Put 20 boys into one small boxing club and you have a recipe for sweat, grunts, and 80 limbs flying like pistons.
It’s quite a workout. But boxing is also about self discipline, leadership skills, and “being at peace with your body,” say a pair of 11-year-olds from Family House Academy.
McKinnley Franklin and Marshall Coleman, sixth graders at the private Kelso school, started a club called Group of Guys Making a Difference, or GGMD.
“It just popped into my head,” said McKinnley, who thought up the name. “We want to make a difference in our school and our community.”
Marshall Coleman, who helped McKinnley start the club, said the boys at the school wanted to address sarcasm and smart alecky behavior. “We struggled with that for the past year. We talked about separating the boys from the girls and working on that.”
Boxing seemed a way to work on discipline and exercise at the same time, both boys said.
McKinnley said the physical parts of boxing — “trying to make your arms stronger, holding your arms centered — it makes you at peace with yourself and your body.”
For five weeks, male students from the Kelso private school have come weekly to the Kelso Boxing Club, a windowless wooden enclave in Tam O’ Shanter Park.
Director Steve Chase oversees the activity with the help of Family House parents, mostly dads, and Tayler Mustion, son of the school’s founder.
Larry Nave started the Boxing Club in 1975, and most members now are middle and high school students, said Chase, who has run it for 11 years.
It certainly captivates the young men from Family House.
Usually in two separate groups of 10 guys at a time, the GGMD members go through circuit training. Every time the bell rings, the kids get a one-minute rest and then change stations.
They go from the heavy bags, solid 4-foot cylinders that hang from the ceiling; to shadow boxing in front of mirrors in the ring; to the double end, a round leather ball that is suspended between ceiling and floor by a rope and rubber cord; to pear-shaped bags closely attached to overhead platforms; to stationary bikes; and finally foot work on a little trampoline and a truck tire that you stand in the center of and hop up and down on the sidewalls.
“We’re boys,” said Robbie Bartlett, 13. “Boys like to have physical activities. Boxing helps us.”
Robbie decided to add some evening visits to the boxing club, he said. “I just like punching the bags more than I thought I would. I’m trying to do it a lot longer.”
“It’s mostly exercise,” said Cory Cochran, 5. “We work out and punch. There’s no real fighting.”
For Damon Janish, boxing helps control his “anger problem.” “I broke pencils when I got mad. This lets out my anger. I exercise and I get healthy.” Damon’s also walking two miles a day, part of weight control regimen. “I’m the ring bearer at my mom’s wedding this summer,” the 10-year-old explained.
Because the club includes all ages and sizes, “We help each other,” said Dylan Makowichuk, an 8-year-old who likes to strengthen his legs on the bikes. Dylan recently got an award for being dedicated in GGMD.
Some of the older boys talked about a variety of benefits boxing has.
“It will help boys become leaders when they get older,” said Gabriel Powers, who is 11. “It’s important for boys to learn to be leaders on the job and leaders of the household.”
Powers said the sport also offers “self defense and mind training.”
Carl Morton of Silver Lake was one of several fathers who came to supervise the session last week.
Morton was happy to see his son Cameron get into boxing, since he used to love the sport when he was young. “I used to box at Shelton High School. It kept me out of trouble.”
Cameron, 11, said boxing “is pretty hard. You get hot, and you get tired. But it’s about discipline. When you work out, you get energy.”
“It keeps these boys in shape,” his dad agreed. “Cameron gets wore out here and then he goes to drum lessons.”