Thursday, September 28, 2017

Outside at Loyola Park

For the first time in 20 years, the Loyola Park boxing show was held on the outside.  A ring was set up on a basketball court in the park.  In the photo above, Mikaela holds the pads for her brother Noel before his fight.  Noel's fight was number two on the list.

I didn't sing the National Anthem, but Xavier, who had sung it there in the past, did a great job.  Tonight was the first time I heard him sing. 

The kid Noel fought was from Loyola Park, had two prior fights, and was built a little bigger.  Mikaela correctly pointed out that the other kid kept going for a knockout.  At the end of the second round, I told Noel to watch out for the wild punches that were being thrown at him.  Noel did get in a few good head shots.  The other kid kept pinning him up against the ropes and in the corners.

Noel did not win, but as usual, I was happy that one of my fighters was able to get a match.  A few people told me that they believed Noel had great form.  They figured that if he had pressed the other guy a little more, Noel might have won.

Most of the other fights were brawls.  John used his long reach to great advantage to get a win over Connor (not the same Connor who trains at Loyola), who did a back flip in the ring before the outcome was announced.  William, the polite home schooled teen who now goes to a brick-and-mortar high school, broke off his opponent with precision.  He deserved the "Best Fighter" award he received at the end of the night.  Reif and Ben faced each other during the last -- and most excellent -- fight of the evening. Reif got the winner's trophy, but the both of them were working their game well.

Shamar, a staff member at Loyola, was the announcer for the evening, and he kept the crowd laughing.  Barry was calling out punch combination numbers during one match.  Shamar said, "I heard what is the square root of four!  The coaches are teaching math in the corners!"  It was a fun evening. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fall's People

Some of the new people did not show up to class on the first day of the fall session.  No surprise there.  Some of the ones who were in the class in prior sessions and had re-registered didn't come in, either.  That made me wonder why they re-registered.  Iz and Abraham came in so late that they only had 15 minutes left to do anything.  But there was still a nice crowd in the gym.

Summer, Lauren's cousin, decided that she wanted back into boxing today.  But when her aunt went upstairs to register her, she was sent back to tell me that I had to come upstairs to do the job.  "There were two girls at the front desk but no one else was there," Summer's aunt told me.  Staff should know by now that I will NOT leave class to come upstairs to do anything.  I've stated that enough times.  It had to have been a couple of kids who had NO business being behind the front desk counter, acting as if they work for the park district.  Why non-staff are constantly allowed to stand behind the counter and play on the business phone is a mystery.  After the last class was over, I registered Summer.

With the addition of Summer, the 12 years and under class is now full.  If one more person signs up for the teen class, that will be full, too.  Only Sahia and her daughter Richey are in the adult class, but I'm hoping for more adults to sign up.  I was on my feet the entire time, but I like being busy as opposed to sitting in an empty gym.  It was enjoyable showing all the new people the techniques.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Welcome Faces

Today was the first day of the fall session down at Loyola Park.  As usual, it was packed.  I counted 13 new people in addition to those who re-registered again.  Alan told me he has over 30 people in total.

I was extremely happy to see two faces I hadn't seen in a long time:  John G., who has been teaching in South Korea, and Sebastian, Gabe's younger brother.  John and his wife have an adorable baby girl named Lucy.  John had pictures of her on his cell phone.  He told me he doesn't get a chance to work out much overseas as he did before the baby came along.  Sebastian is still going to school with a while to go.  He was also sporting a head of hair (usually Sebastian kept his head shaved) and a full beard.  He told me that Gabe would be back at the gym soon.

John G. and I were doing a lot of talking, and we were helping the new people out.  Most of the women seemed to enjoy the class.  I was holding the pads for Cris; she wanted to make sure she was keeping her hands up while throwing punches.  John held the heavy bags for several of the other women.

I probably did about 20 minutes of a workout because I was stiff.  It had been a few weeks since I had been to Loyola Park.  Quickly, I figured out how rusty I was.  There was a need for me to get back up to speed since I'm welcoming a lot of new faces down at LaFollette tomorrow.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Different Approaches To Ages

Yesterday, I completed one of the last administrative tasks I had to do before the fall session begins this week.  I put the new class rosters and attendance sheets in the program binder.  I printed extra rosters to turn in at the next boxing show I attend.  All the boxing coaches are required to provide verification to the head of the boxing program that fighters they bring to the shows are actually registered for the program.

After wavering back and forth, I decided not to attend the show that's coming up at Davis Square this week.  I wanted to go because I haven't been there since I had one of my fighters participate in a sparring session there.  But I have a big number of new people starting the class this week in addition to people like Janaja and Lauren who haven't been in the gym for awhile.  I don't want to start the session by shutting down the gym, even though it would only be for one day.  I'm not going to Bessemer Park either, which is the following week, for the same reason.

You see, I have a lesson plan that I follow loosely from the second week on.  A lot of what goes in the gym depends on the participants, what they need to work on, their skill levels, etc.  However, the first week is basically set in stone: new people and those who are picking up the sport again after a period of time are taught the punches and basic head movement and footwork the first week.  Any disruption to that first week throws people off.  But having explained that, those who start skipping days from the beginning -- and unfortunately, a lot of people do -- I have to treat like teachers used to do when I was in grade and high school.  None of my teachers were going to hold up the entire class because of one or two students who missed classes for whatever reason.  People had to play catch up and learn those lessons when there was a little time in the class to do that.

I believe I've become better at working with the kids mainly because that is the age group I've had to deal with the most.  Several people came in to sign up for the boxing class this past Friday (the last-minute rush I predicted) and the teen class currently has nine people, the most that have been there for some time.  To an extent, I have to re-learn how to deal with a large group of teens; for the longest time, Ariel was the only teenager coming to the gym.  Mikala and Noel are good youths I know, but Janaja and Lauren who were there before? Ariel, Janaja was only there once in a blue moon, and Lauren never gave me the impression that she was overly interested in the sport.  The thing with teens is they have more independence than those twelve years and under.  They also don't have that, "I better listen to Mama, Daddy, Grandma, etc., or else I'm going to be in big trouble," either.  They speak up (or talk back as mine and other old school parents would put it) when they don't want to do something.  They're not grown, but one has to acknowledge they're not far from adulthood and be more of a mentor.

The nice thing about working with adults in the gym is that they don't need their hands held as much as the kids and some of the teens do.  Show them what to do and they are cool.  I've never had to raise my voice because an adult was acting out in the gym; those type of situations, unlike with the younger kids, never come up.  Also, they don't need me to stand over them constantly.  They ask a lot of questions and really listen and incorporate what they learn.

I'm going to observe closely how Saturdays are working this fall session because frankly, they haven't been for the past two and a half years.  People traditionally do not show up to the gym on that day, and most are surprised to find the gym is not open on Monday.  It would be better to have the gym open Monday thru Friday not only because Saturday doesn't appear to be a good fit on any one's schedule, but I would also be out of Coach James' way.  His football and baseball games take place on the weekends and his sports equipment is stored in rooms off of the boxing gym (which is closer access to the football and baseball fields). His teams could come through the gym without disturbing my class nor hear me snap on them for messing with the heavy and speed bags. If Saturdays continue to be quiet like they have been, I'm going to push again to have the gym closed on that day and open on Monday instead.  Steve, my supervisor, wants the gym open on Saturday, but I have the evidence -- attendance records -- to hopefully change his mind before the winter session arrives.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Pugilism At Portage Park

A boy named Sean who fought out of Brooks Park was crying during his fight with another boy at the Portage Park boxing show.  Sean was knocked down at one point; Shifty, the referee, asked if he wanted to continue.  For a second, I thought Sean was going to give up, but he soldiered on.  Sean did not get the win.  It bothers me when kids are crying during matches and afterward.  I always feel sorry for them.  I gave Sean encouragement when I spotted him later on.

Sean's sister, Shannon, was handling her business against Jade in a later fight.  No winner there because it was deemed an exhibition match.  But Shannon was quite aggressive.  I think she would have won if it was a regular bout.

Iz, who previously had said he wanted to go to Portage Park, did not show up.  I don't want to shut down the gym to attend next week's show at Davis Square.  I would like to go to Coach Eddie's gym as I haven't been there for awhile.  But it'll be the first week of the fall session, and I don't want the new people to miss a day out of class.  I might have to, however, if Iz and his brother Abraham really, really, want to get fights there.

Pete was the referee for the last few bouts.  I hadn't realized that Pete had retired. Shifty told me he came out of retirement briefly to work the Portage Park show.

Next week is going to be busy, so I'm going to enjoy the slow pace at LaFollette for the next couple of days.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Thin Line Between Self-Defense and Assault

The numbers have increased in the three boxing classes I run.  Iz and Abraham re-signed up for the kids class last week, the teen class is half-full, and the adult class has two people registered with the promise of a third person signing up.

If I remember correctly, Janaja, who re-registered for fall after having been out of the teen class for several sessions, told me during the last time she was in the class that she wanted to know how to defend herself.  Despite the signs everywhere in the gym stating that boxing is a sport and that I do not teach self-defense, I know I'm going to have to remind people that it is not a self-defense class.  Self-defense is only designed for people to stun and distract assailants so they can run off to safety.  It is not intended for people to give out punishing and continuous beat downs.  People have spent time in jail and some are currently doing time because some lawyers were able to convince some judges to rule that self-defense was assault and battery.  I can't control how people use the skills that I teach them when they aren't in the gym.  But I have to warn people that if they get into an altercation and it's known that they know how to box (or know martial arts or general self-defense moves, for that matter) that it is very easy to be found on the wrong side of the law.

Too many young people today believe they can't be held responsible for their actions because they are under the age of eighteen.  Some parents of today neglect to tell their kids that there are consequences for everything.  I'm still wondering why in light of the fact that the majority of grade and high schools have zero tolerance for violence policies, that some parents think a boxing class is an answer to their kids' being bullied.

One of the positive aspects of learning a combat sport like boxing is that it makes people less likely to escalate conflicts.  When I was younger, I was quick to put my hands on people who popped off at the mouth to me.  Since I learned how to box (and took martial arts in the past), it has become clear that I don't have to RSVP to every argument to which I'm invited.  I have encouraged those in the class not to go around bragging about, "I got them hands," because there are people who like to start stuff for amusement.  People will provoke someone just to see if they have the skills they claim to have.  Often, it's a setup, and people will cry victim after receiving a beat down in order to get someone else in trouble.

As for the adults looking for self-defense moves in the boxing class, I have to point out that they have a whole lot more to lose because of an altercation.  A kid under 18 years of age could possibly get their police record expunged, but an adult is going to have to deal with having thrown a damaging punch for the rest of their days if a judge decides they could have handled a situation in a different way.  Jail time and probation may be avoided, but being sued in civil court for damages may not.  Adults should know the difference between what situations should be escalated and which ones should not.

I'm going to try and enjoy peace and quiet at work this last week of break before the fall class begins.  The administrative tasks I had to do are done, save for the attendance sheets and class rosters that I need to print out near the end of the week.  The equipment has been checked and cleaned, and my office/equipment room has been straightened up.  As there are still boxing shows going on -- Portage Park's show is this week -- I'm hoping that some of the kids will participate.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Evening At Eckhart

There were only six bouts at Eckhart Park's boxing show.  I got a hint that the evening was going to be odd when I arrived at that field house and learned I was the first one who showed up for the show.  Slowly, others trickled in.  But there still weren't enough fighters to fill out the card.  Half of the fights were exhibition matches done by fighters from Ogden Park.

John, who fights out of Loyola, got a fight with a guy, JB, from Portage Park.  It appeared that John won all three rounds, but the results said the other guy won. JB looked surprised as his hand was raised in victory.

Another surprise was there is still no coach at Eckhart.  I was under the impression that one had been hired several weeks ago, but apparently not.  Alan suggested that I put in again for a transfer to over there.

None of my fighters were in attendance.  Iz told me before the break he was planning to go to Portage Park's show which is next week.  We'll see.

When I returned home, I saw a message left on this blog from Mikala and Noel's mom -- she had been trying to reach me at the field house for six weeks.  She had been leaving messages, but I received none of them.  In the past, I have experienced problems with getting incomplete messages or not receiving messages at all.  I let it go because I didn't want to create conflict, but I can't do it this time. I don't know which staff member was responsible for not delivering (and apparently not taking) messages, and the situation was unprofessional and unacceptable.   I sent an email to my supervisor letting him know what happened.  I will call Mikala and Noel's mom in the morning; she should have never gotten the run-around like that.