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    Empire Fighting Chance: boxing based mentoring: feasibility and pilot trial report

    Wong, Kevin ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3847-2316, Morris, Stephen ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6869-8933, Wallace, Stephanie ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6244-860X, Roberts, Anton, Gray, Paul ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1546-9333 and Burchell, Emily (2023) Empire Fighting Chance: boxing based mentoring: feasibility and pilot trial report. Project Report. Youth Endowment Fund.

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    What does this project involve? Empire Fighting Chance (EFC) aim to use non-contact boxing programmes accompanied with personal development support to reduce anti-social and criminal behaviour amongst at risk young people. Their programmes combine physical activity sessions with one-to-one or group mentoring support, where coaches encourage children to work on personal development points designed to improve behaviour. Why did YEF fund this project? As the YEF’s toolkit explains, sports programmes are associated with a high average impact on reducing serious youth violence and crime. However, there are considerable gaps in the evidence, particularly relating to robust evaluations conducted in an English or Welsh context. YEF, therefore, funded a feasibility and pilot evaluation of EFC’s programmes. The feasibility study examined several EFC’s interventions. It aimed to ascertain whether these programmes achieved their intended outputs for their intended target groups, explore the barriers and facilitators to delivery, detail how much of the interventions young people received, and assess quality, responsiveness, and reach. To explore these questions, programme monitoring data on 831 participants and an online satisfaction survey undertaken by 204 young people were analysed. Interviews were also conducted with 10 project staff, and 6 participants and their parents. 10-14 year olds who were at risk of involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour were targeted by the programmes, and the feasibility study ran from November 2019 to June 2021. The pilot study then evaluated a new, school-based, boxing mentoring programme, which combined elements of EFC programmes examined by the feasibility study. This new programme aimed to deliver a 12-week mentoring intervention in schools, where weekly physical activities (including skipping, circuit training, punch pads and boxing techniques) were delivered by an EFC coach. While leading these sessions, the coach would discuss ‘Personal Development Points’ with children (such as the importance of regulating mood, eating well, and taking responsibility for your actions). The programme targeted pupils in Year 8 and 9, who had demonstrated behavioural difficulties, poor attendance, and an interest in sport. The pilot evaluation aimed to assess how feasible an efficacy randomised controlled trial of the programme may be, inform the design of a future evaluation, and assess whether there is any preliminary evidence of promise. To explore these questions the evaluator analysed quantitative project delivery data, administered questionnaires featuring validated measures (such as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the Problem Behaviour Frequency Scale (PBFS)), and interviewed 17 pupils, five project staff and six teachers. Of the 91 children in the pilot study, 64% identified as White, 13% as Black, 11% as Mixed Ethnicity and 9% as Asian. The pilot commenced in September 2021 and concluded in June 2022. Both the feasibility and pilot studies took place during the coronavirus pandemic, requiring both the delivery and evaluation teams to adapt to challenging circumstances.

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