Friday, March 29, 2019

Field House Frustrations

I don't mind admitting that I've grown weary of the constant foolish actions that go on at La Follette.  The latest incident involves a female lifeguard who has developed a habit of roaming around in my office/equipment room.  The first time it happened, I was standing outside that room talking to the head lifeguard who is a very cool guy.  The female lifeguard walked past me into the room, then I heard her using a jump rope.  She didn't bother to ask me if that was okay to do that.

Yesterday, I stepped away for a couple of minutes to refill a water bottle.  I came back to find her exiting the room.  She gave me a silly grin and greeted me.  I gave her a cold hello back.  There's no swimming equipment in that room, so I'm wondering what's her fascination with being in that area.  Luckily, I don't lay my wallet and keys down in that room. 

I put some of the signs back up that I had to take down while the gym was being painted.  One of the signs was for the office/equipment room reminding everyone that the room is and should be locked when I'm not on the premises.  The sign also tells people that the boxing equipment is only to be used for that program.  If the female lifeguard doesn't get the hint from that, then I'm going to have to be more direct which she'll probably be offended by. 

A man who had been trying to catch up with me to sign up his 13-year-old daughter finally found me yesterday  But like I figured before they got there, the girl's interest in the sport wasn't that high.  She tried to negotiate only coming to the gym a few days a week because she wanted to do another activity that meets at the same time.  When I informed her that she could not participate in any boxing matches if she couldn't participate five days a week, she quickly decided to take swimming only.  The fact her dad was trying to convince her to re-consider the boxing class told me that her father was more interested in it than his daughter. 

The other day, I accidentally scratched one of my fingernails on a door.  I was shocked and irritated to see how easily the paint came up.  It was then I noticed other places on the walls and doors where the paint had been easily scratched off.  So my program was canceled for the rest of the recently ended winter session for a painting job that wasn't done correctly. 

Did I mention that I'm weary of dealing with these types of incidents?

Friday, March 08, 2019

A Matter Of Attitude

In addition to issues in the neighborhood that have a negative impact at LaFollette Park, there are attitudes that also present challenges to running the boxing program. 

The program is free for those between the ages of eight and seventeen (a few of the gyms will take youths as young as six years old). There are beginning and end dates for each session, but parents and guardians in the area tend to sign up their kids whenever.  Free doesn't mean the class has unlimited spots open.  In order to give proper attention to everyone, there can only be so many participants.  Yet most parents and guardians believe I should make room for youths who often don't show up until halfway through the session.  Youths who sign up later throw off the balance in the room especially when there's a groove that has already been established with those who were there from day one.

Many youths and some of the adults are in the class for the wrong reasons.  I need to talk to people, especially parents and guardians, before anyone registers for the program.  It says so online and on the class fliers.  Most parents and guardians ignore that rule, and it's easy for them to do since everyone can sign up online.  It also says on the fliers that boxing is not a self-defense class, but parents and guardians expect me to teach youths to handle bullying situations. I'm aware that schools have zero-tolerance policies for violence.  I keep wondering why most parents and guardians around LaFollette don't seem to know that or are willing to ignore those policies. 

I'm also curious as to why some parents and guardians don't feel an obligation to let me know if their youths have physical and/or mental conditions. If the staff doesn't have that information beforehand, an incident can turn tragic very quickly.  I've observed that some of the parents and guardians think their youths' health situations aren't that serious.  Some don't seem to have ever taken the time to analyze whether an activity will be appropriate for their youths in light of that.  They just want their kids in -- and I suspect information about health situations gets deliberately withheld.

I've long been tired of parents and guardians who think boxing is going toughen up kids who they believe need it.  I've never forgotten a dad who grumbled that his son's mom (whom the dad was no longer with) was raising their son "soft".  The kid didn't want to be in the class, but dad refused to accept that.  Another parent was angry when they learned their child had no interest in sports at all.  Boxing was the umpteenth sport that they had forced the kid into with no success.  "Ask them what they really want to do, then put them in activities that speak to that interest," I told the parent.  That should have been common sense.

There are the youths in the class whom the parents put in purely for babysitting purposes.  A lot of kids at the field house, regardless of what activity they are in, are not there because their parents care about them having positive experiences.  Parents and guardians who operate on that level do not support the program nor encourage their kids to be more active participants. 

Parents and guardians don't pay attention to what time the class begins.  Time management doesn't exist, and personal responsibility doesn't seem to be taught much.  But I'm expected to work miracles with youths who are twenty or thirty (or more) minutes late to class every day.  I can't enter participants who don't train properly into the City-Wide Boxing Tournament, the Chicago Golden Gloves, nor the park district boxing shows. 

There are youths who have numerous discipline problems, but when I point that out to some parents and guardians, I get no response as to what they are going to do to put a stop to the behavior.  Even more troubling are the ones who tell me, "I can't do anything with her (or him)."  Why do they think that I should keep putting up with it?  Trust me, I won 't.

As for the adults who take boxing, time management is often an issue with them, too.  People forget about the other obligations they have like changing work shifts, dealing with their kids, going to college at night, etc.  Some adults confuse the park district boxing program with the professional boxing classes that are run out of private gyms.  Due to the issues in the neighborhood, many don't sign up because they don't want to be around when the bullets start flying across the park -- and I can't blame them. 

Thursday, March 07, 2019

A Problem Of Location

Tomorrow will be a month since the boxing gym at LaFollette Park has been closed for maintenance.  Next week is the last week of the winter session.  I wanted to laugh when the field house supervisor talked to me about recruiting participants for the spring session.  Neither the supervisor or I have been given any information regarding if the boxing gym will be operational in time for the next session to begin.

The numerous construction and maintenance issues that have taken place since late last summer are only a small part of why the boxing program is not very successful.  I have to admit that the Austin neighborhood where the field house sits is a major factor.  I was born and raised on the west side, and Austin was the last neighborhood I lived on that side of the city.  It hasn't changed much.  Residents still range from low-income to lower middle-class.  Crime is still high, although when I was a kid, people preferred to use their hands more than guns.  My mother, two younger siblings and I didn't know how lucky we were to live just a couple of blocks away from a major grocery store back then.  Food deserts, where there is a lack of easy access to big grocery stores, is common on the west side (and the south side, too).  Yet liquor stores and taverns are often just a few steps from each other.

When I go around to the other gyms for boxing shows and I see how well some of those boxing programs are populated, I've wondered why LaFollette's program keeps limps along.  Some gyms that are in the multi-racial neighborhoods do quite nicely, as well as those in gentrifying areas.  Places like Loyola Park, for example, benefit from having upper-middle-class people looking for a different exercise routine.  That gym also pulls participants from Loyola University as well as Northwestern University in nearby Evanston. 

There have been a few parents who appreciated that the youth boxing classes at LaFollette do not run late into the evening. Unfortunately, there have been gun incidents that took place while the other youth sports were still having practices out on the field.  I know of parents who pulled their kids off of those teams after shooting incidents took place.  I have also noticed some kids stopped showing up to the field house after the bullets start flying.  I know some adults are hesitant to take the evening boxing class because they would rather not be caught in cross-fire. 

I know there are other field houses with boxing programs who experience their share of challenges, too.  But LaFollette seems to have more than most, and I have no solutions as to how to fix a neighborhood culture that appears to have not improved since the early 1970s.  .