Ralph Presgrave is project coordinator for Submit 2 Success. In this guest blog Ralph writes about how he left his role as a youth worker to devote his time to this community project that uses sport to reduce anti-social behaviour amongst young people.
Submit 2 Success is a healthy lifestyle and fitness training programme using the combat sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Submission Grappling. I established the group in 2009, and since then we have offered an environment where young people can develop emotionally, physically and socially, all through the fighting sport.
Since its creation, over 200 young people have benefitted from the project, with many of the previous attendees going on to do great things such as attending university or college, a few have joined the armed forces and one even has his own personal training and fitness company.
Motivations for setting up a community project
Originally, I was a youth worker for Stockton Borough Council. I really enjoyed youth work, and enjoyed some great successes over the years with the young people the team worked with.
I have three passions: working with young people, my local area of Thornaby on Tees and the sport of BJJ. I wanted to combine all three and the project was the fruit of that idea.
This type of project was always an interest, having seen the work which “projecto sociales” achieve in Brazil. Projecto sociales are projects that use combat sports to tackle drug and gang culture, and there are literally hundreds of these across the country.
There aren’t many projects like this in the UK at present. We offer free training to help young people stay off the streets and away from crime and anti-social behaviour. We also offer gi donation schemes (a ‘gi’ is the traditional uniform worn in Jiu Jitsu).
Challenges and the brink of closure
I then took redundancy to set the project up voluntarily. This was a massive risk, having limited equipment and no real revenue to fund it. Stockton Youth Service, my former employer, helped out the project in its early stages.
The journey hasn’t always been easy; in 2009 Submit 2 Success received a devastating blow when issues with the gym we were using almost caused us full closure. The gym was mismanaging Submit 2 Success’ funds and reputation. As a result, we needed to cut ties with them, report them and leave the gym with nothing more than 20 mats.
Luckily, Submit 2 Success was successful in securing funding from Sported who saw the vision and work we were doing. This funding completely rescued us from the brink of collapse.
Since then other funders have come on board. Gaining funding has transformed the project, making our premises a top training facility locally. It’s amazing to see how much we have grown: we have been featured in Jiu Jitsu Style magazine and local newspapers showcasing our work.
What’s coming up at Submit 2 Success?
We are about to launch a new project which will allow young people to train in BJJ without having to wear a traditional kimono, as we have found can be off putting for some of the kids on the estate.
I am also working closely with a local school to generate referral pathways for young people experiencing difficulties. Hopefully for these young people, BJJ will help them find a light at the end of the tunnel, like it did for me.
“I love BJJ, it has helped me lose lots of weight and stay fit. I am due to compete at the national juvenile championships in March under the project and I am working with Ralph to get competition ready.”
“It has made me fitter, stronger and I feel like I have more confidence in myself.”
“I already train Judo, so BJJ is something that can really complement my training. It’s very welcoming and you get a great workout”
Submit 2 Success: alternatives to a traditional youth club,