http://mv-voice.com/print/story/print/2008/10/03/pal-gets-in-the-ring


Mountain View Voice

News - October 3, 2008

PAL gets in the ring

After six months of practicing, boxing league ready with new equipment

by Casey Weiss

The 18 middle and high school students race around a makeshift track, jogging forward, then backward and sideways, trying not to fall behind as their coaches lead the way.

For the last six months, these students have spent their afternoons in the Crittenden Middle School gym learning how to box. Every day after the final school bell rings, they line up in the gym, ready to do laps and core strengthening exercises with their coaches, who are all local police officers.

The program is the newest addition by the Mountain View Police Activity League (PAL), which pairs at-risk youth with officers to play sports and work out some of that extra energy — before it's channeled in the wrong direction.

As they stretch, the coaches help the students, who are both girls and boys, with their technique, and playfully challenge the ones who can't keep up.

"It's fun and the coaches are good at teaching," Crittenden seventh grader Fred Jordan said. "They make us sweat a lot."

Ron Cooper, a school resource officer who works with the Mountain View Whisman School District, brought the program to this campus last spring, and recruited his brother-in-law Alfonso Hernandez, a San Jose officer, and Mountain View police officer James Goevarra to help coach. PAL pays for the program costs, but the coaches volunteer their time, and also took a course to become certified boxing trainers.

From his work with the students on campus, Cooper saw that many of them needed an outlet. These practices have become almost a form of counseling for most of the boxers.

"It is important for them to do something positive and get their energy out without getting in trouble," said Cooper, who boxed in the Army.

The program only recently acquired some real boxing equipment, and after half a year of training and learning how to land hooks and jabs — and spending the last two weeks assembling a ring — the students were ready to start boxing. On Tuesday, other officers and police Chief Scott Vermeer came to watch as students used the new ring and equipment for the first time.

"It is a huge part of Coop's life — making sure all of these kids get on the right path," Vermeer said of the coach.

After stretching and running, the students split up. Some work on boxing techniques with their coaches, some practice in front of the mirror, some use the new equipment and punching bags.

Cooper has two ironclad rules for the students: They must maintain a C average in school, and may not box outside the ring. Part of the league's intention is to teach the students respect for fighting.

Because boxing "is 90 percent endurance," Cooper said, the program teaches self-reliance: "If you are not conditioned, you are going to get knocked out. You can't blame anyone but yourself."

Other PAL leagues have their own boxing programs, and the coaches hope their students will be ready to compete with the others soon. These matches will go onto the students' records, beginning their amateur career.

In fact, next year the local team will travel to Southern California for a statewide PAL boxing tournament. The trip will be sponsored by the Mountain View Police Department.

E-mail Casey Weiss at cweiss@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by MVPAL supporter, a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 3, 2008 at 10:24 am

Over 20 yrs ago we had a PAL boxing program in MV that seemed pretty successful, so I'm happy to see that MVPAL has been able to restart it with a fresh group of students and coaches.

Too bad that we had to lose the continuity of the program, but I do understand that needs change over time with demographics and other factors.

Another interesting note is that we also used to have a PAL building where the old boxing program was based. I believe it was at Dana and Oak, where the fire station is now, and I remember volunteering at some of the matches that were held there.

Thanks to MVPAL, the coaches and kids for resurrecting the program.


Posted by Nancy, a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 3, 2008 at 3:16 pm

I seriously question the value of teaching kids with troubles how to box. It's just another form of fighting and aggression. What good does it really do for them in the long run? Surely there are better ways for these kids to expend their energy and aggression. How will the skills they learn here transfer to them getting a job in the future?


Posted by GSB, a resident of Castro City
on Oct 3, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Boxing, as with any highly physical sport, allows you to get out your aggression, etc. in a safer and healthier way. With boxing, it's not just about the punching of a bag, but developing patience and strategy, which can be used in all parts of life.


Posted by Ned, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Tennis and golf involve patience and strategy and provide good networking oppotunities as young men and women advance in their careers. Boxing involves attempting to bash another human being in the face and knock them out. Taxpayer money should not be used to support these activiites.


Posted by GSB, a resident of Castro City
on Oct 4, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Ned,

Sounds like you've never engaged in pugilism before.

You will be happy to know that taxpayer money isn't being used. PAL is under a nonprofit that the Chief founded, it's not part of the City. Thus, all funding for PAL programs come from donations and volunteers.