Thursday, June 30, 2016

An Evening At The Boxing Show

Thomas and several of the coaches decide on who gets what match in the equipment room at LaFollette Park in the photo above.

I had four guys ready and able to fight at my show today:  Xavier, Jakie, Terrence, and Tayjon.  Many kids showed up with the other coaches, so I just knew all of my guys would get fights.  But after everything was figured out, only Jakie was able to get a match.  The rest will have to wait until next week when we go to Garfield Park.

The coach from Carver Park arrived with several of his fighters. Until today, I don't think I had ever seen anyone fighting at any of the shows I've been to who have come from that park.  The fighters from Carver Park were hungry and ready.  They came all the way from 132nd Street to take care of business.  They won most of the matches -- and there were eight matches -- that they were in.

I was a judge for a couple of the matches; an extra person was needed to do that job, so I gladly filled in.  Now I can add another skill to my boxing resume.

Alan came to the fights, but none of the fighters from Loyola Park attended.  I had agreed to let an exhibition match between John and Rojan take place, but neither of them were able to go.  Alan did help me in the corner during Jakie's fight.

Unfortunately, Jakie's time in the ring ended quickly.  The other guy was taller, leaner, and had a longer reach.  Jakie took too many hits to the head, as the other guy kept breaking through his guard to land them.  Also, Jakie was unbalanced on his feet.  Several times, punches caused Jakie to slip and fall into the ropes.  Pete, the referee, stopped the fight on Jakie.  Jakie was irritated at having to take a runner up trophy.  "I don't accept second place," he grumbled.  I quickly let him know that I wasn't mad because he lost.  "We'll work on what needs to be worked on when you next come into the gym," I said.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Forcing The Workout

Alan told me, "You need to go to the doctor about your shoulder."  I need to talk to a doctor about my wobbly knees, too.  I'll try to schedule an appointment for next month.  I've become irritated because I can't spar as much as I want.  I had to beg off sparring again down at Loyola Park.

Yet I forced myself to work a little harder during my workout.  I threw hooks and uppercuts harder to the heavy bags, I pushed myself to do footwork and head movement, and I really concentrated on the speed bag.

Kathy sparred with Alan.  As he was suiting up I joked, "You never spar with me anymore."  "I made a promise to your nieces that I wouldn't.  That was about, what. . .two years ago?" Alan said.  Kathy had an inquisitive look on her face, so I had to explain how Jalissa and Erica admonished Alan for bloodying up my nose with an uppercut.

While they sparred, I gave Kathy pointers.  She got Alan a few times -- he had his hands down, and she popped him with her right.  I told her to go for the body just as much as she was going for the head.

Alan also did the in-fighting drill with Ro again.  Sat and Deborah watched from ringside.  "Wow!" the both of them said when that sparring session was over.  "You could do this!" Alan told Deborah, who is close to my age.  "I don't think so," she answered.  "Never say never," Alan grinned.

Some of the Loyola folks may come to my boxing show later this week.  Unfortunately, I have no adults to participate in the show.  Maria, Danny, and Chevon, the only three who have been coming to class, have all missed days of training last week.  Alan would like to have John and Ro do an boxing exhibition match.  We'd just have to let Tommy, the head of the city's boxing program, know.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Donovan Saves The Day

James kept pushing one of the heavy bags yesterday while working out on it.  "Hit the bag, James," I kept telling him.  It kept swinging wildly.  "James, don't you know the difference between pushing something and hitting it?" I said as I marched across the gym towards him.  I was about to lose my patience. Fortunately, Donovan got next to him before I did, and proceeded to explain it to him.

Donovan spent several minutes with James, trying to help him stand correctly and to throw his punches properly.  He did a very good job.  I suspect that maybe Donovan is an only child because how articulate he is and how mature he is for his age.  He even lightly admonished Tayjon for standing around instead of training.

I'm still dealing with parents who apparently are just now realizing it's summer, and want their kids to be in an activity.  The time to sign kids up is not two to three days after an activity, especially a free one, has already begun.  I don't understand that -- the information about classes and activities is online, and can also easily be obtained by visiting or calling the field house well in advance of start dates.  My late mother was a very difficult person to be around, but I have to give her credit for always being on top of dates and schedules where her kids were concerned.  I'm not seeing that same kind of proactive behavior in most of the parents I encounter.

Ariel and another new teen, Jaylen, were in the gym yesterday for the teen class.  Jaylen wears braces.  I was so glad that I had a few mouthpieces on hand that are made specifically to fit over braces.  No sign of the other mouthpieces that I ordered going on three months ago.  I don't think I'm going to order those anymore.  It takes too long to get them, for one thing.  I suspect that's not the fault of the company that supplies them, but rather the administrative/bureaucratic functions of the park district.  Most of the kids keep losing them, and I'm going to start forcing them to buy their own.  They may not lose, misplace, or "forget" their mouthpieces as often if they are not getting the free ones anymore.

Xavier, Terence, and Ben were no-shows again.  I'm beginning to suspect that Xavier might not believe he needs a lot of training time.  I also suspect, based on his request awhile ago to have a buddy of his help train him, that Xavier thinks I'm not completely qualified to do the job.  I'm still wondering why Xavier didn't figure out that may have been rude to suggest something like that to me.  Whenever he comes in, I'm going to point out that Xavier need not have a "this is light work" attitude when it comes to opponents, especially when Xavier has no idea whom he might face during a fight.  Terence was involved in other activities during the spring, which was why he was only in the gym once or twice a week.  But school is out for the summer, so I don't know why Terence hasn't increased his time in the gym.  Ben was slacking off a lot during the winter and spring sessions.  I don't expect him to want to take a fight.  Ben has to realize there will never be perfect conditions in place in order for him to participate in a match.

I was going to lock up the gym early when none of the adults were there at the beginning of their class.  A half-hour into it, Maria showed up.  She told me that she had missed the first day of class due to her job.  Her job might have been the reason she showed up late, but she was able to get an hour of working out in.  I have told all of the adults that they are free to craft their own workout.  But in the interest of not having lulls during the workout, I do guide them to what they should be doing next.

Only five more days until the boxing show.  I have to return a phone call to Rodney, who is the coach at Trumbull Park.  He probably wants to know what fighters I have.  I don't think any of the kids will be ready or will want to at least try to take a match.  Xavier, Terence, and Ben are irritating me right now with their disappearances.  None of the adults want to compete.  I want the boxing show to be a good one, but I'm looking at a hard way to go between now and next Thursday to make it so.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Resolving To Cut The Attitude

The photo above is one of the many signs I have posted inside the gym at LaFollette.  I suspect that the signs aren't being read most of the time.  But they serve as backup when I enforce the rules that are written on them.

Tayjan, James, and Donovan were the only ones I had in the kids' class today.  I'm really becoming impressed with Donovan because he acts older than his age (eleven), asks a lot of good questions, and makes a lot of good observations.  Tayjan is built solid, like a truck, and I'm thinking he can do well in fights.  Then we have James. . . .sigh.  I have resolved to stop giving James so much attitude.  I have considered that James is only nine years old, and I have remembered that I wasn't exactly graceful when I was that age, either.  I seem to have an ally in his dad, who is always admonishing his son to be focused and pay attention.

Ariel and a new kid, Jakie, were in the teen class. I was a little pissed that Xavier and his cousin Terence were no-shows.  The summer session has barely started, and those two are already missing training time.

Chevon, Xavier's buddy, also skipped out on the adult class.  Thankfully, Danny returned for another day, and Maria, another new person, came in.  However, none of the other adults showed up.

I'm beginning to think that the ones who are showing up regularly (for the moment) may be all that I have to work with this summer.  There are still people inquiring about signing up, mostly for the kids' class.  A woman tried to convince me to let her twelve year old son in.  You know what -- I can't be responsible for people not keeping up with when programs take place, and when registration begins.  The information is out there and available to those who actually seek it out.  The mom was disappointed that I wouldn't bend to let her kid in.  But I think that most don't understand that boxing is NOT a team sport.  The football, baseball, soccer, and basketball teams at the field house can have crowds of people involved during their seasons.

I can't have hordes of youths in the boxing gym.  Some may be thinking -- expecting, even -- that I can just keep squeezing kids into the class because it is free.  Excuse me,  but it doesn't work like that.  I have to give as much equal time as possible to everyone who is in the class.  That is the nature of the sport.  It is difficult to work with youths individually when there are more in there than there should be.  Too many youths in the gym means that one or more may not get the one-on-one attention that they need time to time from me to help them get better in the sport.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer's Early Warnings

I found this nice photo of George, who runs the boxing gym at Garfield Park, talking to a fighter in the corner.

Time went fast on the first day of the summer session, which was a blessing in more ways than one.  A guy shows up with his son, whose name was no where on the attendance sheet I had.  "Could you go up to the front desk and ask them to print out a receipt for you?" I asked.  A few minutes later, he returned with a receipt which confirmed that once again, one of the staff signed up yet another extra kid in the eight to 12 year olds' class without informing me first.  Now I have twelve kids.  I'm only supposed to have ten.

The twelfth kid in question -- James -- has already shown me an attention deficiency problem.  I had both him and Donovan, another new kid, in the ring going over basics.  Several times, James was looking at the ceiling, over to side, everywhere else in the gym except at me.  I kept clapping my hands to get his attention.  Finally I told James that if he doesn't get focused, he'll pay for it in a regular fight by getting hurt.  When his father came back in at the end of the hour, he caught James goofing off instead of doing floor exercises.  James' dad said, "I knew it. . ." as he shook his head.

Another woman walks in with her kid, a boy whom I have seen running around the field house for most of the year.  She wanted to sign him up.  Someone up at the front desk told her to talk to me to see if I would be willing to override the registration system to let her son in.  After allowing two extra kids in the class, someone finally thought it was a good idea to see if it was okay with me to let another kid in.  Wow.

She showed up with her son on the first day of a class that is free expecting room to be available.  I told her no in a polite, professional manner.  "I just wanted him to have something to do for the summer," she said, then immediately tells me her son is also signed up for summer camp.  Her son has something to do; he's not going to miss out.  I don't need thirteen kids in that class.  I shouldn't have twelve.

Xavier showed up early with a couple of his buddies, one of whom was old enough to be in the adult class.  I asked his buddy to pay for the class at the front desk, and told Xavier to come back when the teen class begins.  When he came back, Xavier asked if another one of his buddies could come to the class to help train him.  "Nope, not unless he actually signs up for the class or applies to be a volunteer," I replied.  I had a feeling some of his buddies was going to pull something like that.  I had already cut that off at the path.

Ariel, a thirteen year old girl in the teen class, is a newcomer to boxing.  But she appears to be very athletic, and she picked up on the basics quickly.  Her mother appears to be a lovely person who is very encouraging of her daughter being in something positive.  Unfortunately, the other girl who is registered for the class did not show up -- that's already a discouraging sign.  I want Ariel to get sparring experience in, but I'm not so confident about putting her in with one of the boys. I don't know if she would even want to spar with them.

Speaking of the teen boys, all of them didn't bother to show up to first day of class either.  I see Ben signed up again, and already, Ben is missing training time.  I've already decided I'm not going to buy the usual excuse of, "I don't think I'm ready," when I bring up next week's boxing show to him.  Either he'll take a fight in that show, or plan on not taking a fight in any show, period.  Ben skated by with that all last year, but I don't want to deal with it this time around.  

When the adult class started, Chevron, Xavier's buddy, showed up.  So did Tyler, and a couple more guys who were also buddies with Xavier.  I took Danny and Chevron in the ring to show them basics.  Xavier starts giving orders to Chevron.  The other guys start lounging.  "Hold up.  Don't you all have something else to do?" I asked Xavier and his buddies.  No response.  "Wait a minute.  I know you all heard me.  The adult class is going on now, and y'all can't be hanging around in here.  I'm not trying to be hard, but I have to do what my job requires me to do," I continued.  They left without further incident.  Using the gym as a hang out spot?  I don't think so, that's why I shut it down before that becomes a habit.  I told Xavier to tell his cousin Terence to get himself to the gym if he wants to be in next week's boxing show.

Danny and Chevron were the only two who showed up for the adult class.  Looks like I'll have yet another adult class with low attendance -- again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Summer Cast At Loyola Park

It was a hot day for the first day of summer, and having the fan on in the gym at Loyola didn't help much.  There were a lot of people in the gym on the first day of the summer session there.  In the photo above, Alan and Ro do some tight in-fighting while keeping one foot inside a hula hoop.

I wasn't going to spar, but I hadn't in such a long time.  I got in the ring with Kathy, who is steady on her path of improvement.  I tried to follow her around the ring on my toes.  Alan said, "Hillari, I know you're not trying to hop around the canvas."  "I'm trying, but I really can't do it," I replied.  Kathy fared very well during our sparring session.  The best I could do was to try to stay out of the way of her punches.

Over the past few days, I've been sighing to myself every time I see someone on in-line skates.  My knees won't allow me to stand on in-line, quad, or ice skates much anymore.  Now it appears my knees aren't standing up to sparring anymore, either.  I told Kathy that not only arthritis in both of them slows me down, but the fact that they've been injured in two separate car accidents, as well as a bad fall on an icy street years ago affects them as well.  I don't mind getting older.  I do mind not being able to do things I used to easily be able to do just ten years ago.

Paul has really been helping out around the gym.  In the photo above, he holds the pads for Matt (who had returned to the gym), as Edwar (on the far left), and another new person in class look on.  I overheard him asking Alan about what else could he do to help out.  Alan pulled out a list of show fights that are coming up.  Paul said he would try to make some of them.

Alan talked up my boxing show, which is next week.  He would like to get fights for Paul, John, Ro, and Kathy.  I've only met a couple of the adults who signed up for the summer boxing class at LaFollette.  I have no idea at the moment whether they want to compete, but I hope so.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Head Woman In Charge

I finally got in touch with Xavier and Terrence's uncle, to remind him he had to re-sign his nephews up for the boxing program.  "I told Terrence that I had already signed them up the last time," the uncle said.  I took a deep breath before explaining, like I had done a few times before, that the boxing class only runs for ten weeks.  "People have to sign up for each new session.  It is not a sign-up-once-and-people-are-in-for-the-year situation," I told the uncle.  "Oh!  I'm going to have to keep that in my mind!" the uncle replied.  I hope he does, because this is the last time I'm going to remind him.  He promised he would show up soon to register his nephews.

A woman came into the gym, accompanied by one of the kids who was in summer camp last year.  I'm not crazy about that particular kid; I'm supposing whomever was at the front desk asked the girl to show the woman where the boxing gym was.  Instead of going back upstairs, the girl -- who raised a lot of hell in the gym last summer -- stood around, looking all down in mine and the woman's mouth while we talked. I ignored the girl and focused on the adult.

The woman asked the usual questions about the gym, and then asked the one question that always raises a red flag for me.  "How many days do I have to come in?" she said.  Anytime I hear questions like that, including, "How many days can my child miss the gym?" it's a given that a lot of days will be missed, and some will drop out early.  It's usually a sign that I will be sitting alone in an empty gym most of the time, especially when the weather is warm.

The kids' class is full, but one of the staff members signed up an extra kid anyway.  I came upstairs, with the parent and kid behind me, to inform the staff member that the class had already reached capacity.  "We can sign up an extra person or two even if the classes are full," I was informed.  Just a few months ago, I was told that staff is not supposed to override the system to add extra participants.  When did that change?

I have told the staff numerous times to send people interested in the boxing program to talk to me first.  If that had been done so, I wouldn't have signed that kid up, knowing that the class was filled.  It would be nice to consider how many people I can actually handle before just adding more in.  That would have been especially thoughtful considering the youth boxing classes have been cut back from 75 minutes to 60 minutes.  Yet no one asked my opinion.  Seeing how it would be a waste of my energy to argue, I just told the parent when her kid should show up next week.

Having extra kids and teens in the classes would make sense if I had a volunteer to handle the overflow.  I've basically given up on that idea.  It appears that no one who has inquired about volunteering so far has a record clean enough to pass the background check the park district requires.  As soon as I bring up the background check, I get a lot of hemming, hawing, and attempts to convince me to overlook the requirement.  On top of that, the actual boxing knowledge of some who have inquired seems dubious to me.  In order to stay on the safe side, especially where the kids and teens are concerned, I'll remain the head woman in charge for awhile.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Far North Side Punches

No sparring for me again at Loyola Park.  The same issues with my left shoulder and my left knee as usual.  

I had seen Ben (with glasses) earlier in the day when I went to move my car.  I had a chance to park it on the block where I actually live for a change, so I went for it.  Ben was riding his bike.  We chatted for awhile.  Later, when Ben came to the gym, he sparred with Jesus.

Ben also sparred with Kathy, but he was doing more defense.  Kathy took advantage of the situation and she was getting in a lot of good body shots.  

Leon stopped in and moved around with John.  Alan kept getting on John to give out more punches.  But then Leon was done not long after that, which was surprising, considering the man had just told Alan about having high stamina.  

Geniece stopped in, and she said she was going to sign up for the summer session next week.  It was very good to see her in the gym.  Alan had tracked her down and convinced her to come back, which was a good thing, especially with the park district boxing shows coming up.

This week will be quiet again at LaFollette Park because the gym is still closed -- per my preference -- until the summer session begins next week.   I will be figuring out how to whip the new people into shape fast enough to participate in the boxing show.  

Monday, June 06, 2016

The Shoulders Have It

Here's a nice shot of Muhammad Ali proudly watching over his daughter, Laila, as she walks the ring.

The crowd was light at Loyola Park because the spring session is over, and a two-week break period has begun.  John, Paul, Kathy, Jesus, and Rojan were in the gym.  I begged off sparring again; my left shoulder is still jacked up, and my left knee is way off balance.

Alan sparred with Rojan, but he had to stop after awhile because his shoulder was acting up again.  "It's tender," Alan said, as he pulled off his glove.  "You and I both need to go to the doctor to have our shoulders checked," I said.  "Yeah, it could be a package deal," Alan laughed.

A woman named Alyssa came in to inquire about signing up for the boxing program.  Alan was busy watching people spar, so I answered her questions.  We talked for a long time, and I also gave her suggestions for buying bag gloves and hand wraps.  She told me me that did gymnastics when she was younger, and she took a little karate.  But she had never boxed.  It sounded like she will definitely sign up for the class.  I wish I had adults at LaFollette who were that excited about taking an interest in boxing.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Greatest Of All Time

Last night, a Facebook friend of mine -- Joe -- asked me what reasons would a referee have to stop a fight.  I told him, and then the conversation turned to Muhammad Ali.  News reports had been going all day about the world's best known boxer health.  "I don't think Ali's going to make it," Joe wrote.  I wrote back, "Ali has came back from health scares before.  But this one feels different.  You may be right."  About ten minutes later, news broke that the man known as The Greatest Of All Time had passed on.  Everything stopped.  Normally, I would up for hours on a Friday night.  I shut off the computer, and went to bed, depressed.

Today, no one showed up for class at the gym.  It felt a little like a tomb, which was appropriate.  I had remarked to some staff members that if I had flags in the gym, I would have had them at half-mast.  On one of the bulletin boards, I have a picture of Ali up along with his training routine when he was an active boxer.  I had contemplated taking that as well as other items off that board after the summer camp kids picked at it all last summer.  But I've changed my mind.  I got a pen and added the date of Ali's death underneath his birth date.

When I was six or seven years old, word spread through the housing project that I lived in that Ali was on the premises.  In a lot of places, Ali was still being referred to as Cassius Clay, his given name.  That's what my mother called the boxer as she ordered me to keep watch at the window to catch him coming out.  Ma had a crush on Ali.  She went off on me when Ali never appeared, accusing me of not paying attention.  He may have left out of another entrance.  Perhaps he wasn't at the building at all.  But the mention of the man's presence was enough to get people -- including Ma -- excited.

Alan told me he met Ali in downtown Chicago.  They both were crossing the street, Ali from one side and Alan from the other.  As they approached, Ali caught Alan's eye and got into a boxer's crouch.  Alan responded in kind, and they approached each other as if they were going to fight.  Alan told me that was an extremely fun moment.  Larry, a guy I used to work with when I was employed by a social service agency, met Ali at a function.  Larry was so taken by meeting the champ that he just stood there and cried, barely able to carry on a conversation with him.

What are we going to do without Muhammad Ali?  Who is going to take his place?  I thought to myself after hearing the bad news.  Life will go on like it usually does.  But there is absolutely no one who can step up to the plate and take Ali's position.  The man was one of a kind, in and out of the ring.  The world has truly lost someone.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

The Countdown Begins

Only TJ and Earl showed up for class, and TJ thought today was a sparring day.  Both boys promised to find their mouth pieces for tomorrow, but I'm not holding out any hope that they will.

Based on every one's scatter shot attendance during this past spring session, I've decided to conduct an experiment.  Normally, I allow those who were in the previous session to continue using the gym during the break between sessions.  The only requirement is that everyone must be signed up by the time the next session begins in order to remain in the program.  I also used to allow those who had signed up for the upcoming session to start coming to the gym during the break before the session started.  No more.

I've already made signs up stating that the gym will be closed until the summer session starts in a couple of weeks.  That will give me time to enter all the attendance records, clean the gloves, headgear and hand wraps, and check and repair equipment (if needed).  Why should I allow people to have that extra time in "no man's land" as Alan always calls the breaks when most can't bother to show up regularly during the session?

A red flag goes up whenever a sign up a kid (and I've signed up a few already for the summer) and their parent/guardian asks, "How many days can they miss?"  That's a dead giveaway that their kid is trying to squeeze in doing several activities at once.  The one I run is going to get the short end of the stick in terms of time.

One parent who registered their kid told me their kid wanted to "try" boxing, which is usually another signal I'll have a kid in class who won't last long in the program.  I also noticed that their kid couldn't take their eyes and fingers off of their cell phone during the entire registration.  Uh-huh.  I've had kids in class who were so hyped up about being in boxing that they were jumping around during registration.  They did well while they were in the gym.  I'm getting better at telling the difference between the ones who are truly interested in the sport and those who are not.

So far, I recognize none of the names of those kids 12 years and younger who have signed up for summer.  Today, there are only three slots left in that class; none of the ones who were in the spring session have re-signed up.  It appears that I will have less than a week to whip the new kids into decent shape to compete in the field house's boxing show at the end of the month after class begins.  That will not be easy.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

A Lack Of Sparring, A Lack of Training

Starting with an advertisement. . . . .shopping should be fun, and save you money, too.  Check out Divvee -- -- when you have a moment.  End of sales pitch.

Recently saw a short video done at Garfield Park boxing gym where George reigns.  It's a plea for people to put the guns down and get into the boxing gym.  A kid in the video states that they want to be able to play outside.  Gun violence has been dominating the local news in Chicago, and I'm sure it's been plastered on the national news, too.  The west side of the city, where both Garfield Park and LaFollette Park sit, has been responsible for most of the recent mayhem. Summer is wonderful in the city, but unfortunately, gun violence usually increases during the season.

The teen and adult boxing classes were empty yesterday.  I kind of expected that, coming off of the Memorial Day holiday.  Only Jermaine, TJ, and Earl showed up for the kids' class.  Jermaine came in first, flying into the boxing equipment room and asking, "Am I the first one here?"  "If you don't see anyone else here, then common sense would say yes -- duh!" I replied sarcastically.  I wonder what logic Jermaine is working with most of the time.

Turns out that Jermaine was the only one with a mouthpiece, so no sparring took place.  Earl still hasn't replaced the one he lost, and TJ left his at home, giving me the usual, "I forgot", excuse.

Then TJ told me that he and his family are moving soon.  TJ doesn't know where; apparently his mother is keeping that a secret.  That meant the possibility that TJ won't be able to continue with boxing, which is too bad.  That was also not good news to hear so close to the LaFollette boxing show.  TJ has some skills, and so does his cousin Earl.

I suspect that Janaye's continued absence from the teen class may have something to do with the fact that I called her father with my concerns about her attendance.  She's been hanging around the field house, but not attending class.  I like Janaye, but if she's not going to take the sport seriously and train, then she might as well not sign up again.  I want to support females who sign up for the boxing program, but if they don't put the effort in, there's not much else I can do.
TJ asked about the status of the equipment I ordered for the gym, in particular, the youth hand wraps.  I had forgotten all about it.  The order was put in months ago.  All I know is, I'm not spending any more of my money to put any boxing equipment in the gym.  If we don't have it, we'll have to do without it.