Irving—The Irving Police Athletic League has been a staple of positivity for nearly 30 years. Its regiments and commitment to discipline have given hundreds ofkids additional opportunities for success, both in boxing and other avenues of life.
“Our whole goal here is to get kids out of the streets, out of trouble,” Irving Police Officer Rosario Solis, coordinator of the Irving PAL, said.“One of the things I tell the guys is if they’re not passing in school, they can’t compete [in any competitions].They can train here, but they won’t be able to compete. They’ve got to be passing their grades in school.
“We give the names of our kids to the police department secretary, and quarterly, she checks the kids to see if they got in trouble in school. Knock on wood, in the past two or three years, we haven’t had a single kid get in trouble. [That’s] just in school, not even with police.
Some of Irving PAL’s boxers come from as far away as Forney to train.
“What’s cool about PAL is it’s free,” boxer Carlos Martinez said. “They help you with things. When you go to tournaments, they help you pay for [fees] and stuff like that.”
“It keeps kids and people off the street,”boxer Emiliano Gandara said. “It makes them more dedicated.
“We’re glad the city is able to help us out. We’re able to get funds from the city to help to use, to make youth and young kids stay on track. The coaches here, Coach Don, Coach Solis, Coach Ashley are real strict, but it’s not strict in a bad way. It’s structure.”
“We try to keep good ties with all of them,” Solis said. “Make sure they’re doing good in school, and not just the boxers even the fitness kids.
“In order to get in the boxing program, they start in our fitness program, and then they kind of gradually graduate into the boxing program.
“I remember we had some girls that were cheerleaders.During the offseason, they came in and their parent said, ‘My girls are not going to box; I just want my girls to be in the fitness.’
“They were here for a couple of months. The girls saw the sparring, and one of the girls came up to me, ‘Hey Coach, I want to box.’ Your mom said you guys were not going to box. The following day mom shows up, ‘Hey, my girl said you didn’t want to let her box.’ Yeah, because you specifically said you don’t want her to box.
“A year or maybe a couple of months later, that girl ended up being the Golden Gloves Champion of Dallas.
“Whenever we have tournaments, they’re both male and female,” Solis said. “Now there’s starting to be more female boxers, more female coaches.
“Hopefully in another six months, we’ll be moving to the Armory across from Irving High School. Hopefully we can target more kids from all around the area [with the bigger facilities].
“Once we get over there, we’ll continue to do boxing year-round, fitness year-round, and we’re going to add two other sports: wrestling and Taekwondo. Those will also be year-round.
“That facility will be three times the size of this gym,” Solis said. “This gym would fit inside the gymnasium. On the outside of the gymnasium, you have two large classrooms; one’s going to be a weight room and one’s going to be a cardio room.
“Then you have five offices. One’s going to be my office and my partner’s office. Another one’s going to be a storage room. Then we have two other large classrooms, and one’s going to be our computer room, our tutor and homework room.
“Behind all of that, there’s a metal building. That metal building is just shy of [the current Irving PAL building]. This building is almost 6,000 square feet. That building is 5,000 square feet. That gym is going to be strictly a boxing gym. No more cardio or nothing else in the same place, just boxing.”
“The kids we have that go pro are all really smart kids,” Coach Don said. “A lot of times, you see kids get good at it, but they can’t hold a conversation. I mean these are all, all of them really smart kids.”
“You can’t go out there and party all night with all your friends,” Solis said. “You can, but you will not be as successful as the ones that are focused. I think that goes for anything.
“We’re not here to make pros out of them. If it just so happens they’re that good and they want to turn pro, so be it.”
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