One alternative to drug rehab: boxing
By Anne Stanton 11/2/09
Why would you teach a kid who gets in fights at school how to fight even better?
To Dakotah Tarrant, a freshman at Traverse City Central Senior High, it makes all the sense in the world.
Before I was boxing, some kid would be calling me names, saying I was a sissy. Now Id laugh at him. I know I could drop that kid in the ring, but I dont have to. When I can spar every other day, basically I can do it and not get in trouble. Unless Im backed in the corner, I aint got no need to fight in school.
Trigger Boxing in Traverse City is a second home to at-risk kids, as well as youth and adults who are in no trouble at all. Probation officers working for Judge David Stowe have sent boys and even a girl, who are enrolled in the 13th Circuit Family Division court, to learn how to box. They all learn how to workout, but not all of them have stuck with it. The results are so impressive that he plans to double the number.
Tarrant is neither on probation nor in trouble with the law, but he was headed that way. He argued with his quick-tempered dad and fought kids at school. He was smoking pot every day and flunking out of school. He and his father came to blows, just about the time his mother finished a year of rehab and moved north to Traverse City from Muskegon. He moved north from Clio and joined her last springa month before school ended.
I would come home, so scared of my dad. Living with my mom has changed my life. Im not going to sit here and say its all my dads fault. It was my fault too.
Shortly after moving here, an East Junior High counselor pulled him into her office and asked him if he liked to fight. I love to fight, he told her. She suggested he start boxing at Trigger Boxing and soon afterward found a grant to pay his gym fee of $75 a month. Now Tarrant works at Concrete Design and pays for it himself. His life has completely turned around, he said.
Theres no magic. As they spar or get ready to spar, Bill Bustance, who founded the gym with his wife Robbin, just talks to the kids straight.
Bill will help me with a lot of different situations, like when I get mad at something I shouldnt be getting mad about. Me and mom got in an argument. What happened? Hell tell me what I should have done. It really makes sense. Hes a really smart guy.
Katrina May, Tarrants mom, cant say enough about Bustance. Hes been a blessing to this family, she said.
May said she found her own way at a Bible boot camp, called Teen Challenge (a rehab camp in Muskegon for people of all ages). It saved my life. Whether you believe in God or not, the people there believe in you. Its very spiritual, very real.
Bustance said recovery from substance abuse starts with the understanding of we.
People who are addicts are self-centered individuals who are lost. The only way they recover is to realize they are part of something. Establish a herd instinct. Here, we have a pack mentality. They relate with a herd as soon as they come in.
Define yourself or other people will tell you who you are. Thats not my quote but psychiatrist Thomas Szasz. Do you want a probation officer telling you who you are or do you want a free life?
Bustance is known for speaking bluntly. In fact, members sign a release form which according to him means I can kill you and you cant sue me. He says sometimes he needs to use hard language or even a smack on the head in the ring to reinforce the message. Being a boxing instructor I have more latitude than teachers in the public school system.
The court referrals are his toughest challenge because they often blow off their scheduled times (a lot of members dont fight, but work out in the gym). The best boxers are the ones who have the gumption to walk in themselves. Sometimes when these kids hit, you never know whos going to be good or even great.
Tarrant, at 135 pounds, shows real promise. Hes a swift hitter and eager. There have been many like him whove seen real success in the ring, and then go on with the rest of their lives.
They go in and have the fights, realize they can achieve something, realize its so hard and provable, and they dont want to do it anymore. They conquered something, they did it.
And Bustance leaves this parting advice (and hes full of advice): If you dont want to see your kid get in trouble as a teen, you need to be consistent with them when theyre young.
You cant lie about some shit and then tell the truth. You have to establish consistent reinforcement. When your kid goes into a candy store, and you say, youre not getting anything, and they grab the candy bar, are you going to stand your ground and let the kid scream and cry, or are you going to give into the kid? If you give into the kid, hes going to be a jerk the next eight to 10 times. Its that simple.
To help support the Traverse City At Risk Boxing program, call 933-7050.