Students work together with SBPD
Ann Marie Jakubowski | Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Each year, about 400 men and 100 women participate in the Notre Dame club boxing teams. During their off-seasons, volunteers from both teams have joined forces with the South Bend Police Department (SBPD) to teach the sport to local children in a biweekly after school program.
Senior Rose Raderstorf currently serves as the program’s president, organizing Notre Dame involvement and working to improve the program further. The students’ work is part of a larger SBPD initiative to get involved with the community youth, organizing camps that give kids opportunities to learn new sports and participate in structured after-school activities, Raderstorf said.
Notre Dame students began to volunteer with the SBPD boxing club three years ago, and the program is now known as “Box Like a Champion Today.”
“The program developed when the first volunteers saw a need [at the gym] to have better role models and more coaching than what was being provided at the time,” Raderstorf said. “The first volunteers were from the men’s team, and those guys decided to turn it into a program for both club teams to get involved with.”
The gym, attached to the Grace Community Baptist Church on Harrison Avenue in South Bend, is open Monday and Wednesday. Raderstorf said the program serves both grade school and high school youth, offering cardio workouts and fundamental boxing training.
“The gym itself is split into two segments, with the younger kids first and the older group next,” Raderstorf said. “There’s a ring set up in there, and we have mitts and punching bags to practice with too.”
Most of the younger kids are just looking for a fun workout, but some of the older participants are trained boxers looking for access to equipment, Raderstorf said.
“With the grade school kids, we run laps and do a workout, and afterwards we usually do some form of boxing training, but we try to switch it up to keep them interested,” Raderstorf said. “The older group has 7th and 8th grade boys and some young adults who fight in real competitions in South Bend or Chicago, so this is an actual gym for them to train in. They get a much more intense workout.”
The police officers that run the gym know the sport and an outside coach comes in to work with the youth too, Raderstorf said.
Senior Ragan Todd, one of the women’s boxing team captains for this year, said she enjoys volunteering in the program and continuing with the sport even after Baraka Bouts ends in November.
“It seems like [boxing] is something that there’s an interest in around here, with little kids who just think it’s kind of cool and then older guys there who have won Golden Gloves or other titles,” Todd said. “We have [Mixed Martial Arts] fighters who are focusing on the boxing aspect of their fighting as well as younger kids who look like they don’t do any other form of exercise beyond this.”
Both Raderstorf and Todd said one of the program’s major goals is to keep kids busy and involved in the community.
“We’re looking to give them an opportunity outside of school for a structured program to keep them safe and give them good options to pass the time,” Raderstorf said.
“Another goal is to develop good relationships with the South Bend police and their peers, and it’s definitely a good way to keep kids out of trouble,” Todd said.
Raderstorf said many of the children are from lower-income families so this is a unique opportunity for them to try a sport like boxing, which requires a lot of equipment and instruction.
“For a lot of them, it’s hard to find something to do after school, and the older kids will acknowledge that there are plenty of other things they could be getting in trouble with if they didn’t have this to do,” Raderstorf said. “The one-on-one mentoring and coaching is really important to them too.
The volunteers and police officers are collaborating on plans to add a tutoring aspect to the program, where participants will be encouraged to bring homework to the gym to do after the boxing workout. Raderstorf said this is a major goal for the upcoming semester now that the volunteer base is more regular.
“Some people think it’s strange to teach fighting to kids like this, but it’s taught in a very respectful manner so they know how to use the skills properly,” Raderstorf said. “It’s a sport that demands great respect for your opponent, and that translates into other areas of life as well.”