Ex kickboxing world champion EXCELing as mentor for young adults

IT’S BEEN almost a decade since Daniel ‘Pinta’ Quigley wowed Derry fight fans at Templemore Sports Complex when he was crowned ISKA World Heavyweight Kickboxing champion after a thrilling stoppage win over Italian, Lucian Danielencu.

By Simon Collins
Saturday, 12th February 2022, 9:56 am
Updated Saturday, 12th February 2022, 9:58 am
EXCEL’s Daniel ‘Pinta’ Quigley poses for a photograph with Jim O’Brien after one of his sessions.

That historic triumph was the fourth time the Derry man lifted a world title but it proved the last occasion he would compete in the ring.

Taking off his gloves and turning his hands to coaching when opening up Strike Martial Arts Academy at its original Bay Road premises, ‘Pinta’ soon discovered that balancing his time between training others and fighting professionally at elite level simply didn’t work out.

With martial arts growing in popularity and Strike’s numbers increasing, ‘Pinta’ felt it was time to call a halt to his own fighting days and concentrate on mentoring and coach Derry’s young kickboxing talent who were coming through his gym doors eager to learn from a world champion.

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EXCEL’s Daniel ‘Pinta’ Quigley pictured with young students from St Joseph’s Boys School who took part in one of his recent programmes.

Now 36 years-old, the former European and world champion has learned how sport can have the capacity to become a powerful educational tool to reach young vulnerable adults and children when tapped into effectively.

His various sporting roles as professional kickboxer, coach and fitness instructor have helped him accrue the skill set to help others through sport and it has opened the doors for his new venture aimed at using sport and play to empower young people to reach educational objectives and build essential life skills and ultimately better futures.

Pinta’s new project, a community interest company named ‘Excellence through Exercise and Learning (EXCEL), partly funded by the National Lottery, is aimed at young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).

It’s essentially about inspiring, educating and creating opportunities through peer mentoring and physical activity. Using his vast experience in martial arts and as a coach, ‘Pinta’ employs sport and exercise as a vehicle for exploring personal development, youth empowerment and health and wellbeing.

Pinta Quigley pictured at his martial arts gym Strike.

“It’s about helping young people realise their potential and help them have the confidence in themselves that they can do something,” explained ‘Pinta’, “EXCEL will provide the service for those people who might not have that support at home or wherever.

“First of all, it’s about providing exercise to help with mental and physical health and then we integrate educational programmes. We’re offering them the chance to complete an endorsed Open College Network NI course (OCN) if, say they want to become a gym instructor or take another career path - giving them a choice and then helping them develop and support them.

They make their own plans and you’re just there as a mentor.

“By the end of it they’ve learned a love for exercise or noticed changes in terms of losing weight or started a new sport. Once we’ve got that, we get them a qualification and get them back into education.

Former Mayor Of Derry Counsellor Colm Eastwood joins in the celebrations, as Daniel 'Pinta' Quigley retains the ISKA World Heavy Weight Title, after beating Pacome Issa of France, in St Columb's Hall in 2011.

“There’s a variety of different courses they can avail of but we’re still working on developing more OCNs.”

The sport and exercise aspect of EXCEL creates an environment more conducive to open communication and encourages a love of learning. Well-designed sport and play programmes can contribute to improved academic performance and ‘Pinta’ believes it’s the best way to earn the attention, respect and trust of the young adults involved.

Currently he’s working alongside the Education Authority and with children classed as vulnerable and on reduced timetables at school and the Glen Road native takes great pleasure out of watching people grow.

EXCEL has proven an attractive option for Derry schools including St Joseph’s Boys, St John’s PS., Gaelscoil Eadain Mhoir and Oakgrove, who have contacted Pinta after seeing the positive changes in some of their pupils who were availing of the service.

“It doesn’t have to be kickboxing or martial arts but it can be playing fundamental games and movements, going hiking, learning how to ride a bike, going walks or any kind of exercise.

Some of the other primary schools we’ve worked with, it’s just fun and games, loads of activities, leadership games. It’s a wide spectrum and it just depends on the young person you’re working with and what their needs are or what the school’s needs are. We work together and design a programme around that. It’s exciting.

“When you start to do that on a one-to-one or small group basis you gain a bit of trust with the young person involved and start to build a relationship. Once you have established that relationship, you find the person is more open to integrating education programmes. They enjoy the exercises and it breaks down barriers.”

For the past five years Pinta has been working with the Education Other Than at School (EOTAS) centre in Longtower which makes educational provision for children with social, emotional behavioural, medical or other issues, who without its provision cannot access suitable education.

And Principal, Mr Gareth Logue, explains how EXCEL helped develop communication skills, more maturity, better attendance and ultimately had positive outcomes for the children’s education.

“Daniel first started working within my EOTAS centre in 2017,” said Mr Logue. “EOTAS is the EA alternative education setting which supports pupils with a range of different social, emotional, and behavioural needs. Mainstream education just is not for everyone!

“We provide a nurturing learning environment which helps develop pupils holistically. We not only help them overcome barriers to learning so they can achieve their full educational potential, but we also prepare them for the real world which comes quickly in a child life.

“I had been training in Strike myself and in 2017 we had a large cohort from one school which Daniel and I both attended. The initial idea was to introduce Daniel as a role model for a one-off talk during a PE lesson.

“This was such a success that the pupils asked if Daniel could come back and take them for some martial arts sessions. We arranged this once per week and not only engagement, but attendance was excellent. This also had a positive influence on the pupil’s education, as poor attendees where now coming in for Kickboxing sessions.

“I was then able to use this as a means of persuading them to attend more on other days. Daniel also gave the pupils an open invitation to train at Strike. The pupils who availed of this offer showed more maturity, attended better, and developed their communications skills, all of which in turn had positive outcomes for their education. Daniel has now been working in the centre once a week for five years and is always able to build positive relationships with our pupils. During many years in this job, I have found respect and relationships are the key to successful outcomes.”

EXCEL is in its infancy but Pinta hopes it can continue to grow and help young people in the city.

“It’s a young company so I have my plans for the future but it’s like anything you start off small and hopefully build it up from there. We’ve already got our first funding from the National Lottery and I have to make that work, make it a success and hopefully keep going from there and keep pushing forward in partnership with the schools and others.

“If anyone wants to join up, contact us on EXCEL Facebook page or on Instagram at EXCEL C.I.C.”