Boxing Gym Could Help Take Kids Off The Street

SIDELINES

December 08, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

Boxing has its pros and cons because of its aggressive and sometimesbrutal nature, but those who thrive in teaching and promoting it insist that it does much more good than harm.

It's a constant among those who love the sport especially in its amateur stage. The number of those who believe it could help curtail increased violence among young people on the streets seems to be rising.

"People talk about how this and that can help kids, and they usually say, if it helps one kid, it's worthwhile, but I'm convinced if we had a few gyms in Anne Arundel County where kids could box, we could help them tenfold," said Jeff Novotny, former amateur boxer and graduate of Arundel High in Gambrills.

Novotny, who has promoted a couple of amateur shows in the Gambrills-Odenton area within the last couple of years with modest success, was the timekeeper at Thursday night's amateur boxing show at the National Guard Armory in Annapolis.

The show was the second sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Annapolissince October and sanctioned by the South Atlantic Boxing Association. Some 13 bouts in all were contested with about 300 boxing fans looking on.

"Shows like this are great, and we need more of them, butmost of all, we need gyms for these kids to work out in," said Novotny. "It would get them off the streets.

"The kids who have a tendency to get rough could let their frustrations out in the boxing ring with gloves on instead of letting those frustrations out on the street with a handgun."

Novotny believes a gym or two where scores of youngsters could congregate to release frustrations, but only under controlled circumstances, is sorely needed in the Annapolis area and the county for that matter.

Like many others who echo his feelings and vocally support the cause, Novotny says a gym with good people running it could monitor the kids in every aspect of their lives.

Getting good grades in school would be encouraged as would avoiding drugand alcohol abuse.

"If a kid has a gym to report to every day andnight and is under proper supervision, he will stay away from drugs and alcohol in order to train," said Novotny.

"Kids nowadays, especially a lot of our minorities, need things to do after school, and when they don't have anything to do, that's when they get into trouble. Boxing and competing would give them something."

Amen!

Consider that nothing else seems to be working and that violence is escalating in suburban areas. Young people are growing up in scary times, too scary.

We had high school football games called off this fall because of an incident at a fast-food joint that spilled over into threatened violence at the games if they were played. And just this Friday, the Meade at North County basketball games had to be called off because of threats.

A former Andover basketball and football player was arrested and charged with shooting a 17-year-old from Meade. Threatening phone calls followed, prompting school officials to call off the games in the best interests of everyone.

If we have to start calling off games because of threatening phone calls, it is a sad state of affairs. It's the kind of thing that could lead to afternoon games without fans. Playing the games without fans is not what we want, and let's hope it doesn't get to that.

A gym in Annapolis or elsewhere in the county to teach boxing is not going to solve all of theseproblems, but it could be a constructive step.

Some young people need a controlled situation to vent their frustrations and to build self-esteem, not an uncontrolled street corner to unload a handgun.

It might be time for even the anti-boxing people to consider giving the sport a break. Opening a gym is not going to bring rampant crime,shootings and drugs to an end, but it might contribute something positive.

People like Harold Green, the Annapolis director of housing, Mayor Al Hopkins and Annapolis City police chief Hal Robbins believe it.

"I was involved years ago with a boxing program at PAL (Police Athletic League) and it was great for the kids," said Robbins. "I'm hoping PAL might start it up again because I'm convinced it helps young kids get off on the right foot in life."

Those kinds of remarks you can hear any time from the likes of Jim McNally (Navy boxing coach and president of the South Atlantic Association), his assistant coach Ron Stutzman, Leo Schumacher (chief of the South Atlantic Officials) and Emerson Smith (retired Navy boxing coach and U.S. Boxing Hall of Famer who presented awards at Thursday night's show).

What I've noticed is that more influential people, such as Robbins, Hopkinsand Green, are supportive of amateur boxing and how it can help kids.

It goes without saying that President Gil Allen and his Kiwanis Club members are supporters and their endorsement and sponsorship of two shows proves their commitment. This is a Kiwanis Club genuinely concerned with youths and sponsoring activities that can keep them occupied in wholesome recreation.

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