Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thoughts About Being A Boxing Coach

Now that I'm the person running a gym as opposed to being a patron and volunteer, it has occurred to me that coaches need support as much as fighters do.  These are my opinions.  Feel free to comment and add other tips. 

1.  Hang out with other coaches.  I still call on Alan at Loyola Park, and keep in contact with Steve, who was the coach there before him.  I'm friendly with several Chicago Park District boxing coaches (Bill, Jack, George, Rodney, etc.), and I know a professional boxing coach (Fernando).  They can offer advice on how to handle different situations, share training techniques, as well as be sympathetic sounding boards when people need to vent. 

2.  Don't forget about others in the fight game.  Promoters, referees, fight doctors, timekeepers, managers, etc.  They are also good sources for advice and information.

3. Family and friends.  I've chronicled my late parents, my stepmother, my late younger sister, and some of my friends' negative reactions to me being involved in boxing.  But I have some cheerleaders.  Always be appreciative of whatever support is gained from this group and let them know what's going on.

4.  Books and DVD.  In an recent post, I mentioned that I've been reviewing some boxing books in my library to get ideas about how to help the fighters I'll be training.  There are also helpful DVDs available about boxing, in addition to other connected subjects such as strength training and nutrition.

5.  Prayer and meditation.  Don't laugh; it works.  Some days in the gym can be tough, and some people's personalities can be trying.  Pray, read your religious texts (Bible, Torah, Koran, I-Ching, etc.), meditate 15 to 20 minutes a day, take deep breaths, chant, count to ten, whatever it takes to remain centered and keep cool. 

6.  Exercise.  I remember Steve telling me that it's hard for a coach to get a workout in because they are helping others.  This is true.  If possible, get a workout in before anyone else gets to the gym.  If there is time at the end, do a workout then.  Otherwise, plan another time, but don't neglect the workout.  I think it's very helpful for a boxing coach to stay fresh on their skills because it helps when training others how to fight. 

7.  Be helpful to co-workers.  This is especially applicable if a boxing coach is an employee in a municipal park district (like me), or employed by a health club franchise.  Just the other day, a kid came up to the front desk and said the basketball gym floor was wet.  I could have just reported it to the attendants, but they were busy doing other tasks.  Instead, I went and got a mop.  I've learned a long time ago that always having a "that's not my job" attitude doesn't fly in any type of workplace.  The benefits of having a team attitude is that one needs help, it will be reciprocated. 

8.  Work in cooperation with parents.  The pastor of the church I used to attend didn't think that it was important to partner with parents in helping to make the youth ministry successful.   I never understood the pastor's line of thinking.  In my opinion, the youth ministry was not successful partially because of that.  If a boxing coach is training youths, they have to have good communication with the youths' parents and guardians and encourage them to be involved.  Parents should not be shut out of the process. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Referring To The Boxing Library

There will not be an adult boxing program at LaFollette Park at this time.  The gym will be open for kids and teens beginning September 16th.  I was told that an adult class will be added later on. That changes my lesson plan a little, but the adjustments aren't major.

I might have a volunteer to help in the gym soon.  A young man introduced himself to me the other day and explained that he was eager to work with the kids.  The young man had fought in the Golden Gloves.  The field house supervisor printed out a volunteer form for him.  "It might take a couple of weeks or more to approve, but turn it in as soon as you can," I told him.

In the meantime, I've been talking to the kids who hang around the field house and the park about the upcoming boxing class.  All I have to do is walk around with my battered bag gloves and my hands wraps on, and the kids start asking questions.  Turns out that quite a few kids are interested.  But a lot of kids have a lot of other after-school activities going on, too.  I'll have flyers soon so I can do more recruiting.

The second group of people I need to reach out to are the kids' parents and guardians.   I already know that some parents/guardians -- regardless of how much interest their kids show -- are not going to be too keen about giving permission to the kids to box.  The very nature of boxing as a tough, rough sport means that I have to assure parents and guardians that their kids will be safe and looked after.

The boys are interested, but I'd like to see girls sign up as well.  Seldom would I see any girls under age 12 in the boxing classes at other park district gyms.  Not many teenage girls were in the boxing classes, either. Even if they never spar and/or compete (and this goes for the boys, too), I'd like to show the girls that boxing is a good workout.

I had to go through my storage bins to find my boxing books.  I don't know why I packed most of them away, but they are back in my bookcases.  I'm going to be re-reading most of them so I can get more ideas to use with the youths.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Friend From School

I was hanging around in the front hallway, talking to Pam, Myiesha, Rog, and other staff members.  Two kids walked past on their way to the pool.  Myiesha asked them where were their parents.  It was family swim, and the rules state that a parent has to be in the pool with their kids.  The kids explained that their mother was outside.  "You two look familiar," I said to the kids.  I asked the boy what his name was.  "I'm Nathanial, and this is my twin sister, Nia," he said.  "Your mother's name is Kim, right?"  I asked.  The kids answered in the affirmative, the looks on their faces wondering how did I know that.  "I went to grade school and high school with your mom," I said.

I followed the twins outside to their mom's car.  I heard Nia say, "Hillari is here!"  Kim stepped out of her car and gave me a big hug.  Her kids are training for a sports event, and they needed to practice in the pool. The photo above is a selfie taken with Nia's cell phone.  I was so glad to finally meet Kim's children.  She brags on them all the time for good reason.  Also, Kim is a very involved parent.  She goes out of her way to make sure that her kids have various experiences, and she is their biggest cheerleader.

Earlier, I did a workout in the gym.  Myiesha, Rog, and ReRe watched as I alternated between hitting a heavy bag and an uppercut bag.  It was so hot in the room, so I only did four three-minute rounds.  I need to get what workouts I can in now because once the fall session starts, I won't be able to do many of them.

I was walking through the halls with my hands wrapped, carrying my old bag gloves.  Three youths saw me, and they were surprised that I was the new boxing coach.  One boy said,  "Seriously?"  The second boy said, "But we don't want to hurt you!"  The third boy, who was older than the other two said, "Come on, man.  She's not going to be sparring with us!  She's the coach!"  I try to be seen with gloves as much as I can.  It's a way to help promote the program and drum up interest.  Soon, I will be creating a flyer to hand out to kids and adults.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Planning Day

The photo above is of LaFollette Park's boxing gym.  There are pieces of the ring in a nearby storage room.  The two bulletin boards in the gym aren't visible in this shot, but I worked on them today.  I took down the old paper and pictures.  I'll copy some material out of the boxing books and magazines I have at home to decorate the bulletin boards.

These are speakers; the sound system is behind them in the boxing gym's storage room.  I suspect I'll be listening to the usual hip-hop stations when the gym is open, just like when I was at Loyola Park.  There were CDs around, but I didn't look at them too closely.

This is the boxing gym storage area.

These are hand weights in the storage area.

There's a small refrigerator in the storage area.  A couple of containers of water are inside, along with three jars of petroleum jelly.  I'm glad there's a 'fridge; I can store snacks there plus extra water bottles.

This is the football field in the back of the field house, which also doubles as a soccer field.  I met James, who is the youth football coach.  He told me that his players who also did boxing workouts in the past were in great shape.  James proposed having the football players coming in to train in the boxing gym in order to improve their game.  Sounds like a good plan to me.

I wrote out my own plan for when the fall session begins in September.  It's similar to a poster hanging in Loyola Park that has a workout plan on it.  Right now, sparring will be twice a week, but it won't begin until the third or fourth week, depending on the experience, skill, and readiness of the participants.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Day One At La Follette

I met most of the staff at LaFollette Park today.  Steve is the field house supervisor, and he's been there for 13 years.  We talked about ideas on how to promote the boxing class, which doesn't begin until mid-September.  I had suggested giving a flyer to the principals of the closest grade and high schools.  "In all my years here, I learned that if a flyer doesn't go into the hands of the parents, most likely they won't know about what's going on," Steve explained.  That makes sense, so we have to figure out other ways to get the word out.  He gave me my time sheets, and I received a key to the boxing gym.

The equipment room, which is just off the boxing gym, didn't have much.  There were plenty of hand weights, which is a plus.  But there were only three gloves, and two of those didn't match.  A few groin protectors were on hand, but I'm going to need a couple specifically for any girls and women who might sign up for the class.  Two heavy bags that were not hung up were in the equipment room, too, along with a radio and CD player.  Steve told me not to worry about the equipment because he was going to order what was needed. Sherice, another staff member, ordered a catalog from Title for me.

I was assigned a locker in a room off of the swimming pool and inside running track area.  It looks as if it also doubles as a break room for the staff.  When the fall session begins, I'll just keep my gear in there so I don't have to carry it back and forth.  Probably my hand wraps will get the most usage from here on in.  I won't be sparring with kids or teenagers, nor do I see myself sparring much with the adults.

There wasn't much for me to do because the program hasn't begun yet, so I spent time figuring out what else needs to be done with the space.  Steve told me I could decorate, and the first thing I want to do is to update the two bulletin boards in the room.  Some of the information that is already up about nutrition I want to keep.  I need to dig around at home to see if I have any more boxing posters.  I had a lot when I was working at Children's Home and Aid several years ago; the pictures were up on the walls in my office, but I don't know what I've done with them.  Steve also told me the boxing gym was going to be painted soon.

The park outside the field house is bigger than I thought.  There's a track in the back.  Steve runs a walking club in the afternoon, so I joined him and several other people in going around the track.  I needed that exercise.  There's also a water park on the property.

Back inside the field house, I discovered a basketball gym and an auditorium.  A seniors' group in the auditorium was learning a line dance.  There's also an equipment room with some football equipment -- Steve coaches the boys' football team at the park.  A girls' flag football team is being formed as well.

Myisha, another staff member, has the most adorable baby girl who is named Joy.  I had my camera with me, but I didn't think to keep it with me to take pictures.  I sure would have gotten a few photos of Joy. She's four months old with big brown eyes and a very happy disposition.

I'll have to go to an employee orientation next week.  From what I know of working for the park from Alan, Jilberto, Mary, Louis and others at Loyola Park, I may already know most of what will be talked about in the orientation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sparring Last At Loyola

Looks like Justin will have another fight, this time at Seward Park.  Alan's going to try to get Geniece a fight there, too.  If I can make it over there to see that boxing show, I'll go.  Depends on what my schedule will be out at La Follette, where I start tomorrow.  I have to go in early to meet with Dave, the field house supervisor, to work things out.

It was kind of quiet in the gym in the beginning.  Octavio and I were the only ones in the gym until John came in.  Eventually others trickled in.  Josh came in to work out, probably for the last time due to the fact Josh is going to start law school soon.

John and Keith trade jabs in this photo.

John and Procoro (I kept referring to Procoro as Juan -- my bad) face off in the ring.

John gives tips to Geniece while they spar.

Alan put me in with Geniece.  I sure hope she gets a fight at Seward Park.  I feel sorry for the other person who steps in the ring with her.  Geniece's punches are no joke.

I also sparred with Octavio.  I wasn't hitting him hard, but he got me in the ribs with a right.  Then, I was stunned by a jab to my mouth.  Octavio's confidence is growing by the day.

Diana and I pose at ringside in this shot.  She had sparred with John earlier.  Everybody kept telling me it's going to be very different without me being at Loyola.  I'm going to have just as much of an adjustment getting used to La Follette.  Glad that I was around Alan and Steve before him; I'm going to be using what I learned from them at the new gym.

John and I hug after our sparring session, which was the last one of the evening.

I'll probably not have La Follette Gym open during breaks, so I'll be visiting Loyola Park to see people and work out during those times.  Gotta keep up with my original home base!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Long and Short of Sparring

Justin did have a fight at Sheridan Park last week, but Justin didn't win.  "My girl said I won, Alan said I did good, even the referee thought I won.  So what does that tell you?" he told me while we waited for Alan to get to the gym.  When Alan got there, we all learned that the guy Justin faced was several pounds heavier. Justin said he was going to train harder because he wants a rematch.

Ken sparred with Justin, and had his hands down too much.  Then Nick sparred with Justin and kept putting his head down whenever Justin came in with a barrage of punches.  Alan was shaking his head a lot as he watched the action.  Most of the instructions were given to Nick and Ken as to how to deal with Justin's punches.  Nick caught a hard jab, and Ken caught a hard right.

Jesus and Juan sparred, but briefly.  Juan got tired easily after pressure was put on him.

Diana and Melinda had a short sparring session, too.  Melinda caught a jab in the middle of her face, and she returned fire with a heavy right.  It rocked Diana, and she had to stop and gather herself.  Diana wondered why the hit was so hard.  Melinda explained that she just returned the force that she had been given.  No malice intended.  Melinda and I explained that happens a lot -- both parties go light until someone decides to hit hard, then it's on.

Melinda also sparred with Jesus, who was very good at slipping and dodging her incoming punches.  I kept telling her to get close enough to land some punches.

Octavio sparred with Jesus, and Octavio is steadily improving.  Alan can never get Octavio's name right.  "Octavia!" Alan kept saying.  When I corrected him, Alan said, "You know I'm not good with names.  I can't even remember my name sometimes!"

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Back To The West Side

After finishing up work at my first job yesterday, I took a bus ride out to the west side to get a look at my new second job will I will begin next week.  The La Follette field house is located over in Austin, a neighborhood I lived in from the time I was eight years old up until I was fifteen years old.

I believe one of the advantages that I will have as a coach is that I will be able to relate to the situations and issues that some of the youths may be facing daily.  I have a lot of good memories about growing up in Austin during the 1970's.  It's not an area without troubles, however.  A lot of the same issues:  gangs, drugs, fractured families, etc., that went on back then still go on now.  My younger siblings and I avoided a lot of stuff mainly because our mother had zero tolerance for many behaviors.  But I understand that not everyone grows up the same way.  I also haven't forgotten from where I came.

There were kids hanging in and around La Follette, but the field house seemed rather quiet.  The first area I checked out was the swimming pool.  Several Chicago parks do have pools, but it's always a surprise to me when I come across one.  The pool is a nice one.  Staff was cleaning it as I looked on.  If only I could swim.  One of these days, I'll take lessons.

I wandered around the building, wondering where the boxing gym was.  Remembering that the gym at Hamlin Park is basically in the basement, I decided to take the stairs down to the ground floor.  I gasped when I saw the room -- it's way bigger than the gym at Loyola Park.  The room is circular, and a half-completed ring stood in the middle, the canvas on the floor, just like the old ring at Loyola.  The only equipment I saw was a heavy bag, an old double end bag, and an uppercut bag.  An old radio was also in the room.  No gloves or headgear were to be seen.  Perhaps they were stored in another area.  I didn't see any lockers, either.   "I'm going to have to put in an order for more equipment," I thought to myself.

A few signs on the wall referring to boxing workouts were up, including a few boxing posters of past fights.  I'll have to dig out some of my old boxing posters to further decorate the walls.

It won't be a jarring change being the person in charge.  I've held jobs where I was a supervisor, as well as being the second in command when the boss was unavailable.  It won't be a major switch working with kids in addition to adults.  I've had jobs where I worked around kids, and I was a substitute teacher in the Evanston School District at one point. The big adjustment will be getting used to being in a different gym. I've been at Loyola Park since the year my younger sister passed away.  That was twelve years ago.

I'll have to learn new names and new faces.  I'm already missing the old faces.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Justin's Ready For A Fight

In this photo, there's a crowd at ringside as Justin and Nick spar.  Before getting into the ring, Nick asked me to give him some tips.  "Justin kicked my ass the last time," Nick said.  "Got that right," I said without thinking.  "I'm sorry!' I said, but Nick waved me off.  "No, don't worry about it because it was true," he said.

Nick was better prepared this time around.  Justin threw a flurry of lefts and rights that frustrated Nick.  Nick stopped for a moment, but he continued on.

Justin also sparred with Ken.  Alan talked to Justin about sparring tomorrow at Sheridan Park, so the sparring was a warm up for the fight Justin may get.  Alan kept telling Justin to go easy after Ken ate a few hard punches including an uppercut to the chin.

Justin's buddies were taping their friend's sparring and cheering him on.

Geniece came in, but she couldn't spar because she hurt her right hand.  A door slammed on it.  Luckily, no bones were broken.  Diana didn't want to spar, so I had no opportunity to get into the ring.

Mary congratulated me on getting the coach's job at La Follette Park.  Yesterday, I told Barry and Jilberto who congratulated me as well.  Others in the gym said they were sorry to see me go, but were happy that I got the job.  Still no word on when I start over there yet.  It might not be until next month when the fall session begins.

Monday, August 04, 2014

A Change In Focus

Alan focuses on a sparring session while Justin's friends -- he brought in two more to add to the entourage --stand nearby and keep up a running commentary.  Moments earlier, Alan commented that there were more of Justin's friends in the gym than the regular participants.  It had been raining on and off all afternoon, so that may have kept some people away.  Rachel came in with her adorable two year old daughter and a French exchange student who is staying with her for awhile, but they didn't stay.

Justin sparred with Alan, but unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of that.  Justin was throwing a lot of uppercuts to Alan's middle and delivering a lot of jabs.  Alan put pressure on Justin, backing him up.  Justin fell, but not because of being hit.  Justin quickly flipped up onto his feet as his friends cheered him on.

Nick sparred with Jesus and did well.  Jesus did very well, too, moving in and out, and throwing punches with good precision.  Both guys were bleeding a little.  However, I was surprised when Nick was the first one to draw blood.

I sparred with Octavio, and we went light.  Well. . .I went light.  Alan told Octavio, "Hit her!  She can take it!"  We did a couple of rounds.

I told Alan, "I'm breaking up with you."  "You got the job?  Good for you!" he smiled.  I turned in paperwork -- you know, copies of my Social Security card, W-2 form, etc. -- to the main Chicago Park District office earlier today.  I'm going in for a drug test and getting fingerprinted tomorrow.  I'll be the coach of a boxing program at a field house near the old neighborhood I grew up in on the west side.  Ought to be interesting.

That means this blog will change in the near future.  I probably won't change the name since it's been that since 2005, but the focus will be a little different.