Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Blessing of Equipment

The above is a picture of myself and a group of fellow alumni who attended the 40th anniversary of the high school from where I graduated.  One of my buddies, Donna, who attended that event came by with her husband to drop off some boxing equipment.  I received a portable stand that holds a heavy bag and a speed bag, several bag gloves, and a leather jump rope.  I appreciated all of the equipment.  The kids and adults especially loved the speed bag.

I pulled an Alan move and talked Alexis, who is in the adult class, into some sparring.  We went very light.  However, Alexis does have power behind her punches.  If we were going hard, I would have had to seriously watch out.

Alexis just wants to learn boxing for self-defense, so I have to take a different approach to coaching her.  I also have to modify my coaching style for De-Fetrick, who basically comes into the adult class and does his own thing.  He wants to compete, so I'm trying to get him ready for the Simons Park show.

Of course, I'm baffled by how to approach coaching with some.  For example, Desmond was sparring with Eric today.  No matter how many times I kept telling Desmond to punch back, he would not.  Eric cracked Desmond all about his head and in his sides.  Against my better judgement, I let them do a second round.  By the end of that one, Desmond was in the blue corner crying and trying to hide it.  When I took his gloves off, I said, "We have to work on your response."

Sometimes I get the impression that some think being a boxing coach is easy.  It's not, but it's satisfying work.  I also have to think about how to help the fighters get better.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sparring With Erica

The boxing gym at Loyola Park was full of people.  Bean came in and told Alan and I, "I'm waiting for the crowd to clear out before I sign up again.  It's too small in here for all these people."  He has been looking for Kenny for the longest time, because he liked working on the punch mitts with him.  But Kenny hasn't been around for awhile because he's been busy elsewhere.

I sparred with Erica, and I had to take my shoes off.  My old boxing shoes are up at LaFollette Park, and I haven't gotten around to buying another pair yet.  I was moving better, but Erica is very fast.  She was throwing a lot of double jabs and hooks, and I didn't move out of the way quickly enough.  I managed to catch her with hooks to the body, and even some uppercuts.  I kept grabbing her arms, too, something I normally don't do during sparring.

Erica also sparred with Kathy.  She was finding ways around Kathy's long arms. Alan kept telling Kathy to work her way in with the jab.

Igor showed no shame.  While packing up to leave the gym for the evening, Igor stripped down to his underwear to change into his street clothes.  It was not a pretty sight.  There were several women on the premises, but Igor didn't care.  I don't have an "Igor" in my gym as of now.  I hope I never do.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Boxing Party

I wish parents would tell me if their kids have some medical issues before they sign up for the boxing gym.  I learned that one of the kids has asthma when they laid an inhaler on the equipment table.  I spent the rest of the time watching the kid like a hawk, hoping they would not have an attack.

This was a reoccurring issue while summer camp was going on.  I never knew who had a medical issue or not.  Of course, some of the kids were lying about having medical conditions to avoid having to do exercise when they were in the gym.  But some of them were not.  I understanding wanting to involve kids in activities.  What I don't understand is not checking to see if an activity is appropriate for a kid who has a medical condition.

Later, I attended an open house party at a private boxing gym in Evanston, IL ran by Fernando.  Barry, his wife and daughter, and Yale were in attendance.  Erick, who has trained with Barry, was there. I also met Joe, a 15-year-old who trains with Barry and Fernando.  Reygie was also there, and he was looking good in a suit.

Fernando had really fixed up the gym -- which used to be a BBQ restaurant -- up.  Heavy bags galore, free weights, a sound system, TVs, a ring, etc.  It is poised to fill the void left by the Evanston Boxing Gym, a place that used to be up the street until it recently closed down.  Fernando's in a good spot near downtown Evanston.  I think it will be a success.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Coach, I'm Bleeding"

The eight to twelve year old class is full, but only Johnathan, Aaron, and his brother Eric showed up to class.  All of them are eager to fight in the next boxing at Simons Park.  I made a mental note to work with them closely to get them ready.

BJ and Kody were the only ones who came to the gym for the teen class.  Kody kept bugging me to spar, even though today was not a scheduled day for that.  "If BJ wants to spar, then you all can," I told him.  Those two ended up sparring for the rest of the class.  Kody was playing around a lot during and in-between rounds.  I had to stop the action to change Kody's headgear because it was too big for him.

BJ was smiling about getting the best of Kody most of the time.  "I like sparring," he said, and I hoped he would change his mind about not fighting at Simons Park next month.  After the last round ended, BJ said, "Coach, I'm bleeding."  Not seeing anything, I asked, "Where?"  He walked over to me, and that's when I saw a stream coming out of his nose.  I quickly ran to get paper towels to clean him up.

Kody was surprised and concerned at the same time.  "I made someone bleed," he said.  He kept asking BJ if he was alright.  "I'm fine!" BJ answered.  He took it well.  I was amazed that Kody got a punch in like that.

Alexis was the only person who attended the adult class.  "Push me to the limit," she told me.  "I want to get healthy!"  She was tired out, but she soldiered on like a trooper.  I was also tired.  In-between throwing around the medicine ball, showing how to do footwork drills with the cones, showing how to use the slip bag, etc., I felt like I had put in some exercise as well.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Wiping Out Headgear

In this photo, Alan schools some of the new people who signed up for the fall boxing session at Loyola Park.  I recognized one new face as Chris, a guy who owns a computer repair shop in Rogers Park.

I had a lot of energy for some reason last night, but I didn't spar.  Instead, I watched as Alan and Gabe sparred.  Gabe wore no headgear, but Alan put on the hockey mask type headgear that Kevin left behind a few years ago.  He asked me to take it off of him and wipe it out between rounds.  "This gets so hot," he said.  I need new headgear, but having worn that particular headgear before, I would never buy that design.  Headgear is hot enough without also feeling like I'm in a cage.

Kathy and Celeste sparred.  I didn't get a chance to ask Celeste if she'd had some prior experience.  It sure looked like she did.  Celeste had to work harder to fend off Kathy's long arms and the punches at the end of them, but she did fine.  Kathy showed more confidence in the ring.

Gabe wondered if there had been anyone at the recent Loyola Park boxing show that could have matched up with him.  The only adult I remember participating in the show was Kathy.  All the guys who fought were under eighteen years of age. "It's just as well that I didn't make it to the show," Gabe said.  It's not that Gabe wasn't able to be matched up with people at other shows.  But Gabe is very tall and lanky, and that build is often hard to find among other fighters in the Chicago Park District.

In a few days, the private boxing show at Fernando's gym in Evanston will take place.  I'm going to attend regardless if have any fighters from LaFollette Park with me.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Snafus and Absences

Due to a snafu on the part of the insurance company, I had to forfeit a doctor's appointment that I had been waiting to go to for about three months.  The insurance company kept (in my late dad's words) dicking me around over the phone, so I could not resolve the problem right then and there.  Because of that, I was late to LaFollette.  After I arrived, I was wishing that I could immediately go home.

Kody and BJ came in.  They have signed up again for the class, but there's been no change in either.  If I don't stay on BJ, he doesn't train hard or consistently, and Kody just plays around.  It's a long 75 minute session when I have people in the gym who won't do what they are supposed to be doing.

Finally, I asked Kody, "Do you want to win fights?"  His response was, "I want to be able to hurt people on the street who mess with me."  I told Kody that he has to train as hard as someone who participates in regular matches to be able to defend himself elsewhere.  Kody was bugging BJ to spar, but BJ wasn't interested.  Then Kody turns around and says he's not interested in sparring.

BJ backtracked on his promise to take a fight at Simons Park next month, as well.  "I don't think I'm ready for that," BJ said.  "Why are these kids in here?" I thought to myself.  To make matters worse, Kishaun and Derrick Jr. were no shows.  I expected Kishaun to at least come in and explain why he didn't show up at Loyola Park's boxing show yesterday.  I'm trying to get out of the habit of always snapping and yelling at the kids as I don't like channeling either of my late parents' angry tones.  I forced myself to talk in even tones to BJ and Kody despite of all the slacking that was going on.   But it was damn hard for me to do.

There are only two more Chicago Park District boxing shows I'm going to take the kids to, and a private boxing show in Evanston, and that's it for this year.  I expect the self-motivation as well as the attendance to suffer even further after the opportunities to participate in matches dwindles.

None of the adults -- Dan nor De-Fetrick -- showed up for their class, either.  The absences did give me a chance to sign up two new kids, Felicia and Deshawn, for the 12 years old and under class.  That class is padding out a little more, and for that, I'm grateful.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Exhibitions and An Almost Fight

The photo above was taken in the gym after the Loyola Park 2015 "Boxing Explosion" show.  Barry is on the far left.  Gary is standing behind me on the left.  The twin teenage boys to the right of me had an exhibition match, and I worked the corner of one of them.  Alan worked the other corner.

I nearly got a fight.  Yeah, you read that one right.  Kathy, who's birthday was today, was matched up with a much younger girl for a fight.  Alan proposed that I take an exhibition match with Kathy.  I don't live very far from the field house, so I could have ran home and got my mouthpiece.  But Tommy felt more comfortable matching the younger girl up with someone else.  It appeared that Kathy would not be able to fight.  Then three fights into the show, Alan and I heard the announcer calling Kathy to come to the glove table and get suited up.  We thought the announcer had the wrong information, until we found out that Kathy was going to fight after all.

Alan was in Kathy's corner, and I helped in the corner of the other girl.  Kathy hung in there the full three rounds, despite taking a couple of hard hits directly in her face.  Unfortunately, Kathy lost the match.  But she did get a nice birthday present near the end -- she was given an award for Best Fighter Of The Show.

I also helped out another of Barry's fighters, a kid named Max, during a fight.  Max was putting his left jab out there fine, but wasn't throwing the straight right hardly at all.  During the breaks, I told Max to use that hand more, and to cover up his left side.  The other guy, also from Loyola Park, kept catching Max with hooks there.  That was also an exhibition match, so both guys received trophies.

My fighter, Kishaun, was a no show.  I can't understand it.  Kishaun was all hyped up about going to Loyola Park for weeks.  But Kishaun had not been in the gym at LaFollette to train for days, and I had a feeling I wouldn't see him at Loyola.  I was disappointed, but I can't get mad about it anymore.  This is the second time I was "stood up", but it's more about Kishaun missing an opportunity.

The turnout at the Loyola Park show was very low.  There were seven fights instead of the usual ten fights.  The audience watching the fights was small.  There were a lot of reasons:  fighters who didn't show up, it was raining out, and I heard from those who drove in that traffic was bad.  Those things happen sometimes when the boxing shows take place.  But like they say in the entertainment world, the show must go on.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What A Boxing Coach Wants Parents To Know

1.  I can only focus on the kids who are actually signed up for the program.  I'm not there to give free lessons and "try it out" sessions to the siblings, cousins, and buddies who have tagged along with the kids, but who are not signed up for the gym.

2.  I'm not a babysitter nor a playground monitor.  I can't watch the siblings, cousins, buddies of the kids in the program.  If they're not signed up for the gym, please leave them at home, or take them with after dropping off the kids who are signed up for the gym.

3.  Boxing will not automatically solve bullying issues.  In fact, it may escalate matters.  Also consider that most schools have a zero tolerance policy about fighting.  I do agree that people should be able to defend themselves.  However, it would be better to address bullying with your kid's teachers, the school administrators, and the parents of the kid who is doing the bullying than teaching your kid how to fight.

4.  I'm not going to deal with kids who present discipline problems to me in the gym.  I will bring it up to the parents at least once.  If I keep having to deal with it, and especially if I suspect nothing is being done at home to curb the behavior, I will strongly suggest that the kid be placed in another activity.  Please know that I'm not putting up with disrespect.

5.  Don't sign up kids for the gym with the idea of making them tough.  Some kids will, but others don't have the personality for it.  Know your kids.

6.  Don't force the kids into boxing.  Please ask the kid if they really want to take the sport up.  It is a waste of the kids' time to put them in an activity they don't enjoy.  It is also a waste of my time to try to teach them.  I will step in when I see a parent/guardian forcing a kid to spar when I see the kid is not returning punches, being injured, crying, etc.

7.  Make sure the kids are there on time.  When people show up late, people cheat themselves out of valuable training time.  The class times are what they are.  I'm not in a position to change them, nor make accommodations and exceptions.

8.  If the kid is involved in another sport whose practices take place at the same time, make a choice.  People can't train for two or more sports at the same time.

9.  Make sure the kid is showing up at the gym on a regular basis.  No one is going to learn how to box properly by showing up at the gym on and off.  I have other kids in the gym who show up regularly.  I'm not going to call home to find out why your kid is not there, because I'll be doing that every day.  I don't have the time to chase people.  If the kid really wants to be there, they'll show up.

10.  The classes are divided by ages for a reason.  I can't have an eight-year-old sparring with a fourteen-year-old.  I can't allow kids who aren't old enough for the classes to sign up.  Kids aren't allowed in the adult classes under any circumstances.  Kids need to be in the correct boxing class for their age group.

11.  People must be on time to boxing shows and tournaments.  Once the officials close the weigh-in, there is nothing I can do.  I'm not going to argue with them to let one more kid in, because everyone knew in advance when they were supposed to be there.  If a kid shows up without a mouthpiece, they won't be fighting that day.  I won't be carrying extra mouthpieces with me, especially when I know I gave your kid one some time ago.

12.  Respect the fact that there's only one boss in the boxing gym, and that's me.  I don't need parents/guardians standing at ringside calling out instructions over the instructions I'm already giving to their kids during training.  I don't need parents/guardians in the corners during boxing shows and tournaments giving their opinions.  If I know for a fact that the parents/guardians have had some boxing experience, I will gladly welcome their help.  Otherwise, it my job to coach.  Also, to male parents/guardians -- don't assume that I need help or worse yet, that I don't know what I'm doing because I'm a female.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sniffling and Not Breathing

Kishaun (on the left) does a sparring drill with his cousin Derrick Jr., or has Kishaun puts it, "shadow sparring".  Hopefully, both boys will get fights at Loyola Park's boxing show later this week.

While I was at Loyola Park, I got some pad work with Gabe.  Standing next to him really pointed out how short I really am.  I believe Gabe is six feet four.  I lasted two rounds, and learned some new punch mitt techniques at the same time.  Gabe noticed that I wasn't breathing as I threw my punches.  I was a bit embarrassed because that is a rookie mistake.  As much as I tell the kids at LaFollette Park to "breathe!" I should know better.

I was also sniffling.  Right before I got to Loyola Park, I stopped to play with Alex, a tomcat who lives up the street from me.  No sooner than I started petting Alex, my allergies kicked up.

I was running the gym for Alan because it was Rosh Hashanah.  Outside of Gabe, Kathy, David, and Connor were in attendance.  No sparring took place but it could have.  "When I was a volunteer," I told Gabe, "I couldn't let people spar when Alan was out.  But as a coach, I can."  "That's what's up!" Gabe said.

Over the weekend, I brought a new pair of five pound weights for LaFollette's boxing gym.  I was never crazy about the neoprene covered ones that were available in the storage room.  After the kids broke one of them, I was determined to replace them with some real cast iron weights.  As time goes on, I'll build up a collection of cast iron weights for the boxing participants to use.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Fall Season of Punching

Most of the new kids - Desmond, Dennis, Jamesa, and her sister Jannetta -- showed up.  TJ didn't come in.  No sign of the other kids either, and that was a big concern where Kishawn was concerned.  There's a boxing show at Loyola Park next week, and Kishawn was all hyped up about going.  Even his cousin Derrick said he might weigh in at that show for his first fight.

However, the other kids made up for any disappointment I had.  All were easy to work with, especially Jamesa and Jannetta, who are 13 and 16 years old, respectively.  Jannetta has some boxing experience via After School Matters, a youth program.  Someone told me the girls are home schooled, and the classes they take via the park district serve as their extra curricular activities.

I've come to realize that I can't expect or force the kids to follow the boxing training schedule I have up in the gym.  It's caused friction in the past with some kids in the gym when I insisted on that.  The kids are now being encouraged to use the list as a guideline and to craft their own workout.

No adults have signed up yet.  It's not the cost, which is low.  I think it has a lot to do with the time the class takes place.  But it can't be done any earlier, nor done any later.  Maybe if the adult class didn't meet on a daily basis, that would make it more attractive to people.  Most of the kids have long split their time between training with me and doing other activities.  Some of the adults have done this as well, but unlike the kids, they have more pressing demands on their time.  Right now, the class time is what it is.  I just hope more adults will find it.