Indigenous youth boxing group ‘Team 700’ fights for support after funding cut

‘This team has impacted my life so much — I can do more than I ever knew,’ says one youth who trains with the Indigenous youth boxing group ‘Team 700.’

Team 700, a competitive Indigenous youth boxing team based in Nanaimo, is seeking financial support after their funding was abruptly cut by the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre on June 30, 2021. 

In response to the funding cuts, head coach and program coordinator Ivy Richardson started a fundraising campaign to ensure the team can maintain the outlet that has been so crucial for many of them, she says.

“We are fundraising so we can continue training until we can secure funding again,” Richardson wrote in an Instagram post.

Richardson, who is Nuxalk and Gusgimukw, says Team 700 “provides a safe space for Indigenous youth to aspire for greatness, both inside and outside the ring.”

Richardson had the opportunity to ask some of the team members what Team 700 meant to them.

“Being on Team 700 means to improve and make something you thought you couldn’t do happen,” one youth told Richardson. “If I had never found this team, I’d still be drinking and getting myself involved with some bad people. This team has impacted my life so much, I can do more than I ever knew I could.”

One mother told Richardson she sees a significant difference in her son’s energy after practice.

“Team 700 has been an amazing, rewarding, uplifting experience for him,” the mother says of her son. “For the past few years, he has been working so hard at the sport he has fallen in love with.”

“[The youth] are able to acquire tools that are going to support them, that are going to empower them, that are going to support them to walk in a good way in this life,” Richardson tells IndigiNews

I think that’s what boxing does. It’s a mind, body and spiritual practice.”

Richardson, who was recently featured in an Everlast campaign, has been boxing for seven years, since she was 23. In 2017, she won a provincial championship with Boxing BC, where she has recently been appointed as the second director at large. 

Ivy Richardson is the founder of Team 700 and Red Girl Rising, an initiative that provides “safe, low-barrier and professional movement programs.” Photo by Tamra and Joseph Sam

In 2019, she founded the Indigenous competitive youth boxing team — known as the first of its kind in B.C. — while working with the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre’s Youth Advisory Council.

Richardson says the team’s name honours the 700+ youth who transition out of the child-welfare system every year in the province. 

According to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, as of December 2020, of the 5,370 children and youth in government “care” in B.C., 3,616 — or 67 per cent — were Indigenous.

In 2019-20, 894 youth transitioned out of B.C.’s care (including those who were on Youth Agreements) due to “aging out” or turning 19. 

While Richardson says the team felt discouraged when they learned of the funding cuts, they didn’t back down.

“I’m seeing this as an opportunity for growth,” she says. “As the team is growing, our needs are growing. We’d like to grow our capacity in terms of hiring a strength and conditioning coach, hiring an assistant coach and maybe one or two other roles.”

IndigiNews reached out to the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre for comment about the decision to cut Team 700’s funding, but did not receive a response by the time this story was published. 

As of July 23, the team has raised $7,485 toward their goal of $20,000. 

They have also received support from Lucid, a a local apparel store in Nanaimo, which is offering Team 700 100 per cent of the profits from sales of the Indigenous-owned clothing brand Section 35.

​​”I just want them to be able to have the same space still,” Richardson says.

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