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SKIES Unlimited Boxing Academy

Life lessons in, out of the ring

Young boxers gain insights into life while learning sport

Published: 01:01PM October 10th, 2013
Life lessons in, out of the ring

Dean Siemon/Northwest Guardian

Ashton Cook, 10, goes through a combination drill with instructor Lydell Spry during a boxing class Sept. 25 at CYSS SKIES Unlimited on JBLM Lewis Main.

An hour into class, the three children in the SKIES Unlimited Boxing Academy at Joint Base Lewis-McChord lined up and faced the wall. The young boxers prepared for a drill to demonstrate their punches in specific combinations.

Both Ashton Cook, 10, and his sister Abigail, 8, alternated jabs and hooks with each hand without missing a step.

Kavon Foster, 7, was still learning after less than a month in the program. Ashton asked the instructor, Lydell Spry, to show Foster, and they practiced together until Foster showed the coach he could do it himself.

This is nothing new in the class. In fact, it’s the responsibility of everyone in class.

“Someone was patient with you, kind with you and repetitious with you until you got it,” Spry said. “Now you have to display that same trait with a new kid in class.”

Passing the knowledge forward is one of the life lessons Spry teaches kids in his boxing academy taught Mondays through Thursdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the SKIES Unlimited building on Lewis Main.

SKIES Unlimited — Schools of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills — is an academy under JBLM Child, Youth and School Services that offers dance, gymnastics and karate.

Spry has taught boxing in the SKIES academy for eight years and uses boxing as a vehicle to teach youths important life lessons. It worked for him growing up in South Central Los Angeles.

Back in 1972, Spry was 13 when he wanted to be a police officer and enrolled in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Police Explorers program.

Unfortunately, he was unable to continue when his parents couldn’t afford to buy him a uniform. Afterwards, one of the mentors approached Spry about what he wanted to do in life.

The officer took him to a boxing training center in L.A. and a young Spry was introduced to a setting he never saw before.

“You could smell the Pine-Sol in the air and the smell of leather gloves and the sweat from a guy over there jumping rope,” Spry said.

As long as Spry behaved in school and kept his grades up, the police officer picked him up after school to take him to the ring.

Spry’s passion followed him through college at California State University Fullerton and into the U.S. Army when he made the All-Army boxing team while stationed at then-Fort Lewis. He also won the U.S. Army in Europe Boxing Championships while assigned to Baumholder, Germany.

While medical conditions hindered his boxing career, he remained in the sport of boxing as an instructor at Thurston County Police Athletic League’s Elite Boxing Academy.

Since 2005, he’s focused on teaching his students about being diligent, steadfast, responsible, accountable and reliable. One of the main conditions of the program is that youths stay up to date with their schoolwork.

“That was the carrot that was placed in front of me,” Spry said. “The earlier we can teach these kids, the better students they’ll be at school.”

The boxing academy also uses a cross-pollination method of teaching, focusing on how kids can learn from each other regardless of any social, physical or financial differences between them.

The method of student-to-student teaching translates to school when students help each other another with homework.

“The thing is you can learn from that person, so it’s more than just boxing — it’s about life skills and how you interact,” Spry said.

The academy has also taught students about not waiting for someone to ask questions if you don’t understand something. The same goes when you see something wrong and taking the initiative action necessary instead of waiting for someone else to take care of the problem.

Spry said it’s been one part of the boxing academy that has helped students who were introverted break out of their shell and become more socially active.

Deniel Span, Foster’s mother, said her son volunteers more around the house and has been excited to participate in less than one month in the program.

“He normally doesn’t want to do anything,” Span said. “He usually gets somebody else to do it.”

Hearing reviews like Span’s gives Spry the “atta boy” he appreciates and why he enjoys using boxing as a learning tool for children.

“When you’re teaching things from different angles, you teach people a little bit of everything,” Spry said.

Parents who wish to enroll their children in SKIES Unlimited’s boxing program, or any other academy, can go online at www.jblmmwr.com/cyss and clicking the WebTrac tab. Enrollment can also be done by calling 253-967-2977 or at their building on Garcia Blvd.