“Teamwork!” the first graders yelled as they clambered over one another to get a chance to throw a punch.
“Remember, you are all on the same team so cheer for each other,” John Sherman, one of the trainers from Title Boxing Club, said.
In order to promote good health and fun exercise alternatives, the boxing club, based out of Forest Hills on Austin Street, visited PS 28, located at 109-10 47 Ave. in Corona on Tuesday, to teach seven first-grade classes about fitness and making the right choices to fit exercise into their daily routine.
“We want kids to exercise and understand that eating well goes with exercising well,” Danny Azzo of Title Boxing said. “You need both to be fit and healthy. It’s not just about obesity, it’s about living a healthy lifestyle.”
The children were instantly drawn to the idea of wearing boxing gloves and giving their best right hooks and upper cuts but Sherman and co-trainer Alex Arias were quick to remind the children that boxing is not something that should be used against one another.
“The people who come to our gym do boxing in a controlled environment,” Azzo said. “There’s no sparring or anything. You’re not hitting anything but a bag or mitts.“
The idea for the program came about after Christina Kollbeck, a special education teacher at PS 28, joined the boxing club to battle her own weight problems. She is now working with Title Boxing Club to drive the ongoing message to children that fitness is an important part of every person’s life.
“There are a number of teachers who are members, and we’re here for any teacher or principal who would like us to talk to their students about exercising and health as well,” Azzo said.
Azzo already has two additional schools lined up for his trainers to visit.
The hour-long session wasn’t just about uppercuts and jabs; part of the program involved learning proper stretch and warm-up techniques, discussing healthy foods and meditating.
“Repeat after me everyone: All exercise is good exercise,” trainer Liz Bustamante said to the kids after they finished drawing their favorite healthy snacks.
After coloring, Bustamante led the children in a quick meditation.
“It’s important to work our bodies but we also have to relax our bodies and our minds,” she said.
While the first-graders were understandably most excited about putting on the boxing gloves and pounding a punching bag, a majority of them seemed genuinely interested in the health discussion too.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have any sort of console but now that’s what everyone has practically attached to them,” Azzo said. “I want to give kids the chance to just play outside like I used to.”
After the boxing session was over and the students lined up with their teachers to go back to class, one little boy turned to his friend, pointing to a shiny champion belt one of the trainers had brought.
“I want to get good enough so that I can get one of those,” he said, flexing his muscles. “I want to have a big champion belt to wear.”