Thursday, February 25, 2016

Between Loyola and LaFollette

Alan watches as Rojan and David spar.

I didn't spar the last time I was at Loyola Park.  Both my knees and my right shoulder said, "Hillari, please don't."  I told Alan that my right shoulder had been hurting from holding the punch mitts for some of the stronger participants in the boxing class at LaFollette Park.  "Use the punch shield instead.  I can't hold mitts for people because of my wrists," he suggested.

David also sparred with Kathy.  I had my back to the ring, shadow boxing, so I didn't see an apparently good punch she gave out.  I heard Alan exclaiming that was the best punch he had ever seen her throw.  Later, when she was on the heavy bag, Alan told someone else, "Kathy's a beast!"  She smiled.  Both Kathy and Connor have signed up to compete in the Chicago Golden Gloves.

Back at LaFollette Park, I took Alan's suggestion and used the punch shield instead of using the punch mitts.  It helped ease some of the pressure on my right shoulder.  Only TJ showed up one day, and he looked a little down because neither his cousin Earl nor any of the other kids showed up to the gym.  But I worked with him a lot using the punch shield, and he brightened up.

Xavier has been showing up regularly to the teen class every day, and he's been very consistent in training.  Xavier can fight either orthodox or southpaw.  Other fighters are going to have a hard time trying to figure out his style.  His friends Tyler and Terance haven't been as steady with their attendance.  I hope that changes soon.

Bennie has disappeared from the adult class.  He told me he was moving back into the area (currently, he lives on the south side) so maybe that's what is going on.  I'm concerned because of all the adults in the boxing gym, Bennie is the most consistent in coming to class.  Yami and Jesse returned after a brief absence.  Yami got another job which cuts down her participation in the gym to once a week.  But I understand.  She's going to school and working, and both of those things are more important than hanging out in the gym all the time.

Kids who aren't in the class have been showing up to the gym a lot lately.  I caught two kids before they started playing around with the equipment, and told them they need to sign up for the spring session.  The same two kids came back minutes later, looking for paper registration forms, which the park district doesn't use anymore.  The third time, they returned with a few more kids and had the nerve to ask me if they could go in the ring.  Do kids comprehend the word "no" anymore?  Is it not taught in schools?  Are parents giving in to every whim their kids have?  Somebody tell me something. . . . .

As for the the other kids, like nine year old Elizabeth and pre-teen Desire, for example, they're welcomed.  They usually come in to say hi and hang out for a minute before going home for the day.

Eric and Aaron may return to the kids' class for spring.  Their dad is interested in re-starting them in the sport again.  Football took them away for most of the previous session.  If they're not playing basketball this season, they may be in boxing class more often.  Justin, whose son Jaylin is already in the boxing class, told me he has an eight year old nephew he wants to sign up.  The spring session could possibly be filled up again this time.

As usual, I tripped out the kids with some information that only an old woman (me) can give.  David was talking about who might win the next presidential election, and Jaylin chimed in with his opinions.  Somehow, the subject turned to presidents being hurt while in office.  I told them about John F. Kennedy.  Both boys looked very surprised to hear about what happened to him.  They hadn't learned about the attempt on Ronald Reagan's life either.  I wondered why they hadn't covered that in their American history classes yet (David is in 5th grade; Jaylin is in 6th grade).  Jaylin shook his head at the news, and David said, "Wow, that's messed up!"

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Excuses For Everything

You may be wondering why a photo of the ultimate late night talk show king, Johnny Carson, is featured here.  I've been watching reruns of his show on Antenna TV lately.  I looked him up online because I could not remember what year he passed on (2005).  I learned that Carson had boxed while he was in the Navy during WWII; he had a 10-0 amateur record.

Here lately, Earl has been offering one excuse after another as to why he can't do what he's supposed to do in the gym.  I hear a boatload of excuses especially on sparring days.  Earl's favorite one is, "I don't have my mouthpiece."  Both Earl and his cousin TJ were on time to the gym because Earl's dad had dropped them off.  When the boys come on their own, they don't show up until thirty to forty minutes of class time have passed.  Earl's dad admonished his son for not keeping up with his mouthpiece, then gave me a dollar to give him another one.  "This is the last time I'm paying for a mouthpiece," he warned Earl.

Suddenly, Earl finds his mouthpiece in his coat.  Surprise, surprise.  That always happens when Earl is criticized for supposedly not having it with him.  The excuses didn't stop there.  During the warm up and shadow boxing rounds, Earl kept whining about being supposedly hurt.  I kept ignoring him, but Earl doesn't take hints well.  Finally I said something to Earl about warming up more.  Seeing that I wasn't in the mood to play sympathizer, Earl stopped talking about his "hurt".

Another annoying thing that Earl does is always insisting he only wants to do two rounds of sparring.  Then he keeps repeating it as if I hadn't gotten the message the first few times.  He is most evenly matched with his cousin TJ, so that's usually with whom I pair him. Plus, the other kids in the class do not show up on a regular basis, or else, I would match Earl with some of them.  But I know that Earl doesn't want to spar with his cousin because TJ is faster and more   aggressive.  "Earl, the park district boxing matches are three rounds.  You will not be able to tell the referee that you only want to do two rounds," I informed him.

The sparring session went well for TJ, but not so much for Earl, who kept dropping his hands.  After two rounds, TJ elected not to continue because Earl was sniffling and crying.  I opted not to show much sympathy because all of the fighters need to learn how to take hits as well as give them.  I also was still a bit irritated by Earl's earlier antics.  If only most of the kids would get it in their heads that they would do better if they took their training more seriously!  I'm not saying there never should be time for fun, games and laughs in the gym.  But there needs to be a realization that once the bell rings to start a round, time for goofing around is off, whether it's a sparring session or a real match.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Hit In The Same Spot

Michael sparred with TJ, but he didn't exactly keep all of his promises about conducting himself properly in the ring.  I don't understand -- Michael has been telling me a lot of stories about hitting back kids who are picking on him.  But Michael's alleged fearlessness towards his classmates doesn't seem to translate into confidence in the ring.

Earl took too long to decide whether he was going to spar or not.  It's a habit with him.  "I don't have my mouthpiece," Earl will announce whenever it's sparring day in the gym.  Later, he'll change his mind after much whining about having to spar with his cousin TJ.  They are a good match in terms of size, but TJ is just a little more aggressive, which scares Earl.  I keep telling Earl that he will not be able to pick and choose with whom he has a real match.  Earl might as well get used to that in terms of sparring, too.  Eventually, Earl did spar with TJ.

Jaylin, who is eleven years old, sparred with me.  I was not wearing headgear nor a mouthpiece.  I should have said, "let's go light", but I just assumed Jaylin would.  I was hit in my left cheek, the same spot where Kathy hit me last night at Loyola Park.  Jaylin also hit me in both of my eyes.  My left eye looks a little bruised, and the right eye doesn't look healthy, either.  Ah, the things a boxing coach has to do to show their fighters technique.

Monday, February 08, 2016

An Almost Knockout

Ro makes his way to the ring at Loyola Park for sparring in the photo above.  He told everyone "I'm 27 years old," to which Alan replied, "You look six!"  Ro is very young looking.

Ro faced Connor in one sparring session.

Ro also had a good match up with David.

I did five rounds of sparring: one with Deb, one with Carrie Ann, one with Melissa, and two with Kathy.  Kathy caught me with a right to my left cheek.  It nearly knocked me cold on the canvas.  She keeps improving, and her punches have gotten harder.  Kathy is going to sign up for the Golden Gloves along with Connor.  The registration is this weekend.

While cleaning up a little around the house today, I found some stuff I could take to LaFollette.  One of the items was an ab roller that I had stuck way back in one of the closets.  I haven't been using it despite my best intentions, so the people in the gym can get use out of it.  I also found instructions on wrapping hands which should be helpful to the kids.  Luckily, I also found some duct tape.  The uppercut bag has some wear and tear, and I want to patch it up.

I threw away an old heating pad.  Since my right shoulder has been bothering me, I think I got rid of the pad too soon.  Fortunately, I didn't throw away the Icy Hot or the Mineral Ice.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Full And Empty Boxing Gym

All of the boxing classes I coach are now full.  But the numbers don't add up to actual attendance most of the time.  There are people who can only show up once a week.  Others may come in twice a week.  Then there are always those people who showed up a few times and never came back.  I have a a few people who signed up but never showed their faces in the gym at all.

I keep hearing the emphasis is on getting the numbers for the classes.  But I'm not satisfied with just having names on the attendance sheets.  I guess I just don't understand all the reasons why people don't love boxing like I do.  I do know that those who need a team of people around them to be motivated to learn in this sport don't seem to stay in it for very long.

For example, Xavier and Tyler sparred the other day.  Several kids who should have been upstairs participating in or watching a basketball game elsewhere in the field house were hanging around in the gym.  After getting on them about goofing around with the equipment, they settled down and got interested in the sparring.  As soon as Xavier and Tyler went back to training on the equipment, the kids lost interest.  Slowly they went back to where they were supposed to be in the first place.

When I first got to the field house, I hung around the front desk, waiting to see if any of the kids under twelve would show up for their class (they didn't).  Kier, one of the kids who plays the seasonal sports back to back asked if there was going to be boxing class that day.  "Why would I be here if the gym wasn't open?" was what I wanted to say.  Once again, I had to explain to Kier when the gym was open.  "There's no one here," he said.  Kier has a bad habit of attempting to use the gym as a hangout spot when Kier has nothing else to do.  I suspected that was on his mind, but I was ahead of him.  Not bothering to hide the irritation in my voice, I replied, "I have to be here at work whether or not anyone shows up."  "I know," he said.  "Really, kid?" I thought to myself.  Sorry, but I wasn't in the mood for lame conversation that day.

Maybe I'll have a full house again during the spring session.  I know it won't be like that during the summer.  I'm planning to change the class hours for the summer.  Giving everyone an hour and fifteen minutes was an experiment that didn't work, especially where the youths are concerned.  Besides, I need some time built in to sign up people and do other administrative stuff.  The youths only need an hour for their classes.  The adults can have an hour and a half because they are paying for the class.  The new time change will be the permanent one.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Second Mama In The Gym

One of the attendants, plus Xavier (a new guy in the teen class) and Xavier's friend Tyler (?) helped me put the new bag up in the above photo.  Now there are five heavy bags hanging at LaFollette Park boxing gym.  I should go to my supervisor and have him cross the Bob the Boxer punching bag off of the list of supplies I gave him.  I would love to have that, but it's more of a want than a need at this point.  I have enough heavy bags for the participants at this time.

Xavier had taken up boxing at the high school he attends, but he's never been in a tournament or boxing show.  His form looks very good, and I'm hoping to get him into the Chicago City-Wide Boxing Tournament in April.

I learned that people can apply for their amateur boxing licenses at this year's Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament registration.  People had been prohibited from doing that for a few years, and they were told to go to USA Boxing's web site to get a license.  That will be good news for some of the teens and adults I have who may be interested in that tournament.  Jesse looks like a strong possibility, but Yami may wait and compete in the park district boxing shows starting again this summer.

I still don't get why most of the youths think they can sign up for the boxing class themselves.  Assuming that they have participated in other activities and classes at the field house, I would think they would know their parents have to register them.  Over the past few weeks, there have been too many youths, mostly teens, who seem to think I can just put them on the attendance list.  When I tell them the proper procedure to follow, I get a lot of confused looks.  It's not rocket science.

Most of the under twelve years of age crowd have disappeared, including David and Devian who were the most consistent in showing up.  Among the few that still come around, I've noticed that some only seem to show up on the days that sparring takes place.  It appears that Michael, Earl, and TJ have been doing that lately (and Earl and TJ also have a habit of showing up a half-hour late to the gym).  I always have to make speeches about how the whole workout needs to be done, just not one part of it.  Besides, Michael is already in trouble -- again.

Turns out that one of the field house staff is a substitute teacher, and they were covering Michael's grade school class.  The staff member asked me to let them know when Michael's parents showed up to pick him up.  Michael allegedly was showing out in class.  The staff member also correctly guessed that Michael doesn't pay attention in the gym, either.  When it was learned that Michael's parents don't always come into the gym to get their son, the staff member said, "I'm going to be looking for them when they come inside the front door of the field house.  I'm going to tell them about Michael's behavior."

After the staff member left, Michael began grumbling about them, and how he wasn't about to take discipline from his parents.  I explained to Michael that he's always going to have to listen to somebody and be focused on the right things throughout his life.

Sometimes, I feel the same as a friend who told me about her trials with dealing with a church youth group:  "I am so tired of playing second mama to these kids all the time!"  I often find myself sounding like my late mother when I'm talking to the youths.  I'm not crazy about that.  But one of the good things about boxing is that the lessons learned there can be applied to other situations in their lives, and that is a good thing.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Women's Sparring World

It looked as if it would be all women at Loyola Park gym.  That's all who were standing around the gym door for awhile.  Eventually, some of the guys showed up.  But it was the women who dominated the sparring action.  "It looks like Women's Workout World or Curves in here," Alan said.  "I knew you would say something like that," I said, and he grinned.

Alan held the punch doughnut for a couple of the women.  A few of the guys sparred, including David (who has a good jab) and Connor, but it was the women's show from that point forward.

Before Vachel (wearing the red shirt in the photo above) sparred with Kira, she said, "Please don't hurt me!"  She hadn't sparred in a long time.

Here, Alan helps Vachel on with her gloves.  Kira also sparred with Kathy.

I ended up sparring with Deb, Rachelle, and Carrie Ann.  I took it easy on everyone, like I usually do when they are sparring for the first time.  But here's a tip:  when sparring with someone who hasn't done that before, pay attention.  Some people think, "Oh, this is light easy work,"  not keeping in mind that a newcomer will often throw wild punches while moving oddly and/or stiffly.

EJ, in the photo above, hadn't been in the gym in ages.  It was good to see him there again.  He used to live up the block from me, but he and his family have since moved elsewhere in the neighborhood.

My fame seems to be spreading.  A pastoral resident mentioned to a member of the church I've been visiting often that he wants to learn how to box.  The member told him about me being a coach.  I'm acquainted with the pastoral resident, but he didn't know about my job.  "I'm doing a spin class now, but when that's done, I will get in touch with you about boxing.  I've been interested in that for awhile," he told me.  Another member there also learned I was a coach; he used to box a little, and he's interested in having more conversations with me about the sport.