How A Connecticut YMCA Is Crafting Future Champions

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Posted on 03/16/2022

By: Sean Crose

“We have a kid in the boxing room right now,” Paul Norris tells me. “He’s 225 pounds. He pushed my tooth in the other day.” We’re standing in the middle of the basketball court of the Naugatuck, Connecticut YMCA, surrounded by children being trained by experts. They kids aren’t at basketball practice; however, they’re working on their boxing skills. The hoops may well be present at each end of the court, but the young people here – both boys and girls – are focused on gloves, heavy bags and pad work. And, in the midst of it all stands Norris, his wife Angelica, and his father-in-law, Perry, offering support – as well as the tricks of the trade.

The Norris clan is the perfect family to run the Naugatuck
YMCA’s boxing program. Paul, Angelica, and Perry all have strong boxing
backgrounds. Indeed, each looks to still be close to fighting shape. Perhaps
that’s why the gym was packed with future boxers when the 2022 program opened this
past winter.

Mark LaFortune, the Chief Executive Officer of the Naugatuck
YMCA, is open in his gratitude “to have a boxing program and instructors like
we do.” And in case you’re wondering, the program is not a paying gig for the
Norris’. “I volunteer and I love it,” says Paul. Angelica is of the same mind. “I
love it,” she says. “I carry on my legacy…my oldest son helps us out and now my
little one is doing it.” The family knows something people of similar backgrounds
can attest to – that boxing is a sport that remains with the participant long
after the last ring battle. This is evidenced by Perry.  “Since I was thirteen years old,” the sixty-something
responded when I asked how long he’s been involved with the fight game.

The Naugatuck YMCA’s boxing program isn’t just a way for
kids to pass the time, however. Those who do well and are old enough are sent
to nearby Bridgeport where they are prepared for more rigorous competition. “We
move ‘em on,” says Paul. What makes the Norris family’s program unique is that
it flies in the face of the adage that boxing is a sport of previous a era.
This is a local boxing program that is not only alive, but that offers outlets
for less conventional training. The Norris’ work with children on the spectrum
and well as people with Alzheimer’s.  “I
was just asked to do the Parkinson’s (boxing) program,” says Paul.

Not only does the Norris family find boxing good competition
for the young, they know it can be useful out of the gym, as well, both psychologically
and physically. “Our motto,” says Paul, “is don’t start a fight, but always
know how to finish one.”

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