Friday, September 03, 2010
Hands up, chin down
I visited a remarkable place this week in my travels. It is a boxing gym that works with inner city kids who are involved in gangs and gang culture. Although this will sound like a cliche from an 80's movie the first thing I noticed was that while every building around the gym was tagged with graffiti, the gym was clean. The gym is a color-free zone where skin and set color are irrelevant and the only currency is hard work.
One of the coaches told me about being locked up when he was young, how week after week this guy from the gym would visit him, relentless in his message that he could help him be somebody else, somebody better. He said he resisted until he began to miss the dude when he didn't come around, and he would think about what he had said. He described the moment that he just grabbed onto that message and that hope and said okay, I will do whatever you ask. That was years ago and now he is the coach, he is the one who is relentless.
216 adolescent boys and girls work out there. The coaches and trainers don't ask a lot of questions about past as they are future-oriented people. The strategy is work out, do your homework, eat right. The walls are covered with pictures of their fighters, some of them amateur champions on their way to the pros. Everywhere you see their messages, "Elbows in, hands up, Chin down" and "Will you answer the bell?"
I think to myself, "I'm damn sure trying."