YMCA Auckland aims to build stronger kids and stronger communities, so when Onehunga High School asked for help training their rugby teams, the organisation was more than happy to answer the call.

The 1st XV, 2nd XV, women’s 1st XV and under 14s team now all train on Wednesday mornings at Sir William Jordan Leisure Centre managed by YMCA, under the instruction of Stadium Manager Amy Christina. Amy is assisted by Henry Houia, a long-term YMCA Auckland gym member, who offered to help her execute the programme.

The students all take part in group Box Fit classes, which are provided free of charge. As the name suggests, the workout is boxing-based, combining impact and cardio training, and focuses on strength and conditioning. “It is quite broad in terms of what we can cover under the Box Fit label,” Amy explains. “A lot of it is power and explosive exercise, which keeps the kids engaged, involved and interested.”

Having been running since the start of the year, the programme has had an “excellent” reception, Amy says, and the numbers have been steadily growing – “we can have up to 45 people every week!”

After the programme first got started, however, Henry began to notice that the students were getting fatigued quite easily, quite early on in their training. “I asked how many of them had had breakfast one morning,” he says. “Only two or three of them put their hands up.” Henry is not sure why so many of them were bypassing breakfast, but points out that it may have something to do with their early starts. “We begin at 7.30 in the morning,” she explains, “so they have to start getting up around six.”

Not wanting the teams to be training on empty stomachs, Amy approached Sanitarium, to see if they could help her to ensure the kids were having breakfast, explaining that YMCA Auckland is a not-for-profit organisation, supporting the students for free. “They thought it was a great cause,” Amy says, and provided a substantial supply of Weet-Bix for the teams – “enough to last three months!”

While the students are not particularly open to giving feedback – after all, as Amy points out, “they’re teenagers” – the increasing numbers and regular attendance are both taken as signs that the programme is being well received. Indeed, as Amy says, “We’re going six months strong!”

“We’re friends with them on a different level, as opposed to trainer and client, or teacher and student,” Amy explains. “We go out to their games, and support them in ways like that.”

“It’s a bit of a love/hate relationship; they know they’ll get a hard workout from us, and that we’ll push them,” she says. “But they still come, and show up every morning.”

Whether or not the students openly show their appreciation, at the end of the day, Amy says, “It is its own reward to see what the kids have accomplished. They’ve got great results and have achieved good standings.”

Everyone involved with YMCA Auckland – from staff members like Amy, to its wider community – are dedicated to empowering young people to be happy, healthy and strong, and to reach their full potential. The work being done with the Onehunga High School rugby teams is one of many examples of how the organisation’s vision is being achieved. With YMCA Auckland’s support, these students are high achievers, while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle.