Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Absenteeism and Tardiness Don't Make For A Strong Program

I was surprised when Ben walked into the gym last night.  I thought he and his family had moved out of the area, but they still live near the field house.  Ben plays football, a sport he took up while he was still registered for boxing.  I'm still trying to figure out why Ben wasn't okay with taking punches yet is okay with being tackled on a field.  It was good to see him, however.

Tony's mom pointed out that Gael and Jennifer were standing around instead of working out.  "The girl doesn't seem to be very interested in doing this," she said.  Gael is more interested in boxing than his sister.  At the end of the class, Gael told me he might show up on Thursday.  I'm not betting on that.  Gael and Jennifer are supposed to attend the gym three days a week.  However, they only have been showing up one day a week for the past few weeks.

Iz and Abraham didn't show up again.  No call from them.  I may or may not get an explanation for their absence when they decide to return.  James was talking about everything except boxing, as usual, and I had to keep reminding him to do the next item on the workout list.    A couple of years ago, the adult boxing class was the weakest link in the chain.  Now it's the 8-to-12 year olds' class.

There needs to be a stronger attendance policy.  When the parents of the few kids who regularly attend class start commenting about the chronic absenteeism and tardiness of the other kids in class, it's time for a change.  The numbers in the classes have to be considered, so I can't kick everyone out who consistently slack off about showing up (although I would love to do that).  But unfortunately, I also have to deal with kids who were on the wait list, begged me to get in, and who are not going to class, either. The program suffers constantly because of those factors.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hand Throwing At Hamlin

Malik, Mikaela, and Noel came to the Hamlin Park boxing show.  Only Malik and Mikaela got fights.  Malik fought a lanky, slightly bigger kid out of Hamlin.  Mikaela's opponent was a girl from Humboldt Park, who like Mikaela, only had one prior fight.  Their fights were number four and five on the show schedule.  Alan helped me in the corner with both of them.

Malik hesitated a lot.  I had to keep telling him not to wait on the other fighter and be first with his left jab.  I liked that Malik kept moving a lot, but we've got to work on him throwing more combinations.  Malik fell down once and so did the other guy; both falls were ruled as slips.  Malik didn't win, but some in the audience thought he should have.

The girl Mikaela fought kept smothering her against the ropes and in the corners.  She was shorter than Mikaela, and she was holding her a lot.  I have to work more with Mikaela on slowing down fighters who like to rush in a lot as the other girl was doing.  Mikaela did her best, but she didn't win.

Mike, Rojan, Solomon, and Erik from Loyola Park had fights.  Erik was the only person from there who won his.  William was there too, but he wasn't able to get a fight.  Hamlin Park's fighters racked up most of the wins for the evening.

David Diaz was there; it was one of his boys who fought Malik.  "You're still hanging in there!" he smiled at me.  Fres Oquendo gave me a hug when he saw me.  I hadn't seen him for awhile.  The announcer at the show mentioned that Fres was cheered during his last fight in Russia.

All in all, it was a pleasant evening.  Phil was at the show.  He suggested that I get a buffer to help ease the discomfort with my left knee.  I will certainly look into that before I have to go see the doctor about it in November.  

A Sticky Sparring Situation

Yesterday was a sparring day.  Four boys in the 12-years and under class were suited up and ready to go.  All were paired up evenly until Tony's parent pulled me aside and quietly announced that she didn't want her son sparring with Iz.

Iz and Tony were best matched up for each other.  I had put James with Abraham.  The intent was to have each pair do two rounds.  Some quick thinking had to be done. Iz really wanted to take on Tony.  He kept asking me why he couldn't spar with him.  Fortunately, Tony had taken off his gear after doing a couple of rounds with Abraham.  I told Iz that since Tony had done that, and there wasn't a whole lot of time left in the class, that was all the sparring Tony was going to do that day.  Unfortunately, James ended up having to spar multiple times with Iz and Abraham.  Abraham will not spar with his brother Iz because that is not an even match, and he's right.  James and Iz are not an even match, either.

Later, Tony's mom explained that she was concerned that Iz was so eager to spar with her son.  "I don't want my son in the ring with someone who hasn't been coming here regularly," she said.  Iz and Abraham hadn't been in the gym for two weeks.  Iz told me, "I wasn't feeling well," but that didn't explain his brother's absence.  The brothers had missed a few opportunities to participate in boxing shows, and that concerned me.

I could understand Tony's mom wanting to protect her son.  Boxing gyms are full of both youths and adults who always want to throw hands at others, but don't want to train properly.  But Iz and Abraham don't give me the impression they fall into that category.  Normally, they are good about showing up to the gym consistently and getting the work in.  I was in a bad spot because I did not want to let on about how Tony's mom felt to Iz, Abraham, nor their dad who was also on the premises.  

Tony's mom wants her son to get more training in and build up strength and stamina as opposed to sparring weekly and competing.  That is perfectly fine.  But when she talked about perhaps allowing Tony to compete after the beginning of next year, I thought, "I hope she read the boxing show schedule."  There are no park district boxing competitions during the first half of the year, other than the City-Wide Tournament.  Tony will not go to Hamlin Park's boxing show, which is today.  Humboldt Park is usually the last show I plan for my fighters to attend, as the shows at Carver, Brooks, and Scottsdale have proven to be too far for most of them to go.  If Tony doesn't fight at Humboldt, he'll have to wait until next June when the park district shows start up again.

Yesterday's situation made me wonder: what if a parent doesn't want their kid to get in the ring with other kid with whom they've been matched up with at a boxing show?  Turning down a sparring session may be allowed, but turning down a fight is another matter.  I'm in charge, but parents do have a say-so in some matters because it's a city-run gym.  But they can't make demands during a competition; believe me, it's been tried before.  Their kid just will have to forfeit a fight.  If they kept forfeiting fights because a parent or guardian wants to pick and choose opponents, the kid won't fight anywhere.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Diappearing Acts and Usual Issues

Halloween is still a way off, but attendance in the gym is down.  When November rolls in, I expect most people to pull disappearing acts because the holidays become uppermost in their minds.  I appreciate those like Mikaela, Noel, Shay, and their mom, who give me a heads up in advance when they will not be in the gym.  But most don't give me any warning.

I see Brandon and his mom walking around the field house often.  They're pleasant when greeting me.  But Brandon has only been in boxing class once since his mom registered him.  Anwar has been missing a lot of days for someone who hasn't been long in the class.  Another boy, David, whom I pulled from the wait list, acted as if he was so eager when I told him he could be in the class.  David hasn't been there yet.  Eric is another one whose face I don't know because I haven't seen him.

Gael surprised me this past Friday by showing up, but his sister Jennifer wasn't with him.  Their mother gave me no explanation for the girl's absence.  I allowed Gael to spar with James.  They only did a couple of rounds because James didn't want to do a third one.  "Are we going to spar again today?" Gael asked.  There were no other kids in the 12-years-and-under class other than those two, as none of the other kids came in.  Gael asked about the next sparring day, not bothering to read the bulletin board as usual.  I informed him and his mother -- again -- that sparring takes place only on Wednesday and Friday.

I had to stop myself from making a sarcastic crack when Gael had the nerve to me ask about getting a match at the Hamlin Park show which is coming up this week.  That Friday was the first time the boy had ever sparred.  Apparently, Gael thought that qualified him for a fight.  "Gael, you're not ready for that," I told him in front of his mom. Jennifer and Gael hardly show up to the gym the three days their mom told me they could attend.  None of the three days they can attend include the sparring days.  Based on the days already missed and what I see in terms of training habits, Gael is never going to be ready for a match.

There have been a lot of inquiries from parents and kids alike about the boxing class lately.  I get the impression that most who've heard about the class don't investigate the basics, like when the class actually began and the days and times it meets.  People display a lot of disappointed looks when they realize the youth classes are full and that they have to wait for the January class.  I become disappointed too because I know most will forget to sign up in December, despite me having given them that information.  Even if they register early, most likely I won't find out they can't attend all five days during the week until after they're already in the class.  The others will show up in February expecting to get into classes that are already full.  

Friday, October 06, 2017

Simons Park Show

No fighters from LaFollette Park showed up at Simons Park's boxing show.  Considering the unfortunate shooting incident that happened at LaFollette the night before, I couldn't blame any of my boxers for wanting to stay close to their homes.  But there were ten fights on the card, most of which were action-packed.  I served as a judge again.  There were times I wanted to yell out instructions to those boxing, but I couldn't.  The crowd was animated, especially during the last fight which featured two adult heavyweights.

The regulars were in attendance including Shifty the referee, Jose and Marlon from Portage Park, Killer Keith, Jeff and Jesse from Taylor Park, Ernest from Fuller Park, Eddie from Davis Square Park, Barry from Loyola Park, Thomas the head of the park district boxing program, Rodney from Trumbull Park, and Fermin from Harrison Park.  I finally met Ben who is the coach at Scottsdale Park.

Solomon, who fights out of Loyola Park, had somewhat of a tough opponent and didn't win his match.  I thought Solomon was waiting a little too long to get some of his punches out there.  A couple of boys, one out of Taylor Park, had a slug fest.  The boy from Taylor Park won.  Jordan, who fights out of Portage Park, was crying after a match he lost and that bothered me.  Y'all know I don't like to see kids upset after a match.  The lone female match was between Whitney from Taylor Park and Alma from Simons Park.  I'm thinking that Whitney was the girl who fought Mikaela at Garfield Park several weeks ago.  Whitney came out like a bull on Alma; she won. 

The Simons Park show thankfully had food (hot dogs, chips and soda).  I was rather hungry.  The only other boxing show I can think of where food is always present is Loyola Park (pizza).  Sadly, I haven't provided food at the LaFollette Park boxing show yet.  Hopefully, I will rectify that next summer. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Guns At The Field House

Noel asked if I wanted a snow cone.  He and his sister Mikaela have been buying me snow cones from a woman who runs a little concession stand in the park.  "Sure! Get me the orange flavor," I smiled.  Their class was over, and their mother and older sister were beginning the adult class.

About ten to fifteen minutes later, Mikaela and Noel came running into the gym, holding the snow cones.  "There was shooting outside, and Noel almost got hit!" Mikaela said.  Their mother and I froze.  "They shooting outside again?" I asked.  "The bullet hit the ground near my foot, and the woman selling the snow cones saw it coming and pushed me out of the way.  I was going to give her five dollars, but she wouldn't take it.  She told us to get to safety and worry about giving her the money another time," Noel explained.  The bullets did hit someone else; an ambulance showed up.  I also learned that the football players had vacated the field when the shots rang out.  The siblings and their mom rushed upstairs to let whoever may have been at the front desk know what was going on.  I went to secure a crash door that leads to the parking lot and Shay, the siblings oldest sister followed me.

As soon as we got to that door, a couple of cops coming in told us we had to evacuate the premises.  More police cars showed up.  The cops said the shooter had run inside the field house.  A search was done for nearly an hour, but the person was not found.  A police helicopter flew back and forth.

Finally, the all-clear was sounded and the staff was allowed back into the building.  On the drive home, I kept thinking about how horrible I would have felt if Noel and/or Mikaela would have been hurt.  Every few days at the field house I keep hearing about shootings that took place three blocks away, two blocks away, one block away. . .I'm tired of that.  Why is it that the go-to solution for a conflict these days is always a gun?

Reading and Winners

Gael and Jennifer showed up late to the 12-years-and-younger class yesterday.  They're not the only ones who come in late from time to time or on a regular basis like Iz and Abraham always do.  But I don't grumble much if those who come in late come in and make the most of the time they have left that day.  However, Gael and Jennifer do not read the bulletin board to see what the next step they have to take in terms of training.  When those two aren't standing around looking confused and/or bored, Gael and Jennifer ask their mother what to do next.  She'll look at the board and tell them to skip over whatever the next step is on the list if her kids act as if they don't want to do it.  Seriously?  Then I have to correct the kids, as well as tell them ten times what to do, which brings more confused looks from Gael and Jennifer and from their mom.  I don't have to do that with any of the other youths in the kids or teens' classes. 

Malik was very happy to see Mikaela and Noel in the teen class yesterday.  Anwar, a 15-year-old, signed up for that class yesterday so Malik has yet another person to work with.  I was glad, seeing how it appears the twins Jana and Jada have disappeared. Lauren has also gone AWOL, too, just like she did a year ago when she was in the class.  I withdrew Jahnaja from the class via letter, but I have yet to hear any explanation from her mother regarding her daughter's lack of attendance.  But then, her mother didn't say anything when I pulled Jahnaja from the class for doing the same thing last year. 

Some coaches say they only want winners in their gyms and on their fields.  Most coaches understand that everyone is not going to win and they're not going to demand that.  What they really want are people who are going to be present and aware, honor their commitments, and do the work.  That's all I'm asking.  But when participants can't even do that. . .if they don't weed themselves out, then the coach has to do it.