Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Go To A Private Boxing Gym


The Chicago Park District has a boxing program.  However, the park district does not run boxing gyms per se.  It runs boxing classes.  There is a difference.  A big difference.

Muhammad Ali helped found the boxing program in the early 1970s while he was living in Chicago.  The story goes that Ali had a bike stolen from him when he was a kid.  A cop overheard Ali expressing a desire to beat down whoever took the bike and led Ali to a boxing gym. I believe the initial lessons were free, hence why the park district offers boxing free for kids and teens.  Ali probably stipulated that the classes should be at no cost.  Later on, adult boxing classes were added.  As those classes were not a part of the original deal Ali and the park district worked out, those classes had a price attached.

Here's where many adults, particularly those with an interest in becoming professional boxers, miss the point.  The park district's focus is on providing recreational activities to youths.  The majority of all of the activities offered are after-school programs.  Boxing is an amateur program at the park district that gives youths the chance to compete and show off their skills.   The program only operates between four to six hours depending on the field house.  The days the gyms are open also depends on the field house as well as interest coming from the area where the field house is located.  It is not the only program at any field house; it has to fit in with the rest of the schedule.

Over the years, I've encountered many adults who have expressed an interest in signing up at park district boxing gym.  There is always grumbling about not being able to use the gym when they want, how they want, and for as long as they want.  Recently, I had an adult tell me that the hour-and-a-half class for adults where I coach was not enough time to work out. 

The solution?  Go to a private boxing gym.

Some of the park district boxing coaches know professional boxing coaches, professional boxing officials, and professional boxers.  Some of those who coach the amateur boxing classes also are qualified to work the corners at professional boxing matches.  But the Chicago Park District is not involved in professional boxing and has no plans to ever do that.  Those who think and expect that the park district gyms should operate as professional boxing gyms are trying to fit circular objects into square holes.

Many professional boxers got their start through the park district.  Rudy Cisneros, David Diaz, Michael Bennett, Junior Wright, and Fres Oqendo are just a few.  They got the basics of the sport at the field houses.  But when they wanted to move up, there was a realization that they needed to come out of the amateur boxing gyms. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Rain On The Ring


Rain is in the forecast for the boxing show that is scheduled later this week.  If it does get rained out, that will be the third year in the row the field house hasn't had a show.

The show always seems to take place right at the beginning of the summer session which begins tomorrow.  The new kids and teens in the class can't compete in that show because they will not have trained enough to participate in it.  I only have one kid from the previous session who plans to fight - Jaylen - and there is no guarantee there will anyone from the other parks with whom he can be paired off in the ring. 

Whether the show at LaFollette happens or not, I expect the usual resistance from parents and guardians regarding allowing their youths to participate in the other boxing shows from now to the end of the year.  Sahia shook her head when I explained some time ago that parents and guardians have a problem with going to certain sides of town as well to certain neighborhoods.  "That's how it's always been in Chicago," I told her. Then I get admonished by the boxing program coordinator and the field house supervisor for not having youths in the shows.  I'm still wondering what the two of them think I'm supposed to do about that - or the lack of interest most have in the program in general.

Four of the youths in the class for those under 12-years-of-age are return customers: the aforementioned Jaylen, Kayla, Damaris, and Aarav.  Not many of the new ones on the list talked to me before registering despite that being a requirement listed online and on printed schedules and fliers.  That always makes for frustrating moments during the session.

Adrien is the only person signed up for the teen class  Adrien is good at what he does but doesn't show up at the gym enough for my taste.  One of the boys who play team sports at the field house inquired about registering for boxing.  That kid might be a good match for Adrien in terms of sparring. I haven't heard any more about that from him, or more importantly, his parents and guardians.  Even though there is plenty of room in that class, in light of the fact the boxing shows have started, people still can't take their time about signing up.

No adults have signed up, but I refuse to take that class off of the schedule.  I used to do 90 minutes classes with the youths when there was no adult class and that wasn't a good idea.  I have to do a stronger job of marketing that time period those who already know how the box but are looking for an extra spot to get their workout in. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

What Summer Brings


Summer is the busiest time of year for the Chicago Park District.  For me, the season can also be the most frustrating in terms of work. 

The gym at LaFollette Park is closed this week for the break between the spring and the summer sessions.  I'm hoping it will be a quiet week.  But I'm not looking forward to what I'm seeing on the horizon.  Summer camp starts next week which mean kids will be in my gym trashing it:  dropping food on the floor, playing around with the equipment, messing with the bulletin boards.  My complaints in the past have been dismissed as well as met with indignation.  I'm still trying to figure out the lack of understanding regarding the very real possibility of kids getting hurt because of playing around on the equipment. 

The summer kids are NOT well supervised.  The first full summer I was there, adults made up the seasonal camp staff.  For the past couple of years or so, teenagers have been employed to watch the kids, and no, it hasn't been working so well.  Very few of the teens have been responsible, and the younger kids who attend the camp give the teens grief.  They look at the camp counselors as older siblings who aren't worthy to be authority figures.  Some of the staff involved with the camp are going to be ticked because it looks like I'm going to have to scream, yell, and hurt some feelings to get my points across. 

I have an adult -- I believe the guy's name is Jose -- and he wants to take the adult class and bring a couple of his brothers along.  Since the attendance in the adult class has always been thin, this seems like a good development, right?  Hold up, not so fast.  Jose told me he wants to be a professional boxer.  Then one of his older relatives dropped by to inquire about the program.  "An hour and a half is not enough time.  They need to work out for two to three hours," I was told.  The park district doesn't deal with professional boxing and the gyms are only open for a few hours during the day.  Jose asked if he and his brothers could come in early, but I pointed out that was not possible because of the youth classes.  Judging by the look of disbelief on Jose's face, I might have a battle on my hands regarding usage of the gym.

I saw a report on the news last night that claimed that crime in the area where the field house is has gone down.  I found the statistics hard to believe.  Shootings tend to increase, and the number of assaults goes up this time of year.  Items, regardless of whether they belong to the park district, the customers, or the staff, get stolen more often.  Every year, the supervisor and the staff find ourselves escorting people acting up inside the field house to the door.  I expect more of the same. 

Summer used to be my favorite season.