Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hard-Headed Kids

It was several days ago when Daniya and I were once again, the only two in the gym.  Terrianna, who is no longer in the class, rolled into the gym.  She attempted to interrupt a conversation between Daniya and I.  When I would not engage her, Terrianna left the gym.

Another time Terrianna came in, no one had shown up for the teen class.  I had to get something out of the storage room.  Terrianna followed me, and I knew she had the idea of going in the storage room.  It's not like she hadn't seen the room or its contents before.  She stood there, waiting for me to invite her in.  But I had no time for her to go inside and starting playing around with the equipment.  I quickly got what I needed, and locked the door before she could get a foot inside.  I went and sat down back in the gym, waiting for whomever might show up.  Terrianna started in with her usual barrage of questions, most of which she has asked before and received the answers.  I showed a major disinterest in having a conversation.  It took a long while for her to get the hint before she finally left.

Later that day, Earl, one of the fitness instructors, asked could he bring his class in to cool down.  Since none of the teens had shown up for boxing, I told him he could.  Terrianna was walking right with Earl's class, and giving me looks as she circled the gym.  Let me explain that Earl's fitness class is for adults only.  Terrianna probably figured walking in with them would give her a legitimate reason to be in the gym.

My late parents would refer to Terrianna as being a hard-headed child.  She knows she's not supposed to be in the gym because she no longer has her mother's permission to be in the program.  Her brother Terrance and her sister Te'Ria are in the same position, and they keep showing up, too.  But there's a big defiance behind Terrianna's behavior that irritates me the most.  When she's in the gym, she's always looking for attention.  The more focused I am on working with the kids who are actually signed up for the program, the more it seems she doubles her efforts to distract me.

"Wow, Hillari, why the attitude?  The kid's not really doing anything that bad," some of you might be saying.  Terrianna spent a couple of sessions in the program and she basically did nothing.  I quickly grew tired of getting her to focus on training.  I spent too much time snapping at her to stop acting up.  Terrianna has an annoying habit of touching things that don't belong to her, like my lunch, and the attendance book, for example.  No matter how many times I point out how rude it is to put her hands on something that she was NOT given permission to touch, she does it anyway.  She clearly has no interest in boxing, yet she wants to keep playing in the gym.  It's not a playground. There is one in the back of the field house, and she needs to go there when she wants to play.  Or better yet, she needs to find another activity to get involved in; the field house has plenty.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Limping Around The Gym

My left knee hurt so bad yesterday that I took off work.  Ever so often, my arthritis flares up.  My knee was swollen and extremely tender.  It wasn't any better today, but I limped into the gym.

Two new kids signed up for the teen class.  One kid's mom explained, "My son is more of a homebody.  My son is not a street kid."  Her son has been experiencing some bullying, and he'll be going to high school in the fall.  She wants her son to be able to stand up to anyone who approaches him in the wrong way.

I was waiting on the second kid, Jeremiah, to tell me he was 17 years old.  "I'm twelve," Jeremiah said.  The kid is over six feet tall.  I asked him his age a couple of times because I couldn't believe it.  What are people feeding these kids today?

I was in the middle of closing up when Coach James told me that two guys in his baseball program -- a couple of cousins -- wanted to spar with each other.  One cousin had been bragging about being able to knock the other one out.  One of the cousins was Anthony, who is signed up for boxing, but, you guessed it, too busy playing ball to train in the gym.  Anthony was dead tired after only one two-minute round.  Neither boy was throwing decent punches, and a few times, both fell out of the ring and out of their shoes.  Lucky for them, the ring is on the floor and not up off of the ground.

Daniya was the only person who showed up to the 8-to-12 year olds' class.  Her sister had gymnastics class to attend.  "I saw Angelique upstairs," Daniya told me.  Angelique had promised to return to the gym on a regular basis, but she hasn't done so yet.  She didn't come in today.  Daniya needs someone to work with, especially where sparring is concerned.  I'm worried about her not being able to get enough sparring time, and also if I'll be able to find someone for her to fight with at our boxing show in July.

I limped home after work.  A guy saw me struggling to get up the street.  "Are you okay?" he asked.  "I'll be fine.  I have arthritis in my knees," I answered.  A couple of night ago, a young man helped me get down the 'L platform by offering his arm to me.   I appreciated the help, but it just further pointed out that I seem to have turned into a little old lady.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

First Names Only

Once again, just like when I first writing this blog over a decade ago, I find myself running out of nicknames to describe the people in and out of the gym.  So from here on in, I'm using first names.  But I won't be posting very many pictures of the youths.  Now I'm a coach, I don't really have time to snap photos like I used to do.  There's a lot going on in the gym on most days.

Shaniya and Danyai sparred, but Shaniya was not into it at all.  She let her older sister get in a lot of hits.  She seldom threw back any punches at all, despite of me encouraging her to do so.  After a couple of rounds, I pulled Shaniya out and put Star in.  Star took a hit to her nose and started crying.  "I'm alright," she sniffed in the corner before going off to the washroom.  Later, she told me her nose was bleeding.  "Why didn't you tell me?  I've got a little first aid kit in the storage room!" I said.

Late in the class, Kody, Kyle, DeShaun, Keywon, and Jacquez showed up.  Of those five boys, Kody is the most serious about the sport.  Unfortunately, Kody only displays that seriousness when the other boys don't show up.  It wasn't long before gloves and hand wraps were being thrown around, the ropes around the ring were being leaned on, and the boys were wrestling instead of boxing.  "Why don't you all watch some boxing matches instead of watching WWE and UFC?  None of the moves in professional wrestling nor mixed martial arts can be done in boxing," I pointed out.  Kyle said, "I watched a boxing match, but I got bored."

Bored?  Really?  I began to wonder why Kyle, and some of the other kids had signed up for a sport that they don't seem to have much interest in.  Now I understand why some coaches grumble about wasting their time training some people.  "We've got a boxing show here in July.  The way people train is going to show up during a real fight.  The kids at the other boxing gyms don't play while training, but I keep seeing that going on in here," I warned for the umpteenth time.  The boys continued to goof off.  Fortunately, they left early.

Arthur and Tyren came in for the teen class and went through the workout.  I wish I had more like them in the kids' class.  They come in, do their workout, and work well together when they spar.  I never have to raise my voice when they are there.  There are seven kids in the teen class; Kyle and DeShaun are supposed to be in that class, but they show up during the last half-hour or so of the kids' class. But then, I can't see Kyle or DeShaun being well-matched up with Arthur and Tyren, especially when it comes to sparring.  Anthony would be a better fit, but he came in too early, then didn't stick around for the teen class to start.

When the summer session starts in June, I won't keep making accommodations for kids who are involved in other sports and activities.  Boxing is an all in sport, and those who sign up for it are going to have to deal with that.  The time changes of the youth classes, due to the adult class starting, will hopefully force youths to be on time, be prepared, or be left out.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Parents In The Boxing Gym

I know a few boxing coaches who believe parents and guardians are distractions who should never be allowed within 15 feet of a boxing gym.  It's true that boxing gyms attract a lot of people with opinions that don't need to be heard, and some parents and guardians fall into that category.

The welcome mat is out at my gym for parents/guardians, but I'm aware that boundaries have to be set.  There are established rules and set routines that parents/guardians have to respect.  I don't mind if someone shows up to the gym to help their kid with the workout -- for example, Rocky does just that -- if they know what they are talking about.  Rocky had boxed before, so he gives his son solid advice.  That is a great help to me during class.

But there will always be the helicopter parents/guardians who feel that should have a say in everything that goes on.  Coaches only have two options in that situation.  They can be diplomatic, point out their coaching qualifications, and emphasize the importance of the child only listening to one voice in the gym.  Or, they can be blunt and say, "Yes, I do mind that my class is being interfered with." The approach will depend a lot on the parents/guardians' attitude and the extent of the interference in gym activities.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Making The Gym Uncomfortable

Shah and Dani had just walked into the gym when Ken waltzed in with two kids smaller than he.  I put Ken and his pals out.  None of them are signed up for the boxing program.  Later, some girl followed the older boys in the gym.  I went to get mouth pieces for the boys who didn't have any.  She had the nerve to say, "I want one, too!"  I cut her off by telling her she's not signed up.

The best was was TI showed up asking to sign up for the class.  He and sisters have moved, but apparently, not far enough out of the neighborhood.  "My mama can sign.  . .she's upstairs!" he said.  I relished being able to tell him that the 8 to 12 year old class is full.

One of the things coaches can do is not to make the gym welcoming to those who just want a place to hang out.  This goes for both kids and adults who aren't signed up but are habitually lounging in the gym.  Private boxing gyms don't deal with this very much because no one is allowed inside unless they are member.  Municipal boxing gyms, like the ones in the Chicago Park District system, are prey to anyone who wants to walk in.  The result is usually disruption of the class routine.

Limit the amount of chairs.  I keep one chair out for myself.  Sometimes, I have another chair placed near the equipment table for a parent who may decide to sit in on the class.  But that's it.  Refrain from having enough chairs to seat a small audience.  Do the same for any tables in the gym, too.  Ideally, the only table should be the equipment table.

Only set out enough equipment for the amount of participants the class can hold or the amount of people expected in the gym that day based on observation.  The less gloves, headgear, etc., for those who aren't in the class to grab, the better.  When class is over, put the equipment up as soon as possible.

Embarrass people.  Channel the phrases your parents used to tell you when they were irritated.  I have developed a new phrase:  "Am I talking to the air?" Today, I had to snap on a kid three times about pulling on the ring ropes (which I had just recently tightened up).  I talked as loud as I could.  The kid finally got the hint, and left the gym shortly afterwards.  Keep a sharp eye out for people touching the equipment who shouldn't be doing so, and call them on it.

Keep the doors locked.  Don't open the gym doors until five minutes before class, and close the doors right after class is over.

Discourage visitors.  I remember guys showing up every week with their girlfriend of the week.  Others would show up with their own personal entourages to cheer them on while they sparred.  This is not a good scenario when visitors end up in the way of the people who are actually working out.  Consider how much space there is in the gym.  If the "guests" keep showing up regularly, remove the welcome mat.

Watch who is walking in.  Greet whomever comes to the door.  After all, they may be legitimately interested in the class.  Being swift to acknowledge someone will also put off a lot of the ones who just want to roam around and do who knows what.  Remember, stuff like gloves and hand wraps can disappear easily.  Also, it lets people know who the boss is in the gym.  It may discourage those who just want to get a few in on the heavy bags or jump around in the ring.

Have any other suggestions to keep order in the gym?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sparring Time at Loyola Park

I decided to visit Loyola Park, and it was packed with new people.  The only old faces there were John, Jesus, Jason, and Genience.  I didn't get to hit any of the equipment, but I got a lot of shadow boxing in.

Alan asked me if I wanted to spar.  I was game, despite of the fact I didn't have a mouth guard with me.  I ended up sparring with two new women to the gym.  The two rounds with the first woman went fine.  She got some good hits in on me; I was going light.  The second round with the second woman ended abruptly when her right shoulder wouldn't stop hurting.  Upon a closer look, it appeared that her shoulder had moved out of its socket.  "This has never happened to me before," she told Alan.  Alan strongly suggested that she see a doctor as soon as possible.

Then I got inside the ring with Genience.  She hadn't been in the gym in awhile according to Alan.  She hadn't lost any of her form or power, however.  I took many knocks to my head and jaw.  Luckily, we only went one round.  I had become worn out.

Now that the weather is becoming warmer, I'm going to show up at Loyola Park more often.  I'll be able to get in a workout, something that I don't always get to do at LaFollette Park these days.  Plus, it's always nice to go back to the home park.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Needing Help, But Having To Follow Rules

The above photo is of the gym routine I have written on the bulletin board.  Despite the fact that the routine is up, I still get asked, "What do we do next?"  Self-motivation is not is big supply at the gym.  I'm at a loss as to what to do to make people responsible for their own workouts.  The fact that a boxing show is coming up soon doesn't seem to be much of an incentive to get people to move instead of standing around.

I have some more help in the form of Rocky, who is the father of Kis, a new boy in the gym.  But it may lead to a sticky situation.  Rocky loves boxing; he used to box as a teen, but an eye injury prevents him from doing it now.  He would like to get a coaches' license.  It's fine that Rocky works with his kid and another new kid, his cousin Ram, while they are in the gym.  But it may not be cool for Rocky to work with the other kids since Rocky is not an official volunteer.  Rocky would be great continued help in the gym.  But the Chicago Park District is very strict about whom they allow around kids, and with good reason.  I'll talk to Rocky about filling out a volunteers' application.

The 12 years and under class is full as of today.  I have four in the teen class, but spotty attendance and a lack of motivation in training remains a problem.  DS and KY have hardly been in the gym this past week.  Yet, I found them swimming in the pool today.  Angel keeps telling me she wants to fight, but she's been in on and off as well.

I went to the Golden Gloves Tournament last night, and found myself sitting next to Tiffany.  She had competed in and won the Gloves.  "Boxing is not the same as it was several years ago," she said.  She was right on a lot of levels.  The vibe at the Gloves has been different ever since it stopped being held at St. Andrews' Gym.  Illinois amateur boxing is still under the rule of Wisconsin for the moment.  Many private gyms that used to focus exclusively on boxing have had to offer MMA classes in order to stay afloat financially.  The number of venues where fighters can do their trade have gone down.  Boxing programs in some of the field houses in the Chicago Park District lay dormant for a lack of coaches, while other amateur boxing programs have been cut.  I wish there were clear answers to get things on track.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Where Is My Star?

DS, Ky, and KB decided to show up to the gym after being missing for a few weeks.  DS kept wanting to spar, but DS had a cracked thumb due to a basketball injury.  "I'm not going to let you spar with your thumb like that," I told DS.  "But I don't even feel it," he said, after putting on a pair of sparring gloves.  "I'm not going to keep arguing with you about it, DS.  A hand injury is a hand injury!" I snapped.  His aunt came to the gym, and she backed me up.  "The doctor told DS to wait three weeks," she said.

Angel finally signed up again, but there has been no sign of Marine and his brother Curly.  Angel showed up to the gym the other day with a male friend, and I wondered if her new friend is why Marine hasn't been around.

I guess I can do a happy, happy, joy, joy dance.  Tough, Talky, and T1 moved out of the neighborhood this week.  It appears they won't be back.

DJ, the only person I had in the Chicago City-Wide Boxing Tournament, continues to be a no show.  The tournament began a couple of days ago, and I believe it's already over.  Some new kids have joined the gym, so that softens the blow a little.  Yet I'm concerned that there won't be a breakout "star" emerging once the park district boxing shows begin.  Every park that has a boxing gym seems to have a least one.  Back in the day, Montrell was the star at Loyola Park.  Ed B. was the star at Garfield Park.

However, the problem at LaFollette Park continues to be kids who are in love with idea of fighting, but who don't want to take it seriously enough to learn how to do it right.  I keep having visions of all of the kids who might participate in our boxing show in July losing all of their matches.  I hope that scenario doesn't come true.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

That Time Of The Month

I was very sick yesterday, but I hobbled to work anyway.  My right shoulder, my left hip, my lower back, and both of my knees were hurting.  On top of that I had caught another cold, the second in a couple of weeks.  Luckily, the classes were lightly attended.  Only three girls showed up for the first class, and Nay-Nay was a no-show for the second class.

Perhaps it was my illness that gave me the idea to consider buying a pack of sanitary napkins to keep in the gym.  I let the girls know that if they ever were feeling out of sorts due to that time of the month, I wouldn't push them to do the workout.  Also, I don't remember seeing any sanitary products dispensers in any of the women's washrooms at LaFollette Park.

I'm assuming that most male boxing coaches have not considered the effects of the menstrual cycle on exercise and/or don't want to deal with or talk about it.  I used to tell Alan at Loyola Park when menopause was bothering me, but he understood because he has a wife who had already experienced that.  Being a female boxing coach, I'm going to have to deal with that issue with female fighters in my class, so I need to be prepared for it.

Exercise, especially the strenuous type, can have an effect on the menstrual cycle.  For example, a female could miss a period because of it.  It happened to me twice before menopause hit, and after I ruled out other factors, I relaxed.  But some doctors believe missing a period due to heavy exercise, if it happens frequency, could have a negative effect on a woman's health.   For example, some medical professionals believe too many missed periods could be a factor in women developing osteoporosis.  Exercise is important, but all have to exercise smart to avoid injuries and complications.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The All Girl Gym

There's a side door right up a short flight up steps from the gym.  I'm assuming that's how a guy got into the field house and wandered into the gym the other day.  Shah and Dani were in the middle of their warm up when they saw the guy go into the women's washroom.  I became concerned because I thought Angel was in there (she wasn't).  None of the boys came in at all.

"Hey, man. . .the men's washroom is on the other side of the gym," I said when I walked into the washroom.  "Uh, I just couldn't make it over there in time," was the reply.  "Next time, other side," I curtly said before walking out.  A few moments later, the guy roamed through the gym and went into the men's washroom.  I noticed that the guy was looking a little too long at Shah and Dani, who are 11 and 12 years of age.  When the guy came back out, the staring at the girls continued.

"Will I have to put my hands on someone today?" I thought to myself as the guy approached me.  He asked a question about when boxing class takes place.  I quickly informed him there was no adult class at the moment, and then gave him a look indicating that our conversation was over.

The next time in the gym, Dani came in, but her sister Shah did not.  Star, a new student, came in.  Once again, no boys came in to train.  I sort of left Dani to her own devices, except when we did pad work.  I went over footwork, head movement, and jabs and rights with Star.  Later, I answered both girls questions about the upcoming park district boxing shows.  I'm not sure if any of the girls want to compete.  Star gave me the impression that she doesn't want to spar.  I already promised the girls' moms that their daughter do not have to spar if they don't want to do so.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm showing the few kids who show up to the gym the same things over and over.  The truth is, boxing can be "the same old, same old" at times.  I see that more now that I'm a coach.  The workouts don't have to be the same each time, but it's hard to mix things up without having all the equipment that is needed.  Youths need to be kept busy and engaged regardless of the activity in which they are involved.  Hopefully, I'll get more of what I need soon.