Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gym Madhouse

I believe John and Katie were sparring when I took this picture of Alan watching the action at Loyola Park.  Alan asked me was I happy at LaFollette Park.  I am.  However, some days are more challenging than others.

Currently, I am helping out in the summer camp for the next few weeks, in addition to me coaching my regular boxing classes.  The theme for the summer camp this year is sports.  Nineteen girls were sent down to the gym for me to coach for an hour.  Things were going fine until the one kid in the group -- and there's always one -- decided to be difficult.

She kept interrupting me with inane questions and comments while I was trying to explain techniques.  She didn't do much in terms of the exercises I had for the class, either.  Luckily, a camp counselor was on hand to cut down on some of the girl's annoying antics.  But not before the little wonder partially tore up one of the bulletin boards I had created in the gym.  I was able to fix the damage before the normal boxing classes begun.

It seemed like every kid who signed up for the 12 years and under class decided to show up.  I was being pulled in all directions.  I only allowed Andre, Jordan, and Kishaun to spar.  Nassir kept bugging me to spar, but Nassir ain't ready for that yet.  Neither are most of the other kids who were pestering me about it.

Jordan deserved credit because he came in early to practice.  His mom told me that Jordan wanted to give up boxing after that beat down he took from Kishaun the other week.  But after I talked to him, Jordan was determined to continue.  He did okay against Andre, but Kishaun caught Jordan with a few low blows.  I was going to pull Jordan out, but he waved me off and finished the round.

Shanita and Julius did their usual showing up way too early for training.  When I told Julius he had a fight in the boxing show, I got a blank look and silence.  There was yet another promise made to return at the correct time, but the siblings were no-shows once again.  I don't know what to do about those two, but I do know I can't keep worrying with them.

I didn't allow some other kids to spar because they had either lost their mouthpieces or left them at home.  Ashley gave me a blank look when I admonished her about not having her mouthpiece.  "I want to spar my sister," she whined, but her sister didn't have her mouthpiece, either.  "From now on, no one spars unless they have their mouthpiece.  Do not leave it someplace else.  Do not lose it; I will not give you another one," I announced.  I have plenty of mouthpieces in the back, but like my mother used to tell me when I was a kid, "keep up with your things!"

BJ and Tandi were the only two in the teenage class.  I sparred with BJ.  He got me a few times, but I kept coming over his jab with my right and getting some face shots in.  When his father, Ben, came in the adult class, he was happy that his son had gotten in some work.

Ben and his sister Alex got in a good workout.  We're going to work on speed the next time.  I really wish I had a stand to hang the double-end bag on because it would be good to have them practice on that.  We can do burn-outs, which will help.  Also, I have some punch mitts drills to practice hand speed.

I was dead tired when I left the gym.  But like David Letterman used to say, "It was a good kind of tired."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Communication Issues

It just occurred to me that I need to put masking tape on the back of my coach's jacket to cover up "Loyola Park".  I need to write "LaFollette Park" on the tape before I can wear it to the boxing show coming up this week.

I also failed to put out a flyer about the boxing show.  It totally slipped my mind to do that.  The park supervisor and I will work on putting one out this week.  I really want a banner hung up outside the field house, but it's too late to produce one.

A new girl, Tandi, came in yesterday.  She's tall and lanky.  I thought she was going to say she was 15 or 16, but she's only thirteen.  Her punches are nice, and she appears to have picked up most of the techniques well.  She was the only person who showed up to the teen class.  Tandi doesn't want to spar or compete, which is unusual, because a majority of the kids, as opposed to the adults, want to fight.  I'm hoping she'll change her mind down the line.

Shanita, Julius, Lupe, BJ, as well as the other teens continue to be no-shows.  The teen class is the weakest link among the three classes I coach.  The slacker attitudes of the teenagers irritate me, despite my efforts in trying not to allow their behavior to bother me.  The excuses that Shanita and Julius keep giving me for not being present in particular, are wearing thin.  I dread seeing how this is going to play out during the boxing show later this week, especially since I've already set up a fight for Julius.

Parents keep showing up, now the class has been going on for two weeks already, attempting to sign up their grade school age kids for the gym.  Everyone's disappointed when they hear the class is full.  I keep wondering why, with all the printed information out there, as well as the information online, that the parents weren't aware the class had already started.  One parent whose kid is actually on the attendance list, just now started bringing their kid in.  "I thought the class began in July," they told me.  We had a lengthy talk several weeks before where I gave them a flyer and went over the dates of the class.  I don't get it.

Another parent was dismayed to discover that boxing happens at the same time another activity their kid participates in does.  I don't get that, either.  There seems to be a great disconnect regarding time management when it comes to planning what kids are going to do and when.

In addition to that, some parents have told me they are being told incorrect information about the boxing program when they call the field house.  Several parents had been given the wrong time for the start of the class.  Another parent told me they were told the class only meets one day a week.  There have been a few times that parents were told I wasn't in the building when I was.  I used to work for a suburban recreation department, and those sort of things did not fly with any of the parents.  The complaints wouldn't end with an irate phone call.  Parents would stomp down to the office, and if they still felt they hadn't received proper customer service, letters and emails would go flying to management as well as to the local politicians.  I haven't said anything as of yet about the miscommunication that has been given out as of yet.  But I do know that parents who are diligent about coordinating their kids' schedules do not appreciate not having correct information.  The last thing any of the staff needs are parents raising sand because of that.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sparring and Making Matches

I was glad to hear from Rick at Scottsdale Park that Julius has a fight for the July 2nd boxing show.  Julius is the fourth kid for whom I've been able to get matched up.  But Julius hasn't been in the gym for days.  His sister Shanita came in for the teens' class (she was the only one who showed up for that), and I told her to let her brother know that he has to come in and train.

Things got wild in the class for the kids 12 years and younger during sparring.  Jordan was ready to mix it up, and I was glad that Kishaun came in.  A couple of days ago, I put Jordan with LaKendrick, and things didn't go so well.  LaKendrick is small, and Jordan overwhelmed him.  I figured Kishaun would be a better match.  Jordan came out of his corner throwing hard punches and so did Kishaun.

I told both of them to slow it down and take it easy.  But Jordan doesn't know how to pull his punches.  Kishaun got hit with a hard left, and it was on.  Every time Jordan dropped his hands, Kishaun got his fist in Jordan's face.  It wasn't long before Jordan's face was flushed and his eyes were red.  "Do you want to continue?" I asked.  Jordan shook his head no.  I made a mental note to run some drills with Jordan to teach him to keep his hands up.

Mya faced off with LaKendrick.  I thought it would be a good matchup because both of them are the same age, and approximately the same height and weight.  LaKendrick was moving all over the ring, only stopping to tag Mya.  Mya was not protecting her face properly, nor was she moving much.  While I was giving out directions to both, their respective dads were also giving them advice.

LaKendrick popped Mya once too often, and she started crying.  I was about to stop it then, but Mya's dad pushed her to continue on.  The little girl kept crying and just stopped throwing punches after awhile.  LaKendrick never let up.  "She doesn't want to fight anymore," I said, and I called the girl out of the ring. LaKendrick tried to give her a fist bump afterwards, but Mya just glared at the boy.

Ashley had a better time fending off LaKendrick, basically because she's taller than he.  I advised LaKendrick to go for Ashley's middle instead of always swinging for her head.

Later, in the adult class, Ben sparred with his sister, Alex.  Ben had sparred with his wife, Mel, the other day, and just like with her, he didn't want to hit his sister hard.  Alex threw some haymakers here and there, but she got her brother in the chin and in the mid-section with some well-placed hits.

Marty, the coach at Simons Park, left a message for me, but I wasn't able to return it due to the activity going on in the gym.  I'll catch up with him tomorrow; perhaps he has some good news regarding having matches for some of the other kids and teens.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer at Loyola Park

In the photo above, Alan watches two guys -- both named John -- spar.

I went up to Loyola Park to a) let Alan know what happened during a recent boxing coaches' meeting, and b) to get a workout in.  Almost everyone in the gym was new except for John, Geniece, Melinda, and Igor.  The place was full.

Here's a trick for those who tend to gag on mouthpieces like I sometimes do:  put a little salt on the tip of the tongue before putting the mouthpiece in.  It worked for me.  I went in with Erica, who hopped up and down in her corner before the three rounds we had together.  Alan told her, "Take it easy because Hillari is old."  I laughed, then Alan said, "Now isn't that the pot calling the kettle black! I have my nerve talking about who's old, and I just had a birthday yesterday!" My knees weren't cooperating as usual, so I took a lot of hits.  Erica was dashing in, getting her licks in, and quickly dashing out.

I thought she looked familiar.  She reminded me that we had sparred a few years ago.  Colonel and Kenny had invited her down to the gym.  Erica had fought in the Golden Gloves around that time.  Here's the photo of us after our sparring session back then:

Erica's very good.  I overheard her giving some solid advice to other women in the gym.  She told me that she used to box at Evanston Boxing Club, and she was planning to enter more competitions.

Melinda and Geniece sparred, and I was very glad I didn't have to get into the ring with either of them.  My old bones barely stood up to Erica.  They wouldn't have lasted against Melinda and Geniece.  Melinda also sparred with Alan, and she caught him with a rough body shot.  Afterwards, Alan said, "I am impressed with how hard she hits.  She hits like a guy!"

I made a general announcement inviting the adults in the gym to come to the boxing show at LaFollette Park next week if they want to get a match.  Alan asked me if I was nervous about the show.  Yeah, I am a little bit, but more so for the youths who plan to participate than for me.  I have to impress upon the youths that they must work hard this week if they want to do well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

No Avalanche On The West Side

It looked as if Jordan, a new boy who signed up for the gym, was going to be the only participant in the eight-to-twelve year olds class yesterday.  His mom, a pleasant sort, sat next to the equipment table, watching as I worked with her son.  Then Man-Man, Mya, and Ashley came in -- 45 minutes late.  "I thought the class started a half-hour later", their dad said.  I had told him several time previously that the hour for the youth class was going to change.  They only have an hour now.  Honestly, that is all the time the younger kids need.

Another parent showed up with their eight year old, wanting to sign them up.  "The class is full," I informed them.  Not all of the 16 kids who are currently in the class showed up yesterday.  I was a bit relieved that I had no avalanche to deal with.  But there was no way I was going to add a 17th kid.  The parent was disappointed, but they should not have assumed there was going to be room available on the day a class begins.

Ben Jr. and Lupe showed up for the teen class that followed, Shanita came in over an hour later.  Julius wasn't with her.  Shanita said she stayed after school for yet another extracurricular activity.  Basically, she came to the gym to tell me she wasn't going to be there until the next day.

The adult class was very chill.  I showed them the basics, and then they took their workout in their own hands.  They agreed when I told them they can craft their own workout for their fitness purposes.  As of now, none of the adults are interested in competing.  I got a laugh when I asked if they wanted to step on the scale (I borrowed one from Coach James), especially from the women.  "You don't have to," I laughed.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer's Coming With Issues

This a photo featuring Gabe and one of Josh's sons in the forefront from my days at Loyola Park.

This week, the summer session begins at LaFollette's boxing gym.  I have sixteen -- count 'em -- sixteen kids in the 12 years old and under class.  The class is only set up for ten kids, but since summer is coming soon and school will be out, I figured I would let a few more kids in.  I may regret that decision over the next ten weeks.

But then, I might not.  The usual pattern is kids sign up for the class, attend a few times, then attend infrequently or drop out completely.  I told one parent their three kids could start the class early (last week was the break period between sessions).  They showed up one day, and half-paid attention to what was going on, despite their parent admonishing them to listen.  The next day, the kids were no-shows.  I expect half of the class will disappear, not only because they maybe are signed up for multiple activities, but simply because the weather is nice.  Few want to be in a hot gym during warm weather.

The teen summer class currently has eight participants.  Shanita and Julius are returning, but they have already told me they may be late most days due to the teen class now starting an hour earlier.  I keep reminding them there's not much more time left to train for the July 2nd boxing show.  I worked with Julius a little more last week because I'm more worried about how he will do in a match as opposed to his sister.

The adult class, which is new, has five adults registered.  The sister of a man who is already signed up came in to register.  She looked relieved when I told her that I will not force anyone to spar.  I'm thinking that the adult class will probably be the easiest to run, because the adults will probably not be stuck on doing sparring only, and the adults will not be as fickle as the kids can be.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Summer Fifteen

This photo of my nieces (my late younger sister's daughters) is from a couple of years ago when they visited me at Loyola Park.  Today is Jalissa's birthday; she's the one on the left.  Her sister Erica is on the right.

A guy came to LaFollette's boxing gym yesterday with his quiet, nine year old son.  The 12 year old and under class is full, but since the the dad was so sincere about wanting his son to take boxing, I took his son in.  The dad is also willing to be a volunteer in the gym.  But then he added, "I have two other kids who really are interested in doing this, too."  Now I have a whopping 15 -- count 'em -- 15 kids in that class.

I had planned to take on some extra kids anyway because of summer.  But I have to shut the door on any more participants for my own sanity.  It is likely that not all of them will keep showing up on a regular basis after the first week or so.  Having five extra kids in the class is somewhat like insurance padding for the ones whom will drop out.  It's an experiment that I'm only going to do for this upcoming session.  I'm not going to add extra participants in any of the youth classes for the fall, winter, and spring sessions.

The routine for that class is going to have to be adjusted because the younger kids only have an hour to train from here on in.  The shorter time will likely work better because I can really have the kids focus on one or two skills each class meeting.  The hour does not allow for any playing around, however.  Kids who don't focus will find the class time is over before having learned much.

Time keeps slipping away as the July boxing show approaches.  Shanita and Julius did not show up to the gym yesterday, and neither did Kishaun.  There's only about two weeks and a half available for training before the show.  Kishaun's dad used to box, so I'm hoping there's some training going on at home.  Shanita plays basketball, but that's not boxing, and Julius is probably not doing any exercise at all.

I'll be working extra hours when the summer session begins.  I wish the extra hours involved boxing.  Extra hands are needed to help with the summer camp activities.  Summer camp is yet another situation where how well it goes depends on the attitudes of the kids involved.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Something To Think About Regarding Youths' Sports Dreams

I saw this elsewhere on the Internet.  A high school teacher wrote an open letter to professional basketball player Stephen Curry.  I place it here to give parents of wanna-be athletes and amateur sports coaches something to think about. .  .
Dear Steph,
I am a Dubs fan. Always have been, always will be. I pass by Oracle Arena every day to and from work. Traffic is so bad on 880 I often get to admire, at length, the giant hanging posters adorned with your face and the gaudy playoff decorations in blue and gold. Those also happen to be the school colors of the high school nearby where I teach. I have a Baron Davis jersey from We Believe, I grew up watching Run TMC. I giggled each and every time Manute Bol drained a three. When I was a wee lad one of my favorite things to say over and over was Sarunas Marciulionis. I am a Bay Area native, and the Warriors are my team.
And I love you. You would be my favorite player except for I have a soft spot for emotionally unstable crazies, and so I really love me some Draymond Green. But you are amazing and I also give you credit for being an amazing person off the court as well.
But I have to ask you to do me a solid and make sure you don’t ever come visit my high school.
I know the NBA does great things in the community, and I realize the Warriors are no exception. Your boy Klay Thompson is a finalist for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for having such an impact in and around Oakland this year. The NBA Cares campaign continually shows the league is committed to getting out in the community and helping those in need. When you get involved in soup kitchens, wrap Christmas presents for needy kids, and build homes for the homeless I am inspired. But where those kinds of civic-minded activities have clear benefits, I have to tell you something you probably haven’t heard: Coming to poor high schools like mine isn’t going to help any of these kids out, in fact, it might make things worse.
You see, Steph (I hope you don’t mind if I call you Steph), if you come to my school you will be your usual inspiring, humble, hilarious, kind self and you will say all the right things. But the reason I don’t want you to come has to do with what you won’t say.
You won’t say that since the day you were born you had a professional one-on-one tutor who helped you hone your skills on a daily basis. Your father Dell Curry was an NBA great just like you are after him, but you will not remind the poor kids at my school that they have never had such a wonderful instructor and they never will.
And if you do ever visit my school, you also won’t mention that along with your father’s success came all the monetary rewards NONE of my students have, like three square meals a day; a full sized court and hoop in the backyard; a sense of safety; a mother and a father; top schools, top peers, and community resources. I know you might not think of it like this, but you might as well have come from another planet. But you won’t say that, will you?
I mean, look at Klay Thompson. I wonder if anyone else finds it odd that the best shooting back-court in NBA history were both born with silver balls.
You also won’t talk about the fact that you are a giant man and taller than almost all of my students will ever be. Even though on the court you look like Peter Dinklage in high tops, when you are around real people you are very, very tall. Six-foot-three is nothing to laugh at, and if you did walk into my classroom, you might hit your head on the doorframe. You won the genetic lottery in addition to the monetary one, but you probably won’t be reminding my students that their size alone has already kept them out of competing in most American professional sports.
What you will do is shoot some threes, dazzle everyone with your dimples, high five the homies, and sign some autographs. It will be wonderful. At least, it will seem like that at first. But what you won’t see is the fact that most of these kids don’t have a backup plan for their dream of being youIf you ask the boys on my campus what they are going to be when they get older, the answer will involve a sport. They will claim they are going to play in the NBA or NFL, and seeing you there will make them think they can actually do it.
Because the worst thing you won’t tell them Steph, is that they can’t do it. You won’t tell them that will you? You won’t be able to bring yourself to tell them it is already too late. You won’t tell them about all those years when you were playing in top competitive leagues as a child. You won’t tell them that if they haven’t played organized basketball by the age of sixteen (twelve, really), they have no chance of going pro. You see, the kids I am talking about do not play year-round, they are not in a travelling league, and they have never even heard of a McDonald’s All-American; they just eat McDonald’s two meals a day and have Hot Cheetos in between.
Because by the time they are sixteen, boys in this country, if they have even a tiny, tiny chance of going pro, should already be on the radar of colleges and scouts. They should be the best player not just at their school but in their entire city. Probably their entire state. They should already be 6’3” and growing. You know this and I know this, but the kids who you will inspire with your presence will simply see you and think they too will be MVP one day, even though they don’t even play for our high school team. So instead of doing homework the night after your visit, they will grab their lopsided old ball and go play on the court with their little brother and shoot the ball badly, improbably thinking every time the ball actually does go in it means they are on their way to fame and fortune.
You see Steph, once you leave my school, the boys here are not going to run home and finish that essay, which is one thing they could do about their future that is in their control. Just like if Beyonce came here, the girls wouldn’t head back to their one bedroom apartments filled with two families and begin their science labs. When Beyonce tells them to make sure they pass Algebra, they look at her and ask “What for? Did Algebra help your voice?” Instead they will go home and look in the mirror and wish they were tanner and thicker and a better singer and dancer and they will cry into their mascara. Because that is what celebrity worship does, Steph, and we need these kids to do less of it rather than more. They are already very good at dreaming about being rich and famous, what we need them to do is get a little more realistic about what is in their control. We need less of an emphasis on sports and celebrity in high school, because it is hurting these kids too much as it is.
Really the more I think about it, the crazier it sounds to write to you and tell you NOT to come to my high school. I mean, you are such an awesome guy, you are a family man with a wife and daughter, with another on the way. That video your wife made is hella funny. You are humble, a leader, and clearly our young men need to meet a man like you. Maybe I’m wrong to write this letter.
Or maybe not. When I tell my students they are not going to be professional athletes, they like to say, “Won’t you feel stupid if one of your students does go pro?” And my answer is always the same: “No, because even if they do, that means I will still be 99.9% right. Right now I am one thousand for one thousand.” Steph, you and I know they have a better chance of winning the lottery, but no one seems to tell them these things but me. Would this letter make you feel better if I told you I discourage the California Lottery from giving inspirational speeches at my high school as well? If I wrote them a letter, would anyone think I was out of line? Probably not.
At risk of making Dub Nation mad at me, because I know how we can get, I don’t want you to think it has anything to do with you personally, or the team (I will be screaming every time you hit a three all throughout the playoffs). It’s me, not you. I mean, you are the man, and I am just a teacher–no one really. The truth is, every person on earth would probably get something out of meeting you in person. For you symbolize everything people in this country value most, you are the epitome of all we hold dear, you are the pinnacle of humanity: You are good at a sport."

Friday, June 05, 2015

Anticipating Issues

This is a photo from when I was still at Loyola.  I was showing off my big legs for some reason; I can't remember why now.  I have yet to wear shorts down at LaFollette.  It would be appropriate now that the weather is warmer.  But then I'm still old school enough to think maybe I shouldn't be wearing shorts to work.

There's a meeting of the boxing coaches coming up soon about the upcoming Chicago Park District boxing shows.  During a previous meeting of the coaches, it was said that coaches are responsible for making sure their fighters act appropriately during the shows.  It's not the fighters I'm worried about so much.  So far, it looks as if I can only rely on Shanita, Julius, and Kishaun to actually participate in the show this July.  It's the youths who used to be in the boxing program and the ones who never were in the program whom I have to watch.

I am certain that those who are not currently signed up for the gym are going to ask if they can get a fight.  Terrance and Jermaine are the two most likely to do that.  Putting some kid in a boxing show who hasn't been training and thinks their street fighting skills are enough is a no go.  The situation would be very unfair to the kids who actually bothered to show up regularly to train.  I already know there will be a debate on that, and I'll probably have to yell to get my point across.

A few months ago, Terrianna and Te'Ria, neither of whom have an interest in boxing, were bugging me about working the corners during the matches.  Uh, no, since neither one of them stayed in the gym long enough to learn anything.  I'll choose among Kishaun, Shanita, Julius, or one of the other kids who've signed up for the summer classes to help me do that.  If Terrianna and Te'Ria keep whining and getting in the way on the day of the show, which I am anticipating, I'll put those two on the glove table to keep them away from the ring -- and me.

I'm surrounded by adults around the park who don't seem to get what boxing is about. I keep being asked if the kids at the gym will fight each other during the show.  It's been explained several times that kids from all the parks that have boxing programs compete against kids from other parks.  The other day, I was asked if the kids were going to hit each other for real during the matches.  No, the kids are going to stand in the middle of the ring and play patty cakes, I thought to myself.

Some kids are going to get their feelings hurt on the day of the show, mainly because of the annoying attitude of "I want to have my way at all times."  Those who have been doing a half-job of training will whine and complain when the outcome of a match doesn't come out in their favor.  Others will stamp their feet because I'll refuse to allow distractions and disruptions to interfere with the boxing show. Some adults will put their unwanted and erroneous two cents in, and I'll have to remind them that I'm the boss.  It will be interesting how things play out.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Taking A Punch From A Sister

Once again, only Shanita and Julius showed up for class.  They were late again, too, but I decided to stop grumbling about that.  Shanita does get out of school earlier, but she sticks around to participate in activities there.  Not much I can do about that.  However, I reminded both of them that they now only have one month to get it together for the upcoming boxing show.

After a brief warm up and some shadow boxing, the teens were ready to spar.  I've been trying my best to break Julius out of the habit of always backing up into the corners.  Shanita takes advantage of that each time, while her brother curls up and takes the shots.

Both Shanita and Julius need to do more footwork drills as well.  Shanita ducks and dodges punches, but she does some odd movements to do so.  More than once she has asked me if she could do some moves like leaping into throwing punches.  My standard answer to such questions is usually, "The referee will give a warning."  At least she's not trying to do WWE or UFC moves unlike most of the younger kids.

Julius has a habit of crossing his feet while moving around the ring.  I pointed it out to him.  A second later, Shanita caught him with a right, and Julius stumbled and crashed to the canvas.  It took several moments for Shanita and I to figure out if Julius was badly hurt, if Julius was bleeding, and to get him to get up off of the canvas.  When he finally moved, Julius decided to sit the time out rather than participate in floor exercises with Shanita.

It appeared that Shanita felt bad about knocking her brother down.  After checking again to make sure her brother wasn't seriously hurt, I concluded that Julius' pride was hurt more.  The teens left the gym early after that.  I hope the incident doesn't cause Julius not to continue on with boxing.