“Editors note: this is part one in a three-part series. Gary Arnold demands respect in the boxing ring. In his heyday, he was a boxer. Now, he is a respected instructor for the youth of Akron. If anyone does something wrong, he’ll stop everyone mid-drill to make sure one person gets it right.””
Editors note: this is part one in a three-part series.
Gary Arnold demands respect in the boxing ring.
In his heyday, he was a boxer. Now, he is a respected instructor for the youth of Akron.
If anyone does something wrong, he’ll stop everyone mid-drill to make sure one person gets it right. Arnold has poured his heart, soul and wallet into his local boxing gym over the last 17 years.
With the help of grants through a number of community foundations, Arnold has been able to transform and shape the Good Shepherd Athletic Club of Akron, located just off S. Main Street, into what it is today.
George Jacobs, a close friend of Arnold’s, founded the Good Shepherd Athletic Club in the late 1980s. At that time, Arnold was attending the University of Akron to become a coach.
On Thanksgiving eve in 1990, Jacobs was working on a car when it fell on him, ending his life.
After he died, I dropped out of school and made it a mission to put the program the way his vision was, Arnold said. When I first started, I was getting help from the Akron Summit County Community Action, and I was funding a lot out of my pockets.
Arnold said funding the athletic club has been difficult but he has always made it work.
If I told you what my income was, you’d say ‘how in the world do you do it, Mr. Arnold?’ I do it with the three g’s. he said. God, guts and get up and go.
Jacobs started the Good Shepherd Athletic Club for at-risk teens to get them off the streets and teach them the fundamentals of boxing. However, boxing isn’t the only thing taught at the Good Shepherd Athletic Club.
The first thing you learn when you walk in the door is to say good evening, Arnold said. It’s a start, but a lot of kids don’t even want to do that.
Arnold said his next rule is mandatory.
You have to pull your pants up, he said. The way I tell the kids is ‘how would you feel if I went to your mother and wore my pants like that in front of her? You’d be ready to hurt me, wouldn’t you?’ And the kids say ‘you’re right,’ and you know what the kid does, he pulls his pants up.
Arnold also molds the character of those he teaches.
We work with self esteem; it’s so important. You have to have kids feel good about themselves, he said. A lot of these kids have been beat down and don’t have a father.
The most father they are going to see is out of me.
Arnold said the boys dress like they belong to a club. However, he has his own dress code.
I like to keep the kids uniform with T-shirts, sweatshirts and jogging pants. I want them to feel like they belong to something, he said. If you see a kid in baggy pants and a black shirt you think he is in a gang. But, if you see a kid with a Good Shepherd Athletic Club shirt on, you think about our gym.
Because the club is a non-profit organization, Arnold has grown to appreciate everything the Good Shepherd Athletic Club has.
It’s good to look at what you have instead of what you don’t have, he said. Instead of analyzing, utilize.
That’s what we do here. We utilize what we do have, we don’t analyze. We’re grateful for whoever wants to help us out.
Although the club is a non-profit organization, Arnold does charge the members an annual fee of less than $100. The club also accepts monetary and equipment donations as well. Currently, the club has treadmills, speed bags, punching bags, a boxing ring and other athletic equipment.
Beyond teaching youth to box, the building that houses the Good Shepherd Athletic Club also hosts an Alcoholics Anonymous program on Saturdays.
We go beyond boxing, we help people with their addictions, Arnold said. If we can’t help you with your problems, we’ll send you to someone who can.
Arnold is also looking into starting a Cocaine Anonymous program on Sunday afternoons at the club.
When Arnold speaks about those he helps, it is obvious he is very proud of them. He became emotional and a sadness came into his eyes.
Sometimes we just sit down in the ring and talk; I ask them ‘why are you here? Why did you come here?’ he said. You’d be amazed at some of the things you’d hear.
Some say ‘I want to show my mother I can be a man.’ Some say ‘I don’t have anyone else to teach me anything, so I come to you, Mr. Arnold.’
Members of all ages belong to the Good Shepherd Athletic Club. On any given night, a 6-year-old beginner may be sharing a bag with a 16-year-old who has been frequenting the club for eight or nine years.
I want to instill dignity, self-respect and the fact that ‘you are somebody,’ in these kids, Arnold said. Once you can do that, you can take that somewhere else and plant that seed and next thing you know, you have someone doing something productive.
That’s where my mind is at.
Arnold said it’s not all about boxing. To him, boxing symbolizes life.
It’s all based on love. You have to have other things to get through life, Arnold said. You have to have education, respect and dignity. And you have to remember nobody owes you anything.
What you get in life you have to earn, I remind these kids of that everyday.
Arnold has always stressed the importance of education to those at the Good Shepherd. He said two of his former club members had the opportunity to advance and box for the United States in the Olympics, but decided to pursue their college degrees.
I stress education to these kids because you can always come back to boxing, he said.
Not all of Arnold’s kids decide to go to college and get degrees. A select few have turned what they learned at the Good Shepherd Athletic Club into a career in the military.
“” #1.1361524:1162536457.png:20071113_boxer_dd.png:Arnold instructs a teenaged member of the Good Shepherd Athletic Club. :Dillon Deshong”