Natasha Jonas, the Liverpool-born Team GB boxer, captivated the audience at a talk about her life that she gave to young people at The Hive Youth Zone near Exmouth Street on Friday.
The socially distanced audience listened intently as Natasha described her upbringing in Toxteth through to her success in the ring. Her sporting life hasn’t been without its ups-and-downs, a promising football career ended through injury. But, as Natasha said, “You’ve just got to push on!”
Chris Lane, Sports Coordinator at The Hive said, “The Hive is a very important facility in the area. It’s a place where the kids can come and have something to do, a place to go and have someone to talk to and not be judged, they can be themselves.” He continued, “We also have safeguard officers who they can speak to. If they don’t want to take part in any of the activities, the kids can come here to relax and have a laugh with their friends in a safe environment.”
As Natasha started her talk, there was a bit of shifting and shuffling amongst some of the kids in the audience. But, due to her enthusiastic delivery, the room soon settled and became silent and everyone was captivated, hanging on her every word.
On her visit to The Hive, Natasha said, “I’ve been a youth worker and I think that if some kids didn’t have the inspiration when they were very young, or had a bit of a back-story, it’s very important to get a different perspective. Hopefully, by me being here tonight and talking to them, they will see a different picture and grow their aspirations .”
Chris Lane is responsible for putting together a variety of sporting activities and he said that he was really excited when he arranged for Natasha to give a talk, “Because of her background, she has a lot in common with the kids here. She is a success story of what can happen when you work hard – Natasha is the perfect role-model to speak to the kids!” When the kids heard she was coming, Chris said there was a real buzz in the air, but “some of the kids were too young to know who she is, so they went home and watched videos of her on YouTube!”
Natasha said that it was very important to work hard at school in maths, English, science, and in fact in all of the core subjects. She once very nearly missed out on a sports scholarship in the U.S., due to failing her SATs at the first attempt. With determination, she passed at a second sitting. “Kids are sometimes are stuck in the mentality that they have to perform to certain stereotypes. What I try to promote is that it doesn’t matter what anyone says they’re going to be. I say to the kids that they can be whatever they want to be if they work hard at it!”
“I came to The Hive to give my talk, because this is a tough time for kids’ mental health and well-being. Throughout the lockdown I couldn’t tell you how many video messages I sent to kids, I just lost count! They weren’t hanging around with their mates or doing things that they usually do and my main message to them is to believe in yourself, even if no-one else does.”
A lot of the kids who take part in boxing activities at The Hive are girls, “It is so important for the girls to see someone who has been so successful in sport, who they can really relate to.”, Chris said. His final comment on the night was, “I just want The Hive to continue developing and keep engaging kids and to give them the opportunity to do things they’ve never done before.”
The Hive Youth Zone is currently running with a restricted programme due to COVID-19, but they are still open using safe procedures, such as temperature checks and having limited numbers and social distancing in the rooms that they use.
The Hive Youth Zone caters for children and young people from all areas, between the ages of 13 to 19 or up to 25 with additional needs. More information can be found on their website or by calling 0151 705 8000.