses Teasely, a mom of four and mental health professional, started after noticing changes in some of the kids’ behavior at the gym.

“You might see one kid hitting harder than he did one day or less communicative than he was before,” Teasley said.

She knew what a few of those signs meant from personal experience. Her son, Nakhai, went through something similar when she separated from his father.

“He would act out, he would fight...he would lash out at the slightest thing,” said Teasley, as she described how hard he took the separation as a young teen. “He would literally tell me, I’m so angry I could feel my blood boiling. "

“It was a heavy feeling, a lot of weight on my shoulders,” Nakhai recalled. ”But when I come here [to the East End Boxing Club] I get to relieve that weight on a bag.”

Today, Nakhai said he feels like a new person and credits boxing and learning how to open up to someone he trusts as life-changing.

“It’s not all about a physical outlet, it’s about a mental outlet as well,” Nakhai said. ”As long as you get to relieve yourself in both ways, you should be able to get through anything.”

Therapy Undefeated is a seven-week program that combines boxing and peer support groups to help youth identify sources of depression and anger.

Then, they learn ways to control it.

“The kids come in and they discuss difficulties or challenges they’ve faced in their community or family and we discuss them,” Teasley said.

Soon, boxing will not be the only outlet. Teasley is in the process of expanding the program to include other kids’ interests. She is in the early stages of getting things up and running at 420 W. Broad Street. She gave NBC 12 a sneak peek of the space as she works to develop it with the help of donations.

“So in this space, we will have music, art, employment development services, support groups for parents and youth,” said Teasley as she took NBC12 on a tour.

She also added there would be a sneaker school where kids could learn how to customize their own sneakers. The kids will also pick up entrepreneur skills through learning how to run a juice bar and concession stand at the site. Resume building will also be a service available for the youth and homeless. Teasley’s Therapy Undefeated falls under her non-profit, Nurturing Minds, which provides family services and other resources to local families.

A soft opening of Therapy Undefeated, which will keep its partnership with the East End Boxing Club is Friday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at 420 W. Broad St. It will be a fundraising event. Food will be served.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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