Friday, March 30, 2018

Unsurprised At Curie

I sat at the second ring to judge fights when I arrived at the second and last day of the Chicago City-Wide Boxing Tournament.  During one of the matches, I overheard one of the officials stating that the fighters from LaFollette Park didn't show up.  The fighters from the North Lawndale Boxing League who were "representing" LaFollette were nowhere to be found.  I just shook my head, but I wasn't very surprised.  Based on what I observed of Derek's fighters last spring, I didn't get a sense there was much motivation to stick to things and finish them.  I deal with enough of that with the youths who actually are, for lack of a better word, eligible to sign up at the field house.  
Maybe there was some resentment over the poor showing of Derek's fighters on Tuesday.  I haven't forgotten the reports of those fighters throwing fits because they didn't get to take home winners' trophies last spring.  The people they were supposed to fight last night got walkovers, which means they automatically received belts because their opponents didn't show up.  Most fighters would rather win by participating in actual matches, not by default.  I haven't heard any fallout from the coaches of those fighters as of this writing.  If I do, I'm going to direct them to take up their complaints to Thomas.  After all, Derek's fighters are not officially mine.
The bouts went faster than they did on Tuesday.  Several of them were stopped by both Thomas and Gerald, who took turns being the referee of the fights in the ring where I was sitting near.  I recognized a kid, Jordan, who fights out of Portage Park.  I was impressed by his actions after he lost his match; no bad attitude whatsoever.  He immediately shook the hand of the other youth and complimented him.  Too many of the other kids who didn't do well were rolling their eyes and frowning up.  One guy threw his hand up in a gesture that said, "Really?  How did the other guy win?"  Another kid walked off in a huff after his hand wasn't raised, and Gerald had to call him back to pick up the second place trophy.
Another tournament is over.  I keep hearing that Derek's fighters will eventually have a gym opened up for them at one of the field houses.  I hope so.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

47 Fights

I judged 23 fights at the Chicago City-Wide Boxing Tournament last night.  There were 47 fights in total.  Two rings were set up at Curie Park to handle all of the action.
Derek, who runs the North Lawndale Boxing League, had two of his fighters "representing" LaFollette in the tournament.  "Did Thomas talk to you about this?" Derek asked.  "No, he did not," I said as I made a face.  I kept wondering why I hadn't been told -- for the second year in a row -- that Derek's fighters were registered to fight out of my gym.  It was curious to me that Derek was allowed to check his fighters in when protocol states that I should have been responsible for that since it's my gym, not his.  Allegedly, Derek will have a gym within the park district soon.  But he doesn't have one yet.
I was in the mood for sarcasm and an argument.  But sometimes, it doesn't pay to say anything.  Another coach commented that the situation sounded "shady", and I agreed since it was apparent I was kept in the dark about Derek's fighters' participation until the last minute.  But things have a way of working themselves out.  Derek admitted that his fighters had no sparring experience before the tournament.  He grinned at how he made them run a lot instead.  "This ain't gonna go well for them," I thought to myself.
There were a lot of tough fights.  Just like at the Chicago Golden Gloves, few competitors show up with the intention of playing around.  That's why I didn't allow any of my fighters to register for the tournament.  People can't half-step when it comes to training regularly then expect to do well in a tournament.  If someone gets seriously hurt, I'm going to be asked why did I allow them to compete when it was apparent the fighter didn't train well or enough for it.  Some coaches will put someone in the ring knowing that the fighter is too green.   I'm not going to put someone in a match just because their name is on my attendance sheet.
An announcement was made from the ring across from the one where I was sitting that one of Derek's fighters lost their match.  I ended up judging the match that his other fighter was in.  All I saw was wild haymaker punches, poor footwork, and a lack of technique from his fighter.  The other two judges agreed with me, and the win went to the other youth.  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Little Attention Would Be Nice

I understand that registration numbers are low for the Chicago City-Wide Boxing Tournament which is scheduled for next week.  That's too bad, but there are several reasons why that has happened.  I entered all of my attendance numbers for the winter boxing session and the results were worse than I initially thought.  That session probably had the lowest attendance numbers of any of the sessions since I've been at LaFollette.
During a conversation with another park district coach, there were echoes of problems that I also experience at my gym.  "The parents just don't care, and neither do most of the kids," the coach said.  Most of the coaches have the same complaint.  Boxing is one of the best sports in the world, but it ranks at the top as being the most thankless sport in terms of participation and support. Some parents and guardians are cool with the coaches until we tell them they can't have or do something in the gym.  Very few parents and guardians are willing to volunteer in the gym, help get youths to shows and tournaments, donate or help buy equipment, etc., but yet their hands are always out expecting something from the coaches.  Some only view the program as a free babysitting service.
One or two youths may appear in the gym during each session who show a healthy interest in the sport and are willing to put the work in.  I love when that happens.  Unfortunately, it doesn't happen enough.  Too often, I'm stuck with kids displaying behavioral and discipline problems, along with the ones who have no interest in being in the gym.  I have to accept everyone because it's a public-run gym.  Luckily, I do have the option of kicking the more difficult cases out of my gym.  Usually, they do me a favor and drop out on their own.  But then that often leaves me with no one to train nor to place in the competitions.  
The most popular sports in the park district -- football, basketball, baseball, and swimming -- have built-in marketing strategies that eclipse boxing at each and every turn.  They most certainly get more press in the advertisements, flyers, signs, and in the park district's newsletter.  When I have to attend physical instructors' training like I did yesterday, information about track and field, soccer, and field hockey is always being given out. Nothing is mentioned about boxing unless I and/or another boxing coach who happens to be at the meeting speak up. 
It appears that boxing doesn't get much attention.  It should be no surprise, then, about the difficulties in recruiting participants to register for a tournament, let alone sign up for boxing classes.

Friday, March 16, 2018

End Of The Free Ride

I forgot to mention in the last post that I called Jahnaja -- on my dime -- to let her know that this is the last week of the winter session.  Not long ago, I received an odd phone call from someone who claimed they were associated with the high school she attends.  They apologized for her not being at the gym lately because of projects she's been working on at school.  Jahnaja had told me she would be late to the gym during a weekday and not there at all on another day due to school.  But there's been no explanation as to why she has now missed weeks out of the gym.  "I hope you'll accept her back into the gym," the caller said on the voice mail.
Yeah, I'll accept her back even though she only showed up a few times during the first session she was in the gym three years ago, and never bothered to show up at all the second time she signed up for class.  But it will be at a cost.  She turned 18 years of age last month, so Jahnaja can no longer attend boxing for free.  When Jahnaja totally skipped out on the class the second time she was registered for it, I sent a letter home informing her that she had been dropped from the class.  She had missed too many days, and I had people on the wait list who wanted to sign up.  
At the beginning of this winter session, I told her mother that her daughter should take advantage of the class while she still didn't have to pay for it.  Her mother hadn't been aware that Jahnaja was signed up for this winter session.  No one who is under 18 years of age can sign themselves up for any park district activities; a parent or guardian has to give permission.  I was suspicious, so when I left a voicemail for Jahnaja yesterday, I made a point of letting her know that I know how old she is.  
Normally, I would have sent another letter home since once again, Jahnaja didn't attend class regularly.  But knowing that she would be an adult soon, I let things play out.  I don't kick adults out of the class unless they do something really egregious (like that time when De-Fetrick cursed me, Thomas, and Shifty out during a boxing show and stole an athletic cup from the gym).  Their penalty is losing the money they paid for the class.  Once class begins, there is no refund if adults decide to drop out.
Jahnaja is allegedly so busy (which makes me wonder why she signed for the class again) that I don't expect her to come back to the gym.  Hopefully, she'll learn that now that she's of age, there are no free rides at the gym -- or in life anymore, for that matter.  

The Number One Rule

Malik showed up a few minutes after the teen class had ended.  Mareli was the only teen who showed up for that class.  None of the younger kids or the adults came in either for their classes.  "Has anyone been coming in?" Malik asked like he did the last time he dropped in.
Why in the hell is Malik concerned about everyone else's attendance when he's only been here five days out of a 10-week session?  I thought to myself.  James always got on my nerves with asking about everyone else's whereabouts, too.  I wanted to tell Malik to worry about himself and what he needs to do and should have been doing as far as boxing is concerned.  Instead, I explained as evenly as I could -- again -- that Noel and Mikaela had to go out of town.  "Everyone else just dropped out of class, which is why no one in here is in the City-Wide Boxing Tournament this year," I said.  Malik quickly said goodbye and left the gym.  No explanation was given to me for being absent -- again -- nor when he was going to return.
I had the suspicion that Malik may have hoped I was going to change my mind and allow him to sign up for that tournament.  I don't deal with people's lack of accountability and lack of responsibility too well.  The number one rule of the gym is if people don't train, they don't get to fight.  Malik had no real excuse as to why he missed 45 days of training.  I will not send youths into boxing matches who I know haven't prepared and aren't prepared for them.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hanging At The Old Gym

I went to Loyola Park's boxing gym yesterday, and I realized how much I miss the place.  I kept thinking how I wish the adult boxing class at LaFollette ran like the adult class at Loyola.  But there are so many issues with the class (and the boxing program at LaFollette in general), the main one being attendance.  The adult class at LaFollette has also been predominately female.  Don't get me wrong; I believe in promoting the sport to women.  But I would like to have an equal number of males in the classes, too.  I'm very tired of teenage and adult males at LaFollette acting interested about joining the boxing classes, but not following through.

There were a lot of familiar faces at Loyola last night like Ben, Matt, Rojah, Michael, Kevin, Erica, and William, and a few new faces I didn't recognize.  A good amount of sparring went on.  Ben and Alan sparred at the end of the evening with Matt giving instructions to Alan.  Erica was calling out instructions to Rojah when he sparred with William.  I told Erica that she would make a good coach.  She told me that she does coach boxing during the summer at a nearby community center.

I didn't do a workout.  My lower back continues to bother me, and it seems that I'm walking slower and slower each day.  My left shoulder was bothering me, too.  I've been exercising several times a week, utilizing gentle (read: senior) workouts at home that I've found on YouTube.  What I need is a chiropractor, but there are no funds to pay for one at the moment.  This morning, I woke up with a headache and neck pain, so the workout I planned to do will have to wait until later.

Alan only has two guys -- Professor and Rojah -- in the Golden Gloves this year.  Everyone else begged off from competing for various reasons.  I plan to attend the Gloves, but I'll probably wait until the finals.

This is the last week of the winter session.  I'm hoping that it goes by fast.  I need a break.

Friday, March 09, 2018

No Contenders

There will be no one at LaFollette who will compete in the Chicago City-Wide Tournament this month.  Now I'm two-for-two since I had no fighters in the Chicago Golden Gloves (which began this week) either.  The Battle of the Badges is not looking good for participants as well since that follows right behind the City-Wide Tournament.  Everyone is going to have to wait until June when the regular Chicago Park District boxing shows begin.
Only a couple of the youths had a good reason as to why they couldn't train enough in advance of the City-Wide -- there was a death in their family.  No one else had good reasons for their numerous absences.  I have to attend the City-Wide because it's a big tournament and much help will be needed for it to run smoothly.  But I'll be going alone.
The last time Malik was in the gym, I told him he wasn't going to be in the City-Wide because of being absent for most of February.  Malik wasn't around much in January either.  The few times Malik dropped in, he kept telling me about having to go to the dentist.  Malik is wearing braces now.  However, that's a one-day procedure; it didn't take all of February to have those put on Malik's teeth.  I haven't seen him since I and suspect that's because of some disappointment/resentment.  But what these youths ain't gonna do is give me an attitude because of lack of accountability and responsibility on their part.  I keep repeating that I'm not going to chase people about showing up to the gym and doing the work.  Like my late mother used to say, "People seem to think I'm playing with them when I tell them something."  
James bought himself a ticket out of the program, perhaps permanently, when he revealed that he doesn't care for sports.  I like James, but I don't need kids in the program who aren't interested.  Honestly, I don't want the other youths who couldn't only show up but once or twice a week back in the class, either.  Those youths waste their time as well as mine because they can't devote enough time to the sport, and I can't allow them to do anything regarding sparring nor competing.