Sunday, June 23, 2019

An Off Session In The Gym

It doesn't feel like summer.  There have been cooler than warm days, and it was raining again today.  Just as well, because things haven't been too hot down at the gym.

Jaylen didn't show up to the gym on Friday or yesterday. I know Jaylen was disappointed because of not being able to get a fight during the boxing show this past Thursday.  However, Jaylen's dad appeared to be more upset and not just because his son wasn't matched up.  Sahia told me he kept asking her who she was.  She explained that she was the volunteer and not the coach as Jaylen's dad assumed.  Jaylen's dad appeared not to be satisfied with her answers nor with anything else concerning what he saw at the boxing show.  "Something doesn't feel right to me here," Jaylen's dad told her as he patted his hand over his chest.  Sahia feared that Jaylen may not be allowed to return to the gym.

First of all, Jaylen's dad has seen me before, and we've had conversations.  He knows who I am.  If there wasn't clarity about the boxing program, Jaylen's dad should have come to me with further questions.  It could be another case of a parent or guardian thinking they know more about boxing than the people who are actually involved in it.  Maybe the parent has a problem with two women coaching in the gym.  I don't know.  But if Jaylen doesn't return, I can't do anything about that.

Aarav and Kareem (I hope I have the spelling right) are only able to be in the gym one day a week.  Kareem's dad, Chris, used to box out of Garfield Park.  He explained that due to his and Kareem's mother's work schedules, it's hard to get their son there other days of the week.  However, Aarav and his parents live closer to Seward Park.  This was pointed out to them when Aarav was registered for the class last summer.  "My wife likes you and the volunteer which is why she rather our son come here," Aarav's dad explained.  But their son has to train more days to be ready to participate in boxing shows. 

Javionte has missed days in the gym, and Damaris, in addition to being absent, too, is showing her usual lack of interest in training.  Adrian is having some issues, so he won't be in the teen class for a while, if at all.  No adults have bothered to sign up.  It's going to be a long ten-week session in the gym.

Friday, June 21, 2019

A Cool Night For Boxing

Finally, after two years of being rained out, there was another boxing show at LaFollette Park.  The skies were overcast in the morning, but as the afternoon went on, the sun broke through and the threat of rain went away.  Only five other parks were involved in the show: Franklin Park, Portage Park, Garfield Park, Hamlin Park, and Loyola Park.  Barry, the youth coach at Loyola Park, told me it was his first time at LaFollette.  "This is a nice big gym over here!" he smiled.  "This place is at least twice the size of Loyola's gym," Alan, who runs the adult class at Loyola, said. 

There was no fight available for Jaylen, the only kid from LaFollette who was available to participate in the show.  There were other eleven-year-olds on the premises, but Jaylen was bigger than the other kids. 

Before the show, Sahia was telling the Portage Park coach that she wanted to get back into boxing.  The challenge was going to be finding people her age to have fights with.  I understood that completely as it was always hard for me to get fights while I was competing for the same reason. 

Only eight fights took place.  The first fight was an exhibition match.  I helped judge the fights.  I had a hoodie on, and I shivered a little as the cool breeze was not summer-like at all. 

Gabe and his brother Sebastian, who I hadn't seen in a long time were there.  Gabe did get a fight against a guy from Hamlin.  Gabe lost, unfortunately.  The guy he fought kept jamming Gabe up against the ropes. 

All in all, it was a good day for fighting.  I told Jaylen that the next show we'll go to is the one at Garfield Park.  Hopefully, there will be an even bigger crowd of fighters who will show up there so Jaylen may have a better chance of getting a fight. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Forgetting and Other Issues

The class for those 12-years-old and under is full, but only Damaris and Jaylen bothered to show up yesterday for the first class of the summer session.  Jaylen didn't have any of his personal boxing gear with him.  Sahia and I were told that his mother wouldn't let him come home to get his personal boxing gear for some reason.  Luckily, there is equipment in the gym.  As for Damaris, she was doing her usual lallygagging.  I made clear to her that she was not going to participate in tomorrow's boxing show.

Courtesy calls were made to remind parents and guardians that the summer session has begun.  I got the usual, "Oh, I forgot", excuses from a few of them.  I've come to learn that "I forgot" often means there has been a change of plans regarding attending the class.  I guess it's too much like right to tell me they are no longer interested.  Aarav's parents did what I expected they were going to do.  "We'll bring him in on Saturdays, then we'll see if he can do the other days," I was told.  I will remind them like I did when Aarav was in the class a few sessions ago that I'm not going to put their son in boxing shows if their son can't train more regularly.  Voice mail picked up at the other numbers I dialed.

I've received several inquiries about the class lately from parents and guardians whose kids don't meet the age requirement.  Apparently, no one is going online or reading the paper schedules and fliers before talking to me.  There are a few park district gyms that accept kids under the age of eight, but not at the gym where I am.  I told one young woman with a three-year-old and a five-year-old that some private boxing gyms and martial arts dojos will accept younger kids. 

As usual, I've also received inquiries from parents who wait until the week school is out - which is this week - to look for summer activities.  I'm still trying to figure out why people wait until June to register for anything.  The disappointed looks I see every year when they discover everything is full has become tiring. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Go To A Private Boxing Gym

The Chicago Park District has a boxing program.  However, the park district does not run boxing gyms per se.  It runs boxing classes.  There is a difference.  A big difference.

Muhammad Ali helped found the boxing program in the early 1970s while he was living in Chicago.  The story goes that Ali had a bike stolen from him when he was a kid.  A cop overheard Ali expressing a desire to beat down whoever took the bike and led Ali to a boxing gym. I believe the initial lessons were free, hence why the park district offers boxing free for kids and teens.  Ali probably stipulated that the classes should be at no cost.  Later on, adult boxing classes were added.  As those classes were not a part of the original deal Ali and the park district worked out, those classes had a price attached.

Here's where many adults, particularly those with an interest in becoming professional boxers, miss the point.  The park district's focus is on providing recreational activities to youths.  The majority of all of the activities offered are after-school programs.  Boxing is an amateur program at the park district that gives youths the chance to compete and show off their skills.   The program only operates between four to six hours depending on the field house.  The days the gyms are open also depends on the field house as well as interest coming from the area where the field house is located.  It is not the only program at any field house; it has to fit in with the rest of the schedule.

Over the years, I've encountered many adults who have expressed an interest in signing up at park district boxing gym.  There is always grumbling about not being able to use the gym when they want, how they want, and for as long as they want.  Recently, I had an adult tell me that the hour-and-a-half class for adults where I coach was not enough time to work out. 

The solution?  Go to a private boxing gym.

Some of the park district boxing coaches know professional boxing coaches, professional boxing officials, and professional boxers.  Some of those who coach the amateur boxing classes also are qualified to work the corners at professional boxing matches.  But the Chicago Park District is not involved in professional boxing and has no plans to ever do that.  Those who think and expect that the park district gyms should operate as professional boxing gyms are trying to fit circular objects into square holes.

Many professional boxers got their start through the park district.  Rudy Cisneros, David Diaz, Michael Bennett, Junior Wright, and Fres Oqendo are just a few.  They got the basics of the sport at the field houses.  But when they wanted to move up, there was a realization that they needed to come out of the amateur boxing gyms. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Rain On The Ring

Rain is in the forecast for the boxing show that is scheduled later this week.  If it does get rained out, that will be the third year in the row the field house hasn't had a show.

The show always seems to take place right at the beginning of the summer session which begins tomorrow.  The new kids and teens in the class can't compete in that show because they will not have trained enough to participate in it.  I only have one kid from the previous session who plans to fight - Jaylen - and there is no guarantee there will anyone from the other parks with whom he can be paired off in the ring. 

Whether the show at LaFollette happens or not, I expect the usual resistance from parents and guardians regarding allowing their youths to participate in the other boxing shows from now to the end of the year.  Sahia shook her head when I explained some time ago that parents and guardians have a problem with going to certain sides of town as well to certain neighborhoods.  "That's how it's always been in Chicago," I told her. Then I get admonished by the boxing program coordinator and the field house supervisor for not having youths in the shows.  I'm still wondering what the two of them think I'm supposed to do about that - or the lack of interest most have in the program in general.

Four of the youths in the class for those under 12-years-of-age are return customers: the aforementioned Jaylen, Kayla, Damaris, and Aarav.  Not many of the new ones on the list talked to me before registering despite that being a requirement listed online and on printed schedules and fliers.  That always makes for frustrating moments during the session.

Adrien is the only person signed up for the teen class  Adrien is good at what he does but doesn't show up at the gym enough for my taste.  One of the boys who play team sports at the field house inquired about registering for boxing.  That kid might be a good match for Adrien in terms of sparring. I haven't heard any more about that from him, or more importantly, his parents and guardians.  Even though there is plenty of room in that class, in light of the fact the boxing shows have started, people still can't take their time about signing up.

No adults have signed up, but I refuse to take that class off of the schedule.  I used to do 90 minutes classes with the youths when there was no adult class and that wasn't a good idea.  I have to do a stronger job of marketing that time period those who already know how the box but are looking for an extra spot to get their workout in. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

What Summer Brings

Summer is the busiest time of year for the Chicago Park District.  For me, the season can also be the most frustrating in terms of work. 

The gym at LaFollette Park is closed this week for the break between the spring and the summer sessions.  I'm hoping it will be a quiet week.  But I'm not looking forward to what I'm seeing on the horizon.  Summer camp starts next week which mean kids will be in my gym trashing it:  dropping food on the floor, playing around with the equipment, messing with the bulletin boards.  My complaints in the past have been dismissed as well as met with indignation.  I'm still trying to figure out the lack of understanding regarding the very real possibility of kids getting hurt because of playing around on the equipment. 

The summer kids are NOT well supervised.  The first full summer I was there, adults made up the seasonal camp staff.  For the past couple of years or so, teenagers have been employed to watch the kids, and no, it hasn't been working so well.  Very few of the teens have been responsible, and the younger kids who attend the camp give the teens grief.  They look at the camp counselors as older siblings who aren't worthy to be authority figures.  Some of the staff involved with the camp are going to be ticked because it looks like I'm going to have to scream, yell, and hurt some feelings to get my points across. 

I have an adult -- I believe the guy's name is Jose -- and he wants to take the adult class and bring a couple of his brothers along.  Since the attendance in the adult class has always been thin, this seems like a good development, right?  Hold up, not so fast.  Jose told me he wants to be a professional boxer.  Then one of his older relatives dropped by to inquire about the program.  "An hour and a half is not enough time.  They need to work out for two to three hours," I was told.  The park district doesn't deal with professional boxing and the gyms are only open for a few hours during the day.  Jose asked if he and his brothers could come in early, but I pointed out that was not possible because of the youth classes.  Judging by the look of disbelief on Jose's face, I might have a battle on my hands regarding usage of the gym.

I saw a report on the news last night that claimed that crime in the area where the field house is has gone down.  I found the statistics hard to believe.  Shootings tend to increase, and the number of assaults goes up this time of year.  Items, regardless of whether they belong to the park district, the customers, or the staff, get stolen more often.  Every year, the supervisor and the staff find ourselves escorting people acting up inside the field house to the door.  I expect more of the same. 

Summer used to be my favorite season.