Friday, February 27, 2015

Let There Be Music In The Gym

This is what the gym looks like now that the walls and posts have been painted and the floor has been waxed.  The place looks brighter.

But alas, the same old challenges remain.  Only Marine and Angel showed up yesterday (Talky and Tough opted to rehearse for the Black History Month assembly that took place later that day).  Marine and Angel know they should be coming to the teen class, not the kids' class; they said it themselves.  The only way I can think of to convince them to show up later is to point out that they won't get any sparring practice if they remain in the kids' class.

I've talked to all of the kids about the upcoming Chicago City-Wide Boxing tournament.  They have yet to give me an answer about what day they want to go weigh in.  Time is short.  A bus has to be arranged to take us over to Curie High School for the weigh-ins, and I can't afford to deal with the usual hemming and hawing out of most of the kids.

I found it odd that Tough, who's so quick to defend herself verbally, couldn't speak in front of the audience at the Black History Month assembly.  She tried twice -- she was supposed to talk about Muhammad Ali -- and ended up crying during the second attempt.  Talky didn't get through her speech about Laila Ali because she kept stumbling over the words.  I was the only one who completed my short speech about Ernie Terrell, and I winged it based on what I remembered reading about him.  I also got a chance to talk to the few parents who showed up about the boxing program.

While pricing speakers yesterday, I noticed there are a lot of wireless ones.  It seems hard to find the regular stereo speakers that are hooked up by wires.  I threw the old speakers out, and also a radio I found which did not work.  There needs to be music in the gym.  I'm considering buying an inexpensive radio.  If it gets stolen, I'll be ticked, but not as much if the radio is not a name brand with advanced features on it.  I'd rather have the speakers, however, because there is a stereo component already set up in the gym that works.  A trip to some pawn and thrift shops may be in order to find the type of speakers I want.

I also need a cornerman's jacket.  I have a lovely one that Amy brought me while I was still at Loyola Park.  But it has the name of that gym on the back of it.  I could do like some coaches and put tape over the name, but that wouldn't look right.  It might be better to have a jacket with "Coach Hillari" on the back of it, or just "Boxing" on the back of it, so I can wear it to more places.  I'm anticipating helping out in the corners of the boxers from other clubs or who are not affiliated with a club (especially at the Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament).

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Getting Close To Being Ready

None of the kids showed up, as I suspected they would not.  Luckily, LaFollette Park has a fitness center, so I got in a workout for part of the time I was on the job.  I would like to incorporate weights more into the boxing routine. Unfortunately, just like most everything else that goes on in the boxing gym, most of the kids don't take that seriously, either.  The kids play around with the few weights that are available in the gym.  Plus, the youths aren't allowed in the fitness center or the weight room in the field house.

I'm going to lose another day in the gym due to the mayoral and alderman elections that take place this week.  But the walls of the gym have been painted, and I was told the floor has been waxed (no one was allowed in the gym once that was done, so I haven't seen the results yet).  By mid-week, the program should be up and running again.

I finally had a stipulation put on the online registration pages that the parents of the kids who are 12 years of age and under must talk to me before signing up their kids for boxing.  In addition to me wanting to create relationships with the parents, I want to cut down on dealing with kids who are signed up for my class and another activity at the same time, and kids who really don't want to be in boxing.   It will also help squash some discipline problems, too.  Some kids will be less likely to show out if I'm on a friendly basis with mama and daddy (or their guardian).

An extra piece of good news is that there will be an adult boxing class starting in the summer.  It'll be a challenge to recruit people, however.  No one really wants to be inside when it's nice outside because the warm season doesn't last long in Chicago.  My marketing approach will have to focus more on boxing being a way of getting in shape as opposed to training for competitions when it comes to the adults.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Getting The Right Boxing Participants

I'm not going to name names, but I know of some boxing coaches who meet new participants at the door of their public and private gyms and ask, "You're gonna compete, right?"  Before people think, wow, some coaches have a one-track mind, I can understand their reasoning.

Personally, I would like to see the youths in the boxing program at LaFollette Park bring home some trophies and belts.   But based on what I've experienced so far, that's going to take a lot more work than I originally anticipated.  Kids not having focus is my number one problem in the program, followed by a general lack of motivation, as well as a lack of discipline.

Over past few weeks since the boxing gym has been out of commission, I've spent a lot of time watching the youths play basketball in the boys' gym.  There's a lot of focus and motivation displayed by the kids in that program.  The coach of that program doesn't have to work as hard as I have to in order to get respect and have order.  However, he's been there longer than I have, and that program has been running for a long time.  The boxing program has not, and I have to set standards.

I've come to the conclusion that I can't have a gym primarily full of youths who:

1.  want to play instead of train
2.  do not take the training seriously
3.  can't get the concept of "you get out of it what you put into it"
4.  appear not to have much in the way of "home training"
5.  can't understand that professional wrestling and mixed martial arts have no place in boxing
6.  attempt to do what they want to do despite of established procedures and rules
7.  disrespect me

I'm not crazy enough to believe that I will never have any problem students.  There are even problem adults in the park district's boxing programs (Igor and Jordan at Loyola Park come to mind).  In addition to being an instructor, I have to make the experience fun for everyone.  But I can't allow constant distractions and disruptions to go on in my class.  So I going to have to weed people out.

Some will decide on their own that boxing is not for them and drop out.  I've already had that happen. I'm not mad about that; it's cool.  I'd rather someone figure it out early on.  Unfortunately, some will learn the hard way that boxing is not a sport that is played: they'll get hurt during sparring or take a bad loss during a regular match and then they will leave.  Still others will keep trying to use the gym as a hang out spot despite of their obvious lack of interest in really learning to box, whether they are signed up or not -- but they will be shown the door.   As another staff member told me, I have to be the adult and take control.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday The 13th Luck

No sign of Tough or Talky, which was a blessing.  I was not in the mood for Tough's whining nor for either girl's constant pestering me about this and that.  Marine showed up carrying a red rose and the largest teddy bear I'd seen in a long time.  We went into the fitness center, and Marine covered up everything with his coat.  A few moments later, Angel came in with her seven year old sister.  Her sister takes gymnastic class.  Angel went back out for a few minutes, then Marine got her gifts and waited patiently for her to return.

Personally, I stopped celebrating Valentine's Day many moons ago.  A couple of bad boyfriends and cynicism about romance in general will do that to a person.  But I thought the scene between Angel and Marine was cute; she was truly surprised when she walked back into the fitness center.

I received a call from Marty, who is the coach at Simons Park.  I invited him and his fighters to come over for some sparring.  Of course, this will have to take place after the gym is finally painted. Election Day has to pass by, too: the gym will be shut down for people to use the space to vote for a new mayor and new aldermen.

In the meantime, I keep reading up on boxing techniques that I want to show the youths once the gym is up and running again.  Several kids keep asking me about the status of the gym.  One who was never signed up for the program to begin with tried to tell me that he was.  "There's no signing up once and being in boxing for the entire year," I explained.  "Everyone has to sign up each session."  As I suspected, too many kids have the idea I'm running an open gym.   I'm already bracing myself for all the whining, complaints, and con games the kids who refuse to sign up are going to come to me with when the gym reopens.  But they'll either follow rules -- or get out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Inconsistency vs. Boxing

LaFollette Park's boxing gym is looking a lot better.  The ceiling and the walls have finally been painted.  If the painters keep up the pace, the class should be able to get back in the gym by next week.  Tough and Talky have been getting on my nerves because they won't stay in the Park Kids program, nor will they rehearse properly for the Black History Month show coming up soon.  Marine, Curly, and Angel have been allowed to go into the fitness center, but they spend most of their time talking and playing around.  I do more of a workout in that room than they do.

Steve, the supervisor and myself attended a meeting of boxing coaches where Tommy promised that the new boxing equipment for LaFollette should arrive in a few weeks.  I set a date for the field house's boxing show -- August 20th.  I figure that should give me a little more time to get the kids prepared for that.

However, the Chicago City Wide boxing show (formerly named after boxer Tony Zale) is happening in April, less than two months away. Steve encouraged me to get some kids involved with that.  The truth is that right now, I don't have anybody who will be ready for that.  A lot of training time was lost due to the gym being painted.  When I'm able to get back in there again, it's going to be like started all over with the existing kids.

A lot of the kids who haven't signed up for the program, and seem to have an aversion to doing so, keep asking me when the gym will be reopened.  One kid had the nerve to ask me had I quit because the gym hasn't been opened.  Why in the heck would I be hanging around at a place where I had quit?  Common sense ain't common, because all humans don't have it.  I got news for the ones who continue to think there is open gym -- they're all getting thrown out as soon as they hit the door.  No more showing up just to play around or to "try it out".

Solved a mystery concerning the kids signed up for my class who came via that neighborhood organization.  They showed up today, and I expressed concern to their chaperon about the kids only showing up once a week or not at all.  I was told they only can be there two days a week because they have other activities.  I wondered why I hadn't been told that up front.  I already have problems with that from the kids who regularly hang around the field house!  Boxing involves building one skill on top of another.  Kids who are not consistent with training can't hope to build those skills up and be decent fighters.  Inconsistency also makes it hard to build a strong boxing program, which I am trying to do.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Back At The Home Park

John and Vachel face off against each other during sparring in the above photo.  I visited Loyola Park to see Alan and everyone, as well as to get a workout in.  Igor was there too.  "Back from vacation?" he asked.  "No vacation," I replied.  Apparently, the man doesn't know I coach at LaFollette Park.  I didn't bother to explain it to him.

Outside of John and Vachel, the only other familiar face was Alicia.  She told me she didn't attend the fall session, but had come back for the winter session.  She's lost more weight, and she looks good.

I could have gotten some sparring in with Vachel, but I had left my mouth piece at home.  In between working out, I watched the sparring sessions.  Alan's got some good people in the gym.  A couple of guys have very fast hands and are aggressive in the ring.

I overheard one guy, Nathan, tell Alan he had to get permission from his wife to spar.  Basically, he explained to me that his wife didn't want him getting hurt, nor did she want to deal with any surprises.

Alan told me he currently doesn't have anyone looking to compete in the Chicago Golden Gloves.  Now I don't feel so bad since I don't have any contenders for the Gloves, either.  My biggest concern right now is the painting job going on in LaFollette's boxing gym.  Some of the youths have disappeared because that gym has been unusable for the past couple of weeks.  Hopefully, this will be the last week the youths and I will be inconvenienced.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Keeping Up With The Kids

Tough, Talky, Marine, and Angel were in the building, but we missed each other.  Assuming that none showed up for boxing, I spent time down in the boxing storage room, then up in the boys' gym watching basketball.  Tough and Talky were in gymnastics class.  Tough grumbled about the gym being closed again, but I don't know why.  Tough could be a good fighter, but she doesn't have a lot of interest in building her skills.  Talky just wants to hang around in the gym.

Marine and Angel could have gone to the fitness center.  I would have had to stay in there with them, but that was their option.  I ended up going in there later on, and I got 20 minutes in on a stationary bike.  I've come to the conclusion that I need to start weight training again, too.  I not only have to keep up on my boxing skills, but I need the extra energy to deal with the kids.

A fitness instructor at LaFollette Park is at least ten years older than I, but he's in good shape.  He explained to me and one of his students that movement is the key.  "A lot of people observe their parents and grandparents telling themselves 'I'm old' when they reach their 40s and 50s.  The kids see that and follow in their footsteps when they get that age -- they start sitting down a lot and talking about what they supposedly can't do anymore," he told us.   My late dad appeared to be an old man when he was in his thirties. When I was in my teens and twenties, I faulted Dad for always laying around and sleeping during most of his down time.  I understand now that Dad was tired a lot due to his job.   But Dad also had health conditions that he didn't take care of very well.  Before I was born, Dad played football and was quite athletic.  But Dad didn't keep up an exercise routine after football days were over.

I remember one of my aunts telling me she has friends who are always moaning and groaning about health woes.  "I love my friends, but I don't want to look or feel like them as I get older," she told me.  My aunt eats properly and exercises and she looks good.  She's in her early seventies.  Like my aunt, and the fitness instructor, I want to be able to move around and feel good as long as I can.  Therefore, I need to step up my fitness routine.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Gym Down

This is a shot of the girls' basketball gym at LaFollette Park.  The boys' gym is on the other side.  Once again, the kids in my boxing class had to be in there to participate in Park Kids instead.  Park Kids is an open activity program.

 This is what the boxing gym currently looks like.  Notice the ladder next to the ring, and white patches of white paint on the wall, plus a scaffold.  Look closely enough, and some debris on the canvas can be seen.

Tell me something  -- does this look like much work has been done?  The ceiling looks as if some painting has been done, but not much else has been accomplished.  It's going on three weeks, and this is about as much progress as I have seen.  However, I keep noticing extra folding chairs appearing in the gym, empty water bottles, and empty food wrappers.  I can never catch the painters to put a fire underneath them because by the time I get to work, they're gone for the day.

I'm tired of hearing Tough whine, "Again?" every day when she learns we can't use the gym.  It's not like she and her sister Talky don't have options, the Park Kids program being one of them.  But those two don't want to participate in the Park Kids activities ninety percent of the time.  They grumble about not wanting to be around some staff persons who run those programs.  "They want us to do too much," Talky told me.  I know the real reason is that Tough and Talky want to have their way all the time and other staff members won't put up with them doing that.  Those two get irritated with me when I expect cooperation and order.  I gave up on their brother T1.  Every time I see him, he's in the boys' basketball gym where he obviously prefers to stay.

Marine and Angel, pictured here, seriously need to start showing up at the time the teen boxing class begins.  They keep coming in for the 12 and under class.  While the younger kids have been able to get plugged into other activities while the boxing gym is down, Marine and Angel have nothing to do. In this photo, they're hanging out on a bench in the field house lobby.  The weekdays are basically a loss for awhile, but if they would show up on the weekends -- when there are less younger kids around to be a distraction -- I could figure out something.  Nay-Nay has been showing up regularly on the weekends, and it would be good for her to have others her age around to do the boxing workout even if we have to be in the auditorium.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Fighting For Support

The basketballs went "swoosh" into the hoops as the boys first ran drills, then played a few games.  Nay-Nay was my only boxing student that day, and she had finished her lessons.  In order to kill some time before my shift ended, I had gone up to one of the two basketball gyms inside LaFollette Park field house.  As I watched the boys who were playing as well as the ones who were waiting their turn on the court, I wondered why few of the kids in my class had the same enthusiasm.

There were a few parents watching basketball from the bleachers.  The football and basketball teams have a lot of parental support.  My program currently does not.  From what I've heard from other boxing coaches, the main problem they have with parents is the difficulty in getting them on board to back up their kids' participation in the sport.  Sooner or later, I will have to plan a fundraiser to cover something the Chicago Park District may not be able to cover, such as piece of boxing equipment or a road trip to a competition.  I appreciate the few parents who do come around to the gym and show interest in their kids' training.  However, I'm going to need more than two or three parents who are willing to help out the boxing program.

I often feel like sarcastically telling some of the kids who grumble about being bored in my class, "Oh, I'm so sorry there's no ball to throw, hit, or kick."  Boxing takes a different focus.  There is no team, really, so there's no passing off a ball to someone else in the hopes of getting points.  Repeatedly, I tell the kids that once they step into the ring, they are on their own.  They have to do a lot of preparation before a fight.  But I don't think that message is being heard.

That is why I appreciate a kid like Nay-Nay.  She comes in, suits up, and does what is needed to do to get good in boxing.  We talked about competitions, and she is game for them.  Also, her mom really likes that her daughter is involved in boxing.  If only I had a gym full of kids like that.  My life would be a lot easier and the program would be a dream to run.  I want the boxing program to be successful. But often, I feel like I'm beating my head against a brick.

Several kids and staff members have asked me where Princess has been.  Her mom told me a few weeks ago they were going to move out of the area, and perhaps they have already gone.  Princess will probably end up participating in activities at another field house somewhere.  God help the staff members there who will have to deal with her.