Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Saturday Is Better

When I initially floated the idea to some of the parents about moving sparring from Friday to Saturday, I was met with approval.  The parents wanted to watch their kids spar, but admitted that it was not easy to arrange their schedules to be in the boxing gym on a weekday.  Based on that information, when I change the sparring day around, that will be a permanent schedule change instead of just making that for summer only.

Sparring used to be on Saturdays when I first started working for the park district.  The intent was to have it on a day when school and perhaps other activities were not a factor.  But then most youths, and the adult participants as well, were not showing up on Saturdays.  I switched sparring back to weekdays thinking it was easier to draw people into the gym, especially youths coming out of school for the day.

Now I realize that I've been accommodating and compromising with people for way too long.  The boxing gym hours are what they are.  I should have never been doing constant adjustments in a futile attempt to work with every one's personal schedules.  Either youths and adults deal with the days, times, and training schedule of the boxing program or they don't.

In addition to Saturday being an easier day for busy parents to come in and see their kids' progress, it works better with the park district's boxing show schedule.  The City-Wide Boxing Tournament, as well as the weekly boxing shows that take place between June and February take place on weekdays. If someone had a hard fight on a Thursday, the day weekly boxing shows currently take place, it wouldn't do to have them sparring back at the gym on a Friday.  This is especially true if fighters were injured.  I could let them skip the gym on Friday to rest and give them the option of sparring on Saturday, if they felt up to it.  They could also skip Saturday, depending on what happened at a Thursday fight and start again the following week.

Everyone would have four solid days of training, instead of having that broken up by sparring on Friday, and then returning on Saturday for a regular training day.  I could further keep track of who is just showing up to spar, cutting down on some participants' willingness to fight but not train.

No matter what I do in terms of scheduling, however, there is always going to be some who aren't going to attend the class regularly, and those who will show up but won't train.  I don't doubt that there will be people -- the youths, mostly -- who will complain about the change of sparring day.  But running that program efficiently is more important to me.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Again With The Youths' Mouths

The past couple of Fridays, no sparring took place.  As time marches towards the end of the spring session, participants have begun to show up less and less.  Only Damaris, Kayla, and Anayah showed up the last time for the kids' class.  Kayla and Anayah match each other a little better for sparring purposes.  However, Damaris is taller and bigger than the both of them.  Three fighters on sparring day would mean that one of them would have to do double duty.  Although in the past I've allowed sparring to go on with that number of people, it's really unfair to tire one person out against two.

Damaris took exception to my decision not to let anyone spar that day.  Sahia wasn't having it.  Just as I was beginning to explain why sparring was not going to happen, Sahia told me, "You're the adult.  You don't have to explain your reasons to a child."  She admonished Damaris for her attitude.  Only then did it occur to Damaris to politely ask me about my reasons.  Later, Sahia apologized to me because she felt she had cut me off.   But there was no need for an apology, because Sahia was right.  Damaris -- who is seldom focused and motivated when it comes to training -- should have been checked about her behavior.

One of the least favorite parts of my job is dealing with mouthy kids and teens.  I'm not going to argue with a kid.  But I will exercise my right as an adult to tell a kid to shut up while I'm talking. They don't pay a dime for the class and the door to the gym opens both ways.   Damaris is not the only kid I've had in the gym who I knew was mouthing off to their parents and guardians (many times in front of me while in the gym) and thinking they could also do it to any other adult they came across.  She was lucky that Sahia stepped in and firmly but gently admonished her.  I would have hurt Damaris' feelings to get my point across about respecting others.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Show That Wasn't

I knew before I left my apartment yesterday that the Fosco Park show wasn't going to go well.  My feelings were confirmed when I arrived and noticed a majority of the gyms did not show up.  I counted five coaches there including myself.  Those coaches did not have many fighters with them.  From my gym:  Anayah had told me she wanted to fight.  However, she did not appear until the show began.  Jamarion was supposed to participate but he didn't show up.

Because the turnout was so low, Thomas, the boxing program coordinator, announced that all of the fights that evening would be sparring matches.  When Sahia heard this, she wondered if Mikaela and Noel could get in the ring.  But they also were not there in time for the weigh-in.  Thomas had already put the scale away.  He could not and would not delay a show already in progress to add another fight.  There were only four fights instead of the usual ten or twelve.  The evening ended early.

There will be another show today at Fosco Park for open fighters and adults who want matches.  Seeing how I don't have open fighters nor adults who have trained enough to have fights, I won't be going.  Probably, the number of fighters and spectators will be no higher than yesterday.  Maybe it just wasn't good timing to have a boxing show in May.  As far as I know, that had not been done before.  I would not be surprised if Thomas sends an email around asking why the coaches didn't show more support for the Fosco show.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Complaints and Walkouts

I have mentioned before how much I appreciate that Sahia is volunteering in the boxing gym.  She has more patience with most of the youths than I do.  She is very encouraging towards them, and Sahia is firm but fair.  Her teenage children, Noel and Mikaela, are well-raised, thoughtful, and considerate.  Although they were not official park district volunteers, they helped out with the younger kids as well as the teens.  Unfortunately, once the spring session ends next month, they will no longer go to LaFollette Park.

It started during a sparring day several weeks ago.  Not every youth is able to be evenly matched during sparring sessions.  Several of the youths told Sahia and I they wanted to spar, but they were nervous about who they might face in the ring.  Noel and Mikaela agreed to do light sparring with those kids to ease their fears.  Neither of the teens was going to go full force with any of the younger kids.  Noel and Mikaela kept their word under the watchful eye of their mother and myself.

One of the kids who sparred with Noel was told by Sahia to keep their mouth closed in order to keep their mouthpiece in place.  I told the kid the same thing after Sahia pointed it out.  The sparring session went well.  However, the kid left the gym early without a word to Sahia or me.  Woman's intuition kicked in; I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't figure out what it was.

I found out soon enough.  The parent of that kid showed up the next time the gym was open to complain.  They felt Sahia -- who was not in the gym when the parent came in -- was being hard on their kid.  I explained about the rule involving the use of mouthpieces.  The parent then complained about Noel and Mikaela being allowed to spar with the younger kids.  Technically, the parent was not out of line with being concerned.  The boxing classes are divided into age groups for good reason.  But I explained why I made the decision to allow that and how everything was carefully monitored.  I thought the conversation went well and everything was fine.

The next time I arrived at work, the field house supervisor informed me that the parent had called him that morning to complain.  Once again, I had to explain what happened. I've had jobs where I've had to deal with parents before, so I don't necessarily get flustered when parents raise sand.  However, my supervisor doesn't want to deal with incidents that arise out of parents complaining about anything.  Noel and Mikaela would have to fill out volunteer applications.  Fine, that could be done.  Until the applications were approved, the teen siblings could not be allowed to volunteer.

It finally appeared the matter was solved.  But people don't often account for others' feelings in matters.  Noel and Mikaela had reached out to the kid in question long before that sparring day and had been very supportive and nice to them.  I didn't know they had done that on their own.  That is why it hurt me when they said they were not going to return to LaFollette's boxing program after this session is over.  Two of my best fighters are walking because they didn't appreciate how things were handled by the parent in question.  They felt like they had been stabbed in the back as well as been subject to slander.  Things might have been better if the parent had included Sahia, Noel, and Mikaela in the conversation, not just me.  Why that didn't happen, I don't know.   In a gym where the program, frankly, keeps floundering due to various issues, losing supportive people is a knockout blow.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Approaching Warning Signs

There is a possibility that I may have an adult boxing class full of Chicago's finest soon.  Sahia was approached by a police officer who was looking for a gym where he and his co-workers could box.  The officer said he used to box out of Lafollette 15 years ago.  The officers are looking for a group rate which I don't believe the park district offers.  However, I told Sahia to have them talk to Steve.  Maybe they could get a discount because they work for the city.

In light of all the crime that takes place inside and outside of the field house, I would appreciate having a bunch of boxers at LaFollette who are also cops.  Summer is coming, and the signs of approaching mayhem are already present.  I had to check some kids who had propped open the back crash door that leads down to the entrance of the gym.  The kids had an attitude because I locked and closed the door as I was leaving for the day.  That crash door leads directly to the parking lot and the park.  When a man was killed a few months ago in the park, I have no doubt that the person holding the gun ran into the building via that door.  Thankfully, the person didn't take the steps down to the boxing gym nor fired off shots elsewhere in the field house.  Unfortunately, most people around the field house have no respect for boundaries nor care about safety issues.  

Dexter tried to run a game on Sahia.  He asked her help in getting back into the boxing program, but Dexter told the same lies to her that were told to me.  Sahia pointed out that she was only the volunteer and that Dexter had to make amends to me as well as get his story straight.  I'm waiting for him to step to me -- which I doubt will happen -- so I can ask him what happened to that so-called rap career he claimed was going to "blow up" and keep him out of boxing anyway.  

My coach's bag is packed and ready for tomorrow's boxing show at Fosco Park.  It doesn't appear that I'm going to have anyone fighting at that show, however, so I probably won't need it.  Several didn't qualify to compete mostly because of non-attendance issues as well as lack of focus and motivation.  I keep repeating that those who don't train won't get to fight, but I'm not listened to until I actually forbid some from fighting which is what happened.  Some others who acted as if they wanted to fight can't make up their minds whether they will or not.  A few have said they won't.  Unfortunately, it has also come to my attention that a few of the youths are being pushed to box and are unfairly being compared to some of the other youths whom the parents/guardians believe are doing better.  

I'll probably end up judging fights at Fosco which is what usually happens when I have no fighters participating in a boxing show.  The spring session started off so well, but mid-point everything collapsed.  I don't have good feelings about the upcoming summer session.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Dexter's Non-Existent (C)Rap Career

Dexter had the nerve to stroll into the boxing gym after the teen class had ended.  I informed him that he wasn't in the class anymore.  I had dropped Dexter after not showing up for the class for two weeks.  I couldn't call his house to let his parents/guardians know because of false information that Dexter had put on the paper registration form I gave him.  That was the second reason why I withdrew Dexter from class.
Once again, I was subjected to a series of sob stories, including the claim that he had been locked up for a couple of weeks.  Allegedly, the cops pulled Dexter over, but as far as I know, he doesn't have a car or knows how to drive.  I didn't get an explanation about exactly why a lock down took place.  "Someone at home should have called here and left a message for me as to why you couldn't be here," I pointed out.  Dexter tried to make like I was crazy and misinformed when I told him the phone numbers he gave me were not valid.
I can't go for that, especially out of some kid.  I would have been knocked on my behind by my late parents for lying to them like Dexter lied to me.  "I'm not giving out any more paper registration forms, Dexter.  If you want to sign up for the summer class, I need to talk to your parent or guardian face-to-face," I curtly said.  I went on to explain how Dexter's actions could have got me in trouble with my supervisor and caused further trouble for the program in general.  I wasted my breath.  Dexter showed zero respect for me, the program, and the park district.
In what he thought was a parting shot before walking out, Dexter told me, "My rap career is going to take off in a couple of weeks anyway, so I don't think I'll have time to box."  I would have laughed in the kid's face if I wasn't so steamed.  If I had a dollar for every kid who's come through that gym announcing they were going to be a rapper, I could have retired a few years ago.  
The summer boxing class for those 12-years-old and under is full as of today.  Kayla was the last one to make it in.  Unfortunately, that doesn't bode well for some of the other kids currently in the spring session.  Tyvell and Terrance were allowed to return to class by their parent/guardian, but they aren't registered for the summer class.  Neither is Diego, Yamira, or Fabian.  If they want to be in the class, they'll have to go onto the wait list and hope that someone drops out of class (or, when I put someone out of class for non-attendance).  Now if only the teen and adult classes would fill up as fast.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Registration Concerns

Aavar (I hope I spelled the name right) began class yesterday.  Normally, I'm against signing up people this late in the session.  However, his father was very polite, which was a welcome change from some other parents who whine and attempt to push their kids into the program.  Also, Aavar had some training over at Sheridan Park.  Aavar is also signed up for the summer session.  
Both the kids and teen classes have been populated more than usual this time around.  The lack of equipment in the gym is glaring, as both Doneisha and Sahia have noted.  Supposedly, the park district "has more equipment than there are kids", but that has yet to be proven to me.  Requests I put in for what is needed goes unanswered or I'm told there's not enough in the budget to purchase anything.  That concerns me as the kids' class appears it will be full again for the summer session.
Iz nor his brother Abrahant are on the summer attendance sheet despite Iz telling me several days ago that they were interested in signing up again.  This has happened several times with them. Their parents wait until way after the registration period has started to inquire about signing up.  I tell them to sign their sons up ASAP, then they wait for whatever reason.  One of the last times they registered, Iz and Abrahant barely made it in before the class filled up.  I also haven't forgotten that both boys dropped out of the past winter session without a word to me.  I'm curious as to why they're suddenly interested in returning to the gym.  
Very few of the people who are in all of the boxing classes have re-registered for spring.  Damaris, despite not being able to train all five days, signed up again.  Anayah was the first of the kids to re-register.  Idris' name is on the list too; however, Idris hasn't been in the current class for several days.  I'll probably have a summer class full of new people whom I can't and won't put into the boxing shows until later in the season.  

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Weather Or Not

Only three kids -- Anayah, Kayla, and Jamarion -- showed up for the youth class yesterday.  Sahia wondered where was everyone else.  "It's nice outside," I replied.  "So?" Sahia said.  I understood her point completely.  However, the weather has always had an effect on attendance in the gym.  It is automatically a given that there will be people missing if it is raining, snowing, very cold outside or if it's a warm, sunny day like it was yesterday.
Weather conditions are a sure sign of people's motivation and dedication when it comes to boxing.  A few winters ago, blizzard conditions closed most places for the day.  A friend of mine, Jay, messaged me to ask if Loyola Park was going to be open that evening.  If I remember correctly, it wasn't.  Jay was disappointed because he would have braved the snow to get his workout in.  To be honest, I would have trudged through the snow, too.
Unfortunately, the mindset of most of the kids, teens, and adults aren't like that when it comes to boxing.  To an extent, I can understand people not wanting to be inside a hot gym during the warm weather months.  Most of the field houses are very old buildings that were constructed long before air conditioning was invented.  It's costly for the park district to outfit the buildings with that.  I've never been inside a private boxing gym, whether it had been around for decades or was a newer place, that had A/C.  There must be some unwritten rule somewhere that boxing gyms should never have cool air flowing through them. 
Also, this is Chicago, and on average, we only get about two-and-a-half months of good weather.  People want to be outside as much as possible before having to bundle up under layers again.  I expect gym attendance to go down in June, July, and August.  Attendance doesn't go up much in September, either, even though that's when the fall classes have begun and all the kids are back at school.  The weather is still holding up. Sometimes, the good weather extends into the middle of October.  
If people do not have it on their mind to stick with the boxing program and take it seriously anyway, the weather is just another excuse not to train.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

My Right To Replace

Recently, I was told, "Hillari, you can't prevent people from signing up for the boxing class."  Excuse me?

I don't deny people the opportunity to sign up for the class.  Have I come across youths and adults who I knew from the jump weren't going to be a good fit for the class?  Many times.  But I allowed them to register knowing that they probably would not finish the session nor sign up for the class again.  Most mess themselves out of it when they don't keep up with registration dates nor the days and times the class meets and wait too long to get online or show up in person.  That is especially true of those who were in the class during a previous session.  Once the class reaches capacity, I'm not going to make room, regardless of the fact that I have Sahia (and soon, hopefully, Mikaela and Noel) as an official volunteer.  Every youth and adult signed up for the class is entitled to equal attention.  That can't be done if the class is overcrowded.

Miss Hillari does have the right, however, to eject people from the class.  The rules of the gym are posted all over the walls.  People can't break one or more of the rules and claim, "I didn't know," because I've already told them from day one that I'm holding everyone responsible for knowing the rules.  The main things that will gain people a one-way ticket out of my gym are:

1.  Behavior/discipline problems.  There was a saying when I was a kid.  Adults would say of kids who displayed no manners anywhere, "Those kids have no home training."  I've had more than a few who fell under that category.  Yeah, there may be situations going on at home or at school.  But I keep pointing out that I'm not a social worker, a psychologist, nor a psychiatrist.  I may have some concern about what is going on in people's lives outside of the gym.  But it is not my place nor in my area of expertise to get that deep into any one's personal situations.  I can't have one or more youths or adults' issues disrupting me running the gym nor upsetting the other participants.

2.  Non-attendance.  This does not affect the adults.  If they don't show up to class, the penalty is the money they paid is lost.  It does bother me when I come across youths who would really like to take the class, but my attendance list is filled with names of those who haven't been in the gym for days and weeks.  If youths don't show up for ten days -- two weeks -- and I don't receive a valid reason why that's happening, they're gone.  Ninety-five percent of my time needs to spent coaching, not calling homes every day asking, "Where are y'all at?"  It is usually easy for me to replace people with those who don't show up, and I do.

3.  A clear case of non-interest in the sport.  This sometimes is tied in with the behavior/discipline and attendance issues.  It's just as much of a chore for me to try to teach people who could care less about the sweet science as it is for people with that attitude to be a part of the class.  If a youth is involved, I will strongly suggest to the parents/guardians that they register them for another activity.  If an adult participant is involved, well. . .they won't be able to get a refund.  But I will suggest they investigate thoroughly whether or not an activity suits them before they lay out money the next time.