Monday, August 31, 2015

Father and Son Boxing

I sparred with Kathy at Loyola Park, and nearly tripped and fell over my own feet.  My hands are always able to cooperate, but my knees don't agree.  Alan told me to cut off the ring on her, which wasn't easy.  For the most part, I kept planting myself in the middle of the ring to try to keep the action there.

Alan went a few hard rounds with Connor.  Alan's son, Matt, was watching from ringside.  "Is he doing this because I'm here?" Matt grinned.  Alan was popping Connor with vicious hooks, then Alan caught the younger man in the gut.  Connor was bent over.  They were scuffling in the corners, too.  Connor caught Alan with some full-on jabs and rights.

Matt got into the ring with his dad, and as you can see from the photo above, Matt was not wearing headgear.

They rumbled around the ring for a few rounds, then stepped back into the ring later for a second sparring session.  They were all up in the corners and on the ropes.  Alan was bouncing off of the ropes; Matt was blocking a lot of punches. As Matt was stepping out of the ring after their last session, Alan held up his hand in victory.  Matt didn't see the gesture, but I did.  I was laughing.

Matt gave me some good advice about some supplements I can take to help with my arthritis.  I take glucosamine for my knees.  Matt said that would help rebuild cartilage, but not do much about the daily pain that I feel.  I'm willing to try anything that will help me to move better when I walk and run.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rain Day

No one showed up at the gym.  I guess the rain kept people at home.  Well, no people in attendance gave me time to:

a) eat my lunch
b) check on the attendance numbers for the upcoming fall session
c) read
d) do a little clean up in the gym
e) plan for the upcoming boxing shows and the fall session

As an extra food bonus, I was invited to have some BBQ sausages by LaShawn, a guy who came in to check out the gym.  He took pictures of the fall schedule times so he could promote the program to people he knows.  LaShawn was doing something with the field house's football team; I think they had a scrimmage game today.  The food was mostly for the team.  I also took a picture with the team.

The football coach had me give a brief speech to the team regarding boxing training.  I told them that boxing training can help them with stamina and conditioning.  Again, plans were made to have the football team come into the gym, but it seems the timing is never right.

Kishaun and Rocky did show up yesterday.  The reason they didn't make it to Harrison Park was because they couldn't get a ride.  Public transportation was working, but hey, I don't know everyone's situation.  Oh, well.  No sense in me continuing to grumble about it.  I'll just have to hope for the best when we go to Loyola Park in a few weeks.

That sparring session I planned that didn't take place?  I learned that a lot of the coaches didn't receive the flyer -- which I received late to mail out -- until after the event.  Next time, I'll skip having a flyer made, and I'll just call everyone directly to invite them.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Let Down At Harrison Park

Both Rocky and Kishaun called me at the field house, assuring me that they were going to be at Harrison Park for a boxing show.  "Please get there by 5:30 PM,"  I advised them.  I showed up at 5:00 PM.  Many fighters showed up in hopes of getting a fight.  There a long line for the weigh-in.  But after the last two fighters showed up around 6:25 PM to get weighed in, Tommy shut the scale down so the coaches could get about the business of making matches.  Rocky and Kishaun never showed up.

Of course, I was ticked off.  Kishaun could have had a match because of the wealth of boys who showed up looking for fights.  But then, Kishaun hadn't been in the gym for two days, and he might have re-thought taking a fight because of missed training time.  However, both Rocky and Kishaun have to think about the fact that I closed the whole gym down.  That meant that no one was able to train today, including the adults who have to pay for the boxing class.  I don't have an official park district volunteer for whom the staff will feel comfortable to open up the gym for in the event that I'm away at a boxing show with other fighters.

Also, both Rocky and Kishaun would have got to see some very good fights at the show. The fighters were serious about winning, and some very hard blows were thrown.  Most of the fights went the distance; only a couple of them were stopped.

I saw Joe, a trainer who I hadn't seen for a long time.  I received a warm greeting both from him and Sean, a referee.  "Gentleman" Gerald and Shifty were the other two referees.  Ernest, Rodney, Fermin, Mike, and Jeff rounded out the coaches who attended.

Fortunately, the night wasn't a total loss, because John from Loyola Park was able to get a fight.  I helped Alan in the corner with him.

John didn't win, but he put up a good fight.  I told Alan that I was bringing fighters to his and Barry's boxing show next month.  But whether Kishaun and any of the other kids choose to show up remains to be seen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

40 Years Older

No sign of Kishaun today.  Ashanti called her cousin via cell phone, only to be told that Kishaun was hanging around with another set of cousins somewhere.  I know I told him last week there was a boxing show at Harrison Park going on this week.  "Kishaun shouldn't be missing days at the gym," Ashanti said, and I agreed with her.

For a brief moment, Shanita and Julius made another appearance.  As usual, Shanita did all of the talking, while her brother just looked around.  She's fully into basketball these days, so she (nor her brother, for that matter) are returning to boxing any time soon.  The both of them seemed surprised to see Derrick, his parents, and Ashanti in the gym.

I had Ashanti and Derrick do sparring drills for a few rounds.  Then Derrick asked if I would do some rounds with him.  The drill was made up of just us moving around and throwing punches, but not landing any.  The point was to work on footwork, head movement, getting out of the corners, and defense.  Derrick is very quick, but I managed to get him backed into the corners several times.  Once there, he easily turned out of the corners.

At some point, I realized that I was chasing around a 13-year-old kid.  "I'm forty years older than he is," I thought, as I struggled to keep up.  That's one of the benefits of being a boxing coach.  The coach has to practice their skills in order to keep time with the people he or she has in the gym.  I got a good workout today.  "You've got some skills!" Derrick exclaimed afterwards.  I try to do my best.

Ashanti's mom doesn't want her to spar, I learned.  "Accidents could happen," Ashanti explained.  I guess that means she won't be taking on any boxing matches.  Yet she has a good pair of strong hands.  Sigh. . .it seems that I've lost Ashley, even though she won her one fight.  Now it looks as if I won't have Ashanti facing anyone in the ring.  Girls show up expressing their interest in fighting, but the challenge is getting them to really get into it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Upcoming Shows

"Ralph is a good fighter," Alan said.  "Too bad he's leaving tomorrow."  It was Ralph's (wearing the blue hoodie in the photo) last day at Loyola Park.  He's flying home to attend college, where he will major in international economics and law.  Alan wished he could have gotten more fights for him.

I learned there will be a show fight somewhere on Ravenswood, but I don't know if there will be any slots for younger fighters.  I'm planning to take some of my fighters to Harrison Park later this week for another Chicago Park District boxing show.  Kishaun is up for it.

His cousin Derrick needs to control his temper, however.  Last week, Kishaun got the better of a sparring session between him and Derrick.  Despite Rocky, Derrick Sr., and myself telling Derrick to keep his emotions out of it, the boy stormed out of the gym afterwards.

The summer session is now officially over as of last week, and I'm looking forward to fall.  I want to take my fighters to the upcoming boxing shows at Loyola Park, Simons Park, and Humboldt Park.  I'm very pleased that summer camp is done, so I don't have to deal with that set of kids vandalizing my gym, at least until next year.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Blood On My Work Shirt

Yesterday was the boxing show at Ogden Park.  Initially, I was concerned about having my fighters come there because it is far from LaFollette Park.  Kenny, the coach at Ogden, wanted a rematch of one of his girls with Ashley.  Yet Ashley hasn't been in to train in weeks.  So that left Kishaun, whom I had been trying to get a fight for the longest time.

First, Kishaun was the eighth fight of the evening.  But there was a switch-up, and Kishaun ended up having the fifth slot instead.  Tommy wasn't there for the weigh-ins, but other staff were, including a guy named Dan.  I'd never seen Dan before, but he seemed to be very concerned about making sure everything was on the up-and-up.  I got there after Kishaun and his family did, so I immediately had Kishaun to weigh in.  I filled out a paper indicating my fighter's age (11 years) and how many fight he'd had (none).  But Dan asked Kishaun those questions again to verify what I had written.

"Gentleman" Gerald was the referee for all the fights.  Gerald is the boxing coach at Ada Park, and he's also a professional boxing referee.

Rocky warmed Kishaun up while I kept an eye on the fights.  The fight before Kishaun's ended quickly, so we had to rush up to the ring.

Kishaun's fight didn't last long, either.  Even though my fighter hesitated too long sometimes to throw punches, Kishaun kept his guy against the ropes and in the corners.  Then suddenly, the other boy was in his corner, holding on to his face after the first round ended.  I made Kishaun sit on the stool in our corner.  Gerald came over, waving his hands.  "It's over," he told us.

I looked down on my shirt and saw specks of blood on it.  Kishaun wasn't bleeding.  The other kid was bleeding, however.  The blood from that kid on Kishaun's gloves got on me when I took Kishaun's gloves off.  Well, that shirt has to go into the laundry.  Luckily, I have extra work shirts to wear.

My fighter clearly won the fight.  However, no winners were declared in any of the fights that took place.  The hands were raised of each fighter, and the announcer would say, "They are both winners!"  That was the first time I had seen that happen for every fight at any boxing show I've seen.  I understand the reasoning behind the "every kid wins a prize for participating" issue, but I'm not in agreement with it.  Kishaun had waited a while to get a match.  I wish his trophy had "winner" imprinted on it.

That's okay.  I'll just make sure I talk up his win the next time I'm in the gym.  Hopefully, that will not only encourage Kishaun to keep going in the sport, but will inspire other kids to try boxing, too.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Gym Full Of Cousins

Now Kishaun doesn't want to jump rope in addition to not wanting to shadow box.  "I don't like jumping rope," he told Rocky.  Both Rocky and I explained that jumping rope is for stamina, coordination, and footwork.  But Kishaun kept complaining.  Rocky told him, "Just for that, you'll jump rope every day next week."

Slowly, the kids and teen boxing classes are gaining participants for the fall season.  Ashanti, a cousin to Derrick Jr. and Kishaun, signed up.  I joke to myself that the youth classes are being filled up by Rocky's relatives.

Joseph, another of Rocky's relatives, is planning to sign up, but he lives out in the western suburbs, as does Tyrone.  The park district's usual policy is that if someone who lives outside of city limits partakes in a class or activity, they have to pay a higher fee.  That doesn't seem to apply to the youth boxing classes, which are free.  I'm more concerned about the suburban kids being able to come to class on a regular basis.  Most have to depend on someone driving them there. If they can't get a ride for any reason, that's another day of missed training.

Nassir ran in and ran out of the gym, not doing a workout.  Looks like I'm going to have to have a talk with his mother regarding whether boxing is a good fit for her son.

I hope Mel and Ben return for the adult class, even if they continue to split their time between the fitness center and boxing.  I like having them, and Ben's sister, Alex, in the class.

In light of the speed bag I had hung up to be used as a slip bag being torn down last week, I'm now concerned about having other equipment in the gym.  The ring is showing wear and tear from the two months of hell the summer camp kids inflicted on it.  The heavy bags took some damage, too, and the bulletin board closest to the entrance door was targeted for vandalism.  Thank God I could lock up the gloves, headgear, jump ropes, etc., or else those would have been destroyed and/or stolen.  If I can arrange to keep the summer camp kids out of my gym next year, I will.  Summer camp is for a short time, but my program is all year long. The equipment needs to remain in good condition for my fighters.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Another Walkout and More Vandalism

I walked into the gym to find an old speed bag, which I had hung up for the fighters to use as a slip bag, had been torn down and thrown to the floor.  I had just hung that up yesterday, as well as a new slip bag I purchased from Ringside. I guess the rope holding up the new slip bag was too hard to pull down, which was why that was still hanging.  I have no doubt that one of the little wonders were literally swinging on the speed bag that came down.

So I go to the camp director -- again.  I had the downed speed bag in my hands.  "The kids were only in there to get their lunch, but they didn't eat in there," she said.  Regardless of the fact that the summer camp kids don't eat in the gym often, they're always in there long enough to mess with the equipment.  The camp counselors never seem to put the kids in check about that unless I happen to be on the premises yelling at the kids to stay off the equipment.  Fortunately, one of the attendants backed me up.  They had been in the gym to clean earlier in the morning.  "I didn't see that bag on the floor when I was in there.  It had to be one of the summer camp kids who did that," they said.

The camp director had no answer -- again.  I walked away, loudly grumbling, "I'll be glad when these summer camp kids are gone!"  "You and me both, so we can get back to a regular schedule!" the attendant said in agreement.

Later, Nassir and Derrick Jr. showed up for boxing class.  Derrick Jr. was working hard as usual.  Nassir rolled into the place twenty minutes late, then dawdled around for several minutes more.  I kept getting on Nassir to follow the workout schedule which is in black and white, and in plain English up on one of the bulletin boards.  But Nassir didn't want to listen, nor do what was required. "Do you want to win the next fight?' I asked him.  Apparently tired of my nagging, Nassir left early, but not before leaving a parting shot.  "I'll just get out of your way," I was told.  Nassir comes to the gym when the mood hits, often shows up late, is seldom focused on the workout, and then tries to put me on a guilt trip?  Very few have been successful in sending me on those journeys; Nassir better ask somebody.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lateness and Attitudes

Nassir waltzed into the gym 35 minutes late, and I pointed it out to him.  "What's going on?" his mom asked, and I explained the situation to her.  Then Nassir mostly wasted what was left of class time:  taking too long to put on hand wraps, talking with the other kids, being distracted by other activity in the gym, and generally just standing around.

I worked mainly with Little Jordan, because Rocky and Derrick Sr. were working with Kishaun and Derrick Jr.  Little Jordan was not turning his fists over properly while hitting the punch mitts I was holding.  I kept thinking about how badly Little Jordan's last fight went, and I got on him a little hard about not being focused.  Little Jordan didn't appear to be enthusiastic about the rest of his workout, either.

However, I gave up on Nassir after several minutes.  At ten minutes to the end of class, I told both him and Little Jordan to take off their wraps and finish out with floor exercises.  Nassir mumbled some excuses, but I wasn't in the mood.  "Nassir, when you're late, that's training time that's being missed," I said.  Nassir's last fight was a disaster as well.

I compared how hard Kishaun, Derrick Jr., and later, Andre, were working to Little Jordan and Nassir's attitudes.  I wanted to ask Little Jordan and Nassir if they wanted to win their next fights.  Concerned about how my tone would sound, I kept quiet.  I would really like to hear their answers, however, since Little Jordan and Nassir's attendance has been sporadic as of late, and I can't seem to get any cooperation out of them when they are in the gym.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Locked Doors and Missed Sparring

I was tired Monday night, but I went up to Loyola Park anyway.  Usually that is the only time of the week where I actually get some real exercise in.  I begged off sparring with Kelly, however.  My knees took a pounding from walking extensively through two street festivals the day before.

Not many people were in attendance which is the usual for this time of year.  But it is always such a pleasure to go to a gym where there are mirrors for shadow boxing, a speed bag, and more than one heavy bag up -- all things which LaFollette Park's gym still doesn't have.  I ordered a slip bag over the weekend, but I don't plan to put it up until LaFollette's summer camp is completely over.  I don't need any of the summer camp kids swinging on it and tearing it down.

The kids and teen boxing classes were empty today at LaFollette.  Before the adult class began, I noticed that the outermost door leading to the gym was closed.  People know I'm down here.  Why in the hell was the door closed?  I thought to myself.  Ben, BJ, and Alex showed up for the adult class.  Just as I was closing up the gym after they left, Rocky showed up with Derrick, Kishaun, and a couple of new boys who wanted to join the classes.  They told me they had showed up earlier, but the outermost door was locked.  When they went up to the front desk to ask if class was taking place, they were allegedly told that I was either walking along the track in the park or I was on break.

Really?  I haven't had time to walk on the track surrounding the football field since last summer.  And when do I go on break?  I don't really get breaks; I'm always in the gym.  Rocky and the boys were disappointed that they missed out on sparring.  I was irritated that they had been given some wrong information about my whereabouts.  Also, the outermost door being locked was probably the work of the kids who are attending the late summer camp and/or the camp counselors.  They didn't come inside the gym, thank goodness, to get their afternoon snack.  The kids went directly into the Teen Club room down the hallway from the gym (where the kitchen is) to get fed.

Since I still haven't received the fliers I requested, I called the other coaches to let them know about the sparring session I'm having on the last day of the summer session.  I didn't catch anybody as most of their classes start later in the day, but I did leave messages.  Next week is another boxing show -- this time at Ogden Park -- so I'll spread the word more when I get there.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Biting My Tongue To An Extent

The above photo is of one of two bulletin boards up in La Follette Park's boxing gym.  This particular board hadn't been up for too long when I took the picture.  These days, the board looks like it has been through a war.  Today I walked in to find another of the postings on this board torn down and on the floor.

So I take my concern to the appropriate parties, namely the camp director, and a few of the summer camp counselors who happened to be standing nearby.  Let's just say the answer I received as to why the kids can't be told to stop putting their hands on the bulletin board was not satisfactory.  One of the counselors had the nerve to say, "I feel you, but tomorrow is the last day of the regular camp, and we'll get a break."  "I needed a break all summer long, because this keeps happening," I said, my temper rising in my chest.  I abruptly walked away before I really said something that would upset everyone.

If the posting had been completely destroyed, I could have easily replaced it.  What really pissed me off about the incident was the lack of respect shown towards my work space.  Later, when the summer camp kids came down for their afternoon snack, I parked myself in a chair in front of the board in order to keep them off of it.  When I saw kids with food sitting on the apron of the gym, I barked at them to get up.  Another kid put her finger on my thigh as she passed by in the food line, and let it linger there for too long.  She grinned at me.  "Why are you touching me?" I snapped.  She moved away.

There was a boxing show at Seward.  I closed up the gym and came upstairs to the front desk about 45 minutes before leaving La Follette to go there.  "Why are you looking so mean?" another staff member asked me.  "I'm not in the mood to deal with these kids today," I said.  "Well, that's your job, boo," they answered.  "I'm glad I don't have to deal with kids at home," I retorted.  I was in a foul mood, and efforts to keep biting my tongue were threatening to fail, big time.

Andre and Kishaun made it to Seward.  Surprisingly, not enough parks showed up with their fighters.  That was too bad for Kishaun, who didn't get a fight. Andre got a fight with a kid whom I was told didn't have much experience.  However, the kid was a little bigger than Andre in terms of strength.  The kid looked like they lifted weights.  "Uh, oh," I thought when I saw him.

Alan, who was there with four guys from the adult boxing program at Loyola, helped me in the corner with Andre.  Andre has strong punches, but he didn't use them.  I kept telling Andre not to allow the other kid to back him into the ropes and corners, but to no avail.  Andre kept bending over and covering up, as well as not keeping his eyes on the other guy.  Rocky was giving him advice, too, but Andre wasn't listening.  Andre received three eight counts.  Of course, Andre did not win the fight.

Then I helped Ralph, one of the fighters from Loyola Park, in his corner.  He had an exhibition match against John (who is a teacher, by the way, just like the other John at Loyola).  John caught Ralph in the nose.  I was wiping blood off of Ralph in between the second and third round.  They both did well, however.

During that fight, Nassir, who had tagged along with Andre, was standing ringside, calling out instructions as if he was the coach.  One more thing to piss me off today, I thought.  Then Nassir was peppering me with questions about upcoming boxing shows while the match was going on.  I tried to keep my focus on Ralph and John.

After taking the headgear off of Andre after his fight, I told him, "We're going to have to work on technique again in the gym."  Back to the drawing board -- again.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Thirty Years Younger

I did four rounds of sparring at Loyola Park -- two with Annie, and two with Katie.  It was Annie's last day at the gym.  She's moving to Maryland.  Alan told her she could probably find good boxing gyms out there.

Annie moves similar to Erica.  She bounces a lot, but it's not wasted movement.  I got cracked upside my head a few times because I didn't have my hands up.  I was able, however, to get in more hooks.

It was hard to get in body blows on Katie.  She uses her long arms to an advantage.  I kept tapping her left jab down, and I tried to come over with my straight right.  I kept thinking "be an inside fighter", but it was tough for me to do so.  Katie would get hers in then move back.  I was trying to return punches from a mile away, as Alan put it.

Turns out that both Katie and Annie are about thirty years younger than I am.  No wonder I was having a hard time keeping up.  Sparring with them just further proved to me why I should no longer entertain the idea of competing.  Both my knees felt like they were swollen.  I was moving around the ring like a turtle.

One reason that I spar when I go to Loyola Park is to get exercise in.  Another reason is to keep up on skills so I can pass them on to the kids and adults at La Follette Park.  Also, when the kids in particular start talking about, "I'm tired", I can point out that if a middle aged woman like myself can do a few rounds of sparring, the kids can do a workout.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

A Fair Interruption

I saw the move Southpaw.  Reviews for it had been mixed, and not really complimentary, but it wasn't bad.  Jim Lampley, Jimmy Lennon Jr., Roy Jones Jr., and Lou Di Bella -- real-life members of the boxing community -- were featured in the film.  Jake Gyllenhall was cut.  Whoever trained him for this film did a good job.  Most of the punches were rough and beautiful.

Yesterday was the second day of zero training in the gym at LaFollette Park.  The day before that, the gym was shut down for cleaning in preparation for a neighborhood gospel fest that took place the following day.  I spent all day yesterday keeping people off of the ring and the heavy bags.

Hot dogs and hamburgers were being given away outside to the kids attending the fest.  There is a kitchen in the gym area, and more mature fare (chicken, macaroni and cheese, etc.) was prepared for the adults who didn't want hot dogs and burgers.  A few tried to park themselves on the apron of the gym to eat.  "No food on the ring, please," I said loudly.

I overheard one parent grumbling because they were told that their little wonders were only allowed to get the hot dogs and hamburger that were being grilled outside.  The parent went on and on about how "mean" church people, the ones who were serving the food, are.  What I heard was an entitled mama attitude that she needed to get over and drop.

After explaining to the one of the boys who plays football why the gym was shut down for two day, he asked, "So Coach Hillari, you're not happy about not being able to train?"  "Yeah, I'm a bit pissed, but there's not much I can do," I replied.  Nearby was a dental outfit who were offering teeth cleanings in the gym. Yes, you read that right; dental services in a boxing gym.  Earlier, they had moved the equipment table and a chair I had been sitting on without asking.  I know they heard my comment, but I didn't care.  I've become very protective of my space in the field house.