By James Sweetnam
Danny Corr’s Fight to Unite programme has utilised the sport of MMA to create pathways and opportunities for young people in Ireland.
The Belfast Hall of Fame inductee is passionate about helping the next generation develop their skills through his innovative youth development course. The scheme intends to provide a chance for youngsters around the country to build upon the many benefits of the sport, combined with educative and personal development benefits.
The unique programme, which has been highly commended in an external evaluation funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and Laureus Support for Sport, is the first of its kind. Those who participate in the course have open access to MMA training seven days a week. This allows them to hone their skills in every area of the sport, including pathways to competition, coaching and officiating. Furthermore, they have the opportunity to acquire vocational and academic qualifications such as Maths and English.
The scheme, which has received funding from the ‘Fight for Peace Organisation’ based in Brazil and England, places significant importance on the individual’s mindset. They aim to trigger a shift in young people and get them to consciously focus on their health and wellbeing while encouraging a positive attitude towards learning.
After just two years, the programme has received huge plaudits with over 120 young Irish people partaking in the course. Corr particularly wanted to offer a lifeline to those who come out of school with limited prospects. He’s saved many young people from precarious situations, with 20 of his students going onto 3rd Level education.
His idea has had such a positive impact and its growth is set to increase. It will roll out, not only in other organisations, including the school system but also in several countries worldwide. Therefore, individuals around the globe will get to reap the benefits of the life-changing scheme.
The traditional schooling process isn’t for everyone. Those who don’t excel academically are often pushed to the wayside and forced into a self-fulfilling prophecy of unfulfilled potential. But Corr strived to make sure that his teaching methods were tailored to everyone. When those who’ve participated in the course discussed their main takeaways, they reported substantial personal, social and health outcomes on top of educational achievements.
But most importantly, they highlighted the revolutionary way that lessons were taught. The main reason why lots of people underachieve at school is that sitting at a desk isn’t for everyone. As any expert will tell you, there’s far more than one way to digest information. Corr eradicated his students’ fear of education by presenting the knowledge to them in a fun and engaging manner. He made sure that the tutors were mindful of the individual needs of each person, to optimise their success. He also dispatched of the taxing classroom environment by having his lessons taught in MMA gyms.
One student described this as: “The most relaxed and stress-free way to learn.”
The course encourages peer support, with all the students motivating each other towards increased personal development. The combination of MMA training, enhanced life skills, and improved mental and physical health is the reason why the programme has become what it is today. The youngsters who go through the process come out the other side as more well rounded human beings ready to take advantage of their newfound capabilities.
A survey of participants shows just how beneficial the IMMAF Coaching Committee member’s scheme is.
One individual said: “I have more belief in myself.”
While another stressed: “I am more likely to stick with something.”
A final student revealed that’s he’s inspired to become a trainer himself. He claimed: “I have a future in coaching.”
Corr feels immensely proud of everything the young people have accomplished through the Fight to Unite Programme.
He commented on the aspect that makes him the happiest: “The highlight of the programme was seeing young people who felt they had no future turn into athletes, coaches and mentors with many going directly into employment and higher education as a direct result. One participant followed the Competition pathway and after just two years made it onto the Irish Squad selections.”
The programme is now available as a complete training package that can be tailored to any MMA organisation.
Corr elaborated: “My hope is that other MMA organisations take advantage of this programme. Not only will you gain huge benefits for young people, but the sport is also shown in a positive light to outside organisations, gaining recognition and importantly mainstream funding and support for your association. The key point being that we now have the evidence and data to show how this works.”