Sunday, December 14, 2014

Finally, The Ring Is Surrounded

In this photo, taken by Martine Granby, I'm alone in the gym, folding up a hand wrap.

Only one kid under 12 showed up at the gym yesterday.  During the week, only one teen showed up during the 13 and up class.  They both wanted to spar, but that's impossible to do when no one else comes in.  I don't want to spar each time I'm in the gym anymore, and I worry about hurting a kid if and when I do.  Having a lot of people in a boxing gym helps bring energy to the place.  When there's hardly anyone there, the energy is very low.

Sometime when I was out at an employee training at Garfield Park earlier this week, new ropes were put up around the gym.   Unfortunately, the old canvas hadn't been changed out, but one thing at a time.  When a couple of the kids were sparring on Friday, one attempted to run out of the ring to avoid incoming punches.  "Can't do that anymore," I told the kid.  Now I find myself repeating, "Don't lean on the ropes!"  I don't want to have to arrange for the ropes to be tightened so soon.

Technology is another rival I have for the attention of the youths.  They look at me crazy when I tell them that I primarily use my cell phone for my job at the insurance company and have it turned off at other times.   Most of the kids have cell phones, and they fiddle with them all the time. "I can't live without my phone," one of the teens told me.  Oh, they could if they really tried.  Technology is nice, but I'm glad I didn't grow up with what we have today.  It seems a lot of youths are addicted to it.

A new kid appeared to be very interested in what I own at home.  The kid attempted to beg me out of several items including old video game systems, in-line skates, and an MP3 player I have that doesn't work so well anymore.  I don't know if it's because the kid doesn't have those items at home, or like so many kids think, "If I ask for it, someone should just give it to me because I want it."  I did tell him I could part with old boxing equipment that I no longer use.  I'll bring those items in next week.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Day With George and a Bear

I spent two days of training at Garfield Park.  Every time I go there, I'm reminded of the time Ma took me there to get my immunization shots before I began Kindergarten forty-eight years ago.  The building, with little upgrades here and there, still looks the same.

Training involved knowing how to interact with the patrons, mainly the youths.  Training is what training is.  Some of it can be useful, and some of it is not.  People are up and interested at various times, and counting down the minutes until it's over at other times.

I talked to George, who runs the boxing gym there, when I had breaks from training.  He's been with the Chicago Park District for 42 years.  His actual title is that of a program specialist.  George no longer has kids 12 and under; he starts with ages 13 and up, and most of the boxers he deals with are professionals.  Most of the equipment was brought and installed in the gym out of his pocket and his time.  There's a lot of history in that gym.

It pays to talk to someone who has been on the job for a long time.  George gave me a lot of valuable information to help me on my way.

This is a shot of Garfield Park's lagoon.  Quite a few geese were out there today.

I had noticed the guy standing next to me in this photo the first day of training.  He sure looks familiar, I thought.  Today, I figured out that he was Chris Zorich, who was a defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears.  Chris is a nice guy, and he agreed to take this photo.  He's now a supervisor with the Chicago Park District.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Boys Voice Their Opinions

The photo is of me surrounded by a group of kids in the gym at LaFollette Park.  I think I was matching the kids up for sparring that day.  It hard to do that because the kids are a wide range of sizes.  Most of the twelve year olds are taller and bigger than I, and the most of the eight to ten year olds are very small.  It's easier to match up the teens because a lot of them are the same height and approximately the same weight -- with a few exceptions.

The photo was taken by Martine Granby, who is a documentary producer.  She interviewed me and took other photos, which are posted up at

The youth boxing classes have become increasingly male.  The girls have disappeared, with the exception of Princess.  "She is one annoying girl", one of the boys told me, and I agreed.  Princess is quickly wearing out her welcome with most.  I predicted that as more boys showed up, they would not be interested in putting up with her continuing antics.

Another issue I'm running into is the youths thinking there is open gym.  A few teenage boys showed up and expressed interest in signing up.  Then they left to play basketball, then returned later with a few more friends.  "I thought we could just come in and box," one of them said.  "I'll be glad to have you in here, but you have to sign up.  Not my rule, but the Chicago Park District's rule," I explained.  Youths don't seem to understand about liability and safety issues, but they are going to have to understand.

A kid who signed up in the past week broke the Cobra bag.  It wasn't his fault; the bag was due to break anyway.  I would love to order a new Cobra bag once the new budget year comes in, but the kids kept treating the old one like a toy.  I'd rather not have another Cobra bag in the gym only to have it broken again in record time.  The park district doesn't have money to throw around, and it's important that the kids learn they have to help take care of the equipment.