Friday, January 30, 2015

How About Some Football?

"Really?" I thought to myself when I saw a few spots of white paint on the walls in the gym.  Every other room was busy, so the kids and I had to go up to the girls' basketball gym to participate in another class.  The class was basically an open gym for kids 12 and under.

The instructor had the kids playing an abbreviated form of football.  I didn't play because a) my left knee has been acting up again, and b) I'm not into football.  It gave the kids in my class something to do, which I was happy about.  But of course, some did not participate (Angel), some were acting out as usual (Tough and Talky), and some didn't show up, period (most of the boxing class).  Canceling the boxing class until the gym is painted is not an option.  The program is new and still in the process of being built up.  Any shut down will seriously slow the momentum.

I learned that most of the kids don't listen and are always trying to do what they want to do -- contrary to what is actually going on -- in most every program that goes on at the field house.  I kept having to check Tough and Talky for their antics, and I was not in the mood for much. Tough had the nerve to suggest that everyone participate in a hula-hoop competition because she was bored with throwing around a ball.  The staff person running the open gym as well as myself told Tough twice that she could not do that.  Instead of following orders, Tough tried again to get the other kids on her side.  I overheard one boy tell her that he had the right to not want to go along with what she wanted to do. I was cheering him in my mind.

While the kids were playing, the usual crowd of basketball players kept wandering in and out.  One boy could not understand why he had to wait more than an hour to use the gym.  I grumbled to the kid, "Y'all got basketball on the brain," before again repeating what time the other kids would be done with the gym.  All of my encounters with the kids today made me extremely glad that I could go home to a nice, quiet apartment where there are no kids -- or grandchildren, for that matter.  I actually felt sorry for their parents who have to live with that 24/7 for 18 to 21 years.  Help them, Jesus.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paint and Dodge Ball

Another day of having to be moved to different room because of the boxing gym being painted.  I don't know how much more I can take of this.  A peek in the gym showed that little to nothing had been done.  I'm beginning to run out of ideas to keep the kids busy, as I don't dare bring equipment upstairs that can end up walking.

This time, we were in the auditorium.  The kids' interest in yet another round of new exercises I introduced quickly disappeared.  T1 stayed in the basketball gym, not bothering to show up.  Lu wasn't there, either.  Marine and Angel resumed their usual flirtation with each other.  Tough, Talky, Curly and Little J started playing up on the stage.  The kids associated with the community organization didn't come to class, even though I told their leader what time and days the gym is open.  There were several balls located behind the curtain.  I picked the softest ones and called for a game of dodge ball.

I haven't played dodge ball since. . .I don't know, 1972 or 1973?  It's been a long time.  Many schools have banned the game on the silly premise that it's too aggressive and demeaning and whatever other excuses the political correct police created.  That game can still be done.  Just use Nerf-like balls like we did.  It was a lot of fun, but not much of a substitute for boxing training.  Summer seems to be a long way off, but not really.  The boxing shows will be taking place soon, and training time is being lost.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jumping In and Whippings

The gym is finally being painted, so the kids and I can't be in there for a few days.  One of the staff members told me that sometimes, painters will let people hang for a month before they finish their job.  I certainly hope that's not the case where the boxing class is concerned.  The kids associated with a community organization returned to class after disappearing most of last week.  The combination of them and the kids who've been there awhile wasn't such a good mix in the boys' basketball gym.  The same incidents of playing around went on.  Tough kept getting on my nerves complaining about some of the boys hitting her.  I finally told her that if she would worry about what she is supposed to be doing, that wouldn't happen.  She didn't like my answer, but I didn't care.  I'm tired of being distracted by the kids' nonsense arguments.  It's counterproductive to anyone learning anything in the gym.  Tough always wants to play victim, but she often starts problems and then continues them.

I opted not to bring up any of the boxing equipment because I don't want any of it to come up missing.  When I was at Loyola Park, the stuff that was easier to smuggle out, like gloves, headgear, and hand wraps would disappear often.  I've already been told there is a problem of many "sticky fingers" at LaFollette Park.  Until the boxing gym is painted, that time can be used for conditioning and shadow boxing.  Conditioning is sorely needed.  Just about none of the kids do any floor exercises until I get on them to do it.

One kid wants to exchange places with a kid who is in another activity.  They have decided that boxing is not for them.  Fine, but they have to get permission from their parents to do the switch.  I can't just go into the computer system to withdraw and add kids.

For some reason, some of the kids brought up the subject of spankings, or whippings, as we usually referred to discipline in the 'hood.  One of the boys assumed that I was never spanked at all.  "Oh, please!  I can tell many stories about when I took a whipping and why!" I told the kids.  All of the kids seemed surprised.  I got the feeling they thought "old folks" never got punished for things when we were kids.

Another boy said, "If someone is taking a beating in the ring, will you jump in the fight?"  I had to explain that is yet another move that can't be done in boxing.  A few of the kids paid attention when I told them once they get in the ring, I can't fight their fight.  That's why they need to train and pay attention to me in the gym.  In the ring, they are on their own.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Channeling Ma

I don't like repeating myself.  Furthermore, I don't like repeating myself and sounding like my late mother.  Every day I'm in the gym, the same phrases and statements keep coming out of my mouth.  I long for the day when I won't have to say them anymore, but I seriously doubt that day will appear any time soon.

"Stop leaning on the ropes!"

"Stop playing and do some training!"

"If you all would train instead of play. . . ."

"Don't turn your back on an opponent!"

"Don't sit on the ropes!"

"If y'all do that during a regular match, the referee will stop the fight and give the trophy to the other person!"

"Don't step on the ropes!"

"Don't hit the heavy bags without hand wraps and gloves on!"

"This is boxing, not professional wrestling!"

"This is boxing, not mixed martial arts or the UFC!"

"Y'all have to learn how to wrap your own hands!  I'm not going to do it for you each time y'all come to the gym!"

"There is no open gym!  Sign up if you want to box!"

"I'm trying to run a class.  Those who are not signed up need to leave the gym -- NOW!"

"Don't eat in the gym!"

"Stop using curse words in the gym!"

"Hold that ball!  This is NOT the basketball gym!"

"Y'all have to make up your mind.  Either y'all gonna be in boxing or be in basketball (or whatever other activity the kids have signed up for at the same time they've signed up for boxing)."

"No, I'm not putting another Cobra bag in the gym."

"Buy a mouth piece!"

"Either train or go upstairs!"

"What did I just say?  Did y'all hear me?  Am I invisible?  Am I just talking to be talking?"

Can't Do Two Things At The Same Time

Not long ago, someone in the gym asked me where some of the other kids were.  "They're probably in another activity.  I don't know why some people have signed up for multiple things going on at the same time," I said.  Tough, who like her sister Talky and her brother T1, are signed up for many activities gave me some explanation that didn't make a lot of sense nor cut any ice with me.

Is it that some parents don't keep up with their kids' schedules?  One of the reasons why I want to talk to parents before they sign their kids up for boxing is that I need to emphasize that training is a commitment.  If their kids like basketball, cheer leading or whatever else is going on better, then they need to devote their time to that.  I'm not going to be offended.  However, I don't want them in my class if the commitment is not there.  

Running in the gym for ten to fifteen minutes, then telling me, "I'm going to go do something else", has got to stop.  Kids standing around for 30 minutes waiting to spar, instead of training, then having to run off to another activity before any sparring happens -- that's got to stop.  Showing up the last five to ten minutes of class and wanting to stay around an extra 20 minutes (mostly to goof off), after they've spent time in the basketball gym, or in cheer leading practice, or in swimming, etc. -- that's got to stop.  None of the kids who do such things are going to learn how to box properly.

I keep worrying about some kid getting their head handed to them during a Chicago Park District boxing show.  I can hear the kid crying and whining, "I lost," and me trying to keep my voice even as I point out, "Enough training wasn't done in the gym."  Perhaps their parents and guardians, get an attitude with me because their kid got hurt.  It would probably be a parent or guardian who never met me beforehand, but just signed off on the registration form and sent it back with their kid to the field house.

There's a huge possibility that some of the parents put their kids in the boxing class because they saw it was free.  There is a cost for a lot of the other kids' programs, and a free one appeals to many.  I have made it clear that I don't expect all of the kids to show up every day.  They at least have to make up their minds to show up at least twice a week and stay in the gym for the full class.  But I'm not going to make it my problem that boxing doesn't have a ball to throw, hit, or kick.  I can't make it my issue that boxing is not dancing, MMA, or wrestling.  If the kids really want to be a part of it, they'll make the time for it.  Otherwise, the kids are wasting their time, and to be honest, wasting my time as well.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Girls' Day

On the way to work, I ran into Professor.  He was going to Seward Park to get a workout in.  There's a new coach over there.  "How come there seems to be so much turnover among the boxing coaches?" he asked me.  It didn't used to be like that.  There are guys like Alan, Pat, and Bill who have been coaching for decades.  In recent years, unfortunately, there has been a revolving door going on where new hires have been concerned.  I keep hearing rumors about what happened at some of the field houses, but I'm not sure what really went down.

I was anticipating another slow day when Lu came in.  Lu's mother, seven year old sister, and one year old brother was with him.  Lu is a nice kid.  However, he likes to talk more than train.  It's not that he doesn't ask a lot of good questions.  Most of the questions pertain to boxing.  But I'll start him off on the punch mitts, and have a hard time getting Lu interested in hitting the bags and doing other drills.

Three girls who were in the gym the other day, but not officially signed up for the gym came in near the end of the 12 and under class.  I let them put the hand wraps and gloves on to move around in the ring a little.  I'm always telling the kids about the fights I had back in grade school.  The girls were amazed when I told them I had never been suspended for fighting.  Not even for that time when I was in third grade and I threw a steel chair at another kid.  They told me that some boy in their class was bothering them, mostly with verbal taunts.  "My mother always told my younger siblings and I to ignore what other kids would say.  But as soon as they put their hands on us, we were supposed to hit back," I told the girls. That is not a popular thing to tell kids these days in light of all the political correctness and zero tolerance for violence in schools.  But those girls told me their moms had basically told them the same thing.

The younger girls left after awhile, and Nay-Nay, a teenage girl that I hadn't seen in a few weeks came in for the 13 to 17 year olds' class.  She brought her mom, her older sister, and her five year nephew along.  Her mom was especially impressed with how Nay-Nay was throwing her punches during the punch mitt drills.  I was impressed as well; Nay-Nay has some nice, hard and solid punches.  It's is just a matter of teaching her how to throw them properly for the most effect.
Nay-Nay and I went through an entire workout that involved using the heavy bag, the uppercut bag, slipping drills, and floor exercises.

Barry gave me a call at the field house, and I'm so glad he did.  There isn't a boxing show at Eckhart Park in February.  It's actually a program meeting.  I have to let others know during that meeting when I want to have a boxing show at LaFollette Park.  I'm thinking about late summer, and perhaps staging it on the outside.  If it can't be done during the warm months, then there is a possibility a ring can be set up in the auditorium.  I'll have to talk to the field house supervisor to coordinate when would be a good time to have the show.

A sigh of relief came over me, as now the kids still have several more months to get it together so they can compete properly.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Crying Game

It's hard for me sometimes to figure out what action to take when someone in the gym is crying.  Never had that problem while I was volunteering at Loyola Park in the adult boxing program.  However, it happens often at LaFollette Park.

Curly sparred with his brother, Marine, for several rounds.  Curly was catching the worst of it, mainly because he allowed his brother to pop him over and over with body shots.  Curly would turn away, tuck into the corners, and not return fire.  After a couple of rounds, Curly didn't want to spar, but then Curly's pride got the best of him.  The next round, Curly even took more shots, then retreated to a corner to cry.  His back was turned to everybody else, but I could hear the sniffling.  I was going to intervene, but Marine apologized to his brother and urged him to stop sparring for the day.

None of the new kids showed up for the 12 and under class, and as usual, no teens showed up for the following class.  Instead, several little girls came in and asked if they could play in the gym.  "Boxing is not played," I told them.  Since no one else was there, I did let them put on hand wraps and gloves.  Everything was fine until the 12 year old brother of one of the girls showed up to join in the fun.  The 12 year old hit one of the girls in the face, and she was ready to fight for real.  The other girls had to hold her back.  That's when I shut the party down.  So much for letting kids try boxing out.

I did tell the 12 year old that if he wanted to box, he needs to sign up.  If he does, the kid will go in the 13 and up class.  The kid was way taller than I and the other kids.  Kids that big in the 12 and under class will have no one to spar with, so they need to go into the later class.

I've been introducing three and four punch combinations to the kids.  I use the punch mitts, and I see a few of the kids practicing the combinations on the heavy bags.  Those who plan to fight are going to need to practice more.

Eckhart Park Is Calling, But The Cost May Be High

Steve informed me that Eckhart Park is having a boxing show next month.  I told the kids who have been attending the boxing class for awhile that they have an opportunity to fight.  They were fired up about it.  However, I have concerns.

I've repeated myself to the kids too many times about the importance of focusing on practicing skills.  Most of the kids have a lot of bad habits that show up especially during sparring sessions.  It's been said that those habits need to corrected early on because they will be so hard to break later on down the line. For example, T1 has taken to sitting on the ropes in the corners during sparring sessions, allowing whomever he's sparring with to keep taking shots.  I keep telling T1 that could be grounds for a referee to stop a fight.  The next time I see him doing it, and T1 keeps ignoring my instructions, I'm going to pull him out of the sparring session for that day.

I'm also frustrated at some kids' insistence on incorporating professional wrestling and MMA moves into boxing.  I don't want to deny any of the kids the chance to participate in a boxing show.  I don't think the Chicago Park District would be too happy if I did, regardless of a kid's lack of proper skills.  They are all about kids participating and having fun.  But unfortunately, it looks as if the kids are going to find out the hard way that slacking off in the gym will probably cost them dearly during a regular match.  When that happens, there is a good chance that some kids will drop out of the program afterwards.

More of an effort is also going to have to be made on my part to make sure I have kids in the gym who want to make a stronger commitment to boxing.  I know of some boxing coaches who make sure they only have serious participants.  I don't really have that power. I can't know beforehand how a kid is going to act after they sign up for the program.  I do know some of the kids' parents, but I wish I knew all of them.  There have been too many kids taking home registration forms and returning them without me having a chance to talk to the parents in person so they know what the boxing program is about.  By the time I figure out that I have several kids on my hands, like Princess, for example, who don't have much interest in the program, it's hard to weed them out.

Speaking of Princess, another staff member told me that Princess has been going around telling people, "Miss Hillari told me I can't come to the gym anymore."  I explained to Princess, and her mother as well, that the class is full.  Princess is trying to make it sound like I banned her from the place, which doesn't raise my opinion of her much.  Some people who work with kids in recreational programs don't particularly like working with kids.  Kids lying on people in an attempt to get their way is one of the reasons why.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Paid Volunteer

The guy from the community organization who mentors kids told me he would like to be a volunteer in the boxing program.  Since I'm not familiar with the kids whom he has signed up for the program, it would be a good idea to have someone in the gym who knows them.  Unlike some people who talk about volunteering, the guy -- Mentor -- knows there is a process that one has to go through in order to be a volunteer.

The Chicago Park District takes volunteering seriously.  Interested individuals have to fill out a form, and the Park District does a background check.  It's not a quick process.  I believe I waited at least three weeks before I heard back from them when I applied to be a volunteer while I was still at Loyola Park.  The main reason for that is most of the activities and programs cater to youths.  The Park District has to be careful about whom they allow around the youths, whether they are volunteers or paid staff members.

I have a couple of individuals who would gladly help me out in the gym.  Their help is really needed now that the 12 and under class is full, and that the 13 and up class is becoming more popular.   I know I can depend on them, and they know the sport.  However, there is resistance on their part about filling out the volunteer forms.  Steve, the field house supervisor, will not let anyone just show up to volunteer without them having applied previously and being approved to do so.  I'll put in a call to those individuals again, but I must emphasize that they have to follow the procedures.

There's a possibility that I might have to wear an extra hat at LaFollette during the summer.  It's a common story; something that wasn't disclosed during the interview process or during employee orientation.  Seasonal employees come in to help run the summer activities, but staff may be pressed into running activities due to a) not having an extra seasonal employee to do that and/or b) based on having a large amount of youths that need to be occupied.  But here's the issue: I do have a job during the day.  It's commissioned based.  I have flexibility with hours, but the bottom line is I have to put in more effort to make money there.  It's a juggling act that I've been successful so far at keeping going. But I'm concerned about perhaps having to take on more responsibilities with the Chicago Park District during the summer and keeping the balance at the day job.  Hopefully I will learn soon if that will be the case so I can make adjustments early on.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Princess Is Out. . .. To An Extent

The 12 and under boxing class is officially full.  And who shows up with a registration form that I had given her nearly three weeks ago?  Princess, of course.  A short time later, her mother walked into the gym.  "Princess will probably have to wait until the Spring session to be registered in the class again," I informed her.

A man who works with a community organization had came in earlier and registered several kids for the class, closing up the registration.  So Princess lost out.  I know that won't prevent her from showing up in the gym anyway.  She went into her usual habit of being an distraction.  The difference is now, I can ask her to leave, keep her out, and (hopefully) make it stick.  Princess seems to forget that her reputation precedes her; I'm not the only staff person who has had to deal with her antics.

If I can only get Angel and Marine to come to their usual class time, that would be sweet.  A couple more teens signed up, which would give both of them new sparring partners to work with.  The man who mentors the new teens at the community organization promised to send them to me ASAP.

The next challenge (and there always seems to be one, doesn't there?) is getting the kids to stop pestering me while I'm monitoring sparring and working one-on-one with other kids on the punch mitts.  Tough, Talky, and T1 have a habit of walking into the ring and standing around while I'm working with someone.  They pepper me with questions and comments.  I was holding punch mitts for Angel at the time.  T1 and his sisters' mouths kept running.  Finally, I said, "I can't do this and talk to you at the same time."  T1 seemed to be put out by what I said, but I didn't care.  Because both Angel and I were being distracted -- they were trying to carry on a conversation with her, too -- there was the possibility of either Angel or I getting hurt.

T1 and his sisters are also easily distracted by Princess when she's in the gym.  They play with her instead of training, then complain when her teasing goes too far.  T1, Tough, and Talky are not innocent when it comes to that scenario.  But when Princess is not around, they tend to pay more attention to me.  I keep noticing that T1 appears to be more serious about the sport than his sisters.  He was asking me a lot of questions about the upcoming tournaments.  T1 really wants to participate in those, and I want to help him get there.  But T1 has to focus.  Unfortunately, Princess being in the gym hasn't helped much.  Maybe I won't have to deal with her until spring -- but I'm not going to bet on it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Enthusiasm and Boredom

More than a few times some kid in the gym has sighed and said, "I'm bored."  That statement annoys me because usually there's an expectation of being entertained by the person to whom the statement was said.  Not long ago, I heard another boxing coach grumbling about not wanting to be a babysitter to the kids who attend their gym.  I'm not a babysitter, either, and I'm not going to sing and dance in the gym.

I put in an order for more equipment, which hopefully, will show up soon.  However, the kids who whine about being bored are often the same ones who play in the gym instead of train.  Although I've had to improvise with the small amount of equipment I currently have, there is still plenty for the kids to do to keep themselves occupied.  Exercises, punch mitt work, shadowboxing, etc.  The eight columns that surround the ring are covered with exercise mats.  It's like having extra heavy bags in the gym because the kids can practice their punches on those.  I'm assuming the previous coach did that, and I am grateful; that was a very smart idea.  I keep pointing out all the things the kids can do, but the same ones keep pouting about having nothing to do.

"When the new equipment is delivered, no one is going be able to use the excuse about being bored," I told the ones who are always complaining.  A friend of mine who is a mom advised me to deflect and ignore a lot of comments the kids make, and just keep things moving.  Good idea.  I am also reminded of one of the judges on those TV court shows who shut down a kid's grumbling with, "I don't argue with children."

Another new kid, Lu, showed up for the 12 years and under class just as the teenagers' class was beginning.  I was glad when he and the small crowd showed up when they did, because I was about to doze off.  Reading one of the books I always carry with me wasn't helping me remain alert.  One of the older boys remarked, "Coach Hillari is really happy to see us!"

Enthusiasm goes a long way in a sports program.  This is especially true if there are kids in the program who tend to be a little shy and quiet.  Lu was asking a lot of questions about boxing, but seemed hesitant about actually taking part.  Lu's proud dad was over on the side taking pictures, so I upped my enthusiasm, hoping that Lu would catch some of it.  The other boys in the class got hyped up by it, but Lu remained low-key.  Maybe that's just Lu's personality.  But it was also his first day in the gym, so maybe things will change down the line.

Friday, January 16, 2015

About Self-Defense and Gym Squabbles

I keep thinking about the parents who have placed their kids in the boxing gym in order for the kids to learn how to defend themselves.  On the surface, it is a good idea.  However, I've changed my stance about that slightly since I've become a coach.

It would be nice if most of the parents would ask their kids if they want to be in boxing.  Some do, but most don't make it a choice.  Sure, some kids will eventually get tired of being bullied and start kicking tail, like I eventually did when I was young.  But every kid doesn't have the desire to be confrontational.  There are also the kids like Princess, who love to write checks their behinds can't cash.  I would like it if some parents really took good notes about their kids before signing them up to participate in any combat sport.

Some of the older kids think they don't have much to learn in boxing because they've already had a number of street fights.  Boxing does have a bit of a disadvantage in a street fight because unlike the sweet science, street fights don't have rules.  In fact, knowing mixed martial arts would probably be better in regards to handling street confrontations.  However, a little bit of knowledge can sometimes get people in trouble, especially for some of the kids who have already had brushes with the law.  If they get into a street fight, can't clearly prove they were acting in self-defense, and the law finds out they know how to box. . . .there will be legal problems galore.

Yesterday, I was holding the punch mitts for Marine, who has some good, solid hands.  Tough and Little J had some squabbling going on.  They kept running in and out of the ring while Marine and I were in there.  Little J ran right in-between Marine and I, narrowly missing being caught by Marine's punches.  Tough kept pestering me about Little J's behavior.  "Look, don't come into the ring while I am running drills with someone nor when there is sparring taking place.  People can get hurt!  I can't pay attention to what everybody wants and the person standing in front of me at the same time," I warned.  "Little J keeps hitting me," Tough whined.  "Ignore him!" I said curtly, returning my focus to Marine.

 Ma used to tell me to ignore kids who were verbally picking on me when I was in grade school.  Honestly, I don't like when I sound like my mother, which happens too often when I'm attempting to keep order in the gym.  But I wonder what the youths' parents are telling them at home about handling conflicts with others.  I didn't hear Little J's comments as much, but Tough was talking as loud as she could.  I couldn't figure out what set her off to cause her to threaten to hit Little J nor why she was insulting Curly.  Anger management seems to be in order, not only for Tough, but several of the other kids, too.  If they would take more of their frustrations out on the gym equipment, that would help.

"Sparring is practice fighting," I keep repeating every time one of the youth asks who won after a sparring session.  I need to put a poster up on the wall with big bold letters saying, "Worry about winning a real boxing match."  Many coaches/trainers have emphasized how important it is that fighters correct the bad habits seen during sparring.  I do my best to correct what I see.  Unfortunately, some of the kids aren't going to understand why certain techniques need to be followed until after losing a fight and perhaps, getting hurt.  I don't want to see any of the kids get hurt.  But some kids still can't separate boxing from street fights and what they see during professional wrestling matches and the UFC bouts.  Even more of a concern is that a few of them insist on not learning the difference.  That reminds me of what older people used to say when I was a kid:  a hard-head makes for a soft behind.  Kids being hard-headed during training is surely not going to help when they go into the park district boxing shows.


No It's Not An Open Gym

I like that I now know how many people are supposed to be in the boxing classes I coach.  The 12 years and under class is nearly full.  Unfortunately, there are only two teens in the later class, Marine and Angel.  Those two keep showing up in the 12 years and under class.  When it was bone cold outside, it was okay, because I was concerned about them being out late in that weather.  But now that the weather has let up a little, Marine and Angel still haven't switched over to the later class.

Also, they don't train enough.  Marine will get on the punch mitts when I ask him.  But Angel spends a lot of time teasing Marine and his brother Curly.  In addition, Tough has taken to picking on Little J, the youngest in the class, and Curly.  I don't know what that is about.  I do know that it doesn't take much for the chasing, rough-housing, and name-calling to turn serious.  Then I end up having to break up another fight.

The other teens around La Follette Park continue to be fickle.  Cash and Money haven't returned with their registration forms, and neither have the others to whom I have given forms.  There seems to be no rush on many of the youths' part to make a commitment.  Instead, most of the youths pop up at the gym only when the mood hits them, treating the program like it's an open gym.  It's a bit irritating to me to see most of them show up faithfully to the other sports activities.  It's just as irritating to hear some of the excuses given for not making it to the boxing class.  "Show up two days a week to get the benefits of the workout," I often tell the youths, but I can't get that either.

Steve, the field house supervisor, told me "It's Christmas for you," the other day.  That meant that I can order equipment.  Maybe the appearance of more equipment will prompt more youths to come in the gym and stay with the program.  It will certainly help me with keeping them busy and interested.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Reminders About Going Light

No matter how many times I admonish T1 about hitting his sisters too hard during sparring, it happens anyway.  Both Tough and Talky were crying after their brother went upside their heads.  T1 apologizes to them, but then turns around and gloats about it.  "My sisters are scary," T1 often says.  The next time, I'm going to tell him that his younger sisters are going to get tired of the abuse and turn on him.  That's my youngest brother did after years of my younger sister and I beating on him.

Cash and Money showed up for the teens' class.  I had seen them the night before in a place where I shouldn't have been -- McDonald's.  Besides the company's habit of underpaying their employees, their food is not what it used to be.  Not to mention the food is unhealthy.  But I was hungry and that was the nearest place to the field house to go.  Cash and Money recognized me from the gym, and we sat around and talked for about a half-hour.  The next day, the two sparred in the ring.  A good time was had by all.  

I feel I've become more comfortable around the kids than I was when I first started out.  The yelling I had been doing has gone way down.  Also, I've been encountering youths who seem to really have an interest in the sport, as well as an understanding.  Gone are most of the kids, like Princess, who treated the program like a playground.  I gave Princess' mom a permission slip to sign her daughter up for boxing again, but I haven't seen Princess back in the gym.  Maybe she won't return.

The other day, I sparred with whom I believe was the youngest person I've been in the ring with:  Curly.  Curly is 11 years old.  My mid-section and sides were aching afterwards.  I told him that he did well, which Curly did.  But I didn't let on that I had been hurt.  I also sparred with his older brother Marine, who is 14 years old.  The difference between the two was that Marine was not putting full power behind his punches.  

Steve, the field house supervisor, is going to look through the boxing equipment catalog to see what the field house budget can afford to get for the gym.  I keep up with the inventory, so I know what is needed.  However, no matter what I previously said to the kids about getting a Cobra bag, I don't want one in the gym.  I'm tired of the kids squabbling with each other over who is going to use it -- like they did with the one that is now broken -- while they ignore the heavy bags.  The kids can't get it in their heads that a Cobra bag is not a toy, either.  I'm not going to waste the park district's money by getting another one that's going to be out of commission in a few months, or perhaps weeks.  

What I really want is kettlebells.  But I'm afraid of the kids hurting themselves and each other with them, whether by accident or more likely, because of playing around.  Kettlebells offer more of an overall body workout just like boxing does, so I have to try them in the class.  I'll just have to really stress the proper use of them.

Friday, January 09, 2015

So Far, So Good

The winter session has begun, and most of the kids who were showing up during the fall have disappeared.  I gave Princess' mom a new registration form to fill out.  However, I haven't seen hide nor hair of Princess since that time.  It could be due to the weather -- Chicago is currently in the midst of a deep freeze.  It could also be that Princess has convinced her parents that boxing is not her cup of tea.  Wishful thinking. . . .

Another kid, eight year old Li'l T, has shown the potential of being another version of Princess.  I haven't seen him since his mom signed him up, either.  I have four kids, two in the 12 and under class, and two in the 13 to 17 year old class.  Li'l T was being disruptive when they all were there (I allowed the teens to come in early due to the frigid weather).  Recently, only 11 year old Curly, his 14 year old brother Marine, and 15 year old Angel have been showing up with regularity.

I like the three that have been going to the class.  Angel is in the class because her dad wants her to know how to defend herself.  But unlike Princess, Angel actually wants to be in the gym.  She's developed a quick friendship with both Curly and Marine.  They all have their moments when they don't want to train, but it doesn't last long.  I walk around to check their form and to give suggestions and tips.  I also do a bit of a workout alongside them, something I wasn't able to do with the crowds that were there during the fall session.  I think it's a good idea for the students to see the coach exercising too, even if I can't move all the ways I used to be able to do.

Marine seemed interested in competing in the park district boxing shows that are coming up in about six months from now.  Angel and Curly aren't so sure.  All of them are too young for the Chicago Golden Gloves.  Looks like I won't have anyone competing in that this year.  Well, at least I renewed my boxing license so I can help out at that tournament if needed.

There was a peace in the gym that had not been there last session.  Partially that is because I have a small group of kids.  Only ten students are allowed now in both of the classes I have.  That is a blessing because that gives me a little more control in keeping order.  All I have to worry about is keeping out the kids who just want to hang out and get a freebie, but who don't want to sign up.  Also, I have a group of kids who are actually interested in the sport.  That helps out in a big way.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Girl Talk

Not many kids show up on Saturday, but this time, a few did.  It was mostly the girls.  One of the girls, whom I'll call Tough, came in with her older brother and younger sister.  All of the kids kept running back and forth between a basketball game going on elsewhere in the field house and the boxing gym.  Tough's brother, T1, wanted to get in some sparring, so he sparred with Tough.

T1 hit his sister too hard and knocked her to the canvas.  I kept telling TI that a sparring match is only practice.  "No trophies will be given out for sparring," I said, but T1 kept throwing wild punches.  Tough had enough, and she got out of the ring after having a cry on the canvas.  T1 apologized to her, but she wasn't having it.  Soon, T1 went back to watch the basketball game.

Tough, her sister TR, and a friend, Jay-Jay, remained in the gym with me for a long time.  They wanted to have what they called "girl talk" rather than practice.  Tough and TR told me that their mother had instructed them to hit back whenever someone hit them first.  "Boys play too much, boys are stupid, boys smell!  That's why when I get grown, I ain't gonna have no boyfriend!" Tough said.  I smiled to myself, knowing that her attitude will change in about three to four years.

TR echoed what her older sister said about hitting back.  That's when I told them how my late mother had told me and my younger siblings the same thing when we were kids.  "My mother was the first person to teach me how to throw a punch," I told the girls.  "That's why you became a boxing coach!" Tough smiled.  I never thought about it like that.  Honestly, when I was a kid, I didn't like to fight, period.  Unfortunately, I constantly had to defend myself daily from my classmates and their assorted siblings and cousins.  I developed a love of fighting when I took up boxing.

T1 had said a few weeks ago that their mother told them if one of the kids gets into a fight, then all of them will fight.  Having also grown up on the west side, I see that rule hasn't changed.  I have memories of entire families rushing down the streets to defend one of theirs who was in trouble.  I don't want any of the youths to think learning how to box is a license to be a bully.  But I also want them to know there is no honor in being a doormat.   Sometimes, one had to stand up for themselves and send a message to others that no nonsense will be tolerated -- period.

Friday, January 02, 2015

More Unforeseen Challenges

I had just come out of the field house.  The building closed early because of the New Year holiday.  One of the kids runs up to me and asked if the gym was open.  There have been signs all around the field house with the holiday closing schedule up for weeks.  Apparently, no one but the staff has paid attention to them.  A couple of teenage boys went past me to go into the building.  "They're turning the lights off and closing up," I told them.  "We wanted to see if the basketball gym was open," came the reply.  What does "closing up" mean?  I guess the teens' minds were so stuck on b-ball that they didn't get what I said.

What I don't get is why it appears that no one -- youths and parents alike -- don't keep up with the field house schedule.  The kid who asked me about the boxing gym had just got out of his mom's car.  She could have avoided wasting gas money by making a simple phone call.  I don't know. . . .I grew up in a household where my late mother was on top of everything.

Then it appears that a lot of the kids don't know how to tell time.  I don't get that, either, considering most of them are playing on their cell phones non-stop.  Cell phones do display the time on the opening screens.  Some of the kids strike me as being a little too old not to know how to tell time.  Is that not being taught in school anymore?  Are parents not pointing out the clock to the kids at home?

Now that ropes are finally up around the ring, the youths are coming to me with more questions about what they can do in the ring.  I sincerely wish they'd stop watching professional wrestling and mixed martial arts matches on television.  I know boxing is not shown on network TV anymore, but it is shown on HBO, Showtime, Versus, and ESPN.  Most of the kids have told me they have cable at home, so why don't they watch the boxing matches and study those moves?  I'm preparing for the first time they lose a Chicago Park District Boxing Show fight and come crying to me.  "Coach Hillari, they gave the trophy to the other person!" the kids will cry.  "Didn't I keep saying that spinning back fists, jumping off of the top rope, hitting people while they are down on the canvas, doing drop kicks, etc., were illegal moves?" I'll snap back.