Friday, December 21, 2018

Boxing Program Struggles Are Real

Recently I checked to see who signed up for the winter session.  As usual, the numbers were very low.  So far, one kid has signed up and one adult.  The teen class is empty.  Honestly, I'm at my wit's end trying to come up with solutions as to how to grow the boxing program.  There are numerous reasons why the program is not where I need it to be.  All of the Chicago Park District boxing coaches deal with the following issues, most of which can't be fixed easily nor solved.

1.  Parents and guardians who use the youth classes for free babysitting purposes.
2.  Youths and adults alike who wait weeks into the session to sign up for the program because of failure to keep up with registration and class dates.
3.  Youths and adults who are in the class for the wrong reasons, the number one reason being for self-defense purposes.
4.  Parents and guardians who don't support the boxing program on any level.
5.  The habit some parents and guardians have of attempting to mainstream their kids who have mental and emotional issues into the program without properly assessing whether or not it will be a good fit for them.
6.  Parents and guardians who think they are qualified to coach and/or are constantly making unreasonable demands who regularly interfere with how the actual coach is running the gym.
7.  Lack of funds for equipment.
8.  People who drop out of the program with no notice.
9.  People who sign up for the program and never show up at the gym.
10.  Youths who can't give 100% to training because they are also signed up for several other activities that take place at the same time the boxing program is open.
11.  Adults attempting to take the class for free and getting an attitude when the coach refuses to give them a "hook-up".
12.  The difficulties in finding volunteers for the boxing program, mainly because most can't pass the background check.
13.  Lack of support from within the field house -- supervisors who don't care for the sport and/or know little to nothing about it, lack of promotion of the program, the gym, and equipment being tampered with by other programs in the building, wrong information about the program being given out to customers, etc.  
14.  Parents and guardians who sign their kids up and don't inform the coach about their kids' medical conditions beforehand or lie about it.
15.  People who don't realize that the Chicago Park District only has amateur boxing and does not train professional boxers.
16.  Thefts and vandalism of boxing equipment.
17.  Depending on where the field house is located, high crime in the neighborhood that affects attendance not only in the boxing program but in other activities there, too.
18.  Youths who keep confusing boxing with professional wrestling, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts.
19.  Parents and guardians who refuse to deal with the discipline problems their kids create in the boxing gym.
20.  Construction and maintenance crews who often come in without warning and disrupt the operation of the boxing program. 
21.  Adults and youths in the program who display lack of motivation, lack of a work ethic, etc.  

Trust me, I just barely scratched the surface of what contributes to issues in the boxing program.  I'm sure the other coaches in the park district could add a hundred or more reasons.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Side Hustle Boxing

Several of the women in my neighborhood expressed interest in attending a boxing class.  After making inquiries and finding a spot for it to take place, I now run a women's only boxing class on the weekends.  The emphasis is on fitness as opposed to preparing for competitions.

After the disastrous fall session at LaFollette Park, running a women's only fitness boxing class is a pleasure.  It's a chance for me to make a little extra money.  The majority of Chicago Park District employees are part-time.  If my father, who was also a government employee were alive, he would alternately be laughing at and picking on me about the low salary I make at the park district as well as the fact that I don't get annual raises in pay among other job benefits.  It is no wonder that most park district employees have to take on a second job. 

It feels good to coach adults.  I haven't had much of a chance to do that at LaFollette because the adult boxing class is the least populated class of the ones I have there.  Only once in the four years I've been with the park district has that class been half-way full.  Not once have any of the adults -- save for Sahia -- stayed in the class for an entire session. 

Coaching adults has always easier than dealing with kids and teens.  I don't have to deal with parents' issues on top of the youth's issues.  The group of women I have in the weekend classes want to be there and are eager to learn.  I do my utmost to mix up the routines to make it interesting for them and so they get the most out of it.  Since I have my own health issues, I'm very mindful of what health issues the women may have.  Modifications are made for every exercise.  The women are encouraged to work within their own fitness levels.  My motto is, if something doesn't feel comfortable to do, then let's do something else.

I'm hoping that the women's fitness boxing class continues to grow and that I can offer more classes like that at other times during the week.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Keeping Youths In

I had to attend another instructor's meeting today.  The topic of how to keep youths in the park district programs came up.  Several people, including me, pointed out that if there is no cooperation from parents and guardians, keeping youths in the programs is very difficult.

When dealing with a parent or guardian who displays an indifferent attitude about their kid's presence in the boxing program, my attitude is "If the parent/guardian doesn't care, I don't care either."  It's a waste of my energy to keep trying to convince people that it is beneficial for their kids to show up.  It is very frustrating, and heartbreaking as well when I notice that a kid really likes boxing and wants to be there but has no support at home.

However, if I also have to deal with a kid being disrespectful, lazy, rude, etc., on top of their parent or guardian's indifference, I'm done.  I don't agree with what appears to be the park district's thought that I should keep someone around at all costs just to show I have the numbers.  I'm not shy about telling people that their child needs to sign up for something else.  A small number of motivated, teachable kids and teens is more pleasant to take.  It beats having a crowded gym full of youths who really don't want to be there, who have been registered by their parents and guardians for the wrong reasons, etc.

A manager at the meeting told the attendees that we need to plan for next year.  I always plan to have someone compete at the City-Wide Boxing Tournament and in the Chicago Golden Gloves.  I always plan what to do to get the kids to those competitions.  My plans have yet to work out because once again, it depends on whether or not I get cooperation from parents and guardians.  Some parents and guardians never talk to me; they just dump their kids off and leave (or have someone else do that).  It was suggested that maybe employees should reach out and ask them what they may need in terms of getting their kids to the program regularly.  That's been done, too -- mostly by the gym volunteer because I don't have the patience or the time, frankly -- and still, no good results.  It makes me wonder if some of the parents and guardians are operating like that with their kids' school teachers.  

A major part of any park district program working effectively is having the parents/guardians and the person running the program act as a team to make the program enjoyable and worthwhile for the youths.  If that's not happening, then the program suffers.