Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Adult Class That Refuses To Die. . . .For Now

KeVonte was getting on my nerves during the first half of the youth class at LaFollette.  First of all, the boy showed up several minutes late.  Then KeVonte was bouncing off of the ropes like a pro wrestler.  I caught him jumping into the ring off of the top rope when I happened to look around another time.  "If you want to take a wrestling class, find one, but that's not being taught in here," I snapped.  Dwayne stuck up for KeVonte stating, "He's got some good form."  "Yeah, when he listens," I replied sarcastically.

The younger kids have noticed two things:  that Jaymerson does not spar, and most of the other kids haven't been showing up to class.  "Jaymerson's mom doesn't want him to spar," is the truthful answer to their first question.  "Your guess is as good as mine," was my stock answer to their second question.  Donte and Devonte, the twins, have begun to not show up regularly.  Morgan, Jaymerson's sister, either doesn't come in, or she walks in late, like she did today (she showed up 15 minutes before class was to end).  KeVonte has been missing on and off, too.  Today was the first time in a couple of days that he was in the gym.  Tayjon has basically been a no-show.

As for brothers Kewan and Lamont, the former acts as if he's scared to return to the gym after not doing well in sparring.  Lamont appeared at the door with a basketball in his hand, then went back out.  It's only been two weeks into the fall session, and the same old attendance problems are happening.  The boys' grandma allegedly promised to give Kewan ten dollars if he would come back to the class.  Bribing the boy may get him back in the class for one day, but it's not going to keep him coming back.  Either Kewan wants to be there or he doesn't.  I'm not going to beg him, because I don't have that type of patience with kids.  All I know is that if I was eight years old, talking about not returning to a class, my mother would have whipped my behind.  That would have been my motivation to get back to the class and stay there.  But then, that's how I was raised.

Jahnaja was the only one to show up to the teen class.  Now that I know that Kody plays football for his school, there's no telling when he'll be in.  Maz, who promised to come in this week, has not, and I don't know what's going on with Ariel.

Recently, my supervisor and I were discussing dropping the adult class permanently when no one signed up for that.  Well, guess what?  Scott came in today, and so far, he's the only person in that class.  But then he told me that he's not going to be able to make it in every day.  Every time there is talk of discontinuing the class, someone signs up at the eleventh hour.  But if attendance doesn't pick up, I'm still going to suggest that the class is cut.  I'm at the end of the rope trying to figure out how to make that class attractive to the adult population.  I'm putting in too much effort into something that's just not happening.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A New Crowd For The Fall

The gym at Loyola Park was busy yesterday.  Half of the new people showed up, and the place would have been very crowded if everybody had come in.  I missed the first day of the fall session at Loyola because it began in the middle of the previous week as opposed to the beginning of the week.

In this photo, Kevin puts on a pair of bag gloves.  "Didn't I meet you on the street a few weeks ago?" he asked.  On my way home from work one night, Kevin noticed that I was carrying my boxing bag.  He asked if I boxed, and he stated he had an interest in it.  I told him about Loyola Park, and lo and behold, he signed up for the class.

Gabs and Emily, two new women in the class, were glad to see me there.  "It's nice to have a woman's touch in here," Gabs said.  I told the usual horror stories about Alan and I sparring in the past.  Alan overheard me and grinned.  I showed Gabs and Emily how to use the double-end bag.

Robert, another newbie, decided to spar with Alan.  It appeared -- although I may be wrong -- that Robert had never been in a fist fight at all.  Alan was popping him in the side and in the head many times.  Robert was very hesitant about throwing punches, and I kept telling him not to turn his back on nor his head away from Alan.  "I do well at getting my behind kicked," Robert told me later.

As for LaFollette Park, I know I'm going to have to soothe some feelings and egos when I open up the gym.  Jaymerson seemed to have gotten over his bad time in sparring later on last week, but this is a new week.  I know he's going to want to get revenge on KeVonte, but I can't allow him to spar with him or any of the other kids.  One solution may be for me to spar with Jaymerson if the boy starts having fits about being denied that activity.  But that may not be satisfying to him.  Kewan was boo-hoo'ing last week after sparring, too, so let's see if he shows up again this week.  I believe that Kewan could do fairly well, but he's got to listen and stop trying to bring pro wrestling into boxing.  In fact, most of the boys in the youth class need to do that.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Calmer Day

Ben and Alan talk in the corner in-between sparring rounds in this photo taken at Loyola Park.

Jaymerson came in a half-hour late this morning.  His sister Morgan has music lessons, and he had to wait until she was finished before going to the gym.  Donovan worked mostly with Jaymerson, holding the punch donut and the punch mitts for him.  Jaymerson was way calmer than he was yesterday.

I thanked Donovan for his help.  He was very patient with Jaymerson.  I watched closely, and with interest, as he got the boy to do a little better in terms of training.  Of course, I don't expect the improvement to last until the next time the gym is open.  I'll have to keep going over the basics with Jaymerson again.

Donovan and Jaymerson were the only two who attended the kids' class.  All of the teens were missing in action.  No one over 18 years of age has signed up for the adult class as of yet.  I think I'm going to keep pushing when and where I can for the boxing class to take place Monday thru Friday instead of Tuesday thru Saturday.  Saturday's attendance has always been down, and I do not ever expect it to pick up.

I learned that the coaches' clinic tomorrow is mainly for those coaches who haven't been certified at all.  That was a relief, as I really want to just chill out tomorrow after church service is completed.  I do have to attend a coach's clinic sometime next year to be refreshed about the rules, which always seem to be changing.  Some of the changes appear to be good, while other rules just seem to be exercises in nitpicking.

Crying and Meltdown Disasters

Ben spars with Jesus at Loyola Park in this photo that was taken earlier this week.

Today was truly all-sparring day at LaFollette Park gym.  There was some confusion, but a vibe of excitement going on.  I thought everything was going well.  Then the first of two disasters took place.

Kewan sparred with KeVonte.  Of the two, KeVonte was more aggressive, and he had good form.  Kewan started off with good intentions, but KeVonte got the better of him.  Kewan was backed into a corner, then he turned around, leaned on the ropes and cried.  Thank God for Donovan, who was acting as the referee, while I stood on the ring apron, barking out instructions.  Donovan signaled to me that Kewan had enough pounding on for today.  Kewan took his helmet off, ran to his grandmother who had walked in at the end of the round, and left the gym.

Against my better judgement, I allowed Jaymerson to pester me into letting him spar.  KeVonte had the upper hand again, but then Jaymerson, who is a special needs child, had no focus.  No matter how many times Dwayne and I told Jaymerson to keep his hands up, move, punch back, etc., the boy did not.  KeVonte popped Jaymerson many times in the face during the first round.  Jaymerson was crying, and I asked did he want to do another around.  First he didn't, then he said he did.  The second round was worst than the first.

Jaymerson threw a total fit.  He kept saying afterwards that he wanted to punch KeVonte.  "You can't get back into the ring, it's over with for today," Dwayne told him.  Jaymerson continued to cry, scream and yell.  "My nose is bleeding," he insisted, but it wasn't.  Jaymerson threw punches at Dwayne, and then blamed him for the punches he took from KeVonte.  The boy didn't want to hear anything that anyone had to say, including anything his sister Morgan was trying to tell him.  This went on and on, while the other boys in the gym continued to spar.  Finally, Jaymerson ran up and hugged me, saying, "I love you."

"I love you, too, but all this crying and carrying on has to stop.  This is boxing, and people get hit.  That what happens," I told him.  I got down on my knees, took his hands and looked up into his face.  "If you don't want to be in the class anymore, I understand.  I won't be mad," I continued.  Jaymerson still wanted to come to the gym but continued to be angry about the sparring session.  I reverted back to all the times I had to soothe my late youngest brother -- who was also a special needs child -- as I kept talking quietly and calmly to Jaymerson.

Donte and his twin brother sparred with each other, and one of the twins sparred with Donovan (which was a good match up).  All the boys had a chance to spar.  The only boy who didn't show up to class was Tayjon.

Later, Jaymerson's mom came in, and Dwayne and I explained what happened.  We both agreed that her son should not spar with anyone from here on in.  It's going to be a struggle to enforce that rule with Jaymerson, because he's going to want to join in when the other boys spar.  Even before Jaymerson stepped in the ring, I figured things wouldn't go well.  Now I have proof.  I can't allow the boy to get hurt like that when he can't pick up on the boxing basics well enough to defend himself.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Having Balance

Ro watches some sparring action going on at Loyola Park in the photo above.

Yesterday, I was holding pads for Ariel.  She asked, "Miss Hillari, how do you keep your balance?"  It's not easy, believe me, especially when she or Donovan are throwing the punches.  My arthritic knees are unsteady from time to time, but I told Ariel that I always try to keep my balance even over my hips and thighs. I've also been using the balance board in the gym.

Kewan, one of the newer kids in the youth class, took off his hand wraps and left in the middle of class without a word.  About fifteen minutes later, he returned looking very upset.  "What's wrong?" I asked.  "I can't find my cell phone," he mumbled.  We looked in all the places where it might have been, but we didn't find it.  Kewan mentioned that it might be in his book bag, which his mother had somewhere with her.  I thought to myself, "I would never give any kid of mine a cell phone because they are too expensive to lose."

A couple of twin 12-year-olds came to class:  Donte and Devonte.  Now I just have to figure out who is who.  I was glad to see them because they appear to be more of a good fit with Donovan in terms of sparring.  However, I worry about Donovan having less time to train because he now participates in track two times a week.

I called the houses of some of the kids I hadn't seen yet in class.  Yeah, I know I kept saying I wasn't going to waste my time doing that.  I did it because it bothered me that a few of the kids had signed up for the summer class, but never showed up.  My calls got Jahnaja to return; she had actually been in the class back during the spring, I believe.  It was easy to work with her because she forgot nothing I taught her previously.  She asked about Xavier, and I told her he hadn't been to the gym in weeks.  "I heard Xavier's heart troubles have kept him away," she said.  "So that's why I didn't see him all summer," I thought to myself. I'm so glad I pressed Xavier to go get checked out when he first told me about having chest pains.

When I called Maz's house, his dad apologized to me for not keeping up with the date the class began.  "I fought in the Golden Gloves, and I could help train my son, as well as help you train the other kids in the class," he told me.  Now I told him that he would have to fill out a volunteer form, but otherwise, I would be happy to have him come down to the gym.

Tayjon and James are back, but as usual, they don't stay the full hour because they play on the football team.  At this point, I just appreciate the fact that they continue to come to class and are enthusiastic about boxing.

Jaymerson is in the class, but it's not a good fit for him.  I like the boy because he reminds me of my late youngest brother.  Jaymerson is developmentally delayed like my brother was.  I have to go back in my memory to remember how my mother, my younger sister, and I would handle things when my brother was upset and/or uncooperative.  Thank God the inclusion aide, Dwayne, is there in the gym to help with Jaymerson.  The boy's mother put him in the class, so there's not much I can say.  But I'm not going to have Jaymerson spar or put him in boxing shows.  I could see the boy having a meltdown upon being hit, and that would not be a good situation.

I received an email that there's a coaching clinic coming up this Sunday.  So typical. . . .learning on a Friday that there's a meeting during the weekend.  I'll check my license status with USA Boxing.  I think the last time I went to a clinic was last year, so I may not have to attend this clinic.  But I need to save up money to pay for renewing the license because it does expire at the end of this year.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The National Anthem and Some Fights

Thomas waited for other fighters to show up at yesterday's Loyola Park boxing show for as long as he could.  Participation was low, similar to what happened at Portage Park the other week.  Donovan couldn't attend the show because he had another engagement, but James showed up with his dad.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a fight for James again.  It was because of the usual issues:  not enough fighters to choose from, and James being bigger and stronger than the average nine-year-old.

George, from Garfield Park, was telling Alan and I how strict he is at his gym.  Kids aren't allowed to stand around and play around.  Those that do are shown the door for the day.  I can be tough on kids who don't pull their weight, but I don't always get order in my gym like George does.  I believe a lot of that is because I'm a woman, and I notice that kids and adults alike have a problem with women who put their put down against nonsense.  Also, I don't like yelling and screaming all the time, contrary to popular belief.  However, I have a feeling I'm going to have to tighten the screws, especially in the teen class.  I learned that Kody re-signed up again.  I like Kody, but Kody's never been serious about boxing.  He'll be in the class with Ariel along with a few new kids, and I can't have Kody playing comedian and disrupting the gym.

I did something at the show that I hadn't done in years.  I sang the National Anthem.  I know a lot of song lyrics off the top of my head, but for some reason, I always blank out on the words of "The Star-Spangled Banner".  Mary, the supervisor at Loyola Park, printed off the words for me, of which I was thankful. I was introduced as having been "a former coach at Loyola, and now a coach at LaFollette Park."  I took my time, controlled my breath, and sang the song.

Not many matches were made, but there were some good ones.  John was in the first match, and he hammered his opponent with body shots.  He won.  Rojan followed in the second match, which was a close one that Rojan did not win.  But he gave it his best effort.

The last fight was between one of Barry's fighters and one of George's fighters.  Barry's guy took the worst of the punches.  After seeing enough of his fighter taking punishment, including a bloody nose, Barry literally threw the towel in. George's fighter did a victory dance for the crowd after he was given the winner's trophy.

When James came to LaFollette today, I told him that I was determined to get him a fight.  James is also on the football team, but sometimes, I get the feeling that he doesn't always get to play in every game.  That is one of the reasons why I really want James to be able to have a match, especially since we're only going to attend a few more before the year ends.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

James and Showbiz

Saturdays are usually slow in the gym.  I made a suggestion once to cut Saturdays out because of the lack of attendance.  My boss insisted that the youths in particular needed to have something to do on that day, so the gym is open.

Donovan had another engagement, so he did not come in.  The only person out of all three classes I have who did was James. I've noticed that he never hits any of the bags except for the speed bag.  I've tried to get him to practice on the heavy bags, but James told me he wanted to get more practice doing other things before he did that.  After awhile, one has to know when to not keep pushing things, so I allow James to do what he thinks is best for him.

He must have liked the answers I gave him some time ago about the entertainment industry (James wants to be an actor and a pop star), so he asked me some more today.  We ended up talking most of the hour, with James doing very little in the way of a workout.  But sometimes, part of my job is actually talking to the youths about things other than boxing.  I guess that is why some people have accused me of being good with children.  I believe in speaking to most kids like they do have a brain and breaking down things so they understand.  It makes more sense for me to do that than doing the baby-talk babbling that some adults do -- even after the kids are way too old for that.

I have a subscription to Variety, the magazine that covers mainly the business side of showbiz.  The latest copy was sitting on the desk in my office.  I had finished reading it, so I gave it James and explained to him what it was.  James is nine years old, and he may not understand all of the words and the concepts inside.  But if it helps him on his way to his future career goals, then I have done a good deed.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Judging at Portage Park

I really need to stop trusting some Internet maps on how to get places.  Luckily, I left the house early enough, so I got to the boxing show at Portage Park yesterday on time.  And yay, they had a parking lot so I didn't have to worry about getting a ticket.

Donovan did not go to that show.  I had advised him not to because I figured there would be no fight for him there.  I was right.  Only a few parks were represented.  Unfortunately, that meant that James, who showed up with his parents, wasn't able to get a fight.  There was an eight-year-old boy from Garfield Park who could have been a match for him.  However, James was 34 pounds heavier.  George, the coach at Garfield Park, didn't agree to making the match, and rightfully so.

Still, I felt bad about telling James that he wouldn't be able to fight that evening.  He didn't get a fight at LaFollette or Harrison Park's shows, so that was the third time.  James has always been very eager to get a match when he arrives at the shows.  James is a quiet child, not given much to being loud and talkative like a lot of other kids are.  But I saw the disappointment on his face, and it bothered me.  I'm hoping we'll have better luck next week at Loyola Park.

Only five fights were scheduled.  I acted as a judge for all of them.  There was a match between two boys, Jordan and Ben, whom I had seen fight several times before.  Jordan was very hesitant about getting his punches off, while Ben kept pressing in on him.  The judges turned their sheets end, but it was decided that both boys were winners.

Marlon, the coach at Portage Park, had one of his boys up against one of Barry's boys from Loyola Park.  Everyone in the audience took note of how Marlon's fighter was ducking punches.  "You don't have to go that low!" Marlon told him from the corner.  But the kid kept doing it.  Barry's fighter took advantage of it, too, using uppercuts and body shots to make his points.  Both boys were dead tired in round three because they had given out so much energy.  Barry's fighter won.

Alan was there, along with his son Matt, but Alan had no fighters with him.  Bill, the coach at Hamlin Park, was concerned about the women Alan has in his adult boxing class.  Bill had a woman fighter at the show, but there was no one for her to get into the ring with.  The only woman I could think of who regularly competes out of Loyola is Kathy.  Alan's been reaching out to Geniece to come back and train, but she's hasn't as of yet.

My fall youth boxing classes at LaFollette are slowly gaining registrations.  But I'm not expecting full classes until halfway into the fall session.  That's how it has been going for the longest.  As for the adults, I'll be lucky if a couple of people sign up and stick with it.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Eighth At Eckhart Park

Thomas and the boxing coaches make the matches for the Eckhart Park show in the photo above.  I had already made a match for Donovan with one of Eddie's (the coach at Davis Square Park) fighters.

Alan tried to get matches for John and Rojan, but there had been some confusion as to whether the boxing show was going to take place or not.  It had been raining earlier, and it appeared that another shower might happen.  They all drove in later, with Alan coming in from the furthest distance.  By the time they got there, all ten bouts had been set.  It was too bad, because there were a few guys there that both John and Rojan could have fought.

I pointed out Donovan to John and Rojan.  "Wow, he's eleven years old?" John said.  "There are some big eleven years olds around!" Rojan said.

Ariel and James from my gym could have had fights, too.  I spotted several prospects for them, but alas, they didn't go to the boxing show.

Donovan's fight was the eighth of the night.  Before the bell rang for the first round, I advised him not to leap as he threw punches.  However, he did, and the other kid caught him as he landed back on his feet.  The punch knocked Donovan down and underneath the ropes.  For a second, I was worried he was going to roll off onto the judges' table.  In the second round, Donovan had a determined look on his face.  One of his punches knocked Eddie's fighter down.  When the third and final round ended, Eddie's fighter came over to shake my hand.  It was then I noticed the boy's nose was bleeding. "Donovan got one in," I told his parents later.

Donovan's parents and I believed it was a close fight, but Donovan lost.  A few coaches came up again to compliment Donovan on having heart during the fight.  "Gentleman" Gerald told me, "Your kid is good, but he's got to stop leaping into punches."  I agreed.  That's something else we have to work on back at the gym.

Portage Park's show is next week, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get Donovan a fight there.  I'm going to try and convince nine-year-old James to go, even though I know that James has a lot to work on as well.