Letters

Letters 8-18-2014

The Climate Clarified

Climate change isn’t an easy subject. A class I’m taking compared it to medicine in a way that was helpful for me: Climate scientists are like planetary physicians. Our understanding of medicine is incomplete, but what we know is useful...

Beware Non-Locally Grown

The article “Farm Fresh?” couldn’t be any more true than exactly stated. As an avid shopper at the local farm markets I want to know “exactly” what I am buying, from GMO free to organic or not organic, sprayed or not sprayed and with what...

Media Bias Must End

I wish to thank Joel Weberman for his letter “Seeking Balanced Israel Coverage.” The pro-Palestinian bias includes TV news coverage...

Proud of My President

The world is a mess. According to many conservative voices, it would not be in such a mess if Obama was not the president. I am finally understanding that the problem with our president is that he is too thoughtful, too rational, too realistic, too inclined to see things differently and change his mind, too compassionate to be the leader of a free world...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Fighting for your life
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Fighting for your life

Anne Stanton - November 2nd, 2009
Fighting for Your Life
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 I’d laugh at him. I know I could drop that kid in the ring, but I don’t have to. When I can spar every other day, basically I can do it and not get in trouble. Unless I’m backed in the corner, I ain’t 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 spring—a month before school ended.

“I would come home, so scared of my dad. Living with my mom has changed my life. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s all my dad’s 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.

There’s 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 shouldn’t be getting mad about. ‘Me and mom got in an argument.’ ‘What happened?’ He’ll tell me what I should have done. It really makes sense. He’s a really smart guy.”

Katrina May, Tarrant’s mom, can’t say enough about Bustance. “He’s 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. It’s 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.’ That’s 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 can’t 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 don’t 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 who’s going to be good or even great.”

Tarrant, at 135 pounds, shows real promise. He’s a swift hitter and eager. There have been many like him who’ve 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 it’s so hard and provable, and they don’t want to do it anymore. They conquered something, they did it.”

And Bustance leaves this parting advice (and he’s full of advice): If you don’t want to see your kid get in trouble as a teen, you need to be consistent with them when they’re young.

“You can’t 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, you’re 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, he’s going to be a jerk the next eight to 10 times. It’s that simple.”



To help support the Traverse City At Risk Boxing program, call 933-7050.

 
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