Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Don't Fight Angry

This is a photo of the ring with ropes around it.  Next month, I hope to fill out the gym with extra equipment based on what will be available in the field house's budget.  The kids keep asking me about putting in another Cobra bag or two.  Since the kids kept treating the old one like a toy, I can't justify putting another in that will come up broken as well.

Thinking back on a sparring session between a pair of twins in the gym, I see that I have to double my efforts to communicate to the youths that fighting while angry is not cool.  In fact, that's not cool to do either in the ring, the cage, on the mat, or in a street fight.  Too many mistakes get made when emotion is behind the hits.  People lose fights, and a lot of times, become seriously hurt.  Having a cool head in order to think is a big advantage during any fight.

Unfortunately, a lot of the kids are used to schoolyard squabbles and sidewalk beat downs. In that neighborhood, few kids can take the stance of  "I'd rather talk it out than fight", "Fighting doesn't solve anything", "I'm too ladylike to slap someone", and other similar pacifistic statements. I grew up over there, so I understand.  Often, I hear some of them say they had to take on two or more people at one time. Most of my fights in grade school consisted of me against several attackers.  However, being calm and logical is the difference between getting away and being laid out on the ground.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Another Week, Another Fight

A couple of the kids spar as two other kids look on.

Had to break up yet another real fight this week.  Princess was at the center of it again.  I couldn't understand it. . . Princess had just sparred with the girl whom she was picking on.  The other girl got the best of the situation because Princess does next to no training when she's in the gym.  The other girl made fun of Princess for not throwing punches back.  Then Princess exacted revenge by insulting the girl.  The other girl, who is taller than Princess and not afraid to throw punches, got one lick in on Princess before I stepped in to stop it.

Princess gets on my nerves -- and those of the other kids -- most of the time.  But when she chooses to act right, she's not a bad kid.  She told me she no longer wanted to spar with the other girl.  Under the circumstances, it would not be a bad idea to keep those two apart for awhile.  But I ran punch mitts drills with Princess and told her she can't freeze up like that in the ring.

A new 14 year old girl came in, and as her mother described her, she is a bit on the shy side.  However, her punches aren't bad at all.  She was the only person in the teen class -- as all the other teens have disappeared for the moment -- so I got a chance to take my time and work with her.  I would have liked to move around more with her, but my left knee has really been painin' me, like my grandmother used to say.  My lower back has been acting up as well.  I've kept my knee taped up, and Mineral Ice slathered on my back, in-between soaking in hot baths.

The gym will be open earlier on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas.  But hardly any kids showed up around Thanksgiving, and I'm expecting the same next week.  If that's the case, I'll have extra time to think and plan what I'm going to do during the winter session that begins in January.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Finally, The Ring Is Surrounded

In this photo, taken by Martine Granby, I'm alone in the gym, folding up a hand wrap.

Only one kid under 12 showed up at the gym yesterday.  During the week, only one teen showed up during the 13 and up class.  They both wanted to spar, but that's impossible to do when no one else comes in.  I don't want to spar each time I'm in the gym anymore, and I worry about hurting a kid if and when I do.  Having a lot of people in a boxing gym helps bring energy to the place.  When there's hardly anyone there, the energy is very low.

Sometime when I was out at an employee training at Garfield Park earlier this week, new ropes were put up around the gym.   Unfortunately, the old canvas hadn't been changed out, but one thing at a time.  When a couple of the kids were sparring on Friday, one attempted to run out of the ring to avoid incoming punches.  "Can't do that anymore," I told the kid.  Now I find myself repeating, "Don't lean on the ropes!"  I don't want to have to arrange for the ropes to be tightened so soon.

Technology is another rival I have for the attention of the youths.  They look at me crazy when I tell them that I primarily use my cell phone for my job at the insurance company and have it turned off at other times.   Most of the kids have cell phones, and they fiddle with them all the time. "I can't live without my phone," one of the teens told me.  Oh, they could if they really tried.  Technology is nice, but I'm glad I didn't grow up with what we have today.  It seems a lot of youths are addicted to it.

A new kid appeared to be very interested in what I own at home.  The kid attempted to beg me out of several items including old video game systems, in-line skates, and an MP3 player I have that doesn't work so well anymore.  I don't know if it's because the kid doesn't have those items at home, or like so many kids think, "If I ask for it, someone should just give it to me because I want it."  I did tell him I could part with old boxing equipment that I no longer use.  I'll bring those items in next week.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Day With George and a Bear

I spent two days of training at Garfield Park.  Every time I go there, I'm reminded of the time Ma took me there to get my immunization shots before I began Kindergarten forty-eight years ago.  The building, with little upgrades here and there, still looks the same.

Training involved knowing how to interact with the patrons, mainly the youths.  Training is what training is.  Some of it can be useful, and some of it is not.  People are up and interested at various times, and counting down the minutes until it's over at other times.

I talked to George, who runs the boxing gym there, when I had breaks from training.  He's been with the Chicago Park District for 42 years.  His actual title is that of a program specialist.  George no longer has kids 12 and under; he starts with ages 13 and up, and most of the boxers he deals with are professionals.  Most of the equipment was brought and installed in the gym out of his pocket and his time.  There's a lot of history in that gym.

It pays to talk to someone who has been on the job for a long time.  George gave me a lot of valuable information to help me on my way.

This is a shot of Garfield Park's lagoon.  Quite a few geese were out there today.

I had noticed the guy standing next to me in this photo the first day of training.  He sure looks familiar, I thought.  Today, I figured out that he was Chris Zorich, who was a defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears.  Chris is a nice guy, and he agreed to take this photo.  He's now a supervisor with the Chicago Park District.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Boys Voice Their Opinions

The photo is of me surrounded by a group of kids in the gym at LaFollette Park.  I think I was matching the kids up for sparring that day.  It hard to do that because the kids are a wide range of sizes.  Most of the twelve year olds are taller and bigger than I, and the most of the eight to ten year olds are very small.  It's easier to match up the teens because a lot of them are the same height and approximately the same weight -- with a few exceptions.

The photo was taken by Martine Granby, who is a documentary producer.  She interviewed me and took other photos, which are posted up at http://whenweblink.tumblr.com/.

The youth boxing classes have become increasingly male.  The girls have disappeared, with the exception of Princess.  "She is one annoying girl", one of the boys told me, and I agreed.  Princess is quickly wearing out her welcome with most.  I predicted that as more boys showed up, they would not be interested in putting up with her continuing antics.

Another issue I'm running into is the youths thinking there is open gym.  A few teenage boys showed up and expressed interest in signing up.  Then they left to play basketball, then returned later with a few more friends.  "I thought we could just come in and box," one of them said.  "I'll be glad to have you in here, but you have to sign up.  Not my rule, but the Chicago Park District's rule," I explained.  Youths don't seem to understand about liability and safety issues, but they are going to have to understand.

A kid who signed up in the past week broke the Cobra bag.  It wasn't his fault; the bag was due to break anyway.  I would love to order a new Cobra bag once the new budget year comes in, but the kids kept treating the old one like a toy.  I'd rather not have another Cobra bag in the gym only to have it broken again in record time.  The park district doesn't have money to throw around, and it's important that the kids learn they have to help take care of the equipment.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Train Up Or Step Out

In a photo from 2011, Alan watches some sparring action at Loyola Park.

When I saw Princess not long after I got to LaFollette Park, I automatically knew it would not be an easy day.  She didn't come in until about a half-hour or so after the gym opened (and she wasn't the only one who strolled in late).  Princess absolutely did NO training.  Her presence influenced several others -- mostly the girls -- to slack off as well.

I have a new policy.  Either people train or they get out of the gym for the day.  Real simple.  I'm tired of the class dissolving into chaos because of a few who really don't want to be in the gym, as well as those who don't get that the boxing gym is not the after-school program, or cheer leading practice, or open b-ball gym, or any of the other activities most of the kids are involved in.  A few know recognize the "I'm not joking" tone in my voice, and they leave immediately.  The rest I have to keep raising my voice and being sarcastic/surly until they walk out.

"Don't train then turn around next year and ask me to get fights in the park district tournaments", I warned the kids for the umpteenth time.  One girl, who still can't manage to wrap her hands correctly, said, "Does that mean me, too?"  "Everybody," I told her.  I've seen kids in several of the Chicago Park District boxing gyms.  They don't play in their respective gyms.  They train.  I'm not about to put the LaFollette kids up against kids from Garfield, Simons, Loyola, Portage Park, etc., if I know the LaFollette kids haven't been doing the work to win matches.

How many times did I have to tell a couple of the kids, "Stop bouncing basketballs in here!  This is NOT the basketball gym!"  Too many times.

During the last twenty minutes or so of the 12 and under class, a few of the boys pulled out their homework and started doing it.  I thought this was unusual, but at the same time, I was impressed. I let them do their work.  It kept them focused and quiet unlike some of the others who regularly attempt to make a playground out of the gym.

Teens keep showing up in the 12 and under class.  When I tell them they have to come back later when its time for the class for 13 to 17 year olds, they give me blank looks.  Then none of them return for the class.  I don't know what the deal is with that.

One of the boys who is in the 12 and under class showed up right as that class ended.  I pointed out the kid's tardiness.  "I know," was the reply.  If he knows, then why can't the kid show up on time?  The kid started playing around with the gloves, and throwing the hand wraps around.  I ordered the kid to put them down.  "The class is over for today," I announced.  "Can't I just punch for a little while," the kid said, putting the punch mitts on.  "No, and put those down.  The class starts and ends at a certain time," I said, trying to keep my voice even.  The kid mumbled some excuse about not being able to get there on time.  "I can't help you with that.  You have to figure out what you need to do," I answered, ending the conversation.