Thursday, June 29, 2017


I knew something was wrong when I drove up to the field house and there was no sign of a boxing ring being set up outside.  When I came inside, my boss told me, "The boxing show has been canceled."  The reason was that of an impending rainstorm.  I began to feel a headache coming on.

Barry called; he was as disappointed as I was that the LaFollette boxing show would not be happening.  In addition to kids from his youth class, he was going to help with the guys from Alan's class who wanted to fight as Alan wasn't able to come to the show.

Of course, Thomas' (the head of the park district boxing program) announcement that the fight wasn't going to happen didn't reach everybody.  His announcements never do.  Everyone is not a fan of checking emails.  I was on my way to work when the email was sent.  People from Portage Park showed up, and so did Marty from Simons Park.  I sent the kids of my gym -- Jamire, Iz, Abraham, and Ariel -- home since class had not been scheduled to take place today.

About the only good thing that happened was that I signed up a couple of teens for the class, Noel and Mikkala.  I also some other people including Miguel, who has been helping Johnny out over at Humboldt Park.

It would have been my third show since I've been a paid coach; now I have to wait until next year.  Park district boxing shows are not re-scheduled if they are canceled.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

One Out Of Four

Iz appears to be the only one who is going to compete in tomorrow's boxing show at LaFollette Park.  Abraham hurt his foot yesterday, Jamire doesn't want a match, and David continues to be MIA.

Two new kids, Maurice and Uriah, were signed up today by their mom.  They won't be in class until after the Fourth of July.  Their mother is also interested in taking the class, but she'll have to wait until September.  That's when the adult boxing class will (hopefully) be back on the schedule.

I finally had to get on Jamire today about being lazy and talking too much.  His grandmother backed me up when I told him about the importance of doing all of the workout and being focused.  I didn't yell or scream, but I was firm.  He sparred with Iz who took it easy on him today.

The bulletin board closest to the gym entrance had been tampered with.  I know it was the summer camp kids.  I didn't bother bringing it up to Tina, the camp coordinator since things are still frosty between the two of us.  It's not that she nor the camp counselors would have done much to stop it, just like they haven't been doing for the past couple of summers I've been working there.  I just reinforced the damaged areas with tape and hoped that I don't find the board jacked up again.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Meanwhile At Mandrake

There was a coaches' meeting held at Mandrake.  Basically, it was for the purposes of picking up this year's T-shirts for the boxing participants, hoodies to award to the most improved boxer in our gyms, and fliers and signs advertising the boxing shows.

When I arrived, Jeff, the coach at Taylor Park, hugged me and said, "The champ is here!"  I had hobbled there on my cane, having taken public transportation to get to the meeting.  Thank God Alan was there because I couldn't have carried a box of T-shirts back on the train.  He'll keep them in his car until I can pick them up from him next week.

Thomas asked me why were the summer camp kids allowed to be in the gym at LaFollette when I'm not there.  I had mentioned to him my concerns about the gym equipment and bulletin boards being tampered with as well as food being dropped on the floor.  Summer camp begins next week.  I learned that kids should not be in any park district boxing gym if the coach is not present.  The idea is to prevent accidents from happening due to kids playing around on the equipment.  I emailed my boss and cc'd the summer camp coordinator with the information I received from Thomas as soon as I arrived home.  I'm certain I will get push back from the summer camp counselor as the kids' presence in the gym has been a touchy spot between her and me for the past two summers.  However, I have to follow the rules of the program I'm working under, and the camp counselor will have to respect that rule.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Straight Right Changes The Mind

Still no sign of David, but Jamire, Iz, and Abraham came to class today.  I was extremely happy to see Iz and Abraham because I was afraid that I would be stuck for the whole hour and a half alone with Jamire.  Don't get me wrong -- Jamire is a nice enough kid.  But the whining about "I'm tired" and constantly making conversation and asking incessant questions to avoid doing training has gotten on my last nerve.  Jamire was also going on about being sleepy and his stomach allegedly hurting, too.

When sparring began, I put Iz and Jamire in first.  Jamire was using both of his fists, crossing his feet, turning his back, and allowing Iz to pummel him every time he was backed into a corner.  It wasn't much better when I put Abraham in.  Abraham caught Jamire with a straight right to the chin.  Jamire crashed to the canvas.

For a second, I thought that Jamire had been knocked out.  His mouthpiece was laying to one side on the canvas.  Jamire wasn't moving.  Abraham and Iz also rushed over to see if he was okay.  Jamire shook his head "no", so I removed his headgear and made him sit up.  Abraham gave him some water.  "Do you want to keep going?" he asked Jamire.  Jamire shook his head again.  I let Iz and Abraham spar for an extra round and told Jamire no more sparring for him today. Iz and Abraham both gave Jamire advice on how to do better the next time.

 At the end of class, Jamire's grandmother arrived to pick him up and I told her what happened.  She smiled, "He just has to get used to it."  Jamire has changed his mind about participating in next week's boxing show, so that leaves me with just three contenders instead of four (that's if David ever shows up).  "I think I need some more experience," Jamire told me and his grandmother.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A More Than Full House

I walked into the Loyola Park field house to find about 25 people lining the hallway for boxing class.  Today was the beginning of the summer session there; LaFollette Park's summer session began a week ago.  "Woo!  There are a lot of people here today!" I said as I walked down the hall.  Several of the new people smiled.

I didn't do much of a workout because I was very stiff.  Most times I can work the stiffness out, but it wasn't happening.  Besides, it was very packed in that small gym, so I thought it would be better to help both Alan and Paul get the new people situated.

William told me that he was going to public school for the first time in the fall.  "I've been homeschooled all of my life," he said.  I know a few kids who are being homeschooled, but I have not come across many teens who have been.  I hope the transition is not too difficult for him, especially since William will be starting high school.

As Alan drove me home later, I told him, "I like my job at LaFollette Park, but I don't dig the office politics and gossip."  After having been caught running my mouth about things I didn't have the facts straight about early on in my working life, I learned to stay above and out of office gossip culture as much as possible.  However, the run-in I had with Tina at LaFollette Park a week ago also proves that despite one not buying into the gossip game, there are others who will not only take the ball but keep running with it while refusing to recognize the path is heading into the wrong goalpost.  We can't really change what people want to believe about us.  But dealing with pettiness and foolishness caused by those beliefs is a pain in my backside.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Musical Chairs In The Gym

Jamire, one of the new kids in the boxing program, showed up yesterday with his grandmother.  Jamire appears to be a nice kid, but his grandmother was accurate in her assessment of her grandson being lazy.  She told me of her concern about her grandson always sitting and playing video games and generally not being active.

It wasn't long before Jamire was complaining about being tired and the workout being hard.  After just about every round the boy was sitting down, then taking too long to get up when the bell timer went off again.  His grandmother noticed it first, and she got on him about it.  It was as if Jamire was playing musical chairs. I gave him, as well as Abraham and Iz who came in later, a bit of a pass because it was hot in the gym.  The built in the fans in the gym were only pushing air around; that's all the fans ever do.  But I told Jamire that I don't allow people to sit for long periods of time.  "If you want to win fights, you'll do the workout," I said.  Before I went home yesterday, I left a chair out for his grandmother to sit in, but I put the other chair, which I normally use, away.  I can stand up, and Abraham, Iz and David seldom sit down when they are there.  Jamire is not going to keep sitting down when he's there.

Abraham and Iz sparred, and Jamire wanted to get in on it.  But he has to learn the punches first.  I no longer teach all of the punches in one class because that was not an effective way to do that.  I was doing that in the past because most kids who signed up before class began were not showing up until a week or two later.  I wanted to get them up to speed quickly.  Others were not signing up until after the class had been going on for three weeks or more.  But I'm not making that my problem anymore.  Regardless of when anyone signs up, that first week is reserved for teaching the punches and going over basic footwork.  No one new will be allowed to spar until the second week they are in class.

Of the four new kids whom I called the other day to remind them that class had begun for the summer, Jamire was the only one who came in.  I'm not making any more phone calls.  If the others don't show up after a few days, I'll have to assume there's no interest in the class on their part and just keep it moving.

I'm not one for roaming around the LaFollette Park field house.  I'm supposed to be in the gym the majority of the time I'm at work so that's where I stay.  I didn't see Tina, whom I had a run-in with the other day.  Her car was in the parking lot, so I knew she was there. I'm still deciding how to respond to her.  I pride myself for having not escalated the situation.  I have a volcanic temper, so trust me when I say that was a credit to me when I decided not to blow up on her.  Perhaps I am becoming a little mellow in my old age.  I'm thinking I should go with the "kill them with kindness" route and at least acknowledge that she exists when I see her.

But I'm also leaning heavily towards giving her a piece of professional advice -- that is if she wants to listen.  I was a few years younger than her  (Tina is in her late 20s) when I got caught up in the gossip culture at the place where I was working.  I foolishly repeated something that someone else had said about a co-worker, just like Tina did to me.  I caught hell for it from the target of the gossip and rightfully so.  I learned a lesson the hard way that day.  Tina needs to learn that before she repeats and/or acts on some wayward information again.  The next time she does that, no matter whether it's at the Chicago Park District or at another job down the line, it may cost her something in terms of her job or career.  She can't afford that, and to be honest, neither can anyone else in any workplace.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Two Lessons Not Often Taught

Recently, I learned of an incident that took place a couple of months ago at the Chicago City-Wide Boxing Tournament, which is run by the park district.  One of the kids lost a fight.  When the second place trophy was handed to them, the kid threw the trophy down in anger.  "I don't want that!" they yelled before stomping away.  An attempt was made to give the trophy to the kid's coach.  The coach had an even worse attitude about their kid's loss.  They didn't want the trophy either.

Since I had no one in that tournament, I did not attend this year.  After hearing what happened, I'm glad that I wasn't because I would have had to say something to that kid and their coach about their behavior.  I don't tolerate that type of stuff at my gym nor at boxing shows and tournaments from my fighters.  No coach should be condoning behavior like that from their fighters.

Just last year, I was at a boxing show where several young men from one gym kept grumbling about being "robbed" and being "cheated" after most of them had lost their bouts.  At the end of the evening, the young men were still grumbling on their way out of the field house.  I had enough of their comments and was about to put them in check, but two other coaches beat me to it.  Their admonishing had no effect on the young men, who choose not to listen to reason.

The year before, I had to deal with someone in my gym who completely lost it when their fight was stopped during another boxing show. The referee, myself and the head of the city's boxing program all caught the brunt of that person's anger.  As a result, that person was banned from LaFollette's boxing program.

It doesn't appear that two important lessons are being taught to young people these days.  The first lesson is life is not fair.  The second lesson is everyone is not going to get what they want every time.  Those lessons should be started early and reinforced often.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Imagined Offence Syndrome

All I said was, "I need to use the computer."  That request prompted Tina, the gymnastics and modern dance instructor (in addition to being the summer camp coordinator) to snap on me today.

Today was the first day of the summer session at LaFollette.  I needed to check the computer to see if any other kids had signed up for boxing.  Without any emotion in my voice, I made my request to Tina and her little daughter, who were eating at the desk where the staff computer sits.  I was patient and quiet as they moved.  The next second, Tina snaps, "Hillari, I know you hate kids, but you did not have to be rude.  I don't do you like that!"

Let me back up a couple of years.  Gossip was spread by another staff person based on their observance of my no-nonsense, old school ways of dealing with unruly kids at the field house that I "hate" kids.  If I was that intolerant of kids, I sure as hell would NOT be working for the Chicago Park District.  However, the gossip has continued to spread. I know she made that statement based on what she heard two years ago, as opposed to asking me directly for correct news reports.  "I didn't think I was being rude, but I apologize if you thought that," I replied.  Tina wouldn't let well enough alone as she kept grumbling about my alleged rudeness as she and her kid left the room.

I followed her out to the front desk.  "Excuse me, but the fact that someone does not have kids is not an indicator of how they feel about them," I stated.  She dismissed me and kept walking.  "Whatever," I said dryly, and I went back to doing what I get paid to do.   Sometimes, one has to allow people to stew in their own excrement.

Abraham and Iz came in, but no sign of David.  For the running portion of the class, I had them run on the track that is up above the swimming pool.  We did the punch mitts when we returned to the boxing gym.  I'm very glad I thought to ask both boys what they felt they needed help doing.  Abraham told me he wanted to work on his left uppercut so we did.  He's getting better at lifting his foot up slightly to give a little more power to that punch.  Iz wanted to work on his hooks.  Iz's left hooks snapped nicely into the punch mitts.

The other four kids in the class -- all new kids -- didn't show so I called their homes.  A couple of the parents/guardians straight up forgot that the class began today.  "Don't worry," I assured them, "they didn't miss anything."  I just continued the normal routine with the ones who were there.  The new kids may have a chance to compete in this month's boxing show, but a lot depends on if they attend class regularly between now and then.

A Dead Transfer and Hordes Of Teenagers

It appears that a coach was hired to run the boxing gym at Eckhart Park, so my attempt to be transferred there is now dead in the water.  For the time being, I'm stuck with a long commute to LaFollette Park, mostly indifferent kids, and parents who don't appear to support the program.  I remember hearing that the community really wanted a boxing program re-opened there before I was hired.  But, honestly?  The community's alleged enthusiasm for a boxing program has never appeared to be very high.  Not by a long shot.  I've been there nearly three years, and my efforts to generate more interest in the boxing program has been difficult to achieve.  That really bothers me because I know how boxing can benefit youths in so many ways in and outside of the ring.

Today is the first day of the summer session for my program.  Alan's class at Loyola Park ended on June 7th, and I believe it doesn't begin again until June 19th.  He's going to have a lot of returning people for his summer session, however.  Several of the guys -- Roman, John, Michael, Ben, Reif, Matt -- expressed interest in fighting at LaFollette's boxing show later this month.  I have to get out the word to the other park district coaches that there are some light heavyweight and heavyweight fighters who are looking to have matches at my show.

William, who looks like a college student, but who is actually 14 years old was in Loyola's gym last night.  I'm assuming that Barry has been giving him permission to come to the adult class for extra training in light of the fact that the boxing shows will soon commence.

Frenchessa was the only other woman who was in the gym last night.  She kept going on the speed bag even though the bell was red.  "I think I'm a good height to box.  It appears there are a lot of tall women in this sport," she said.  A little more height might have helped me while I was competing.  But like an aunt of mine who is 4 foot 10 always says, "Dynamite comes in small packages."  Frenchessa is in her early 20s, and she wants to train for a couple of years before competing.

I saw that another kid signed up for the 12 and under boxing class at LaFollette.  I have not met either of the two new kids who will be joining the class, nor have I talked to their parents.  That bothers me, especially when now the phrase, "please talk to the instructor before registering" is on the paper class schedule and online.  Either parents aren't noticing that request or they are ignoring it.  If it's the latter, that has the possibility of causing negative issues as the class goes on, and I'm never in the mood for that.

Something else I have to watch out for -- hordes of roaming teenagers hanging about in the gym.  Over the last couple of weeks, I've had teens strolling in asking about the class.  Most do not appear to be serious about it, and frankly, I have zero toleration for that.  A few of them were led by Desire, a kid I met when I first started working at LaFollette.  Her younger sister was in the class back then, but Desire was not.  Desire has been talking about signing up recently, but I haven't forgotten her saying "I don't want to box because I don't want people thinking I'm a man!" three years ago.  I suspect her real motivation (like too many of the teen girls at LaFollette) is to position herself in spots where she thinks most of the boys will be.  I like Desire, but I'm not running "The Dating Game" nor "Love Connection" out of the gym.

I'm not running a free babysitting service for parents who want to dump their little darlings off on me because they want them out of the house as much as possible, either.  Neither the youth nor the teen class is filled up completely at the moment.  But give it time.  Several parents, having forgotten once again that summer happens every year, will show up four to five weeks into the session to beg me to take their kids in the class.  The window was missed for putting their little wonders into summer camp, so they have to scramble to find another activity.  Unfortunately, out of that group, I end up with kids who don't want to be in boxing and they scrap the class after a few times.  It happens too often.

Before I forget, I saw the movie Wonder Woman over the past weekend.  It was way better than the other superhero movies of late.  Former boxer Ann Wolfe -- who is now a trainer -- was in the movie.  Her part was small, but I hope if there is a sequel, her character will have a bigger role.  In one scene, it looked like she gave a devastating body shot to a male soldier (the film is set during WWI) who along with other soldiers, had invaded Paradise Island.  She was handling her business for real.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Jobs At The Fights

Blood was in one of the sinks in the men's washroom in the gym a couple of days ago.  Both David and Abraham were rocked by punches given out by Iz during sparring.  The real test is going to see how fast that blood gets cleaned up -- if it is cleaned at all.  I wasn't at the gym yesterday because I had to go to CPR training, so I didn't see if that job had been done.  There's long been a problem with the downstairs washrooms not being as clean as they should be.  I'll put it like this -- spraying disinfectant in the air and just pouring bleach in the toilets and leaving it is not the proper way to clean the washrooms.

I was thinking that by the time Ariel signs up for the summer session two or three weeks will have gone by.  She graduates from 8th grade today, and she's going on vacation next week.  She will not be ready for LaFollette's boxing show due to the days she will miss on top of the days she missed training during the spring session.  If I'm not mistaken, Ariel showed up less than 20 days during the session which runs for 50 days.  She has good hands and decent movement.  However, none of that is necessarily going to help her against another girl who was training more.  I plan to put Ariel to work -- if she shows up -- on helping with the glove table at the boxing show.

I expect Iz, David, and Abraham to work the glove table if they don't get fights, too.  They could also help me in the corner if one of them gets a fight and the others don't.  It has irritated me a bit when kids who didn't get fights in past LaFollette boxing show immediately go home.  They should stay to watch the fights especially if they've never had one to get an idea of what to expect.  I'm also about teaching kids how to work the corners and warm other kids in the class up for fights by using the mitts, so they should stick around for that, too.  My goal is to show the kids that there are many other jobs in the gym other than fighting.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Back To Loyola

Yesterday, I went to Loyola Park after not being there for a few weeks. I plan to go there weekly again during the summer months, but play it by ear once the weather turns cold again.  I was surprised at the energy I had; it was a good workout.

There was a good amount of sparring with the most interesting session taking place between Erica and Danielle.  It may have been Danielle's first time sparring.  She was covering up her face a lot, but she was not returning a lot of punches, even when she was close enough in range to do so.  Danielle would run up on Erica, but not do much when she got there.  Later, Danielle told me that she didn't want to hurt her.  Erica took it easy on her during the session and gave her some tips.

Meanwhile at LaFollette .  .  . I've already gotten notices from Barry at Loyola and Ernest at Fuller that they want me to contact them.  Everyone wants to see if they can pre-match fighters for my boxing show which happens during the last week of this month.  I'm thinking I shouldn't have much of a problem with getting bouts for Iz, Abraham, and David.  I have been putting a little more on the boys to get them ready.  I have them run on the track in the back of the field house for a few laps a couple of days out of the week, for example.

Ariel graduates from 8th grade this week.  She is the salutatorian of her class.  She told me she's going to have her mother sign her up for the summer session which begins next week.   I'm wondering with her busy summer schedule that includes a job and volunteer work how is she going to fit training in.

Due to new crash bars that have been installed on the doors in the gym at LaFollette, some of those doors can no longer be locked.  I don't like the feeling that the gym may be less secure, but there is not much I can do about it.  Someone was in my office/equipment room space again -- things were moved around -- which irritated me and did not add to me feeling positive about the crash bars.  The bladder inside one of the speed bags was busted, so I had to replace it.  I was also able to hang up another bag so finally, all three of the heavy bag/speed bag stands has a speed bag on it.  Now if I could only get the other equipment I ordered months ago, that would be nice.