NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Months after Military Circle Mall’s Closure, some businesses are still without new homes.
The mall housed several non-profits, including a boxing gym we introduced you to back in January.
Mentality Sports Club is still without a permanent home, leaving many athletes practicing inside their coach’s garage each night.
17-year-old Ayhnae Harte said she can’t imagine her life without boxing.
“I don’t know what I’d be doing,” Harte said. “Even on my days off like all I can think about is boxing.”
Harte has won several awards for boxing and even showed us two Junior Olympic Medals.
She used to train with coach Mustafa Black-Castle at Easy Work Boxing inside Military Circle Mall. Since the mall closed, they’ve been practicing out of his garage.
“There was a lot more space at military circle and our peer group was a lot bigger,” Harte said.
“When you’re at a place for a long time you get comfortable there,” said 17-year-old boxer Jamir Germany. “When you got to move, it’s really hard.”
Germany is just coming off a big fight in Detroit.
“This one right here, National Qualifier 2023, won this last month,” said Germany as he showed us his medal.
The team recently went to the 2023 USA Boxing National Qualifiers Tournament in Detroit, Michigan.
They took 6 athletes and brought back 2 champions, 2 runners-up and 1 semifinalist.
“We were fortunate enough to bring back two National Champions, but were not just talking about making National Boxing Champions, we’re talking about producing young people who can actually represent Norfolk and the seven cities on a national level,” said Black-Castle. “That’s what we are instilling into these athletes and that’s what we’re instilling into these students.”
And Germany hopes more students can benefit from Mentality Sports Club like he has.
“It’s not just about us,” Germany said. “We could go and bring a lot more people here, the more space we have, the more people can come and see what we do.”
Germany said they used to have more equipment in their former space, but they’re making it work.
Black-Castle said they have to get creative, like taking turns on the bag and running up and down the driveway, but they haven’t been able to have a serious practice since they left.
“I have nice neighbors, fortunately, and I know we make a lot of noise sometimes running up and down the streets, but they don’t give us much of a hassle,” Black-Castle said.
Black-Castle said they’ve been able to use facilities in neighboring cities like Portsmouth leading up to tournaments, but it’s not a permanent solution.
“It’s not that we can’t serve the current boxers that we have, we can’t serve the community how we would like,” Black-Castle said.
Black-Castle runs the non-profit, Mentality Sports Club, and says it’s not just about boxing.
It’s about intervening when kids are young and giving them an opportunity learn a new skill, develop grit, and do something productive.
“A lot of these traits that they learn in boxing translates over to everything in life,” said Black-Castle.
And even though the garage is serving it’s purpose by keeping kids off the streets, it’s not allowing them to grow.
Black-Castle says they really need the community’s help.
“What we are mainly looking for is somebody who believes in sports clubs like this and is willing to work with us either through partnership or through donating available space that they have,” said Black-Castle.
Want to help?
If you’d like to help the Mentality Sports Club, you can contact them at 973-885-5060 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also donate via Cashapp to $mentalitysportsclub.
The team is also working to raise money to go to a future competition. You can donate to their GoFundMe here.