Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Tale of Teen Siblings

The photo above is of the new ring that was installed inside LaFollette Park's boxing gym.  Te'Ria asked me, "Where are the steps?"  "It is off of the floor.  Besides, the ceiling is too low for the ring to be too high," I pointed out.  The ropes have been stretched very tight, so I usually just roll into the ring under the bottom rope when I have to get inside.

Shanita and Julius showed up an entire full hour before their class started.  Luckily for them, none of the younger kids showed up for their class time.  The siblings were able to get in two hours and a half of a workout.  As usual, Shanita was the one pumped up to learn, while her brother had to constantly be told to show some more motivation.  There used to be a soap opera parody on TV back in the 1970's called "All That Glitters".  It imagined what the world would look like if women were the shot-callers and men were considered second class citizens because of their gender.  Every time both Shanita and I get on Julius about being focused and training correctly, I feel like I'm in an episode of that show.

You see, Shanita is very much a tomboy, while her brother is the more mild-mannered type.  She is very athletic, a wiry teenager with a lot of energy.  Julius is not fat, but her brother is a little husky.  Julius doesn't give the impression of being very athletic or even rough-and-tumble like some teenage boys act.  However, he does seem to be getting the hang of things better.  During sparring, he caught Shanita in her head and face more than a few times.  For whatever reason, Shanita has been dropping her hands and hanging against the ropes for much of the rounds.  When the 30 second bell rings, then she wants to do some damage.  Julius can't often answer her punches when she puts the pressure on.

I've been having those two hold the punch mitts for each other.  It's impressive to see how fast Shanita picked up on holding the mitts correctly.  Julius needs a little more practice.  When his sister starts throwing heavy punches, Julius is usually not prepared to catch them and do a little push back.   Shanita was admonished by Julius for hitting the mitts too hard.  Then her brother complained to me about "my arms are hurting".  "You've got to be ready for when those punches come in, Julius," I said.

Before the siblings came in, I did about twenty minutes of exercise.  I'm determined to make that a new habit of exercising at least that much time four to five days out of the week.  The medicine I've been taking for my arthritic knees appears to be working, so I'm able to move better.  Plus, I have to be in somewhat decent shape to keep up with the youths, as well as the adults who will be using the gym soon.  Shanita suggested that I spar with her and Julius at some point.  I have to think about it.  But if I do decide to do that, I want to have some stamina.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Good News and Bad News Scenarios

Good news:  The eight-to-twelve year olds' summer boxing class is full.
Bad news:  I've got to tighten up most of those kids quickly for July's boxing show.  The only familiar name I recognize on the attendance list is Kishaun's.

Good news:  The summer teen boxing class has a few more kids.
Bad news:  While Shanita has said she doesn't want to miss any more days of training, her brother Julius still needs some more self-motivation.  The new kids who signed up will have to also be brought up to speed if they are going to compete in the boxing show.

Good news:  I've got a new boxing ring.
Bad news:  It's not bolted to the floor, and it appears some pieces needed to fully complete the installation may not be on hand.

Steve, my boss, is going to set the schedule for the fall session (it has to be done early).  I told him the new hours that have been set for summer will continue on permanently.  He's thinking about setting a fee for the teen boxing class for fall. Early on, I wasn't too sure about doing that.  In light of the fact that I have teens signing up then seldom showing up for class, charging for it no longer seems like a bad idea.  People tend to take things a little more seriously about something if they have to pay for it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Scholarships and An Empty Boxing Gym

I received an email from Tommy, the head of the park district's boxing program.  He told me not to worry about the upcoming boxing show in July because it will be just fine.  But as of right now, I don't have ten youths in order to make ten fights.

There's simply too many other things going on at the field house, and at the schools the youths attend for them to focus solely on boxing.  I've been told that the youths have been encouraged to participate in every sport available.  The main reasoning is that the youths may qualify for sports scholarships when it comes time to go to college.  But let's get real.  I'm betting most of us know people who were good athletes in high school and/or in college.  Did they get sports scholarships?  No, not most of them.  They had to find another way to pay for school.  Even if they did receive a scholarship, it might have only been a partial one.  Did most of them go on to be professional athletes?  No.  In my opinion, youths, particularly our youths of color, need to stop being fed that being a sports star is the only way to success in life.

There are very few boxing scholarships available.  Very few colleges offer boxing programs.  I'm going to tell a kid to go for a scholarship that they have to use their brain to get, not their physicality.  I'm not going to encourage them to take up another sport just to get a scholarship that may not materialize.  I'm not going to tell them to take up another sport, period, because I'd rather not spend most of my work hours sitting in an empty boxing gym.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tardy Program

Sanita came in the gym yesterday.  "Am I on time?" she asked.  She was, but Sanita had already missed too many days, and had been tardy on other days too much for my taste.  Her brother Julius was a no-show again.  None of the other teens showed up so she could not get any sparring in.  Janay would have been good for Sanita to work with, but she was AWOL along with the registration form I gave her two weeks ago.

Indeed, none of the other youths had come in during the week either.  I keep thinking how embarrassing the situation will be if none of them are available for the boxing show in July.  Visions often appear regarding youths not signing up in time for the summer session (the boxing show will take place during that time).  In addition to the usual lack of seriousness about training, I can see none of the youths winning trophies.  LaFollette Park could end up with a reputation of having boxers who are easy to walk over.  I'd like to avoid that scenario.

Kentrell -- I finally remembered his name -- had the nerve to tell me once again that he planned to come to the gym.  I repeated again that Kentrell was not signed up for the program.  Annoying, irritating Kentrell has zero interest in boxing, but 100% interest in goofing around in the gym.  I don't want the boy around me.

Luis, who is a nice kid, but another who has little interest in the sport, stopped in the gym briefly.  He wants to sign up again, but is not sure when.  I guess I'll be waiting to see if he does or not.

I don't know why I'm so tired on Sundays, since I do so little at work during the week.  Perhaps it's mental fatigue, due to worrying if the boxing program will ever amount to anything. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Glasses and Grazing

Janay came in, but she didn't have her form for the Spring session.  I talked to her dad and assured him that she could continue in the class.  But I gave her another permission form to take home so her dad could sign her up for the Summer session which is coming up soon.  

During our time on the punch mitts, some of Janay's punches missed.  My glasses took a hit, and my stomach was grazed a few times.  She hadn't put full power behind those punches, but if she had, my glasses would have been broken, and I would have been doubled over by the body shots.  I told a neighbor of hers who accompanied Janay to the gym:  "She naturally has heavy hands.  It's just a matter of fine tuning her skills."

It had been another long, slow week of very low attendance in the gym.  Shanita had stopped by to say that she had caught the flu.  "I'll be in next week," she said, and I advised her to get some rest.  Her brother, Julius, was not with her, so I assume he'll return to the gym when she does.

One of the younger kids whose name I can't remember. . . ..Kendrick, Kenate, something like that. . . .ran up to me talking about, "I want to be a boxer!"  Just like Terrance, Terrianna, Te'Ria, LaTony, and Kharisma, that kid had been a major problem in the class when he was in there.  "You have to sign up," I said, without missing a beat.  "I am signed up!" the kid replied, and there lies another problem.  Coach James runs football, basketball, and baseball, all seasonal sports.  Kids in those sports just go from one to the other.  It's just a matter of James switching them from one attendance list to the next as one sports season ends and another begins.  He encourages the kids to participate in every sport available at the park.

However, my program doesn't run like that.  Participants have to sign up every ten weeks.  Too many of the kids, and some of the parents, think they only have to sign up once, and they're done.  I'm glad that it is NOT like that because of the real possibility of constantly being stuck with several kids who don't really want to box and/or are in the program for all the wrong reasons.  This way, I get a few new kids every two and a half months with the hope of getting some who will not be dividing their time between boxing and some other sport or activity.

I told the kid he had to sign up again.  "Oh, I do?" he said, before sprinting back outside into the park.  The kid had a basketball in his hand.  If the kid really wanted to come back to the class, he and his parents/guardians would have made more of an effort to make that happen.  Unfortunately, that's not the only kid who keeps talking about boxing but never making a commitment.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What Hurts An Amateur Boxing Program

What issues can impede or stop an amateur boxing program in its tracks?  I came up with a few.

1.  Lack of parental support/involvement

2.  Kids and teens with discipline problems

3.  Adults with "diva" and entitlement attitudes

4.  Difficulty in getting equipment and other resources for the gym

5.  Participants attempting to train for boxing and another sport at the same time

6.  Participants who are trying to balance boxing training with several activities they are involved with at the same time

7.  Lack of communication between parents and the boxing coach

8.  Lack of support, concern, etc., from management for the program

9.  Lack of organizational and management skills on the coach's part

10.  Lack of promotion/advertising of the program

Can you think of any others?

Friday, May 08, 2015

When The Sun Comes Out, The Gym Empties

I've come to the end of another rough week.  I recently learned that Jack, a dear man who was a former member of the church I used to attend, has passed on. Closer to home, doctors have stated they can do no more for my step mom.  She's on life support at the moment.

As for the gym, the weather has played a part in low attendance.  Yesterday, the temperatures were in the 80s, and they are expected to be the same today.  Only Sanita and her brother Julius have been showing up regularly.  Between the two, Sanita is the more athletic and aggressive person.  She gets on her brother for not training hard enough.  "Julius thinks boxing is just boxing, but doesn't realize there's a workout part to it," she told me.  Y'all don't know how happy I was to hear that one kid in the gym understands that.

Star came in once during this week, and she told me she'll be missing some days due to a family vacation.  I remain mystified at Kishawn and Kemarion's absences since their dads were so hyped up about getting their boys trained in the sweet science.  I have a couple of kids who signed up, but have yet to show their faces in the gym.  Angelique appears to have dropped out completely.  Kody shows up on and off.  Just like Terrance, Kody appears to love the idea of fighting, but is not disciplined enough to put the work in.

Mike, a fitness instructor at the park, told me that I'll probably see better and consistent attendance in the adult boxing class when it begins next month.  When people have to pay for something, they tend to make an effort to be present.

I was told that a guy dressed in red was looking for me yesterday.  "I was downstairs the whole time," I said, wondering why the man wasn't directed to see me.  The guy expressed surprise when told that the boxing coach is a woman.  "For real?  This I got to see!" the man said.  I don't know if I'm in the mood to see someone who is surprised by that, but I am curious.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Difficult Recent Days

The past several days haven't been so pleasant.  Let me first get my thoughts out about the Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Manny Pacquiao "Fight of the Century".  Pacquiao seemed to take too long to feel Mayweather out.  By the time some fire was shown, four to five rounds had gone by, and Mayweather had won all of them.  But then Mayweather was doing his usual running and bouncing around the ring, with a heavy dose of clinching and holding Pacquiao's head down.

Jose, a guy in the group I was watching the fight with, correctly noted that since Pacquiao wasn't ahead on the cards by the end of the eighth round, that Mayweather would win.  I still believe that Mayweather can be taken down, but since Pacquiao wasn't able to get the job done, who can?  It wasn't a bad fight per se, nor a boring one, but it did not live up to all of the hype.

I attempted to pay another visit to my stepmother, who is in the hospital.  She's not doing very well at all; she's unresponsive after having taken a fall in her home several days ago.  Good thing I was able to see her last week, because I wasn't allowed to see her today.  One of her sisters decided that only my stepmom's immediate family should be allowed to visit.  However, they all live out of state, and I'm here.  I understand their concern, but I live close enough to check on her, communicate with the doctors, and rely news back to her relatives. I was in no mood to debate the issue, so I let it go for the time being.

Then I ran into a friend from the church where I used to be a member.  She told me another good friend of ours from that church passed away from heart failure several days ago.  I'm sorry I missed his funeral.

My left knee is better, enough that I can move around in the gym.  But still, the majority of the kids have went AWOL.  I did get two new teens, Shanita, and her quiet brother, Julius.  Between the two, Shanita is the more aggressive.  She told me she wants to be a professional boxer.  They both came in on Saturday, and it was a good session.  But the rest of the time, I sat around, twiddling my thumbs.  I'd rather not have to deal with a mostly empty gym for the rest of the spring and throughout the summer.  Right now, however, the situation is not looking up.