2019-01-10 / Neighbors

So. Maine Boxing Club is in your corner

Marty’s Community Corner

The Southern Maine Boxing Club has a remarkable story. With a history in Biddeford that dates back to 1953, the club was founded by former City Councilor Dick Potvin. Holder of a 30-0 record, Dick was the 1950 Maine State Golden Gloves welterweight champion and had good prospects for a pro career before he was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army in Korea. Wounded in combat, shot in the head by a sniper and lucky to survive, he was told he never would walk again – let alone box. However, Dick was a strong, persistent man, and within a year of the injury he was back on his feet and thinking of forming a boxing club so that other young people could succeed through the sport as he did.

Mr. Potvin believed so strongly in the power of the sport of boxing to help young people stay active and positive that he opened a small gym in the garage of the family home on Elm Street. His son Jay, who would go on to have a promising boxing career himself, started helping out at an age of 6 and by age 12, was helping with coaching. Dick died in 2013, but Southern Maine Boxing Club lives on at 140 Main St. in Biddeford with Coach Jay now running the program. Jay, who works full time as a chef at Sodexo, runs the operation on an entirely volunteer basis – with the help of dedicated students, parents, board members and some great volunteers.

Although adults can participate, the club is aimed at students ages 9 to 18. For a fee of as little as $25 per month (plus once-a-year USA Boxing dues of $70), a student can receive coaching from beginner to advanced. Partial scholarships are available based on financial need. All of the work is non-contact until the higher levels. As students progress, they become eligible to spar in the ring, but not until they’ve completed many months of training and only with appropriate safety gear. Boxing today is not like Hollywood portrays it; it is a safe, structured sport. People of many walks of life can enjoy and benefit from boxing. For example, another boxing program called Rock Steady Boxing is aimed at seniors with Parkinson’s disease and is a proven way to help take on the debilitating condition.

It is a sport that develops purpose and dedication, so lacking in today’s world. Kids get individualized attention but also become part of the boxing community. A typical program consists of two one-hour classes per week. On the day you enroll, you are assigned to Level 1, which consists of mechanics, stance, combinations, footwork, balance and timing, as well as basic nutrition and selfcare. After completion of the customized level one program and moving at the student’s own pace, participants can move up to Level 2, which includes learning how to hit the bags and doing workouts, but still no contact. For the more advanced participants (and after considerable focus and persistence,) Level 3 is more advanced training and contact in Olympic-style boxing. At this level, some students are eligible for competition, but one of their most significant roles is to help with younger children. The program is not gender specific, and in fact some of the strongest boxers are women. Anyone seeking focus and purpose in their training and in life can benefit from a well-coached boxing program.

In a recent example, one young man arrived at the program at a tough place at age 16. He was overweight and unsure of himself in life and in school. Through work with Coach Jay and the other students, he found a focus through the sport of boxing. Boxing is a sport where progress and deficiencies are clear. You have your wins and losses, and you see your flaws when you lose, and sparring with the competition helps you get better. This particular young man never actually competed on a formal basis in the ring. Instead, his championship was getting accepted to one of the top colleges in the country, where he is headed this fall.

The success is catching on, and enrollment at the Southern Maine Boxing Club is close to the current program capacity of 30. The kids are having fun, progressing and improving, and there is good word of mouth. The club is looking for grants to expand the physical space, add equipment and cover costs (there is no paid staff) to be able to accommodate more students.

The gym is open from 5 to 7 p.m. It is best to make an appointment, which you can do by calling Coach Jay at 229-2136. Adults who want to join should contact the club.

Today, the club’s biggest challenge is raising money to grow. If you would like to donate or to learn more, go to its Facebook page or website (which was built by one of the students) at southernmaineboxingclub.com. The club is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and you may also mail tax deductible donations to the Southern Maine Boxing Club at P.O.BOX 1154 Biddeford, ME 04005.

Marty Grohman is the owner of a subscription recycling business called Hellocycle and writes on items of community interest in Biddeford and Saco. Marty hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show. Find it on Apple Podcasts or Google Play. He welcomes your email at martin.j.grohman@gmail.com.

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