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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Boxing for 5 Year-Olds? Is Everyone in Allentown Nutz?

Boxing has been banned as a school sport in most of the U.S. since the 1950's. The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association both advocate that no one under the age of 18 be allowed to participate. The British Medical Association agrees, and has these two concerns:

1. Children have little awareness of risk, specifically the risk of chronic encephalopathy, which develops only after a lag period measured in decades or more.

2. There is no place in contemporary society for a youth sport which has, as its primary goal, the infliction of acute brain damage on an opponent.

But what the hell do doctors know? Who ya' gonna believe, medical experts or some punch-drunk ex-fighter who barely speaks English? If you're an Allentown city official, you listen to the pugilist.

Allentown has started a boxing program so that inner city kids as young as 5 can bash each others' brains out. A 13 year-old girl brags, "It makes me feel tough." Allentown Rec Superintendent Kevin Easterling calls kids' boxing a "no brainer." Unfortunately, that's what they'll be when they're done. I admire Kevin, but isn't it completely reckless to allow children to participate in a dangerous activity condemned by medical authorities? Put another way, is everyone in Allentown nutz?

Boxing bambinos are funded as part of Allentown's Weed 'n Seed program. I'd like to know who the hell approved that. If you come from a really poor area of Allentown, you can bash a kids' brains out for free. If you come from a more wealthy area, you can just buy a damn video game or hire somebody.

I asked Kevin what the hell they're drinking in Allentown.

"Bernie, have you ever played football?"

(Sports dudes like to start conversations that way, and usually end up telling tales about having their heads ripped off as a pee wee but popping them back on with duct tape and continuing to play).

"Bernie, those five year old kids aren't fighting. The community actually approached us and asked for this. We let them play football and this is actually safer."

- "The community asked for this, Kevin? What if they asked for dog-fighting? Would you give them that? No, but you'll give them this."

As I brayed irrationally on the phone, Easterling calmly told me he shares a lot of my concerns and assured me only the oldest kids are really allowed to fight. He's invited me to drop by the gym to check it out. So he and I are going to pop over one night later this week, and if any of those brats try anything, I'll clobber them.

I'll be back.

21 comments:

A.J. Cordi said...

I have mixed feelings about this, but I would rather see kids learning karate and discipline than boxing.

michael molovinsky said...

in the morning call kevin brags about probably expanding the boxing program. in a city "fighting" youth violence, these are skills that need not be honed. we should be developing basketball and soccer programs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The reason I oppose children's boxing is because medical experts oppose it. Unlike football and other contact sports, this is an activity in which the goal is to knock your opponent senseless. It causes brain damage. It often goes undetected for decades. If this is such a safe activity, why isn't it offered as a high school sport? It seems that wee have more regard for cruelty to animals than we do to our own children.

Does children's boxing make them more violent, as Michael seems to suggest? I'm not sure. Most children who study martial arts seem no more violent or aggressive than anyone else. It might actually make them less violent.

My main concern is health. I doubt there is support for this in the medical community, and wonder whether they were even consulted.

Tom Foolery said...

I think Pawlowski was in the program. Nuff said..

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have brain damage be I'm from Hellertown, near the coke works. The fumes, which were always drifting towards us, got me.

Anonymous said...

bernie
those were'nt fumes....it was aroma..........i worked there for ten years..........da

Bernie O'Hare said...

it was aroma

Aromas like that could have been bottled and used by Sadaam Hussein.

Mrs. Dottie said...

As the mother of a 6.5 yr. old I think boxing for young children is crazy. I think what my husband and I call "boxling" is much better. "Boxling" is a combination fake boxing and tickling. It's fun and no-one gets hurt (usually).

Anonymous said...

I understand the feeling many have about the youth and boxing combo, but I also must say that if this is monitored closely and NOT made into a Holyfield/Tyson situation, I believe the young men and women will be okay. It does give the young a sense of pride, physical activity, and keeps them from getting involved in negative situations. At the moment when summer is on its way and we are hearing about 4 recent murders in the city, I applaud ANY positive effort to keep the youth involved. I am just hoping and praying this doesn't become a "hot" summer.

Anonymous said...

Given the current, violent state of affairs in the All American City, I'd advise Allentown parents to not send their kids to a gun fight with boxing gloves. I recommend an NRA safety course and Kevlar. It's for the children.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It does give the young a sense of pride, physical activity, and keeps them from getting involved in negative situations.

So does foorball, basketball and a host of other activities. I am fearful that, in addition to the brain damage, kids might learn lessons we don't want taught, like using their fists to argue.

Ken Matthews said...

It's (quotes)topics like this that make me miss doing morning radio ....
"Boxing for kids is a no brainer"

Priceless.

Remember Kids : It's NOT FAIR TO BRING TEETH TO A GUM FIGHT

CUT ME NICK CUT ME

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

The Weed and Seed program has been funded and in place for at least five years now. Has there ever been a critical examination of this program by anyone? I know for a fact that a city reporter for the “Call” was working on such a story before the last mayoral election but the project was shelved never to see the light of day. No attempt has since been made by anyone or any entity to performance audit this program. Perhaps because it is funded by the government no one is suppose to care, and perhaps because it is a government bureaucracy no one really expects it to succeed.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

As a guy who Boxed a little in my youth at the Y, it is a great conditiong sport. It teaches discipline and the training can make you incredibly fit. That being said I would hesitate from encouraging youngsters to Box. Even with the headgear the human brain was not designed to take the hits. Even Football is questionable for youth but I am not hear to start a revolution.
I was a kid many many years ago and now we know a lot more about brain injury. Boxing for kids is a no-no. Boxing training is a great activity.

Bill Villa said...

I'll gladly box anyone who works at The Morning Call or the Lehigh County District Attorney's office ...

Joe Hilliard said...

Bernie,

Those who oppose the annointed "leadership" of Allentown are labeled as partisan nuts.

Yet, outsiders from you to Harrisburg are beginning to scratch their heads and ask, "What the hell is going on in Allentown."

Maybe we aren't the "inmates" and maybe the "inmates" are actually running the asylum.

Time will tell. But as I have been saying for almost a year, until we get real detailed scrutiny from reasonable people OUTSIDE of the Lehigh Valley, we won't know for sure. But the scrutiny is beginning to happen....

Bill Villa said...

Oh how our local powers that be love scrutiny. I'm kidding. They hate it when you lift the rock they're coiled up under and shine a light in there ... be careful ...

Bill Leiner Jr. said...

We will never have a youth boxing program in Coplay. Can't they develop a better wrestling program, or any other physical activity whose goal is not to knock out your child opponent ???

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bill, I suspect those kids are future members of Northampton County Council.

T said...

As a youth boxing coach and an amateur boxer myself, I say that many of you know nothing about the sport of boxing. Amateur boxing is not about "knocking your opponent sensless", it is about points. Besides all the safety equipment that the youth wear, the refs are trained to stop fights before anyone gets hurt. I have never seen a kid knocked out, the majority of bouts go to decision and those that are stopped are called "win by ref stoppage". You miss the point if you think boxing is only about punching. It is about discipline, both physical and mental, and children benefit from this training. My own children participated in wrestling from the time they were 5 and came away numerous times with bloody noses and bruises. Please learn more about the sport of amateur boxing before judging the program.

AbFitt said...

It is certainly unfortunate that at times the pen can be mightier than the sword. In today's society, newspaper reporters need shock and awe headlines to get readers to listen. Very little research was done by this reporter as it shows in his writing. I began boxing at age nine at a Elizabeth NJ, police athletic league. Little did I know at the time that those lessons taught of hard work, commitment, discipline and self respect would carry on throughout my youth and into adult hood.

Boxing was the catalyst to my lifelong commitment health, training and to the fitness principles I practice and teach to others today world wide through AbFitt. I am so glad the the officials at that police athletic league all those years ago did not cave into the pressure's of one or more individuals who lack foresight and have probably never stepped inside the boxing ring.

I applaud Mr. Easterling for his commitment to the kids of Allentown, Luis and this boxing program. I am certain the children will learn the very same lessons I did as a kid that only the sweet science can teach, and look back on those days with fondness and resolute.


Richard Seymour
Editor of AbFitt http://AbFitt.blogspot.com
Professional middleweight boxer
Helicopter engineer