published Monday, February 14th, 2011

Boxing and responsibility

Those of us who were raised in stable, loving, two-parent families should be grateful. But many children today are raised by single mothers, with minimal influence by their fathers. Others are in families burdened by drug and alcohol abuse.

Fortunately, many churches, charities and individuals of good will reach out to youths from troubled backgrounds to put them on the path to a good life. We noticed an unusual but productive example of that in a recent issue of the Times Free Press. It's a group called the Westside Boxing Club, and it gives youngsters a wholesome way to work off excess energy and the frustrations they feel — and to learn discipline that will benefit them all through their lives.

The club, in a converted firehouse engine bay on Central Avenue in Chattanooga, has coaches who train many youngsters and a few older folks in boxing and give them a good workout — for free. Amazingly, the club can claim 25 national boxing championships, five world championships and a bronze medal from 2010's Junior Olympics! That's quite a record for a group that has existed only since 1999.

But head coach Andy Smith told the newspaper that the main goal is to help children.

"The most important thing is they take the things they learn in this gym and use it in their everyday lives," he said. "Very few of them will be national champions or world champions, and even a smaller few of them will ever be Olympic gold medalists, but all of them are gonna be citizens in our communities. All of them are gonna have jobs and families, so we want to teach them all the things they learn here to use in their life."

He added, "If they do the right thing here and in their own personal life, then success is gonna follow. That's just life in general."

It certainly is, and Chattanooga is fortunate to have people who work to instill that lesson in our youth.

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