Saturday, May 25, 2019

When A Meeting Is Not The Answer

When I first began coaching at the Chicago Park District, I attempted to set up meetings with parents and guardians to explain the boxing program.  There were no takers.

Eventually, I had the line "Must speak with the instructor before registering" added to fliers about the class as well as in the class listing online.  Only a few actually walk in to see me.  The rest bypass the talk especially when online registration hasn't closed. 

The two main and wrong reasons parents and guardians register youths for the boxing program are to have free babysitting and for the youths to learn self-defense.  Conflicts begin when the parents, guardians, and youths run into the park district and the boxing program's rules and regulations without learning what those are before class start.

Full disclosure here - my patience with most kids is thin.  My parents were the same way only unlike me, Ma and Dad didn't figure that out before they had children.  My low patience was one of the reasons I opted out of parenthood.  There are many parents and guardians at the field house who also don't seem to have much patience with kids.  I get the feeling that some adults are irritated that the school day isn't long enough to keep the kids out of the house.  The next best thing is to send them off to after-school activities.  However, some of the adults don't particularly care about their kids having any kind of enrichment experience from being part of after-school programs. 

I'm always wondering - if the parents and guardians don't want to be bothered with their own kids, why do they think or expect that others want to be bothered?  When faced with a room full of youths who don't want to be in the gym but are on the premises because the people who are raising them have dumped them there, that makes for a long, frustrating work day. 

In light of the fact that most schools, even up through the college level, have zero tolerance for violence policies in place, I'm surprised that a lot of kids are being told to hit back when picked on.  Too many parents and guardians come to me with, "I want my kids to know how to defend themselves."  One parent actually told me, "I know boxing is not a self-defense class, but could you show my kid a few things so they can fight off other kids at school?"  Seeing how weapons are involved in a lot of fights these days, I don't understand how parents and guardians think fists alone will be a good defense against blades and bullets. 

Even when I have the chance to talk to people before registrations take place, I get the impression that most of the information I give out goes into one ear and out of the other.  Some people expect to be accommodated in what they want to do despite established rules.  When I make it clear that I can't and won't bend the rules, class attendance goes down, often to zero.

So why should I bother to have meetings with parents and guardians?  The older I become, the more aware I am that my time needs to be used wisely.  I keep being confronted with parents, guardians, and youths who seem determined to not only waste my time but theirs as well.  The program works better when everyone is on the same page, but that seldom happens. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Not My Circus

Sahia told me she could see the frustration on my face.  David and his cousin Esteban already can't be in the gym for more than three days out of the week.  Also, David never stays for the full hour because he attends a competitive swimming class.  I allow those two to spar early in the week because of that.  However, I'm not happy about doing that.

David has said that his dad won't let him fight.  "Then why does he allow you to take a boxing class?" I asked.  "He wants me to work out," David answered.  Seeing how David gets a workout during swimming, it almost appears to be overkill to have him do a boxing workout, too. 

Based on the information I've received that his parents aren't on board with their son's participation in the sport, I'm doubtful that Esteban will participate in LaFollette's boxing show next month.  Now Esteban is saying that he's graduating from eighth grade in June, and being in the boxing show may not be a possibility.  I don't know of any middle-school graduations that have ever taken place in the evenings, so I don't get why there would be a conflict with appearing in the boxing show.

Then there is Adrian whose father used to be a professional boxer but is not supportive of his son being in the sport. Adrian's dad basically told Sahia that she is responsible for providing whatever Adrian needs to stay in boxing.  One of the things she has been doing is chauffeuring Adrian between boxing classes at LaFollette Park and Portage Park. 

I'm beyond tired of the participants' outside dramas encroaching on how the boxing program needs to run.  I'm especially irritated when participants don't tell me about things that impact plans that I have made in relation to the boxing program.  That has been happening too much as of late. They often tell Sahia things because she will ask if she suspects something is going on.  I'm always the last to know something and hearing the news secondhand.  But even if I was given the courtesy of being the first to know, there's nothing I can do.

First of all, it's not my concern.  I often have suspicions that things are going on, but as an employee,  I am very limited as to what I can do.  I'm also not one to pry.  If people choose to divulge something to me, fine, but I'm not going to go digging for it.  My main concern at work is seeing that the boxing program is run within the guidelines of the park district's expectations.  I've been confronted with a lot from participants' lives including medical, mental and emotional issues, run-ins with the police, homelessness, etc. 

Besides, I'm constantly contending with my own personal issues.   I do have some sympathy and empathy for others' situations at times.  But I didn't carry any of those kids for nine months. I'm always thinking that parents and guardians need to strive harder to correct home situations where their kids are concerned.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A NIce Idea

There was a woman registered for the boxing class who was interested in extra training for a charity match.  She only showed up at the gym once.  However, there are always people, even those who are members of private boxing gyms, who seek extra training time.  There is a way that the Chicago Park District could meet that need.

All of the boxing gyms in the park district could be operated as open gyms during the day.  Just like how the park district's fitness centers are run, customers could have the option of paying for a day pass, three months membership, six months of membership, or membership for a year.  The boxing gyms could be open as soon as the field houses are open in the mornings.  Customers could be issued a pass indicating their level of membership.  However, no instruction would be given during the open gym hours; a coach would just be there to keep an eye on the equipment, the participants, and the room.  One coach could run the open gym as well as the regular classes - four hours for open gym and three or four hours for the regular classes for a full-time coach. Or have one full-time coach during the day for six hours and a part-time coach for the regular classes for three or four hours.  Both amateur and professional boxers could use the facilities. 

The regular boxing classes for youths and adults would take place once the open gym hours were done.  Those in the classes would also have the option of practicing their skills during the open gym hours.  Perhaps those in the regular classes would not have to pay for the open gym hours.  But they would have to have some documentation showing they are registered in the regular classes.

This would generate more revenue for the park district.  But the main issue is park employees would have to be watchful due to the extra foot traffic coming into the field houses.  Park employees would also have to make sure they are on top of collecting the fees for the open gym time.  The park district would also have to hire full-time boxing coaches or promote some of the current part-time boxing coaches to full-time status.  It is because of the high probability that those things would not be taken care of that my plan hits a snag. 

Nice idea, however. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sleeping On The Program

Sahia arranged for Adrian to come to the gym yesterday to spar with both David and Esteban.  Adrian is now signed up for both the spring and summer boxing class at LaFollette.  However, Esteban didn't show up.  David told me his cousin was at home sleeping.  "Sleeping ain't gonna win a fight," I commented.

Adrian is very good in the ring, and also very good at giving pointers.  David kept acting like his left hand wasn't working and dropping his right hand.  Adrian helped David by giving him pointers. Esteban could have benefited from that too if only sleeping hadn't been more of a priority.

Jaylen, Aria, and Aaliyah didn't come in at all and didn't bother to call the field house to explain why.  I told Sahia that seldom does anyone bother to make those calls.  The few that do are lucky if I get the message as the phone at the front desk counter is often not answered or messages aren't written down and delivered most of the time.

I keep having a bad feeling about the boxing program.  The usual issues have been increasing lately.  Both Sahia and I are at a loss as to how to improve things because the area around the field house neither supports the program nor takes it seriously.  It is possible that the program could end up on the chopping block sooner than later.  The field house supervisor hinted at such when he complained to me recently about the lack of youths participating in the boxing shows -- and that was not the first time the supervisor brought that up. 

Honestly, my interest in being a boxing coach has gone down.  I'm sick and tired of taking a long commute to get to LaFollete Park and back and fighting to shore up a program that is not progressing. 

Thursday, May 09, 2019

More Antics

Jaylen was caught on tape being disrespectful towards Sahia.  Mikayla was taping her mom as she was helping out with the kids yesterday.  Upon reviewing the video later, Jaylen was seen rolling his eyes and sticking out his tongue behind Sahia's back every time she had given him instructions.  Luckily, I didn't catch that because Jaylen would have been sent home.  Jaylen didn't come to the gym today, but I will have some strong words when I see him next. 

David showed up today without his cousin Esteban.  Esteban couldn't come to the gym, I was told, but David had no other explanation as to why.  "Okay," I sighed, deciding not to waste my breath making any further comment.  Sahia has made arrangements for a teen from another gym to come in next week to spar with both David and Esteban.  I'm not going to be happy if either David or his cousin decide to blow that opportunity off.

Aaliyah and her sister Aria did much better today, but I would still like to see more focus from both of them.  If they sign up for the summer class, there will be a few more girls in class for them to work with.  Kayla re-signed up yesterday, and to my surprise, Damaris re-registered today. 

A new kid, Javonta, signed up for the summer class.  "I want to be like Mike Tyson," he told Sahia and me.  The only issue is his mom being able to get her son there.  The boxing class schedule bumps up against the mom's work schedule.  I hope she can work it out because Javonta looks to be very eager to learn how to box. 

Sahia suggested that I call the parents in for an introductory meeting to go over the rules and regulations of the program each session.  It's a great idea, but seeing how half of the parents are using the program as a free babysitting service, it's not workable.  Few of the parents follow the instruction to talk to me before signing their kids up.  I can't expect them to show up to a meeting. 

Distracted and Unfocused Training

It wasn't really a surprise when David announced that he was not going to compete in LaFollette Park's boxing show that takes place next month.  He told Sahia that his dad doesn't want him to box  Then why did David re-register to be in the class?  "Did he have a fight the last time he was registered for the class?" Sahia asked me.  "No. David was also taking swimming classes at the same time, just like now," I replied.

So far, David's cousin Esteban is still planning to fight, but I'm not betting on that.  The family is going out of town right after the boxing show.  Esteban might come up with an excuse as to why he can't compete, either.  Sahia had planned to ask some teens from another gym if they would like to come in and give David and Esteban some sparring.  It doesn't seem to be worth the effort to arrange that now.

Both Sahia and I were shaking our heads at the listless manner of Jaylen, Aria, and Aylia.  I have to keep telling the kids they need to act like they want to be there.  Aylia is twelve years old, yet acted like she didn't know the difference between her left and right feet in terms of staying in her stance.  Aria kept dropping her hands.  Jaylen was constantly plopping down to sit between rounds as well as poking around during rounds.  Sahia caught Jaylen running with his cell phone in his shorts pocket.  "What do you need the cell phone for?" she asked.  I ordered Jaylen to put it in his backpack which took him several moments.  I snapped, "It's not brain science to put the phone up!"

I'm ticked at Jaylen because he distracted me with a useless question about Arai and Aylia's whereabouts the other day.  I lost my mp3 player; I must have dropped it at some point while Jaylen was questioning me as I arrived at work.  I didn't notice it was gone until it was time for me to get off work.  Of course, I snapped on him about causing me to misplace it when I saw him again.  Jaylen has missed days in the gym, so I fail to understand why he was concerned about someone else's attendance.

The summer class for the eight to 12-year-olds is nearly full.  Kayla, who had been in the class when Damaris and Anayah were attending, re-registered. However, teen and adult classes have no participants.  Anyone who signs up for those classes will register late and barely attend if they show up at all.  Few people want to be in a hot gym during the short time there's nice weather in the city.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Pulling A Bolander

It's bad enough when parents and guardians are pulling Bolanders (doing annoying, irritating, dumb, etc. things)  to upset the balance in the boxing program at the park district.  Boxing coaches are also frustrated by things that are done by management as well, especially coming from the field house supervisors.

The main issue that gets on coaches' nerves is when they find out that the field house supervisor is not supportive of their program.  Okay, everyone doesn't care for every sport.  However, regardless of my personal preferences, if I'm the one running the field house, I'm going to give equal time to every sports program that is there.  I remember sitting in a boxing coaches' meeting a few years ago where several of the coaches complained about not being able to get the resources they need.  One coach grumbled that every time they asked for anything, their supervisor just flat out turned down the request without much of an explanation.  According to that coach, the other sports programs at their field house had no problems getting what they needed. 

Another issue is the lack of promotion.  A monthly email newsletter is distributed by the park district that highlights various programs and activities.  The boxing program is not given much press, not even during the annual City-Wide Boxing Tournament nor during the weekly boxing shows that go on during the second half of the year.  Once again, depending on a supervisor's personal feelings, the program may not be advertised much at the field house.  The boxing coaches are part-timers, and most have other obligations when they aren't at the gym, so the time they have to promote the program is limited.

In a city as big as Chicago, the boxing program should exist in more than 23 field houses.  I understand that at one time in the past, it did.  I was told that Clarendon Park, whose boxing program was cut ten years ago, was the crown jewel of the program.  The park district is always talking about offering positive programs especially to keep youths off of the streets.  It would do well to shore up and build up the boxing program more. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

A Life Support Situation

My supervisor asked if I had anyone who was going to be in the field house's boxing show.  The show isn't until mid-June, first of all.  Jaylen is the only kid in the class for those 12-years-old and under.  I'm not sure he's going to sign up for the summer session even though I mentioned it to both Jaylen and his mom.  David, who was in the class about three years ago, signed up for the teen class for this current session.  But David can only show up a couple of days to train because of swim class.  Plus, the other three teens in the class dropped out some time ago so David won't have others to work train with at the gym.  All of the adults in the class are gone, too.

As usual, there's a problem about me not having many participants in the shows.  Once again, I had to explain the issues that have plagued the boxing program for the past five years.  "Well, Derek runs the gym over at Franklin Park, and he had 20 to 23 kids in the City-Wide Tournament," my supervisor said.  Before Derek started with the park district, he ran an independent neighborhood boxing program.  Derek came into the park district with followers.  I didn't.  I had to build up what is there now from the ground up.

The supervisor told me that he and I were going to have to meet soon regarding the performance of the boxing program.  The program might have to be "moved" if things continue the way they are. 

Oh, really?

Boxing has always been dead last in the popularity contest behind football, baseball, basketball, gymnastics, and swimming down at the field house.  Most of the neighborhood is unaware of the program's existence despite my efforts in promoting it.  Too many of the kids think they're going to be handing out knockouts in the ring from day one.  When the kids find out they have to do some real work before they are ever allowed to participate in matches, the interest in the sport quickly disappears.  Parents and guardians are disappointed when I tell them I'm coaching a sport not running a self-defense class to help their kids avoid being picked on.  And the list of issues that plague that program -- the majority of which are out of my control -- goes on.

My supervisor is not there when the boxing program starts each day so there is a disconnect about actually knowing what I have to go through.  I was told, "I understand", yet I'm still considered to be at fault for what goes on.  All I can do is to keep running the program the best I know how, but it's been on life support for a long time. 

To paraphrase Dr. McCoy on "Star Trek": I'm a boxing coach, not a doctor.