Up for a challenge: The girls of Stick N Move
It isn't the sparring or the high level of physical activity or even the fact that they're females in a male dominated sport that has proven most challenging for the girls of the Stick N Move boxing gym.
"It's the mental part of it," said Jiselle "GiGi" Castano, a 12-year-old at Northeastern Middle School. "Anyone can get into physical shape, but the mental part, not everyone can do that. You have to learn to think just the right amount."
A close second? Making sure they maintain their weight for upcoming matches, said Jahdiya Jordan, a freshman at William Penn. She said she had to watch her entire family eat pizza last week while she was stuck with a "very sad-looking salad" so she wouldn't go over weight for the tournament the girls had in South Carolina this past weekend.
It was worth it though, said Adriana Dorm, an 11-year-old at McKinley K-8. All four girls managed to pull out a win. And for all but one of them, it was the first time they fought in an official competition.
"I was scared ... but then she hit me and it just felt like it was nothing," Adriana said. "I was proud of myself and everyone. I was crying for everyone."
In spite of their victories and intense training regimen — two hours, seven days a week — people still have a hard time believing the girls actually box.
"People are surprised by it a lot of the time," said A'Nyah Wray, a 12-year-old who attends Central York Middle School. "I get a lot of compliments, but people in school are always saying, 'Oh, you can't really fight.'"
Not just boxing: Stick N Move Boxing, the gym almost hidden behind New Grounds Roasting Co. on West Market Street, was founded by Antwoine Dorm in 2009 because there wasn't a place around where kids could learn the sport. But it was never only about the boxing.
Part of the philosophy behind Stick N Move, which in addition to athletic training provides kids with academic tutoring and mentoring, is to keep kids safe and off the streets. The gym, through a partnership with York College, has a tutor available for all of its athletes, and the students from the college receive a credit in return.
"I had bad grades when I first started here," Jahdiya said. "Coach said if I didn't get them up to at least a C average, I wouldn't be able to box here."
Last year she pulled her average up to a 3.2 and this year as a freshman is maintaining a 3.5.
A'Nyah said it forced her to care about her schoolwork.
"I wasn't doing well in school and I had some anger problems," she said. "I just didn't really care about it before I started. Now I do, now I do my work, now I have a 4.0."
It isn't just bad grades that could get the boxers in trouble though, whether they get suspended or caught stealing,
"If you're in trouble outside, you're in trouble in here," Adriana said.
Working harder: The girls said they spar with everyone at Stick N Move, their coach, each other and the boys.
"We spar with the boys, and sometimes we beat up the boys," Jahdiya said. "We train harder than most boxers, I think."
All the work involved has not only helped them to be better athletes, but better people.
"It taught me not to procrastinate," Jiselle said. "If you're not going to get it done then who is?"
Both Adriana and A'Nyah agreed that the sport gave them confidence and discipline.
"I feel different now, I feel like I can take on anything," Adrianna said.
Jahdiya said people should expect big things from the foursome, moving forward.
"They're going to see us winning a lot," she said. "Because there's such a small amount of us doing it, we could be training for a match a year from now, it could be tomorrow. You really don't know. But that's what makes us work so much harder. I've been here for a year and I had my first match last week, it makes you want to win that much more."
— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at firstname.lastname@example.org.