Thursday, July 30, 2015

A New One On Me

The other day found Rocky and I trying to convince Kishaun to shadowbox.  "It just doesn't feel right," Kishaun said.  "What doesn't feel right?" I asked.  "I don't have anyone in front of me," Kishaun answered.  "It doesn't matter!" Rocky said in frustration.

We still don't have mirrors in the gym, and I doubt there will be any in there anytime soon.  But I explained to Kishaun that shadowboxing is part of boxing training, and it has to be done.  I had never heard "it doesn't feel right" being used as a reason not to shadowbox before.

Rocky took a a seat and grumbled about Kishaun wasting time in the gym.  I was irritated, too, because Kishaun seems to give his all during football practice, but acts lazy in the boxing gym.  "Use your imagination!" Rocky snapped when Kishaun repeated again about shadowboxing being hard because of the lack of having a live person in front of him.  Eventually, Kishaun did do a couple of rounds of shadowboxing, but more should have been done.

Derrick won't be going to Seward Park's boxing show next week because his dad believes he needs to work on head movement and the left jab more.  I'm in agreement with Derrick's dad.  BJ's dad wants him to wait a couple of months before taking a fight.  I agree with that, too.  Tyrone is fairly new, and not ready to take on a fight yet.  Neither is Andre.  Nassir and Little Jordan show up to train on and off, and don't follow instructions when they do.  Little Jordan's sister, Jordana, seldom attends the gym.  Dorian and Trejan don't show up consistently nor train hard enough.  LaKendrick hasn't been in the gym for over a week.  Ashley wants to fight, but doesn't want to spar.  Mya doesn't want to spar or fight.  Guadalupe, Big Jordan, and Tandi seem to have disappeared, and Shanita and Julius quit.

That leaves Kishaun, who's dividing his time between boxing and football, and Carmelius.  The gym is going to be closed for two days due to a gospel fest that I just recently learned about (and I have to be there to monitor the people going in and out).  None of the kids can afford to lose training time in the middle of the park district boxing season, but there's nothing I can do about that.  We'll just have to step up training next week for the couple of days before the boxing show takes place.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Parents Need To Know Their Place

I walked into the gym, thankful that I did not have to deal with the summer camp kids today.  But they had been there earlier in the day.  A large poster I had up on the bulletin board had been ripped down.  Someone had laid it to the side, but no note had been left explaining how it got there.  Nor did any of the staff say anything.  After re-stapling it up, I reported the incident to Steve, the supervisor.  He promised to talk to the camp counselors about seeing to it that the kids touch nothing while they are in the gym.

To avoid a repeat of having to deal with most of the kids' destructive ways, I sat in a chair right in front of the bulletin board when they came down to get their afternoon snack.  I had to put up with a lot of offhand remarks about my hair (I went to the barber shop yesterday), but my presence kept the kids from leaning on and touching that board.  I wish I had thought to do that the first time I noticed the kids were vandalizing that board.  Unfortunately, I can't protect the board earlier in the day when I'm not there.  But I'm damn sure not going to allow the kids to tear it up when I'm actually in the room.

Shanita and Julius came in again.  Why?  I have no idea.  I officially withdrew them from the class today.  Shanita's insistence that she has still "got it" indicates she has no understanding about how quickly skills not being used can diminish.  Julius said nothing, and I didn't say a word to him. Maybe he picked up on the fact that I'm still a bit ticked about Julius backing out of a fight a few weeks ago with no notice.

Later, there was a sparring match between two of the boys.  One boy is usually very good on his feet, but for some reason, he stopped defending against the other boy's punches.  When I saw the headgear was askew, and tears running down the boy's face, I called him to come out of the ring.  However, the parent of the boy who was "winning" wanted the other boy to keep fighting.  "He's good," the parent kept insisting.

But the other parent pulled their kid out after admonishing their kid for being a "sitting target".  Despite of this, the parent of the "winner" kept pushing for the sparring to continue.  The other parent snapped, "I got this!" and a small argument began.  I stayed quiet, waiting to see how it was going to play out.  The other parent apologized to me and took their son home.  "We'll try again tomorrow," they told me.

However, the parent of the "winner" still didn't get that the sparring was over.  They didn't even notice the other parent and their kid had left.  I noticed they thought it was amusing that a minor argument had taken place.  But it wasn't funny to the other parent, and it wasn't funny to me.

Parents need to know their place in the gym, and to be honest, I need to be more direct with some of them about who really is in charge.  I was not cool with the idea that the parent of the "winner" was willing to ignore the fact that the other boy was hurt just so their kid could get some sparring work in.  That's not what amateur boxing is about.  Yes, kids are going to get hurt from time to time.  But amateur boxing is about safety, not letting sparring or actual fights go on until one or both fighters need serious medical attention.  Trust me, that incident will not happen again.  The door to the gym opens as well as closes.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Five Rounds Of The Night

It's Gabe vs. John (the other one, not John the teacher) during sparring at Loyola Park.

I did five rounds of sparring: three with Kelly, and two with Katie.  Kelly is not much taller than I, but she stayed on her toes and moved around a lot more than I did.  It was only during the third round with her that I remembered to move my head.  After going a little too hard with my right hook, I heard Alan telling me, "Easy, Hillari!"

Katie's long arms were hard to get around, and she kept the jab in my face.  I got in hooks to the body, but like Kelly, she kept moving around, too.  I could back Kelly up into the corners sometimes, but I couldn't do that to Katie.  My knees were not doing so well during the last round with Katie.  I plodded along until the bell rang to end it.

John also sparred with Rafael, who is from Austria.  I missed seeing a hard punch that John gave Rafael, but I saw the result.  Rafael was bleeding all over one of the gym's towels.  He went to the washroom to clean up, and when he returned, he gave John a high five.  Alan was praising John about how he opened up on Rafael.

Geniece opened up on a guy named Richard.  I could tell Richard wasn't hitting her very hard.  But she didn't hold back on him.  A couple of times, Richard stepped back and shook his head to clear it after Geniece rocked him.

Today, I finally brought a scale for the gym at LaFollette.  I'm going to hide it for a minute in the storage room.  Some of the kids treated the other scale (which belongs to Ken, who trains people in the fitness center) like a toy.  They kept wanting to get on it every time they were at the gym, which is unnecessary.  I also ordered cones so the kids can work on their footwork.  An agility ladder would have been better, but the floor in the gym is uneven, so a ladder wouldn't sit properly.  Alan suggested that I also get milk crates so the kids can jump over them in order to work on their footwork.  I also got a pair of one pound weights; I'll buy a few more pair before summer ends.  Those are for shadow boxing.  Unfortunately, I can't buy everything I want for the gym out of my own pocket, but I can purchase a few things to help the fighters out.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

No Apology and No Understanding

There's a moment in the movie Bye Bye Birdie where Paul Lynde (the guy in the above photo) sings a song called "Kids".  It is a father's complaint about kids in general.  I felt like that today when Shanita and Julius dropped in, along with a woman who was either a friend or relative of theirs.

"The other fighter, as well as that fighter's coach were not happy when you didn't show up to fight at the show," I told Julius.  I got no apology.  Not even a "Hey, coach", or even "Shut up, Hillari".  Just a dumb look.  Shanita started going on about how she had a basketball game coming up, and how she still thinks she has boxing skills.

The woman they came in with asked if she could get into the ring with Shanita.  I explained that since she was not signed up, she could not use the equipment nor spar.  "It's an safety issue, and I don't want my boss mad at me," I told her.  Moments later, as if I had said nothing at all, the chick asks me could she hit the uppercut bag.  "I'm an employee, and I have to follow rules.  Sign up if you are interested in the class," I said, trying to keep the annoyance out of my tone.  What in the hell did she not understand about what I told her earlier?  Thankfully, all three left the gym after that.

Otherwise, it was another slow day at the gym.  Thank goodness the ring did get some use by Mike and his kickboxing class.  I have a nice, roomy gym space, yet the ones who are supposed to be using it don't bother to show up regularly. Today was a sparring day, too, and week after next, we're supposed to be going to Seward Park for another boxing show.  Shaking my head. . . . . .

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

An Empty Gym On A Summer Day

I want the bulletin board in the photo above to keep that display permanently.  But I don't know how long it's going to last because the summer camp kids keep touching it.  Unfortunately, the kids come down to the gym to get their meals and snacks during the day.  I fix what damage that was done in the morning when I get there later in the day.  However, when they show up for their afternoon snack, I'm there, watching them like a hawk.  Every day I have to snap on several kids for pulling staples out of the pictures.  

Today was slow because no one showed up for the classes.  Jadora and her brother Little Jordan came in, but I didn't count them because their stay was brief.  Little Jordan walked in for a second, was distracted by something on his cell phone, then walked back out.  Jadora was late returning from a field trip (she's in summer camp).  She began to wrap her hands, then said something about having to go get her brother.  When she came back, she had undone the wrap she had put on one hand, and announced she couldn't do the class today.

Ben, who's in the adult class, was nice enough to stop in and explain that due to a family event, he, his wife, and their teen son wouldn't be in class for the rest of the week.  "It's summer," he said, and I understood.  But I don't understand the kids in the 12 and under class going MIA when they know another boxing show is on the horizon.

Yesterday was a sparring day, and tomorrow is a sparring day, but not today.  I'm beginning to wonder if some kids are skipping the non-sparring days.  The last few times, the gym was populated on the sparring days, but not so much on the regular workout days.  No matter how many times I keep saying that sparring alone is not going to help in a regular match, few, if any of the kids, actually pay attention.

Ashley had the nerve to tell me that she doesn't want to spar, but she wants to fight.  I told her if she doesn't spar, she won't fight.  Some of the kids have a habit of trying to picking with whom they want to spar.  Their decisions are usually based on how easily they believe they can handle the other person.  I told Ashley she will have to spar with the boys.  Her sister Mya is too small, and Jordana is taller and bigger than Ashley.

She made a big deal out of knowing the ages of the boys.  I was going to put her in with Jordan, whom I believe is eleven years old.  Ashley is nine years old.  "He's older than me!" she said.  "It doesn't matter.  You're both somewhat equal in height and weight," I answered with a bit of irritation in my voice.  She ended up sparring with her brother, Carmelius, who is a year older than she.  I've told both her and her sister how I sparred with men in the past when there were few or no women for me to spar.  Looks like I'm going to have to have that conversation again with them.

A guardian of one of the kids noticed that Big Jordan hasn't been in for awhile.  "Can you call his mom and tell her you're taking him out of the class?  I got a friend who wants to get his son in here," the guardian told me.  It's incidents like that which make coaches grumble about having to deal with parents and guardians.  I patiently explained that not only do I need permission from a parent/guardian to put a kid in the class, I also have to have their permission to withdraw a kid from the class.  I can't just take it upon myself to drop someone from the class because I haven't seen them for days or weeks on end.  Sometimes I get the feeling that people think I can -- and should -- bend the rules.  People forget that as an employee, I have rules that I have to follow.

Monday, July 20, 2015

I Had To Have A Hot Dog

During the summer, religious groups can be found in the park, doing missionary work.  I was half thinking about sparring while on my way to the gym, when I came upon such a group.  They were giving away hot dogs and chips.  There went any plans for me to spar.  As I ate, I had a pleasant conversation with Rachel, one of the full-time missionaries.

"There are a lot of new faces here," I told Alan when I got to Loyola Park's gym.  The gym was crowded, which was very unusual for a hot day in July.  Alan pointed to the ring where Gabe, who I hadn't seen in a long time, was working out.  I told Gabe I was coaching at LaFollette.  "About damn time they gave you a coach's job," he smiled.  "I'm happy to hear that!'

A few of the guys sparred, but it was mostly women's day in the gym  Erica sparred with Gabby, then with Kathy.  Melanie wanted to spar with Gabby, but they probably will do that later in the week.

While monitoring a couple of the guys who were sparring, Alan said, "It's harder to be the coach than the fighters!"  I laughed.  "It's mentally exhausting!" he continued.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Boxing To Make A Bad Day End Well

This is a shot of Alan and Anna between rounds.  Anna was sparring with Erica, who is a Golden Gloves winner.

My day started off with yet another visit to probate court to settle my dad's estate.  This time, my oldest half-sister, who has been fighting for control of the estate, actually showed up to court.  She finally voiced what I've always known:  that she can't stand the ground I walk on.  I was subjected to her muttering curses about me under her breath.  I almost slipped up and snapped something back to her, but sometimes, I have to be the better person.  So I didn't talk to her at all.  But I was pissed off about her remarks.

Then I learned that a friend of mine had died in a car crash a few days ago.  We both had been disparaged and put down by the pastor at the church where we both used to be members.  Those two events put a huge shadow over the day, so I had to go down to Loyola Park to clear my head.

John the teacher had a great idea.  He recorded the sparring action on his digital camera, then showed it to the participants so they could see what they needed to work on.  There was a lot of sparring, mostly by the women.  I begged off because my left knee had acted wonky while I was walking to the gym.  Erica, a Golden Glove winner, was dominate in the sparring sessions she took part in.

The other John in the gym had a fight at Garfield Park's boxing show last week, and he won.  John said the other guy was shorter than he, but very quick with his hands.

Sebastian, who I hadn't seen in a long time, stopped in.  It was very good to see him.  He said that he and his brother Gabe are planning to come back to the gym. Just in time, too, given that all the park district boxing shows are going on.

Over the past weekend, I was looking for one-pound weights to buy for LaFollette's boxing gym.  The class participants can use them during shadowboxing.  I didn't have much luck in finding a lot of them, and what I could find seemed a little too pricey.  I will get some, but I'm going to have to search a little more.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Crying Game

I told Ashley that she wasn't going to spar with her sister Mya again.  Mya is too small, too short, and on top of that, she cries at the drop of a hat.  She appears to be willing to spar on the days that is allowed.  But as soon as the heat is on, Mya freezes up, does not answer punches, and turns on the waterworks.  She acted like that with LaKendrick, as well.

I paraphrased Tom Hanks' character from A League Of Their Own in my thoughts:  "There's no crying in boxing!"  Mya's not the only one guilty of tears.  Little Jordan and Nassir were crying rivers during their boxing matches last week.

No, it doesn't feel good to get punched.  But the kids not only have to focus on giving licks, but they have to learn how to take them, too.  Mya's dad said it best when he told all of the kids in the gym that they can't do street fighting in a boxing match.  "It looked so easy to all y'all until you actually got in the ring," Mya's dad said.

Big Jordan was grumbling instead of listening, mouthing off to his mom, as well as to Mya's dad, who was helping him out.  "It's not going to happen overnight," Mya's dad admonished Jordan.  "There were a lot of days when I was playing sports when I wanted to quit.  But you just have to keep going."  I suspect Big Jordan was still smarting over having been bested by Kishaun the other week.  He's always looking to spar with Kishaun now (who didn't come to the gym today), and some revenge might be behind that.

Everybody wants to fight, but few want to deal with the punishment.  They have got to understand that it is part of boxing.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Another Loyola Monday

It didn't seem that Melinda was believing Alan, but he was being sincere.  Those two sparred again at Loyola Park, with me outside the ring coaching Melinda.  He told her that she really hits hard, and that she could win at Park District boxing shows, and at the Golden Gloves.  Melinda is nervous about taking a fight.

Alan really wants to get fights for Geniece, too, but it's hard all over for women in boxing.  He believes the two of them would do extremely well in bouts.  He told Melinda, "Sometimes, I had to turn down fights for Hillari because the other person was too tall."

I sparred with Annie and Anna.  Annie's just starting out, so I went light.  However, I did force her back into the corners and ropes periodically.  Anna was moving around a lot, so I couldn't get a lot of hits in.  She pushed me down once, and I fell like a tree.  But I wasn't hurt, and the action went on.

Alicia was at the gym, and she looked good due to some more weight loss.  I admire her determination to get her weight down.  I've changed a lot of my eating habits, and I've been exercising more, but it's still a struggle for me.  Sometimes I wonder if I am actually supposed to be chubby, and if so, should I give up trying to tone down.

Lessons From The Boxing Show

1.  Parents can be helpful.  Ashley and Man-Man's dad helped get their wraps on, and he encouraged them during their matches.  Nassir's mom told him to expect to get hurt when someone is throwing punches back.

2.  Parents just don't understand.  I got the feeling that LaKendrick's dad felt that his son was entitled to have a match.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.  I wanted the boy to have a match, but there was no one available for him.  The boxing shows are a roll of the dice in terms of who will get a fight.  I can't make a match happen out of thin air.

3.  Kids just don't understand.  Johnathan tried to pull a fast one on me by telling me he had a match when he didn't.  I'm hoping that he watched his fellow gym mates during their fights.  Johnathan needs to realize, like a lot of the kids need to do, that street fighting will not help them in a boxing match.  Nor can they try to get a fight when there is none for them to have.

4.  Some kids need to learn a sense of personal responsibility.  Shanita and her brother Julius have been slacking off for weeks.  I made a fight for Julius, only to learn the boy had gone out of town without a word to me.  He knew he had a fight.  Shanita, who had been going on about wanting to be a professional boxer, didn't bother to attend the show, either.  I won't pre-match Julius again.  If he and his sister continue in boxing and want to participate in the shows, they'll just have to show up and hope they can get matches.

5.  Some kids will not step in a ring again.  I had made a fight for Mya, but at the last minute, she opted not to participate.  Honestly, I don't think she wants to box, but her dad wants her to keep attending the gym.  It remains to be seen whether the other kids in the gym -- regardless if they boxed in the show or not -- will have second thoughts about being in the sport.  Now that they have seen what it really is, some minds might be changing.

6.  The boxing show is a great recruiting tool.  Several parents came up to me during and after the show wanting to put their kids in the boxing class.  Both the kids' and teens' class are full for the summer, but I suspect there will be a lot of people looking to sign up in the fall.  Who knows?  I might even have to create a waiting list.

7.  The gym door has to be locked.  I left it open.  Luckily, the equipment was all locked up in the storage room.  I was told later that during the show, kids kept running in and out of the gym, playing around the ring.  A few kids had their skateboards in there.

8.  I have to remember to use the stool and the buckets.  The riggers brought stools to use in the corners.  However, I did not have Ashley, Man-Man, or Nassir sit down in the corner between rounds.  It didn't occur to me to use the stool until Jordan's fight.  I forgot to bring out the spit buckets, too.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Fourth In The Gym

A few days ago, Nassir's mom asked how often the hand wraps got laundered.  She must have smelled them.  I had been noticing the smell for awhile.  The kids don't seem to care, and to be honest, I never washed my own hand wraps out on a regular basis when I was at Loyola Park.  However, if a parent noticed that, then I needed to take action.  So today (yes, I had to work on the Fourth of July), I took the time to wash the hand wraps.  I hung them up on an old, unused exercise bar in the storage room to dry.

I also got rid of a small trampoline that has no legs.  Every time the kids saw it, they would ask about using it.  Having long been tired of the questions, I decided that it was time for the trampoline to go.

The refrigerator in the storage room was filthy.  Luckily, I was only storing bottles of water in it.  Now that I will occasionally store food in there, it was high time for a cleaning.  It's not spotless, and it could still do with a good scrubbing in some places.  But it is passable enough so that I don't have an icky feeling when I open the door.

Of course, no one showed up for class.  The park was filled with people and barbecue grills.  After doing my chores, I spent the rest of the day listening to my old, rickety radio in the gym, then for the last hour of the day, I helped monitor the front desk.  Leonard, an attendant, and myself had to keep admonishing boys who were coming in the building shirtless, or coming out of the pool area shirtless.  Other people were going in and out to use the washrooms.  The day was slow and quiet.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Fight Night at LaFollette Park

The fighters for LaFollette Park's boxing show arrived early.  It wasn't long before the gym was filled with kids from Scottsdale Park, Ogden Park, Hamlin Park, and Fuller Park.

Shanita and Julius were complete no-shows.  Unfortunately, I expected as much.  When Rick from Scottsdale showed up with the kid whom I had pre-matched with Julius, I called Julius's mom.  Come to find out that her son had gone visiting somewhere and would not return until next week.  I didn't even bother to ask about Shanita after that.  I was embarrassed to tell Rick that his fighter no longer had a match.  But Rick shrugged his shoulders and said, "We'll make do."

I really wanted to get fights for Kishaun and LaKendrick, but there just weren't enough contenders available for either.  Most of the kids had a lot of experience, too much for Kishaun and LaKendrick, both of whom have no fight experience.  But I'm determined to get them fights in the upcoming boxing shows.

Johnathan, one of the new kids, apparently thought that he was just going to bulldoze his way into getting a match.  In everything that I was going on, I momentarily lost track of who actually had fights.  I gave Johnathan a pair of hand wraps to put on, and I helped him wrap his hands.  When I realized that he had no fight, I was irritated with him.  "Boy, why did you put those on?  Don't waste people's time like that!" I snapped.

Coach James, seen here in the above photo, did a nice job being the announcer.

Mya decided at the last minute that she did not want to fight.  "If you don't want to, I'm not going to be mad," I told her, and she bowed out.  Her sister Ashley, and her brother Carmelius were pre-matched, so they were ready to go.  Nassir and Jordan came in later and were able to get fights.

Alan came by with John (not John the teacher), but there were no adults available for matches.  Kenny and Colonel came by, and they told me they wanted to volunteer in the gym.  I would love to have them there.  Some of the people in Loyola Park's adult boxing program also came to watch the fights.

Carmelius went the distance with his opponent, who I believe was one of David Diaz's fighters.  Diaz has some aggressive fighters in his group.  Carmelius did not win.  Every time he ran up to throw a punch, the other kid was laying in wait and had something for him.

Nassir was throwing wild punches during his bout.  I think Nassir's opponent was from Scottsdale Park.  Nassir wears glasses, and I'm not sure if that was because perhaps he couldn't see what was coming back at him.  That fight ended in the first round, when Tommy, who was the referee, saw that Nassir was taking too many punches.  Nassir's mom said to her son, "Why are you crying?  You know that this is boxing, and that people get hit.  Remember we talked about that."

Jordan's fight also ended quickly.  Another first round of throwing wild punches, while the other kid was picking shots and aiming correctly.  Jordan wasn't happy, either.  Next week, it is back to basics for all three boys, because they've got to learn how to control their punches.

Ashley fought a girl named Diana from Ogden Park.  Ashley was moving a bit slow, but her hands were not.  She kept popping Diana while constantly moving forward.  I could see Diana becoming frustrated because she couldn't figure out how to ward off Ashley's onslaught.  Twice, an eight count was called on Diana.  The third time it happened, the fight came to an end, and Ashley got the winner's trophy.  Kenny, Diana's coach, told me, "We want a rematch!"  "You've got it," I smiled.

Here is a shot of Ashley with her winner's trophy and her brother Carmelius (otherwise known as Man-Man) holding his second place trophy.  So Ashley is the first fighter I have trained to a win.  I felt very good about that, but even more so for Ashley who gave a good fight.