Monday, November 28, 2016

And You Are. . . . .?

Matthew and Ben look ready to charge each other in the photo above.  There was a lot of sparring action at Loyola Park among the guys.  None of the women were in on it, including me.  Later, Matthew went in the ring with his dad, Alan.  I started to tell the both of them, "Fight nice!" as a joke.  I should have spoken up. Matthew fired a right hand at Alan then backed up near the ropes.  He had pulled a muscle in that arm but wanted to keep on fighting.  Alan refused and halted the action.  Matthew could feel where the muscle had popped out.  I sure hope that doesn't mean having to get surgery to fix it.

Matthew had brought a friend in named Alonzo.  People are always bringing friends into the gym to check it out.  When I figure out that an unfamiliar face is associated with someone who normally attends the gym, I think, "Oh, they're cool because they know them."  

I never think that about people who walk into LaFollette Park's boxing gym like that.  My first thought is usually, "Who is that and what do they want?"  Regardless if they know someone who is training in there, I prepare myself to bark at them for disrupting the class.  I know I'm going to have to get on someone for touching the equipment.  I know I'm probably going to ask -- no -- tell someone to leave, and I probably won't be nice about it.

It's probably because Loyola Park and LaFollette Park are in two different worlds from each other in terms of the vibes of the neighborhoods and mindsets of those who live around those field houses.  It's also the difference between dealing with kids at LaFollette and being around adults at Loyola.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fighting At Home

The gym was open the day after Thanksgiving, but it might as well had not been.  Ariel did not show up to the gym the day before the holiday, but her grandmother checked to make sure the gym would be open on Friday.  However, Ariel didn't show up, and neither did the other kids.  Friday was basically a wasted day.  The only thing good about it was the field house closed early.

I did get new fliers for the winter boxing class, and I was impressed.  Instead of printing them on half-sheets, a full 8 1/2 by 11 page was done.  My continued gripe, however, is that the printing department never puts exactly what I want on the fliers.  Some time ago, Mary, the supervisor at Loyola Park, said that it was a good idea to let parents know that the boxing class is not intended to be a self-defense class.  I've grown tired of parents who push their kids into the class with the expectation the lessons will ward off bullies.  I always ask to put a line in that states the class is not a self-defense class, but it never makes it onto the fliers.  There wasn't a lot of room to put that on the half-sheet flier (although it could have been done in a smaller type font), but there is certainly enough room to put that on the full-sheet flier.

Speaking of bullying, whatever happened to parents teaching their kids how to fight at home?  I know of people whose parents told them that if they didn't stand up to the kid or kids who were picking on them, their parents would spank them for displaying cowardice.  Times have changed - and not always for the better.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Boxing Class Is Free, But Babysitting Costs Money

In this photo, I'm standing at the head of the table in a room at Brooks Park the day of their boxing show.  The other coaches were trying to get matches for their fighters.  Barry took the shot.  "Hillari, you're always taking pictures, but you are never in them," he said.

Yesterday was another light attendance day at LaFollette Park.  James was the only one who showed up for the kids' class.  Sometimes, I get irritated by James always pointing out the obvious about the other kids not showing up regularly. But he's got a point.  I've come to dread Saturdays because that has become the least productive day of the week.

The other James, who is in the teen class, showed up about ten minutes early with his mother.  Jamiya, his sister, wasn't with him, and their mother gave me no explanation for her daughter's absence.  "In order for them to learn this sport and to do well in it, they have to be here more than once every couple of weeks.  I can't put them in fights if they don't train enough.  When they miss days and weeks, they have to start all over again from the beginning.  Like any other sport, skill builds upon skill." I told their mother.  I pointed out that the adult class is now gone mainly because of low attendance.  "I'll try to get them here more often," the mom said, but I wasn't convinced based on her kids' track record. The mom didn't remember that boxing is not a seasonal sport, something I know I told her when she begged me to take her kids in the class even though it was the middle of the session.

Another teenage girl always shows up as James and Jamiya finishes up class.  She came in yesterday, and apparently doesn't realize that she is a distraction.  I don't know who she is -- perhaps a cousin, maybe a friend.  James let her play around with the kettlebell until I informed her she had to put it down because she's not registered for the class.  Seems like little missy had an attitude, but she needed to ask me if I gave a damn about her being irritated.

I changed out the bulletin board with the training schedule on it again.  I also updated some of the other signs that are up on the walls.  I'm curious to see how long a new sign which reads, "Boxing training is free.  Babysitting is $20.00 an hour" will last before someone notices it and makes a smart remark.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Brawls at Brooks Park

Several of the coaches attempt to make matches for their fighters at Brooks Park's boxing show in the photo above.  Portage Park and Brooks Park seemed to have the most success with boxers getting fights.  Alan wasn't able to get a fight for John, but he did get one for Rojan.  Solomon, one of Barry's fighters, got a match as well.

It was a hardship driving up to Brooks Park.  I didn't know that construction was happening on the route I took there for blocks.  It was bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic.  What should have taken an half-hour turned into a journey that took over an hour.  Parking was tight in the small lot in front of the field house but I managed to squeeze into a spot.

Solomon and Rojan's fights didn't take place until later in the evening, so there was a long wait.  In the meantime, there were a lot of good fights leading up to theirs.  In my opinion, the best fight of the night was between two girls who looked no older than seven or eight years of age.  One girl was from Brooks, and I believe the other girl fought out of Portage.  The Brooks girl was on fire, landing most of her punches in the face of the other girl.  The Brooks girl won.  I was jealous because other than Ariel, I have no girls with the toughness the two young girls had in the ring.

No, Ariel didn't show up, and I knew Donovan, Maz, and James were not going to show up, so I had no one to put into the show.  It's too bad since Brooks Park is the last show I scheduled to have LaFollette Park fighters participate in this year.  Actually, the last show on the boxing show schedule is Scottsdale Park.  But now that Rick, the coach at that park, has retired, it's likely that show will not take place.

Rojan's fight appeared to be close, as he and his opponent looked to have traded an even number of punches.  But Rojan was hesitating too long at times to take shots, and the other guy kept backing Rojan into the ropes.  The other guy won.

I ran into Cynthia Tolaymat, who along with her husband, is a fight promoter. She and her husband were sitting next to Jesse White, who is the Illinois Secretary of State.  Mr. White was friends with my late dad for years.  "I really liked your dad and stepmom; they were lovely people," he told me.  While I was talking to Mr. White, professional boxer Adrian Granados came over to speak to him, and I got to meet him.  I didn't know that Granados had once trained through the park district.  He has a fight coming up soon on the Showtime network.  Frez Oquendo was in the audience, too.

It was a good night, for the most part.  Tomorrow, it's back to LaFollette, and trying to figure out how to keep the youths interested in the sport.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Two Years Ago Means Nothing Today

Ben (on the right) eyes John during their sparring session at Loyola Park in the photo above.  It was a good night of sparring as the ring canvas stayed occupied. I was too stiff to spar again, even though I would have otherwise.

Back at LaFollette Park, I was highly irritated when once again, Jermaine showed up to ask about signing up for the boxing class.  Jermaine was hanging around the gym along with his younger brother and his cousin Marquis when I first started working there.  My records in the equipment room don't go much past 2015, but I don't think Jermaine was ever formally signed up for the class.  There was a lot of confusion regarding registration back then which I have straightened out.  "Is there a boxing tournament?" he asked.  "Brooks Park is having a boxing show tomorrow, and that is the last one we're going to this year," I answered.  "Aw, man," Jermaine sighed.  I don't know why he thought he could participate seeing how he's not in the class nor has he trained for a fight.

Jermaine a couple of boys who were a few years younger than he had trailed behind him into the gym.  I had to keep yelling at them to stay off of the equipment.  Jermaine asked if he could have a paper form to fill out.  The last time we had the same conversation, I told him that the park district stopped doing paper forms two years ago.  "My parents don't know how to use computers," he said.  "Then they have to come in person to sign you up," I replied.  He held up his cell phone for me to see.  "I can call them right now and get permission to be in here."  "It doesn't work like that.  If they don't know how to use a computer, they have to come here in person to sign you up," I said as my irritation kept rising.

"But I was in here two years ago," Jermaine said with a smirk.  "That was two years ago," I said with no trace of humor in my voice.  The boy ticks me off because he has potential, but he refuses to act on it.  Now that I have three kids who have won trophies under me, I don't have patience for kids who want to brag that they take boxing yet don't put the work in.  Jermaine obviously thought I was stupid because he kept trying to slick talk his way into the class without following the steps.  "I have to have your parents' permission for you to be in here, Jermaine.  I'm NOT about to do something that I'm not supposed to do and jeopardize my job.  I like to be able to pay my rent.  Do you understand?" I snapped.  He and his little entourage left after that, but I don't believe Jermaine comprehended the message -- again.  Give it another few weeks or months, and he'll be back in the gym with the same con game again.  After hearing it so many times, I know Jermaine is not serious about the sport.

Maz, Donovan, nor James will be at Brooks Park tomorrow.  Maz's braces are bothering him, and they need to be fixed before he takes on another fight. Donovan claimed he didn't know about the show, but I remember talking to both him and his parents about it some time ago.  James just didn't want to go.  It's just as well because James still hasn't begun to lose the weight he needs to lose in order to get a fight.  That leaves Ariel, who expressed interested in going to that show.  But she didn't show up to train today, so I'm not totally sure that she will go to the boxing show.  I have a feeling I'll be there alone.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

No Support For The Sweet Science

James was the only one who showed up, so today was a long day in the gym.  The seasonal sports coach had a bake sale in the auditorium, and when his class was over, James headed upstairs to the event.  I followed behind him.  James brought some chips and cookies, while I just had enough to pay for a brownie.
As I sat in the empty gym savoring the brownie, I thought about how the event looked as if it was organized well.  In addition to the bake sale, there was also a card game tournament going on for the adults to participate in.  All of the funds would go to support the seasonal teams.

Earlier, an adult inquired about the adult boxing program just as I figured someone would.  They looked surprised when I told them that portion of the boxing program is now discontinued.  As time goes on, I'm finding it very hard to believe that the adults ever wanted a program there -- for themselves or for the kids.  I wish I could have fundraisers to get more equipment in the gym that is sorely needed.  It's not that I haven't tried to do that.  But the interest in the program from the surrounding community is just not there.  Not enough parents and guardians of the youth in the boxing program are actively involved like the parents whose kids play seasonal sports.  I guess I could take comfort that my program is not the only one that has been ignored in the park district.  But it makes no sense for people to complain "they never put anything over here for OUR kids" or "there's nothing here for us" when they don't inquire to see what is available.  Then when some program is canceled, the same people grumble about, "something is always being taken away from us" when they refused to support it while it was there.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Day Before Election Day

The boxing gym at Loyola Park was well-attended.  Even Igor - muttering to himself, as usual - was on the premises.  Matt, Alan's son, was there, too, along with Gabe, whom I hadn't seen in awhile.  "Sebastian will be going to school forever," Gabe grinned when I asked about his brother.

Matt sparred with Michael.  He also sparred with Ben and got in a good uppercut during one of the rounds.

I would have sparred, but I had been extremely stiff all day long.  Earlier, I had gone to the store to pick up a few groceries.  I practically stumbled back to my apartment.  Both knees were shaky, and my right leg felt like it was made out of concrete.  My right shoulder and the back of my neck were sore.  My prescriptions will run out soon, so when I pay a visit to the doctor, I'm going to get to the bottom of why I'm always stiff and slow-moving.

Emily sparred with Kathy; both Alan and I were giving her pointers.  She did get some decent body shots in on Kathy.

Tomorrow, I will have nothing to do in the gym at LaFollette because the gym is being used as a polling place.  Guess I'll catch up on some administrative stuff.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Better Than Watching Paint Dry

Ariel, pictured above, did not get a fight at Humboldt Park this evening.  I was disappointed, even more so when a girl she could have fought showed up just as the boxing show began.  "I want to box," I overheard the girl say.  If that girl had boxed before, as I heard her bragging to her friends, she would have known she had to be at the show at least an hour ahead of time to get weighed in.  Thomas waited for people as long as he could, but he had to shut the scale down fifteen minutes before the show began.

Once again, James did not get a fight.  Unlike Ariel, who stayed to watch the matches, he went home after receiving the news.  It comes down to this -- James has to lose weight.  As long as James weighs in bigger than the average size nine- year-old who show up to get matches, James will never get a fight.

Several from Loyola Park -- Alan, Rojan, Paul, Michael -- came to the fight.  Michael got there too late to weigh in, and there was no fight for Rojan.  A man named Mr. Barak, who sat next to me in the audience asked why it seemed no adults participate in the boxing shows.  "Most of the adults are just in it for the workout.  They don't want to compete," I explained.

Maz's dad, Irving, was a great help to me during his son's fight, which was the fourth one of the evening.  He worked Maz's corner with me.  Maz was paired with a boy from Seward Park.  I kept telling Maz to get closer to his opponent to throw effective body shots.  Irving kept telling his son to tuck his chin in.  Maz's opponent was bleeding a little after the first round.  I noticed his opponent smirking at times during the action.  But Maz didn't lose his cool.  Maz's mouthpiece fell out during the last round, and I scrambled to rinse it off and get it back in.

Maz, shown here with his proud dad, won his fight.  That makes the third kid -- behind Ashley and Kishawn -- who have won matches since I've been running the gym.

That was better than the Cubs winning the World Series.  There was some talk about the baseball team's victory after 108 years of not winning at the boxing show, but thank goodness, there wasn't much of it.  "I'm glad they won," Alan told me, "but I couldn't watch the game.  I'm not a baseball fan.  It's like watching paint dry."

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Four For The Show

I held the pads for Ariel.  Luckily, she reminded me to take off my glasses.  One of her punches got through and hit me in my left eye.  I checked it.  It's okay. I think.

Ariel, Donovan, Maz and James are the four I have for the boxing show at Humboldt Park.  Little James was waffling about whether or not he's going to attend.  Sigh. . . .that boy's focus has just been gone lately.  Today he left the gym early again.  Later, I checked with the seasonal sports coach about the field house football team's schedule.  "The football season is over.  Basketball is starting now," he told me.  James has no reason to leave class before the hour is over.  I worry about his chances if he gets a match.

I'm not worried about Ariel.  Leonard, one of the attendants, came in the gym and watched while she worked the punch mitts with Maz.  He was impressed.  "She looks like she knows what she's doing," he grinned.  I have complete confidence that Ariel will win against anyone they put her against.  I just hope there will be a fight for her -- that's my current worry.

Track practises have kept Donovan out of the gym twice a week, but he has begun to miss other days, too.  Donovan wasn't in the gym today, so he missed out on what sparring he could have gotten in.

Maz revealed that he has fought before and won a few fights.  I am so glad that his father, who used to box, also trains him at home.  I expect Maz to do well.

Tomorrow should be interesting.