Friday, October 30, 2015

No More Paper

The weather was winter-like today, and kids who are not in the boxing program are continuing to make a habit of attempting to use the gym as a hang out space.  No one showed up for the teen and adult classes, so I was quietly minding my business.  Then the bouncing of a ball interrupted my peace.  Kentrell, who bothers me like sandpaper against a blister, had a basketball in his hands.

"Do you have mouthpieces?" he asked me.  "Yeah, for the people who are in the boxing class," I said, giving the kid a hint that he did not take.  "Can I have one?" he asked.  "Uh, Kentrell. . . .you're not in the class.  I can't just give out mouthpieces," I said as evenly as I could.  I was reading a book to pass the time, having already put up the equipment for the day.  I had done a kettlebell workout.  I wanted to be left alone.

"I want to be in the boxing class," Kentrell announced.  I'm sick of that boy always coming to me with that every time he sees me.  There's no real interest in boxing on his part.  I know that from when Kentrell was in the class several sessions ago.  "For any activity in the park district, you must have a parent's permission to sign up.  Kentrell, you can't sign yourself up," I explained to him for the umpteenth time.  "Just give me me the paper.  My mama wants me in the boxing class," he whined.  "There is no paper anymore.  She either comes in person to sign you up or she gets on a computer and signs you up online," I told him.

Kentrell then decided he was going to goof around on the equipment in-between bouncing the basketball.  "This is not the basketball gym, so hold that ball.  And get off the equipment," I snapped.  Finally realizing that nothing was going to happen the way he wanted, Kentrell left.

It's a good thing that the park district has decided to go paperless.  When I first started, I handed out a lot of registration forms that never made it back to me.  Some of the kids kept telling me they wanted to be in the class, but the forms had been left at home, or at grandma's house, or they lost them.  Uh-huh.  Now if the parents truly are interested in their kids participating in any activity, they have to make an effort.  It appears a lot of the parents I deal with do not have a computer at home, so making an effort means having to interact with the staff.  It means actually getting information about the programs and activities so they know exactly what is going on.  It cuts down on confusion.

Or at least no one will have an excuse for not knowing the details.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Another Red Eye

Alan and Tony are all smiles in the above photo.  It was taken after Tony had sparred with Connor.  Alan joked with Tony about going into the ring with me.  Tony laughed, "Oh, no!  I don't want to end up bleeding!"

Normally, Loyola Park boxing gym is not packed around this time of year.  But last night, not only was it packed, but there were new people who had just signed up for the program.  A familiar face had also returned: Jason.

Jason was wearing a breathing mask that he said helps with his stamina.  The mask can be set to mimic high altitudes found in mountain areas.

I sparred with Celeste, and managed to catch her with a left uppercut.  "That uppercut was perfect," she told me later.  She got me in my left eye, and bopped me in the nose a couple of times.  I looked in the mirror and chuckled to myself.  David, over at LaFollette, had turned that same eye red when we sparred last week.  Celeste told me she needs all the practice she can get.  She's going out of town soon to compete in a boxing match.

"I'm surprised that Kathy didn't come in," Alan said.  He plans to take people to the Humboldt Park boxing show next week, and Kathy would be one of them. I'm hoping that one or two of the kids at LaFollette will want to fight at that show.  Unfortunately, I'm anticipating a problem with De-Fetrick, who's in the adult boxing class.

The athletic cup I lent him at the Simons Park show still hasn't been returned.  The last time De-Fetrick showed up, I explained that the cup was park district property that had to be brought back.  Then De-Fetrick disappeared for several days.  I tried calling his mom's house, but I couldn't get through.  I was able to reach his grandmother, who told me she would contact his mom about the cup. Alan suggested that I not allow De-Fetrick to work out until the cup is returned.  A few years ago, Alan had to tell one of the program participants not to come back to the gym after it was discovered they had stolen a pair of bag gloves.

When and if De-Fetrick comes to the gym again, I'm going to have to lower the boom if he doesn't have the cup with him.  I anticipate there's going to be an argument when I announce there will be no workout until the cup is returned.  But like Alan told the person who stole the gloves from Loyola Park, I can't have anybody around the gym who's walking off with equipment.  The park district is on a budget, and it is not easy to replace items that have been damaged or stolen.

I brought myself another set of kettlebells over the past weekend, so I'm donating a lone 10 pound kettlebell I have to the gym.  I've always wanted to teach the boxing participants how to use kettlebells.  Some of them may like that over using the free weights.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Diets and Cut Lips

Once again, no other kids showed up for the eight-to-twelve-year-olds' class other than David.  After he did his warm up and a few rounds of shadowboxing, he and I sparred.

Twice I was hit in my left eye.  In-between rounds two and three, I felt something wet on my bottom lip, but I didn't pay much attention to it.  A check in the mirror in the women's washroom afterwards revealed that my left eye was red, and my bottom lip had a cut on it.  All that from a shy nine-year-old.

David is improving.  He still needs to throw his jabs and rights straighter.  There was a bit of windmill action going on with his punches.  David knows how to back someone up into the corners and the ropes.  There were plenty of times when he kept coming forward while pummeling me.  I got in some uppercuts and hooks to the body, some straight punches to his face, and some hooks to David's head.  But my punches didn't have a whole lot of pepper on them.  I'm always afraid of hurting the kids, so I hold back when sparring with them.  But I allow them to get as many punches in on me as possible.

The upper left side of my back had been bothering me since before I left to go to work.  Finally I figured out I must have pulled something when I was throwing the medicine ball around yesterday with David's cousin, Darlene.  We were throwing the ball from our sides to each other.  A fourteen-year-old girl could do that without incident, but not so much a 53-year-old coach.  However, I couldn't back out on sparring with David.  I had promised him the day before that we would spar.

A couple of the kids, Kody and BJ, like to see how they can gross me out by telling me what they've been eating during the day.  Kody usually shows up with a huge bag of junk food: chips, cupcakes, and a large liter of pop to wash it all down.  BJ has called Kody out on his eating habits, but BJ loves eating a lot of chips and sugary snacks, too.

BJ always asks me about what is healthy to eat.  I'm no expert.  Just like the kids, I ate whatever I wanted to back in the day.  Unfortunately, as an adult, I learned too late that ignoring my family's tendencies towards high blood pressure and diabetes was not a good thing.  I don't get on the kids hard about eating certain things.  I preach moderation instead.  Better to have a little bit of something once in awhile, than to make it part of a daily diet routine.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My Toleration Levels Ain't That High

A woman inquired about getting her friend's sixteen-year-old son into the boxing program.  I was interested until she told me that her friend's son has a major behavioral problem.  Her friend appears not to have much control over her son's disrespectful and disruptive behavior.  As usual, it is assumed that boxing will take the place of counseling and just plain old-school discipline.

The last thing I need is another problem kid in the boxing gym.  I used to have a whole crowd of them when I first started working for the park district.  Most of them stopped participating in the program, and the others I weeded out.  I've got a good set of kids who currently come to the gym.  I don't want to see that balance upset right now.

It was nice of the woman to want to help her friend out.  I told her that I need permission directly from the kid's mom to put them in the class.  She thanked me and said she would pass along the class information to her friend.  However, I was already planning what to do in case the kid is signed up.  I already know that what his mama is putting up with, I will not tolerate.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Look Who Decided To Show Up

A mom walked into the gym with her very husky twelve-year-old son.  She wanted him to be in boxing, but the kid wasn't so sure.  I told the both of them that her son would be put into the teen class as opposed to the kids' class because of his size.

The other day, I told a couple that their eight-year-old could sign up, but their seven-year-old would have to wait a year.  If the younger kid's eighth birthday was coming up during the next three months, I would have green lighted his being in the class.  However, his birthday is not until late next summer.

The kids and teens' classes are separated largely because of ages, sizes, and weights. But even among kids in approximately the same age group, there can be wide variations, especially where size is concerned.  I also have to consider safety, especially in terms of sparring purposes.  I don't often like having to tell parents that all of their kids can't be in the same class, but rules have to be followed.

However, I do have some parents who have decided that their young kids are going to be in the teen class even though they aren't old enough and are small in size.  "My kid can't come to the earlier class because they don't get out of school until later," is the most common excuse given to me.  But it presents a problem where sparring is concerned.  I want to avoid mismatches as well as injuries whenever possible.

Near the end of the teen class, De-Fetrick decides to show up.  After the teens left, I asked him, "Where is the athletic cup I lent to you when we were at Simons Park?"  "I think it's at my grandmother's house," he answered.  What  in the eff is it doing over there? was on the tip of my tongue.  What actually came out of my mouth was, "It has to come back here.  That's park district property."

The security guard for the building and a staff member came down to the gym to check on me.  They had heard about De-Fetrick's antics at the boxing show, and pulled me to the side.  "Everything cool?" they asked, giving De-Fetrick suspicious looks.  "Everything's cool.  De-Fetrick can continue to train.  Just can't box in any of the boxing shows anymore," I explained.

De-Fetrick didn't apologize for snapping on me the night of the show. He just did his workout, and as usual, didn't seek out any feedback.  Remember, this is the guy who told me, "I learned how to box from watching TV."  Watching TV didn't get him a win that night.  As much as I have demanded apologies from people, especially from those who still owe me ones from things done years ago, I don't care about receiving an apology in this case.  Tommy is the one to whom De-Fetrick owes a major apology, as Tommy was extremely disrespected that night.  If De-Fetrick ever hopes to fight again in a Chicago Park District boxing show, he's going to have to talk to Tommy.

I'm not going to plead his case to Tommy, either.  According to the state of Illinois, De-Fetrick is legally grown at age nineteen.  Grown folks need to take care of their own business.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

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Professor showed up to Loyola Park last night with some good news.  He's has a new job that's paying him a nice piece of change.  Amen!  I believe in praising people who have come into good blessings.  I think a lot of people don't realize that praising others on their good fortune will return blessings to them as well.  It is always good to see someone who has been working for something for a long time finally achieve their goals.

It was mostly ladies' night.  There was a round robin of sparring between Kathy, Gabby, Celeste, Erica, and myself.  Erica got me in my head and jaw several times because of my habit of dropping my hands.  Since I'm not as fast as I used to be, it would pay for me to be a little better on defense.  Erica told me afterwards that I should have used the overhand right more.  Alan had told me that before I got into the ring, but I forgot to utilize it.

David and Professor had a short, but intense sparring session after the women were finished.  Then Professor held pads for Celeste.  Alan observed them and said, "Celeste is really coming along."  I agreed, as she was putting her punches solidly into the punch mitts.  

Meanwhile at LaFollette Park, I saw Eric in the hall a few days ago with his football gear on.  His dad was following him.  "They'll be back in the boxing gym," his dad told me about Eric and his other son, Aaron.  "They're just doing football now."  I nodded, but noted to myself that their dad signed up his sons for boxing knowing they were already involved with another sport.  I can't get mad it anymore because it happens so often with most of the kids.  However, I can't stop being disappointed at the low level of attendance in the gym.

I sparred with nine-year-old David the other day.  I felt it was unfair for him not to be able to spar because the other kids in the class don't show up as faithfully as he does, so I stepped into the ring with him.  David's confidence has gone up.  The kid also hits rather well.  One of his shots got me right in the nose.  

No sign of De-Fetrick, so it's probably safe to assume that he won't be in the gym anymore.  It's too bad.  If De-Fetrick hadn't been such a sore and unreasonable loser at Simons Park, we could have worked on techniques for the next fight.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

One, Then Two, Then One Again

David was the only kid who showed up for the eight to twelve year olds' class. David's mom remembered when David sparred with Johnathan.  "What happened to the other kids?" she asked me.  I shrugged my shoulders.  It would be nice if her son had other kids to work out with while he's there.  "Well, David gets the benefit of having the gym all to himself," I told his mom.

Darlene and a new girl, Aylah, were the only two who showed up for the teens' class.  I was hoping that Kody, who hasn't been around for a couple of days, would not come in to interfere with the girls' workout.  I got my wish.  Unfortunately, BJ didn't come in so the girls could have one more person in the gym to work with.

Alexis was the only one who came in for the adult class.  She was shaking her head when I told her about De-Fetrick's antics at Simons Park the other week.  "How do you get more adults to sign up for the class?" she asked me.  "It was easy to get the kids in.  I just passed out fliers at the schools, and word of mouth took over after that.  But it's hard to reach out to the adults," I answered.  Alexis pointed out that some adults aren't looking online to find out what is offered at the park district.  That's the problem nowadays.  Companies and organizations forget that everyone is not computer literate, everyone does not own a computer, and that everyone is not interested in learning anything about computers.  A lot of information doesn't get out to those who may be interested because people insist on putting everything online.

The three classes were easy to run today, but a lot more energy would be generated if everyone who is signed up would show up more often.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Three Strikes and Out

The photo above shows the ring in the boxing gym at Simons Park, where Marty is the coach.  I was at their boxing show.

I had a feeling that the evening would not go well.  Call it women's intuition, a hunch, or whatever.  I couldn't shake it off.  The first indication that my feeling was justified was when Eric failed to show up.  Just when I thought I had been stood up by my fighters again, De-Fetrick came in to weigh-in.  He was able to get a fight, which I was happy about.

De-Fetrick's fight was the sixth of the evening, and he was in the red corner.  I put the gloves on him in the middle of the fourth bout.  It took longer than necessary because De-Fetrick was playing around on his cell phone.  "Could you tape my fight?" he asked.  "I can't," I answered quickly.  "But all you have to do is to push--," he started.  I cut him off.  "I'm the coach.  I can't tape the fight and work the corner at the same time," I said, wondering why De-Fetrick's common sense hadn't kicked in.  He eventually found someone else to tape it.

Less than thirty seconds into the first round, De-Fetrick's opponent sent him down to the canvas with a straight right.  I winced.  Shifty, the referee, gave De-Fetrick an eight count.  Not long after the action resumed, De-Fetrick took another right to the face.  I knew Shifty was going to stop the fight, because my fighter was wobbling; the punch was a stunner.

De-Fetrick yelled and cursed at Shifty, demanding to know why the fight was stopped.  I demanded that he come back to the corner.  "It's over," I told him, but De-Fetrick didn't want to hear it.  "I don't understand that!  I still can fight!" De-Fetrick yelled.  My explanations about safety in amateur boxing, and the fact that De-Fetrick had been knocked silly had no effect.  "Why the eff did this happen?" he said to me, just as Tommy walked up to defuse the situation.  I took a step back on the apron and gave him a look.  There were so many things I could have snapped back, but I opted to keep quiet at that moment.

Tommy tried to talk sense to him, but that didn't take, either.  De-Fetrick snatched the second-place trophy from Shifty and stalked out of the gym area.  Moments later, he returned, watching the fight on his cell phone.  Ernest, the coach at Fuller, tried to communicate with him, but De-Fetrick waved him off.

A second later, he came to me, asking me to look at the video.  "I don't have to look at it, because I was standing in the corner.  I saw what happened," I snapped.  De-Fetrick then began to raise hell about "dirty fighting", accusing Shifty and the other fighter of not playing fair.  He had the colossal nerve to tell me that I didn't understand what he was trying to say.  "What do you think boxing is?  You can't get angry every time you lose a match!  This is what happens during matches!" I yelled back.

Tommy heard us and came over to intervene.  "I'm not going to argue with you.  I'm done," I told De-Fetrick.  Tommy tried to explain the rules again to him, but all he got for his efforts was an attitude. My fighter told Tommy to "eff off".  De-Fetrick was told to leave the premises.

Now he is not able to fight in any Chicago Park District boxing shows.  I technically can't put him out of my gym, but after tonight's antics, I don't really want De-Fetrick around me again.  The whole situation was embarrassing.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Just Got It, Now It's Gone

The hyperflex (Cobra) bag you see here in this photo is no more.  I was standing over the ruins of it just several hours ago.

BJ and Darlene came in for the teen boxing class, and it looked like Kody wasn't going to make it in.  But Kody always comes in late, usually riding his bike into the gym, which he did.  When Kody began interfering with BJ and Darlene's workouts, I told him to stop and go do his.  Kody got on the hyperflex bag, bending it way further than it normally is supposed to go.  "I just got that bag, Kody.  If it comes up broken, trust me -- it won't be replaced," I warned.

I was helping Darlene on the speed bag, but I could hear Kody hitting the hyperflex bag.  Then I heard something pop and hit the floor.  I noticed Kody quickly moving away from the bag.  A check of the bag revealed that one of the knobs used to adjust the height had been broken.  When I partially dismantled the bag to check for further damage, the pole on the inside was completely broken in half.  There was nothing I could do to repair it.

"Thanks for breaking the bag, Kody," I said sarcastically.  "I didn't break it.  I was only exercising on it," he claimed, not realizing that I saw him leaving the scene of the crime.  "Kody, you were the last one on it.  Now no one can use it anymore," I shot back.  I was pissed, but I kept calm on the outside.  Only one working hyperflex bag is left in the gym now.  I had a feeling that I should not have put both of those bags out on the floor.  Unfortunately, I expected that kids would respect the equipment.  I made a misjudgment.

My boss is not going to be happy that bag is broken, either.  Alexis suggested that we could send the bag back for a replacement, but I doubt that's going to be an option.  To be honest, I didn't want the hyperflex bags; I didn't ask for them.  They were ordered for the gym, and I accepted them when they arrived.  But now I know that a) I need to be in on all decisions about what equipment goes into the gym, and b) I need to make sure the equipment that is ordered is extremely hard for the kids to break.

Wisdom From George

A friend from high school, Donna, donated the stand in the photo above.  The Chicago Park District ordered two more similar stands for the gym.  Steve told me that someone has to come in with tools to assemble them.  I would like to see those stands up before Thanksgiving.  The more equipment up in the gym, the more of a recruiting tool I have to get people to sign up for the program.

On my way to the gym yesterday, I ran into George, who runs the boxing gym at Garfield Park.  He's going to retire soon; the paperwork has already been put in.  I hope the gym over there doesn't disappear after he's gone.  It has a history as being one of the best boxing gyms in the Chicago Park District.  I wouldn't want that space to be used for another purpose like what happened to the boxing gym at Clarendon Park.  "Don't let them kids drive you crazy," George told me before he got off the train.

I'm trying not to let any of the kids and teens do that.  For example, I like Kody, but as soon as he shows up for the teen class, control goes out the window.  BJ and Darlene are the only other ones who show up regularly for that class.  They are usually good about sticking to their workout.  Then Kody, who barely does anything that looks like training in the gym, comes in and starts goofing around with them.

Just recently, Kody told me that if his mom asks how he's doing in the gym, I should say that he's doing well.  But I'm not going to lie to her about her son's behavior.  Kody's never been that serious about the sport. The kid shows up each time with a bag filled with junk food and a liter of soda pop on him.  Even BJ and Darlene have pointed out to Kody that the food he has is not healthy.  If I had more teens in that class who were interested in learning, Kody would have to tone down his antics.  The other kids would not put up with Kody distracting them.

People have been roaming into the gym at LaFollette a lot recently.  That is just a hint of what I'll have to put up with once it really gets cold outside.  Some guy who knew better waltzed into the gym and started fooling around on the flex bags.  I had to tell the guy to get off of them -- twice.  "I want to be a professional boxer," he told me.  I explained that the park district only deals with amateur boxing.  "I've already done that," he said.  "Oh, yeah?  When?" I asked dryly.  I didn't get an answer.  Neither did I get a response when I told the guy he would have to pay to be in the class.  If I had a dollar for everyone who walks into a boxing gym trying to impress someone with alleged experience, I could have retired a long time ago.

A little boy strolled into the gym awhile later and started messing with one of the flex bags (Cobra bags). I didn't get a good look at who the kid was.  Before I could say something, Kody had ran the child out of the gym.  "Why did you do that?" BJ asked him.  "I know that kid, and the kid was acting up," Kody said.  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Two women expressed interest in signing up for the adult class.  I hope that means that class is beginning to grow.  If the women sign up that will helpful to Alexis, who is the only adult who shows up on a regular basis.  De-Fetrick keeps disappearing, and I think Dan has given up -- again -- altogether.

Eric had a football game yesterday, so neither he or his brother Aaron came to the gym.  Eric expressed an interest in fighting at Simons Park's boxing show tomorrow, so he needs to appear at the gym today.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Boss Said "Merry Christmas"

When I arrived at LaFollette Park, Steve the supervisor said, "Merry Christmas!"  I finally received two portable equipment stands that were ordered by the park district weeks ago.  I also received two cobra bags.  The stands will have to wait to be assembled.  I was able to assemble one of the cobra bags.  I'll assemble the second cobra bag tomorrow.

Another teen, Damari, signed up for the class.  He had been talking about coming to the gym since last year.  He's got good punches from what I've seen so far.  I wonder how long he'll keep attending the class, however.  Damari plays basketball, too, and that season is beginning soon at the park.

Simons Park's boxing show is next week.  I know that Eric and Aaron want to fight in it.  They weren't in class, but the other kids I mentioned the show to didn't want to get matches.  BJ keeps telling me he's not ready.  "The last park district show we're going to this year after Simons is at Humboldt Park," I told him.  Most of the kids want to see the show, but not participate in it.  I guess I will close down the gym that day so we all can go.

David was particularly interested in what trophies boxing show winners get.  He might change his mind and take a fight; who knows?  But his mom may have her reservations.  She usually comes to the gym with her son.  When David sparred for the first time, his mom was nervous about it.  She understood what it was about, but like a lot of moms, she still considers her son to be her little baby.