Monday, September 30, 2019

A Strike and No Boxing Fans

Several days ago, 94% of Chicago Park District employees voted to go on strike.  If negotiations between the labor union and the park district don't improve within the next couple of weeks, employees will be encouraged to walk off of their jobs.  I was part of the percentage that voted against it.  Most of my co-workers at LaFollette Park think a 'yes' vote will protect their jobs.  I've worked at enough places - most of whom were not covered by a labor union - to know that management will dig their heels in to keep situations the way they currently are. 

"I can't be fired for just anything," park district employees think in their defense of the union.  I laugh derisively because management has always found a way to show employees the door regardless.  I also shake my head because the presence of the union often allows employees who should have been let go to stay on.  Why do people think, especially in this time when technology is king, that so many are looking at working for themselves?  When I began working over 40 years ago, employers had more loyalty towards employees.  Now it's everybody for themselves, and having a union involved doesn't make much difference in my opinion. 

I don't have time to sit around twiddling my thumbs in the event of a strike.  Nor can I or the scores of other park district employees who don't have extra jobs and/or side gigs to supplement their income afford to miss paychecks during a strike. 

From conversations I've had with participants in the boxing classes, I've come to the conclusion that most are not boxing fans.  The youths who play football, basketball, and baseball in the park district follow those sports.  Very few in the boxing classes, youths or adults, watch any matches.  Most know about Muhammad Ali.  Some mention Floyd Mayweather Jr or Mike Tyson.  But that's the extent of the knowledge about boxing.  The result is a lack of connection to the sport which doesn't bode well especially for people who talk about wanting to compete.  I'm always getting a lot of odd questions about what goes on in boxing matches that wouldn't come up if people were actually fans of the sport.

The lack of boxing fans contributes heavily to the fact that LaFollette Park's boxing program is not where it needs to be and should be. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

No Laughing

Vanesa seems to find a lot to giggle about in the boxing gym.  Honestly, I wonder why she and her cousin David are in the teen class.  David only does a half-hour and runs off to a competitive swimming class.  Allegedly, his dad doesn't want David to compete in any boxing shows.  Vanessa doesn't want to fight, but not because of any parental restrictions.  I'm irritated because she doesn't listen to instructions, and she complains about being tired.  "I'm 57 years old, and I feel tired many times, but I show up and be present," I told her.  Vanessa is 13-years-old.

"What's so funny?  Do you see me laughing?" I asked her yesterday.  I corrected her about her punches and she half-listened to what I said.  Several times, I asked her to move on to the next exercise on the list and she just stood there.  I don't bother to hide my sarcasm most of the time when talking to her.

Ivan, another cousin of David and Vanesa's, has seemed to disappear from the youth class.  Now their family is considering enrolling yet another kid in the class.  Thrilled, I ain't, based on what I've seen from the other kids.  It would be nice to know during the registration process that kids don't want to compete.  Usually, I don't find out until the first day of a new session or later.  It's still not a good look for me or the boxing program not to have any kids who don't want to go to the boxing shows.

Doneisha and Tony, whom I hadn't seen in months, stopped by the field house.  Doneisha asked me to fill out a recommendation form for Tony.  She's sending him to a new high school.  Doneisha talked about signing up for the boxing program again, but it sounds like she has a lot going on at the moment.  Most adults do, which is why to an extent, I don't get very concerned when they register and don't attend class regularly.  There's always something like having to work late or babysitting issues.  That is one of the reasons why I don't demand that adults attend the class every day.

However, I feel like I'm wasting time where most of the kids are concerned.  If there's no interest and motivation, I'd rather that some kids drop out of the class. 

A good update about George, the coach at Garfield Park.  He's out of the hospital.  No heart attack nor mini-stroke.  But George has said the experience gave him a new perspective on life.  The plan is to cut down on the long hours George had been putting in at his gym. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

A Boxing Program That Lacks Much

My supervisor recently told me that he won't buy extra equipment for the boxing gym.  Low attendance numbers are the reason.  There are many reasons for that.

1) The neighborhood.  I grew up in Austin.  Haven't lived over there since 1977, but trust me, not much has changed.  Not many want to hang around LaFollette Park after certain times of the day.  Please, most of the staff members don't want to be up there after dark.

2) Lack of awareness of the program.  The Chicago Park District heavily promotes the football, basketball, baseball and swimming programs.  Boxing doesn't get mentioned much.  Even floor hockey gets more press.  There are many people who are not aware that there is a boxing program within the park district.  There's only so much promotion I can do based on the limited resources and time I have.

3)  Lack of interest in the program.  The team sports provide a social aspect, particularly where the youths are concerned, that boxing as an individual sport does not.  Boxing has fallen out of favor over the years in general.  Most under 40 years of age find the sport too slow.  They prefer to watch MMA.  There are plenty of professional wrestling fans under the age of twenty, and boxing doesn't often enough flash for them.

4)  Equipment issues.  Juan's father, Pedro, was constantly grumbling about the lack of equipment at LaFollette Park's boxing gym.  Some of the people who have come through the gym were splitting their time between a private gym and LaFollette.  Private gyms are charging money to everybody and charging more frequently than the park district.  They can afford to upgrade when necessary.  Pedro voiced his opinion, but I'm sure others have thought the same way and changed their minds about registering for the program when they saw what wasn't available.

5)  Time issues.  The park district gyms are only open on average three to four hours a day.  Most of the gyms are open five days a week, but some are only open for two or three days.  People complain, and mostly the grumbling is coming from those who have trained in private gyms where the hours are longer.  People who are looking to be professional boxers complain about the time schedules, too.  But the boxing program is mainly an after-school program and that's it.

6)  Lack of support for the program within and without.  Other boxing coaches have complained about supervisors not caring about their programs.  It is known that some supervisors like some programs in their field house better than others.  I know from dealing with some of the youths' parents there is often little to zero interest in helping me make the program successful for the youths involved. 

Some parts of these issues can be fixed, but a lot of it can't and won't.  Until everything can be solved in a satisfactory manner, the attendance numbers are going to continue to sink. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Cousins Antics

Ivan came to the youth boxing class today.  Cute kid, but Ivan is in need of having some focus.  He's part of the same family as David and Vanesa.  David showed up for the teen class, but Vanessa, his cousin who is 13-years-old, wasn't with him.  "Where is she?" I asked.  I was irritated that I even had to ask.  David should have thought to automatically offer an explanation.  Vanesa had to attend a school function.  It was something that was known in advance, so I should have been given a heads up.  "If your cousin doesn't care about coming here regularly, I'm not going to care.  I'm being honest," I told David.  I went through the same thing with Esteban, another cousin of his, back during the spring.  I'm tired of it.

George, the coach at Garfield Park, assumed he'd had a heart attack.  Actually, it was a mini-stroke.  He's in the hospital and stabilized for the time being.  But the situation is scary. I'm praying for a speedy recovery. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My Thinning Patience

It would be nice if there was communication about when the fiscal year begins and ends at the Chicago Park District.  One of the speed bag platforms is broken.  Luckily, Sahia and I removed it before it would have fallen on someone.  I told Steve, the supervisor, that I need it replaced.  "I can't do anything because the budget is over," I was told.  I have to go to Thomas, the boxing program coordinator, to see if he has another heavy bag/speed bag stand like the one in the photo above stored away someone.  I still need mouthpieces, as well, because the program is supposed to provide them to youths for free.  Haven't seen any of those in a couple of years. 

This latest incident comes right behind Pedro pulling his son Juan out of the teen boxing class.  Pedro had been complaining throughout the summer session about the lack of and quality of the boxing equipment.  Juan had been splitting his time between a private boxing gym and LaFollette Park's boxing gym.  In Pedro's opinion, bringing his son to LaFollette was a let-down.  Sahia and I explained that a public gym doesn't have the money of a private gym.  Pedro acted like he understood, but now we know that wasn't the case.  Juan is now at a private gym. 

A few participants in the past were training at both LaFollette and private gyms.  Now I'm wondering if others are no longer there because they too were not satisfied with the boxing equipment.  The gym and the washrooms downstairs are seldom cleaned on a regular basis, so I have to factor that participants probably notice that, too.  Steve is always bringing up that attendance numbers are down in the program.  I tried to point out that the look of the gym is one of the reasons why.  I guess I have to at least give Pedro credit for voicing his opinion. 

In addition to Juan leaving the class before the fall session began, another teen, Bryant, has chosen to do the same.  During a courtesy call, I made when Bryant didn't show up the first day of class, his mom revealed that her son wanted to "take a break".  A break from a class that was never attended?  How does that work?  The real reason is that Bryant is also signed up in basketball, and like most youths at the field house, the team sports are favored over individual sports like boxing.  I told his mom that Bryant was being withdrawn from the class and could sign up for the winter session.  Yet I know that registration will never happen. 

My patience with people is becoming shorter by the day.  David and his parents have a habit of waiting until the class begins to register.  I no longer will leave in the middle of a class to take 20 minutes to sign people up.  It doesn't matter that I have a volunteer who can watch the room while I'm upstairs.  People need to pay attention to start dates.  David has been in the boxing program on-and-off for three years, and his parents should know the drill by this time.  I told them to show up a half-hour early before the class, but instead, David shows up with two of his cousins and a couple of his aunts five minutes before the first class was to start.  The aunts complained to Steve that I was being rude because I did not want to delay the start of that class to accommodate them.

Of course, Steve backed them up using the tired, "The customer is always right", routine.  I had to sign them up, but I let the aunts know that they were lucky that no one did show up for the first class of the day.  David still would have had to wait to register.  On top of that, David's dad still does not want his son to fight.  David is also still in swimming, this time for five days of the week.  Only a half-hour of the class is boxing done before David runs off in the middle of it to go down to the pool.  There was also no awareness that the class is now Monday thru Friday instead of Tuesday thru Saturday.  I had explained that to David's mom several times.  "I'm sick of this place today," I thought to myself.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Fall Feast and Famine

Just as I predicted would happen, someone showed up in the middle of class on the first day of the fall session to register for the boxing class.  David was that person.  But I'm no longer going to disrupt the class to spend 20 minutes to sign up anyone.  I told David and his mom to either show up before class to sign up or go to the next closest field house to sign up if they can't make it down to LaFollette Park early enough.  David's cousin decided not to come back to class.  Can't say I was heartbroken about that.

Juan dropped out of the teen class.  Someone offered him what sounds like a poor deal to train at a private gym.  Sahia and I were the last to be told of Juan's schedule change.  I learned that Juan's dad had continued to complain about lack of equipment at LaFollette Park despite being told that a public gym has a limited budget.  So I guess Pedro got his wish to have his son at what he believes is a better gym.  But young, decent fighters are often lured into private gyms to be shark bait for other fighters those gyms want to build up and promote.  I hope Juan doesn't get hurt.

Both the kids and the teen class were empty today.  Depending on what time I have available, and how I feel, I may or may not make courtesy calls to remind people that the fall session has started.

The adult class with Shay, C.C., and Virginia was the best class of the day.  Alex, who is also signed up for that class, will come in tomorrow, as his birthday happened to fall on the first day of class.  Of course, Shay, Sahia's daughter, has been in the class before.  C.C. and Virginia were showing some decent skills.  They are mainly interested in getting in shape. 

A speed bag platform broke off from one of the heavy bag stands.  Luckily it was discovered before it might have fallen on someone.  It'll have to be replaced, but that won't happen soon.  There never seems to be a budget for anything I need to run the boxing program.  I haven't received any new equipment for at least three years.