Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Visit To Loyola Park

If you think the man in the photo above looks tired, you'd be correct.  Alan was too tired to work out the night I paid a visit to Loyola Park.  Luckily, it was a light night.  Not too many people came in.

It felt good to get in an hour and a half workout, as opposed to the twenty minute ones I usually get in at LaFollette Park.  It also felt good to hit a speed bag, a body snatcher bag, a double end bag, and move around in a ring that has ropes and a dark canvas -- things that aren't in place yet at LaFollette.

Colonel was in the gym, and in fine form as usual.

Martin was in the gym.  He wants to check out LaFollette sometimes.

Martin sparred with Jesus, shown here on the speed bag.

Professor was in the gym, but he didn't stay long.  Colonel commented that Professor had lost some weight.  Professor it was due to having been sick recently.

The woman in the above photo is originally from Peru.  Unfortunately, I can't remember her name.  But I had my coach's hat on for a minute, showing her how to throw jabs and rights.

Back at LaFollette, I made an announcement when the playing got out of hand -- again.  I told the kids if they were not training, they needed to leave the gym.  It's always the same kids -- some who are signed up for the class, and a few who are not, but want to hang around.  About ninety percent of the kids left.  I shook my head.  Most of them aren't going to learn how to box.  I can't fight their lack of interest in the sport.  I also can't do much about a lot of the discipline problems because that has to be dealt with at their homes.  I guess one of the kids really don't like me enforcing rules because they tore up a sign I had posted outside the gym that had some rules on it.  How nice.

Another staff member told that I have to continue to get across to the kids that the boxing gym is not a play area.  Easier said than done.  However, I have to have order, and I'm going to get it.  If that means some kids need to drop out of the program, than so be it.  But I can't allow some of the kids to continually turn the gym into a free-for-all, anything goes area.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Refereeing The Girls

Lord, help those of us who work with kids.   The girl I was grumbling about in the previous post -- let's call her Princess -- got into it with another girl -- let's call her LaLa -- in the gym.  I overheard an exchange of words that included insults about LaLa's mom.  I thought things had died down when Princess, LaLa, and two other girls ran into the women's washroom.

Moments later, Princess is walking around the gym sulking, and throwing insults at the other girls after they emerged from the washroom.  Allegedly, LaLa or one of the other two girls hit Princess in the face.  It took me about ten minutes to get the details about what exactly started the incident, and everyone's part in it.  Then I had to endure another twenty minutes of the girls screaming and yelling at the top of their voices as they disputed each others' facts.  Nothing got done in terms of training because the other kids stood around to watch and add their two cents.

I got on both Princess and LaLa about wanting to give each other beat downs over insults.  "They all were rolling their eyes at me and laughing," Princess snapped.  "Princess, you will never be able to control what people do, think, or say, so get over it now," I told her.  I also told the both of them that they could not resort to putting their hands on every and anybody who said something out of turn to them.  Neither one of them really listened to me.  After I told the both of them to drop their beef, Princess kept talking and keeping confusion going for another several minutes.  I knew Princess had started the mess.  If she had been paying attention and training instead of goofing off and playing around like she always does, the whole incident would not have happened.

Princess was walking around sniffing and crying.  One of the other girls convinced LaLa to apologize, but Princess wouldn't accept the apology.  A continuation of the argument was brewing again.  "Drop it now," I warned the both of them.

I noted that while Princess made threats to LaLa, the two other girls, and LaLa's older sister, she apparently didn't throw a punch back when she was allegedly hit in the girls' washroom.  That just further proved to me that Princess hasn't been paying attention in class.  Oh, she still would have been in trouble for fighting, but at least I would have had proof that she was learning something.

Losing My Patience

A lot of kids showed up at the gym.  I have 30 kids listed as being in the class, but usually 15 to 17 show up somewhat regularly during the week.

The one kid who usually skips my class, and who lies to her parents that she has been attending, showed up in the gym.  It is obvious she doesn't want to be there, as she never pays attention when technique is being taught.  She is a distraction, often influencing the other kids to play school yard games with her, when she's not teasing them.  She'll wait until I'm in the middle of coaching to pester me every five seconds with inane requests.

However, the dial on my patience was turned down to zero that day.  I kept my voice fairly even, but I let her know that her antics were not appreciated.  The girl also has an annoying habit of jumping in front of me to "instruct" the other kids as to how the box.  I sharply told her that I didn't need her help.  "There's only one boss in the gym, and that me," I told her.

It's not that the other kids are 100% angels all the time, but their behavior is manageable for the most part.  But this one particular girl has the "it's all about me" attitude 24/7.  When she doesn't get her way, she sulks and refuses to do anything.  I've noticed that while some of the kids go along with her goofing around, other kids are annoyed because they truly want to learn how to box.  I did not want to embarrass any of the kids by admonishing them in front of the others.  But in this girl's case, I made an exception.  Her behavior improved for a brief moment, but it wasn't long before it was business as usual.

I understand that some of the other activity instructors often ask her to leave their classes for the day when her behavior gets too much to bear. She came very close to being kicked out of the gym that day. But seeing how their tactics has not improved her behavior, I'm going to have to try other methods to keep order.  I don't want to be the coach who's always bellowing at someone, but it looks like I might have to relax that rule.

And I thought Igor, back in the adults' boxing class at Loyola Park, was irritating.  Igor ain't got nothing on the little girl in my class.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Nosebleeds and Sparring

The photo is of the headgear stand at Loyola Park.  I need one at LaFollette.

Earlier in the week, one of the kids had a bad nosebleed.  It wasn't from sparring.  Unfortunately, it was a bit too warm in the gym.  The kid was one of those people whose nose starts gushing when there is too much heat in a room.  Luckily, I'm not the squeamish type.  I managed to help slow the flow down.  However, his older brother decided to take him home, so they both missed out on sparring that day.

Li'l Mama and her brothers didn't miss out on sparring today, however.  She had to spar with her younger brothers.  One of them kept taunting her in the ring.  Li'l Mama stepped back and got that look of determination on her face again before punching back in the later rounds.  I told her brother that he wasn't going to be able to take advantage of her so easily in the future.

One of the twins was looking for another girl who had sparred with Li'l Mama several days ago.  "I want to beat up that girl that was beating my sister," he told me.  "Sparring is practice fighting.  It's not for actually beating down someone," I answered.  "But she was hitting my sister.  I want to knock her tooth out," he continued, serious as a heart attack.  His mother and I both had to laugh.

I ended up sparring with the twins.  They kept saying they were going to knock me out.  Her brothers are six year old twins.  Of course, I was just doing pitty-pat while in the ring.  One of her brothers laughed and told me, "You're quick!"

No teenagers showed up for the later class -- again.  The mother of Li'l Mama and her brothers said, "It's party night.  That's why they're not here!"  She was right.  Cold weather doesn't keep people from partying.  But it seems to be an excuse for not showing up to do other things.  Promoting the boxing program so close to the holidays doesn't seem to be a good plan.  But I have to think of something to get the older kids interested in boxing.

Friday, November 07, 2014

My First Sparring Session At LaFollette

This is Robert Emmet Elementary, where I attended 7th and 8th grade.  This school would have been a good spot for me to pass out flyers for the boxing class if it were still open.  It was one of many schools that were shut down not long ago in a sweep by the Chicago Board of Education.

I had a moment where I had to get loud in the gym.  I didn't want to do that, but under the circumstances, it was needed.  The regular 12 and under kids weren't the issue; it was their cousins, siblings, and friends who were not signed up for the class.  I was trying to watch the kids who were sparring, while the non-participants were goofing around and causing distractions.  I put all of them out of the gym.  Then one girl who actually is signed up comes in and tells me that a cousin of hers was in the gym because she wanted to sign up.  Really?  Do tell.  The girl didn't open her mouth to say anything about signing up to me, but she was playing around with the gloves, hand wraps, and headgear.  I guess I was supposed to be a mind-reader.

One of the boys took a direct hit that put him on the canvas.  The boy was crying.  I checked to make sure the kid wasn't bleeding.  His mother was sitting off to the side.  "Gotta toughen up," she told him.  I was surprised, because usually, the moms are the first ones alarmed when their kids get punched.  The boy was fine, and he sparred again later.

His older sister sparred with another girl who is about her age, but who is longer and taller.  I nicknamed the smaller girl Li'l Mama.  Li'l Mama was getting knocked around, but at one point, she stepped back and got the most determined look on her face.  The look said, "I'm not gonna let her get the best of me!"  I smiled to myself.  Li'l Mama finished out the round, returning more punches than she had before.

There's a boy about 10 years old in the gym.  He wanted to spar, but he came in late after all the other kids had at least sparred once.  None of the others wanted to spar with him because the boy hits hard, and he's bigger than most of the others.  So I got in the ring with him.  All the kids, plus a couple of the moms who were hanging around, were surprised.  Several of the kids told me that they wanted to see me knock the kid out.  "Sparring is not about winning or losing.  It's about practicing your skills," I told them as I put on headgear.

The boy does hit hard.  I took one in the mouth, and I was not wearing a mouthpiece.  A little more force on that punch and I might have lost my two front teeth.  I did not hit hard back because, well. . . the kid is 10 years old.  He did a good job avoiding most of my incoming punches.  "She's quick!" he exclaimed to everybody. All of the kids were standing around the ring watching with interest.  "She really can fight!" I heard one of the girls say.

No teenagers came in again, so I did my own workout when the kids' class was over.  Went a little longer than I usually do.  I could feel it in my right arm.  I must have really been working a muscle I normally don't.

Time Change

The teenagers have disappeared.  I might reconsider going up to Austin High School (in the picture above) to pass out flyers to try and build that class up.  I spent one miserable semester at this school back in 1975.  Allegedly, the school has improved.

The football/baseball/basketball coach at LaFollette told me that the kids show up in droves for activities during the summer months.  But once the clocks are turned back an hour, the weather gets cold, youths find excuses not to show up.  The kids under 12 are still fairly consistent about showing up at the gym. But the teen class has been non-existent for a few weeks.  I'm disappointed because I had a good group of teenage boys for awhile.  They were showing up more than the younger kids were.  Now it's the opposite.

Some of the younger kids are pushing to spar each time they are in the gym.  They're only allowed to spar two days out of the week (one kid wanted to know if that was my rule, and yeah, it is).  Saturday was originally scheduled to be the sparring day, but you know what?  Hardly anyone shows up in the gym on that day.  The past couple of Saturdays have been quiet.  In an attempt to make it fair, I had to have sparring during the week when I know some, if not all, will be in attendance.

At least the younger kids are slowly getting into the habit of doing their own workout.  I still have to gather everyone to do floor exercises during the last few minutes of the class.  Luckily, most of the kids are used to doing the same exercises in their gym classes at school.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to take a stronger stance with the one kid in class who thinks the world revolves around her.  I don't want to be like some of the other coaches who scream and yell to have order.  But this one kid tries my patience.  I'm always having to take a deep breath to keep my voice even before I request that the kid pay attention and stop being disruptive.  It was suggested to me to just send her out of the class for time outs.  But others have done that, and yet, her behavior never changes.  I've tried everything I know to reason with her, but reasoning with an eight year old seems to be impossible.  Maybe those who are parents can give me some suggestions?

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Dealing With Consequences

This is a photo of George Manierre elementatry school, which is near where Cabrini-Green used to stand.  I attended pre-school there.

There was a kid in the boxing class yesterday to whom I gave a permission slip so he could get it signed by his parent.  His brother, an adorable four year old, stayed in the class too, so his older brother could keep an eye on him.  Two older girls related to the boys came in the class about an hour later.  One of them told me that the older boy can join the class but only after school grades come out next week.  The boy's grades have been down, and his mother does not want him participating in any after-school activities until the grades become better.

I was anticipating this scenario happening.  I'm in complete agreement with any parents and guardians who do that.  Boxing gyms will always be open, but education comes first.  The world doesn't need any more athletes who retire from their sports careers -- either by their own choice or because they have to due to illness or injury -- with nothing to fall back on.  If even youths do not choose sports as a career, education will serve them far longer than throwing a ball, running yards, throwing punches, etc.

Then I received news that another kid got into trouble at school.  His older brother didn't stay in the gym long because he had to go see about him.  I don't know the details, but I do know that the mom of the kid who's in trouble told her son he can't go anywhere for awhile.  Oh, well. . . .kids have to learn there are consequences for their actions.  I'm in agreement with that, too.

This is Oscar DePriest School, where I attended from 4th grade thru 6th grade.  It did not look like this when I was going there; the school has been remodeled.  I'm still debating whether I should pass out flyers for the boxing program there.  It's close to LaFollette Park, but not that close.  Actually, it is directly across the street from Columbus Park.

I have another kid in the gym, a girl who doesn't want to be in the class because a) her parents forced her into it, and b) she wants to do whatever she wants to do all the time.  "Only child syndrome", is how her mother describes her behavior.  Oh, she's in the field house when boxing is going on, but half the time, she's not in my class.  I don't know what she tells her mother about her whereabouts.  Her mother is always surprised to hear from me that the girl is seldom in the gym on a regular basis.  However, the girl's behavior hasn't changed.  The girl has started sparring; I'm trying to get her to understand why she needs to be in the gym more often and actually train when she's there, instead of playing around.

I perfectly understand kids not being able to be in the gym because of school and discipline problems. But I'm not always cool with the idea of kids having other activities that directly cut into gym time. Too many of the kids have signed up for multiple activities that all happen at the same time.  Early on, I did not make demands that the kids be in the gym every day.  But now I see that's going to be an issue when the Golden Gloves Tournament and the Chicago Park District boxing shows come around again next year.  It's going to come down to the kids having to choose which activity they prefer more.  I will not get a fight for a kid who is not at least showing up to the gym a couple of times a week.  Nor will I get a fight for a kid who's hardly training when they are there. Unfortunately, I have a few kids who are doing that.  I keep telling them they don't want to be in an actual match only to learn what the consequences of not training properly are.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Practicing To Coach

I brought a book called Boxer's Book of Conditioning & Drilling.  It's written by Mark Hatmaker. There are a few pages in the book covering punch combinations.  When I have down time in the gym (i.e. no youths show up for class), I practice the combinations.

Some coaches have told me there are some things they no longer do, like holding the punch mitts and sparring.  Some have legitimate reasons, like old injuries, for example.  But I'm finding I need to keep up on techniques so I can effectively communicate how to do them to the youths in the gym.  My focus on getting the moves and punches right during my lone workouts is more intense than it was when I was competing.  I count that as a good thing.

Sometimes during those workouts, I think to myself, I wish I had that focus when I was actually competing.  Might have made a difference.  But I doubt that it would have gained me more fights, especially being a woman in this sport.  I often feel a bit awkward only having had six fights during a brief amateur career.  But there are boxing coaches who've never had any fights outside of regular sparring.

I have to make a correction from my last post -- it wasn't Montrell who participated in an USA Boxing tournament in Wisconsin, it was Nate Jr.  Barry gave me the right information.  I saw Nate Jr. at a church service this morning.  He didn't win.  "It's all good; I'll get it next time," he told me.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Explaining Boxing

I stepped outside to see what was happening on the football field.  I'm not a football fan, but no one had shown up for boxing, and I was a little bored.  Plus, the gym was stuffy, even with the fans on.  I wanted to get some fresh air.

I learned that the field house's resident Junior Bear football team was not playing; some other Park District football teams were tackling each other.  After a few minutes, I returned inside via the field house's back door.  Two boys were sitting on the steps that lead downstairs to the gym.  "Are you the boxing coach?" one of them asked.  When I answered in the affirmative, they said they wanted to go inside the gym to box.  I had already put all of the equipment away, as in another 15 minutes or so, the class would have been over anyway.  But I changed my mind.  "Come on in, so you can see what it looks like," I told them.

I pulled out a couple pairs of bag gloves for them to use, and they took turns on the Cobra bag.  They asked a lot of questions about which punches were legal and which were not.  So many kids these days are used to watching hours of professional wrestling as well as MMA matches.  I'm constantly explaining what is allowed in those sports is not allowed in boxing.  Even after the explanations, some kids still want to do the illegal moves. The other day, one of the kids who was sparring, lifted his knee up to get another kid off of him.  "The referee will give out a penalty for that!" I told the kid. Other kids are always wanting to hit someone after they are already on the canvas.

The two boys told me, "boxing is fun", and they punched until they got tired, which wasn't very long.  Like I tell all of the kids, they'll get used to keeping their hands up if they keep training.  I told the boys to return on Wednesday if they want to sign up for the gym.  Tuesday is Election Day, and the gym is being used as a polling place.

I hung around the front desk after the boys left.  About ten minutes before it was time for me to leave, several girls who have been attending the gym on and off passed by the desk.  "Is it time to play boxing?" they asked.  Instead of repeating for the umpteenth time that people do not play boxing, I looked at my watch and said, "It's too late.  I told y'all the time when the class starts on Saturdays, remember?"  "Oh," was all they said, and then they ran off to do whatever.  So far, Saturday is the hardest day to get kids to come to the gym.  It seems to be easier to get them there during the week after the school day ends.

I forgot to mention that the radio in the gym started working again.  Then today, it stopped again.  I don't know if it's the speakers or the radio itself.  Maybe it will work again next week.  But then, maybe I don't need one in the gym.  No one seems to notice when it's on except for me.