News: Boxing coach teaches kids values beyond the ring
Story by Sgt. Mark Miranda
JOINT BASE LEWIS McCHORD, Wash. – Nine-year-old Adam Balvanz checks the tape on his hand once more, striking the palm of his other hand with his wrapped knuckles. After stretching for a few minutes, he and the other boys line up side by side, ready to run through their drills.
The slender arms of these boys look barely strong enough to lift their large blue boxing gloves, but they do so with quick, controlled movements.
A former soldier, Coach Lydell Spry is firmly in control of the boys’ training. Like a Spartan combat trainer, his loud voice is as effective as a whip for keeping his boys focused.
“One, two. One, two. Faster this time! Pay attention! One, two. Listen closely – double jab!” come the stream of drill movements as the boys throw jabs and different strikes.
Spry’s training for children interested in boxing is offered through JBLM’s School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills Unlimited program.
“We start out with the rudimentary skills: wrapping their hands, the six steps to get into the basic boxing stance. We move into stretches and warm-ups before going into a series of drills,” said Spry.
Boxing is a unique skill, and Spry seeks to build confidence, self- esteem and a level of discipline that his trainees can carry with them throughout the course of their lives.
“It’s a brutal sport that requires a lot of discipline, and part of what I want these kids to learn is to be accountable for their actions,” said Spry, who has coached boxing since 1984.
Parents who have children training under Spry enjoy his style of coaching and mentoring.
“The self-discipline involved is something I wanted my son to learn, and it shows in his schoolwork and the change in his eating habits,” said Chief Warrant Officer Greg Balvanz.
“My son Adam sees firsthand the cause and effect of working hard to succeed; and with boxing the feedback is immediate,” Balvanz said.
Kristy Stanton’s eight-year-old son Matthew is one of Spry’s trainees.
“He’s a functioning autistic child, so taking part in this has been good for him. The consistency, structured environment has helped him fall into expectations that we also have for him at home. An individual sport like this has also been a good outlet for his energy,” said Stanton, whose family has been stationed at JBLM for five years.
Spry, who grew up in Los Angeles, continued boxing through college and while serving in the Army.
“Being a coach is my way of giving back to the military,” said Spry. “And what I’m trying to do is grow the program here, gather support for funding to build a facility on JBLM where boxers can train.”
The SKIES Unlimited boxing classes are held in a partitioned section of the JBLM Youth Center’s basketball court.
“Other sports, there’s facilities for them. We have pools for swimmers, tracks for runners, ball courts, baseball diamonds and soccer fields. Boxers need a ring, a gym – an appropriate place for dedicated training at all levels,” said Spry.
Ultimately, Spry would like the program to evolve as a stepping stone for boxers who want to get registered with USA Boxing for competition.
Over the years, boxers who trained under Spry and stayed with it have gone on to bigger things in and out of the ring.
“Some have gotten masters degrees, some females have gone on to compete at national levels. What I try to instill in them is determination to never quit, even in tough times,” said Spry.