East Bay nonprofit working to knock-out bullying with an after school boxing program

ByKatie Utehs KGO logo
Thursday, October 11, 2018
East Bay non-profit working to knock-out bullying with an after school boxing program
An East Bay non-profit is working to knock-out bullying with a one, two punch.

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- An East Bay nonprofit is working to knock-out bullying with a one, two punch. The Feet First Foundation's boxing program is building confidence and teaching students self- defense.

"Little steps, little. Don't cross your feet. Don't cross your feet," said Sean Sharkey as he coached a group of elementary school students.

The Feet First Foundation starts with the basics of boxing. The training sessions are taking place at John Muir Elementary in Martinez.

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"We're not coming into the schools to train fighters. We do that at the gym. But, we're coming into the schools to build confidence in children," explained Sharkey.

Combating bullying with more fighting seems counterintuitive, but boxing isn't just about punching. April McKillop's two boys attend the afterschool program.

"The discipline that they have here is awesome. I wish that they would get this in all of the schools. I think the bullying would be less."

Sharkey trains boxers and MMA fighters at his Martinez gym.

Two years ago a client, Daniel Dorsette, approached him with the idea for the school program. Dorsette's daughter, second-grader Aubrielle Dorsette, says her training has helped.

"Like I am confident and strong," said Dorsette.

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"I feel that we can scale this from one school to the next and right now we're talking with Mount Diablo Unified School District," said Sharkey.

The program should be easy to scale. Everlast donated 250 gloves and it's all volunteer run. Professional fighters like Manuel "Tino" Avila help instruct.

"I was born to be a fighter. I was always fighting at school or making trouble at the house," said Avila.

So Avila's father put him in boxing at age 10.

"I was a kid that people didn't expect to make it past 18-years-old. You know, I was at the time seven-years-old being brought home by cops. So it taught me self-discipline, to be respectful," said Avila.

"When they do act up I ask them what would coach do," said McKillop with a laugh.

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The program will run the entire school year at John Muir. Feet First is also in talks with the State Board of Education to grow the program. Sharkey is going for gold.

"I see this going national. I really do," said Sharkey. As are students with their new found confidence.

"What do you want to do when you grow up?" asked ABC 7 News Reporter Katie Utehs. "Be an Olympic swimmer and also a teacher," replied Dorsette.

The Feet First program will start in the Mount Diablo Unified School District on November 8th.

For more information on the Feet First Foundation visit their website.

The City of Martinez is celebrating the accomplishments of the organization with a Feet First Day.