Sunday, March 29, 2015

Structure In The Gym

Shah and Dani came in on Saturday, and I was glad to see them.  I sure wish I had more kids like them in the gym.  They have been showing up mostly every day, they follow the gym routine, and their parents are interested in them participating in the program.  Best of all, neither of the girls are discipline problems.  I was able to get them to do a little light sparring.  Hopefully, they'll want to spar again next week.

It took awhile for me to figure it out, but the youths need structure in the gym.  Finally, I have a written gym routine on the bulletin board.  Some kids, unfortunately, are dead set against following what has been set in place.  Those are the kids who I have make phone calls to their parents along the lines of, "I don't think boxing is a good fit for your kid."

LJ and his brother Marq came in the gym and got yet another registration form.  I've grown weary of them telling me they want to learn how to box, but not following through.  Shah and Dani are their cousins, and LJ was teasing them.

Suddenly, LJ turned on Marine, declaring several times, "I want to fight you!" Marine was wary, but he didn't snap back on LJ.  I watched the scene closely in case it got heated.  It is so hard to get most of the kids to stop equating boxing with street-fighting.  I believe that LJ has some talent, but I've got to get his mind right.  That is, if LJ ever commits himself to actually sign up for the gym.

The adult class, when it begins this summer, will be easier to run.  Once adults are shown the basics, then it is up to them what they want to get out of the workout.  In other words, I can leave them to their own devices for the most part. There's less hand-holding when it comes to adults.

No word yet on when the new ring will be installed, nor whether I'll get the heavy bag stands I need.  If I had thought when I initially put in an order for equipment, I would have requested a Bob the boxing bag (shown in the photo above). Questions about putting another Cobra bag in the gym come up, mainly from the kids who misused and broke the last bag.  Bob will be a better substitute, I believe, and it'll be harder to destroy.  Eventually I will get one in the gym, but I'll have to push for it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Solved Mystery

The other day, I arrived at the gym to find the only new equipment that was left was the pieces of the new ring that will be installed.  The other equipment -- gloves, mouth pieces, etc. -- was gone.  I assumed that Tommy had taken it on to other gyms that had also ordered equipment.  Come to find out that staff at LaFollette had moved it into another room, locked it, and forgot to tell me.  So I was able to pull out the rest of the equipment I needed.  I'm still waiting on stands to put up the light and heavy bags, however.

Lo, and behold, here comes Talky, Tough, and their brother TI.  They are moving soon, but will remain in the neighborhood.  "After we move, we'll only be able to come to the gym on Saturdays," Talky informed me.  None of them train as it is, and showing up once a week certainly isn't going help them learn the sport properly.  TI was very interested in the list of park district boxing shows that I have posted up.  However, I have no plans to put TI in any of the boxing shows unless TI takes training seriously.

Tough has an annoying habit of "helping" whenever new kids arrive in the gym.  I have two new girls, one eleven, and one twelve.  While I was given them an orientation, Tough was also giving instructions as if she was the coach.  However, since she hardly trains and doesn't show up to the gym half the time, she not qualified to give out information.  After a few times of me telling her "excuse me, I'm talking", and then me straight out ignoring her, she finally got the hint and shut up.

Tough claimed that I never showed her how to do an overhand right.  I corrected her real fast, pointing out that I showed her and Talky how to do that a long time ago.  I also told her that if she would have trained consistently, she would not have forgotten how to do it.

Angel has become a good help to me in the gym.   She's also harder on the kids who consistently play around than I am.  When those kids give her an attitude, I back Angel up.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, Angel is correct.

I also have backup from Coach J, the football/basketball/baseball coach.  He came in the gym the other day to sign up another new kid for the spring session, 14 year old TR.  Coach J walked in the gym just as some of the kids were acting up and showing out.  He told me in front of them, "Any of these kids get out of line, send them to me."

TR just might be a good prospect.  He told me, "I can't wait to box."  We went over the basic stance, and jabs and rights.  I'm beginning to see more kids like him who come in the gym and actually want to learn.  If I had classes full of youths like that, it might be easier to nullify the few kids who don't or refuse to have the dedication.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday South Side Sparring

My day started very early with the long ride out to LaFollette Park on the far west side to pick up Marine.  However, I steeled myself for something going wrong, and it did.  Marine had over a week to ask his parents could he go to a sparring session at Davis Square Park.  He waited to ask them this morning, and they told him no.  I'm assuming that his brother Curly wouldn't been able to go either mostly because of an injury Curly had at school a few days ago.

I pushed my irritation aside and made another long trip out to the south side where Davis Square Park is located.  I planned to go out there regardless if I had no fighters with me.  That's one of the field houses with a boxing program that I had not visited before.  Fortunately, the trains and buses were moving along at a good place.  I got there in good time.  Eddie, who is the boxing coach there, was still setting up as people came in.  In addition to his fighters, Simons Park and Fuller Park were represented.  I learned that Humboldt Park and Portage Park aren't the only two places that need a boxing coach.  It appears there is no coach currently at Seward Park, either.  "These coaches have to be patient," Marty, the Simons Park coach, told me.  "Things aren't going to happen overnight."

Angel came in with her step dad, her little sister, and her grandparents.  It looked as if she was not going to have anyone to spar with, as there were no other female boxers available.  Lucky for us, one of the teenage boys agreed to spar with her.  I gave Angel the best advice I could give, but I see where we need to work on the delivery of her punches and her footwork.  Her opponent was not hitting her as hard as he could have, but he wasn't letting her catch him often.

Marty and Eddie both gave me an idea to have a similar type of sparring show at LaFollette Park.  The field house is not open on Sundays, but I could possibly have something on a Friday or Saturday.  There is also the possibility of having a female only sparring session to help out the girls and women who may not be getting enough sparring practice elsewhere, and even less chances to have regular fights.  It's something for me to work on.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday With Nay-Nay

The first full day of spring acted like winter, which is the usual in Chicago.  I expected another slow Saturday filled with no shows. The 12 years and under class went empty.  But Nay-Nay showed up for the teen class.

She was impressed with the new equipment that came in.  I'm still in need of new bag gloves as well as stands to hang the heavy bags, speed bag, and double-end bag, but I'm happy to work with what I've received so far.  I pulled out a pair of new punch mitts and put on the new body protector so Nay-Nay could practice some punches.

Then we did some light sparring.  Neither one of us had mouth pieces, but we did use a couple of the new headgear that came in.  The one I had on really needed to be broken in.  It was as tight as a vice on my head.  Nay-Nay and I threw very light punches, but I should have encouraged her to put a little more force on them.  She's good at defense.  Most of my jabs and rights were tapped down as soon as they came out.  But I have to encourage her to throw more punches to answer those being thrown back at her.

It's always a pleasant time working with Nay-Nay when she comes to the gym. She shows up ready to train, which is not the case with some of the other youths who are signed up.  DJ was a no-show again, despite the fact that the City-Wide Boxing Tournament is approaching quickly.  I have a feeling that DJ is planning to rely on street fighting skills to win a trophy instead of boxing training.

The park district boxing show schedule has come out, and LaFollette Park will host the first show of the season on the second of July.  I told the youths they've got three months to train.  Marine told me he can do that show, but due to a family vacation, neither he nor his brother Curly will be able to participate in most of the other shows until early fall.  Because of sporadic attendance and lack of attention to training, most of the other kids will not be ready to participate in the boxing shows.  There's also no guarantee that any of the adults who will sign up for the summer session will want to compete.  Plus, there's the pressure on me, as a new coach in a re-started program, to put on a good boxing show.  This will be interesting.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Laying Down The Law and Calling The Law

Tough and Talky showed up late as usual to the gym.  Marine had already done half of the workout, and then he and I worked with the punch mitts.  I used the new punch mitts that I had ordered.

Luckily, I went through the boxes of new equipment yesterday and took out the stuff I remembered that I had ordered.  Today, the only boxes in the gym were those that contained parts for the new ring.  If I hadn't taken my other stuff out, it might have been mistakenly given to another gym.

Tough and Talky were goofing off, like they always do.  The both of them kept talking to me while I was holding the punch mitts for Marine.  I missed answering one of his punches.  Luckily, the punch didn't get me in the face.  "Talky, you made me miss.  Do NOT talk to me while I am in this ring working with someone.  How many times do I have to keep repeating that?" I snapped.  Then Tough decided she wanted to work on the punch mitts.  But according to the gym routine outlined on the bulletin board, she hadn't done any shadowboxing (which comes before punch mitts work).

She claimed she had done shadowboxing, but she did not.  She aimlessly walking around swinging her hands in an unfocused manner.  "Four to five rounds of shadowboxing takes twelve to fifteen minutes at three minutes a round.  Tough, what you have been doing is not shadowboxing.  If you don't remember how to do it,  your next question to me should be, 'Miss Hillari, how do I shadowbox?' " I told her.  Instead of asking for help, which I would have gladly given, she decided to do what she wanted to do, which was basically nothing.

But you see, I can be a stubborn little chick, too.  I kept working with Marine, and I ignored Tough.  When she figured out that she couldn't give me orders, she finally gave up and left the gym.  Later, Talky told me that their family was moving in a few weeks.  Maybe that's why their mother didn't say too much when I reminded her about signing her kids up for the spring session.  It's not good to lose kids out of the program, especially since I'm still trying to get it up and running.  But I won't miss T1's disrespect, nor Tough and Talky's disinterest in the sport.

Another one of the girls in the boxing class was assaulted just outside of the field house.  She was asked for her number by a guy, and when she refused, she was grabbed and slapped.  Her mom remained at the field house to wait for the police, and I walked the girl home (she doesn't live that far from LaFollette Park).  Summer hasn't started yet, but already some of the more unpleasant aspects of the season have begun.  I wish I had seen the assault because I would have put a stop to it with a quickness.  It is suspected that whoever hit her is someone who hangs around the field house on a regular basis.  This attitude that some boys and men have that women who refuse their advances should be punished has got to stop.  I hope they catch the guy soon and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

Monday, March 16, 2015

No Shows and Brand New Stuff

The kid who signed up for the Chicago City-Wide Boxing tournament has been a no-show so far.  I understand that DJ has a habit of fighting in the street.  The football/baseball/basketball coach steered the kid towards the tournament as a way of channeling the boy's habits into positive ones.  But so far, I haven't seen the kid, and time is flying by.  Marine, Curly, and Angel may possibly have another opportunity to enter the tournament.  An extra day may be added for weigh-ins, but DJ is the only fighter I have in the tournament as of now.

I've probably repeated this before, but I'm tired of the lack of motivation coming from kids who claim they want to box.  It's like dealing with brides who are in love with the idea of wedding ceremonies, but who have no interest in doing the hard work needed to sustain a marriage.

I opened the boxes that contain the new equipment, with Tough and Talky asking non-stop questions.  At first, I wasn't happy about having to lock equipment up every day.  But now that I've seen the new equipment, I'm glad to put everything under lock and key.  Also, I can control access to it.  I try to only put enough equipment out based on whom I think will show up to the gym.  Of course, if I miscalculate, I can always go in the storage room and bring out extra.  If not, that leaves less equipment out for the kids (and adults, too) who are not signed up for the gym to mess around with.  Seeing how it took so long to get new equipment in, I want to keep the equipment as nice as possible for as long as I can.

The new ring that was delivered is supposed to be for LaFollette.  I hope the installation of it won't mean another long shut-down of the boxing gym.  It's too close to the upcoming regular park district boxing shows to have another major interruption like that.  I can't afford to lose any more kids out of the program, either.

Well, at least the kids I really want to remain in the program.

Friday, March 13, 2015

One Kid For The Show

I got a ride to the weigh-in for the City-Wide Boxing Tournament, but that ride came too late for Marine and his brother Curly.  Transportation came available later than we all thought it would, and the two boys didn't want to go.  They said something about going to the movies.  I was a bit ticked because I had told the boys for days that the weigh-in was taking place later in the day.  Marine and Curly never seem to be available later in the day, but that's when most of the boxing events take place.  Tommy, the head of the park district's boxing program, told me there would be another weigh-in day scheduled right before the tournament.  If Marine and Curly can't make that one, I have a feeling they may not be able to participate in any of the boxing events.

Angel couldn't go because her little sister was participating in another activity at the field house.  "I thought the weigh-in was going to be here," she said.  I had said all along that the weigh-in would be at a south side field house.  Tough and Talky had a soccer game to play, and gymnastics afterwards.  I wasn't going to allow T1 to go because of his attitude with me last week.  I learned from T1's mom that TI brought home a dismal report card.  Her son may not be able to participate in any park district activities until those grades improve.

I do have one kid in the tournament, a new boxer named DJ.  We don't have much time to train before the tournament takes place, so we have to hustle.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Crossing Lines With Me

T1 crossed a line last week.  After having not been in the gym for weeks because of playing basketball, TI showed up wanting to spar.  T1 sparred with Ja, a new kid, and proceeded to play bully.  There were deliberate actions on T1's part to try and knock Ja out instead of working with him to improve boxing skills.  I have to give Ja credit because he stayed in, even after TI popped him in the face several times.

Curly got into the ring, and T1 really decided to act out.  TI kept backing into the corners and sitting on the ropes.  Then the kid kept sliding and falling to the canvas, but Curly wasn't hitting that hard.  "Come on," Curly finally said in frustration in reaction to T1's actions.  T1 kept laying and/or kneeling on the canvas many times, playing around.  TI started to whine about Curly and make excuses.  I didn't want to hear it. The last time it happened, I told T1, "Either get up off the canvas and spar or get out of the ring.  Those are your choices."

TI got up, snatched his gloves and hand wraps off, threw them to the floor, and stomped out of the gym.  Later, I learned T1 lied on me, saying I kicked him out of the gym.  Curly told me, "I think TI has quit boxing for good."  I wish.  I'm tired of T1 and his sisters' antics.  As far as I'm concerned, T1 is not allowed to enter the upcoming City-Wide Boxing Tournament.  I'm not going to tolerate any attitude problems.  I've long been tired of T1 trying to give orders in the gym.

I already told Tough and Talky that they need to stay at the field house (or at home) on the day of the weigh-in for the tournament.  Neither one of them wants to fight, but they want to hang out and be disruptive.  I need to focus on the kids who actually want to compete, not play babysitter.  I called the kids' home to try to set a meeting with their mother regarding their behaviors, but I have yet to receive a response.

Talky has an annoying habit of bringing her little friends into the gym and telling them they can box.  Tough does this too, but not as regularly as her sister does. Each time I tell her friends not to touch the equipment and to sign up if they want to train.  Then I tell her friends to leave.  You would think that Talky would be embarrassed in front of her friends for giving them wrong information or least, stop inviting them to the gym.  But that's not the case, so the next time it happens, Talky and I are going have a meeting.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Having To Reschedule and Weed Out

I couldn't get the van, so my fighters and I could not go to the weigh-in for the City-Wide Boxing Tournament.  It's been rescheduled to next week.  To say I was disappointed is an understatement.  Over the past month, there seems to have been one setback after another in the boxing gym.  I thought I could breath a little easier after the painting and wax job was finally done, but that's not the case.

No sign of Tough, Talky, or T1.  All three of them knew they should have shown up yesterday to go to the weigh in (as did Angel and Nay-Nay, who didn't come in, either).  But it's just as well we have to go on another day.  Neither one of them want to fight; Tough and Talky just want to come along for the ride. Tough and Talky are signed up for another activity that regularly meets on the day the weigh-in is rescheduled, so they won't be able to go.    

I put in a phone call to Tough, Talky, and TI's home, but got no answer.  I left a message stating that I need to talk to their mom.  Based on their spotty attendance and performance in the gym, the kids need to identify why they want to be in boxing.  I've have already reached a point where I only want to deal with youths who are willing to make a commitment and put in the work required.  I can't keep starting over from the beginning with youths who show up on and off, nor with the youths who attend more frequently but who play around instead of train.  It's unfair, time-consuming, and disrespectful not only to the other kids who want to learn how to box, but also to me.

That's also the reason why I haven't reached out to the youths associated with that neighborhood community organization.  None of them have shown up for weeks.  I know that the work in the gym threw a lot of people off.  But even before that, those kids were seldom attending the program, and most were not paying attention.  I don't have time for that anymore.  If the workers at that organization come around to sign those youths up again, I'm going to insist that I talk to the parents of those kids first.  Everybody has to be on the same page.

Marine and his brother Curly sparred.  Curly got a bloody nose, and I rushed to wipe his face off.  Both Marine and I pointed out afterwards that Curly had his hands down too much.  But I have to give him credit.  Curly took those hits to the nose like a soldier.  Normally, he would leave the ring, but he stayed in for four rounds.  Those two continue to be my best bet for a good showing at the tournament.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Clearing Out The Gym

One of the teens who hangs around the field house was geared up to join the boxing class.  But disappointment settled in when he learned the time the class meets. Some of the youths can't make it to the classes because it conflicts with something else they're doing, or else, their parents/guardians don't want them away from the house after a certain time.  It happens too often.  The times of the classes will change, but not until summer when an adult boxing class will be added.

I took a suggestion I got from this past weekend's coaches' clinic about asking the kids what they want to get out of boxing.  Marine told me he wants to exercise and perhaps win some fights.  However, when I mentioned the upcoming City Wide Boxing Tournament to Talky, she mentioned again that she doesn't want to fight.  "Then why are you in the class, Talky?" I asked her.  "I don't know," she answered.  See, that's what I don't want to hear.  Against my better judgement, I gave her a registration form for her, her brother T1, and her sister Tough to sign up for the Spring class.  But T1 has long abandoned the class, preferring to play basketball instead.  Tough doesn't spend much time in the class, either.  She's usually too busy running around the field house.  Talky's got a bad habit of bringing other kids into the class and telling them they can put on the gloves and jump around in the ring.

When Talky's friend realized she wasn't going to get to do much unless she signed up, she left.  "Can I call my mama and stay in here if she says so?" Talky's friend asked.  "I need a signed registration form," I replied.  I have to keep repeating that parental permission is needed.  I fail to understand why most of the kids don't get that.

One kid had the nerve to tell me, "I can fill out the form myself."  Then the kid turned around and said they really didn't want to be in boxing.  "Why ask me for a form to sign up for something you don't want to do?" I asked.  Another kid thought because they were signed up for Fall, they were good for the entire year. Those kids got a surprise after they, along with several of their buddies, thought they were going to just going to hang around and play around.  I put everybody out of the gym.

That left me with Marine, and we had a good workout session using the punch mitts.  Marine seems to be my best fighter at the moment.  I just hope Marine gets a fight at the tournament.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Sunday's Test

I was going to go to church when I remembered I needed to attend a boxing coaches' clinic at Oakley Boxing Gym (formerly known as JABB Gym). Traveling via three buses, I arrived just in time for the clinic to start.  Joe and Bob were running the clinic.

There seems to have been a lot of rule changes over the past few years.  USA Boxing and AIBA appear to have tightened up on a lot of things. It's a lot of information to keep up with.  For example, boxers 40 years of age and over are considered to be in the Masters' Division, although those 35 to 39 years of age can still declare themselves to be Masters' boxers.  But if they elect to be in the Elite Division, they can't go back and forth between the two divisions.  The Elite boxers don't use headgear.

I only saw three other women on the premises.  However, only one of them I knew was actually a coach, and that was Jessica.  She works at a private boxing gym.

Barry was there, and he gave me a ride to a train station afterwards, which was very nice of him.  We got a chance to chat.  Percy, who usually runs the glove table at the Golden Gloves was there.  Percy recently had an operation, but he looked fine.  I also noticed Pat sitting in the back of the room.  I figured maybe some other coaches should have been there, but maybe their certification wasn't due yet.  Buying a license is one thing; anyone can do that on line.  But certification is something else altogether.  It has to be done every two years. Without it, coaches won't be able to work their fighters' corners.

Everyone in attendance was given the Level 1 boxing test.  I missed a few questions, but otherwise, I passed it.  A lot of the questions are just common sense, but there are a few tricky questions thrown in.  An updated copy of the rules may be found online.  I'll re-read my old copy from a couple of years ago, then eventually download the new set so I can compare the changes.