Boxing: Beastly Sport to Some, Path to Self-Esteem to Others

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George Block By George Block

I was wrong.

I spent the last three years working on the near Westside.  I got to know Jason Mata, first as the president of the Prospect Hills Neighborhood Association, then as the director of the Advocates Youth Boxing Program. I couldn’t put the two together in my head.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was a founder of the San Antonio Sports Foundation back in 1984 and am the current chairman.  In that role, I had always fought against boxing.  I thought that we probably should not support a sport whose object is to damage your opponent’s brain.

I met Jason for lunch.  I told him that I didn’t really think we should be supporting  kids trying to knock each other unconscious.  He laughed.  “We do non-contact boxing.”

Future champs line up with role models and program supporters.

Non-contact boxing?  “This isn’t about boxing,” Mata continued.  “This is about all those ‘selfs’, you know: self- image, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline.”  By now I was leaning forward over my caldo pescado.

Jason Mata is also a social worker, which made the social worker/boxing coach seem like an oxymoron, until he started to explain his world view.  “Kids’ self-image comes from their peer group.  The best thing we can do as parents is give them a great peer group, surrounded by adults who care.

“Their self-confidence comes from doing something they have never done before.  Self-esteem comes from doing something they thought they could never do.  Self-discipline comes from wanting to do it better and better.

“We just use boxing as a tool.  90% of them will never get in the ring and when they do, they leave our (Advocates) program and join the boxing club.  We first want to give them a safe place after school.  Next, we want to get them in shape.  We use all the boxing fitness routines to do that.  Then we start teaching them new things: speed bag, heavy bag, footwork, sparring with a coach using mitts.

“Boxing is ‘different’.  If their self-image can be as a boxer, then they won’t be afraid to be different in other ways.  They can avoid the drug dealers.  They can be good students.  They can be athletes in school.

This isn’t just for boys. All children need programs that encourage wellness and fitness.

“It’s really all about our neighborhood.  There is a lot of negative stuff going on around here.”  Mata pointed out the window toward the drug dealers on the corner.  “We don’t want them to become street fighters, in fact, we kick them out if they do, but we do want them to know that they can take care of themselves.

“Once they feel like they can take care of themselves, they can take care of each other.  Once they start taking care of each other, they can take care of their community.”  Suddenly the social worker/boxing coach/neighborhood association president all made sense.

I was wrong…again.

NOTE: The Advocates Youth Boxing Program has received national recognition, but like so many vital programs on the west side, it is struggling to stay alive.  To CONTRIBUTE, please go to

To see some of their NATIONAL RECOGNITION, please go to


George Block recently stepped down as CEO of Haven for Hope and is now Chairman of the Board for both San Antonio Sports, as well as Voices for Children. You can reach him at


7 thoughts on “Boxing: Beastly Sport to Some, Path to Self-Esteem to Others

  1. This warmed my heart. I am so glad this is happening!
    Growing up with a Golden Gloves Champ for a dad, speed bags, heavy bags, etc were part of the scenery. He also started a boxing club for young men (and let me hang around as their kinder-mascot/glove girl)teaching them about respect and discipline. My dad taught the catechism class at the church that hosted the club, so there was a Bible Study element as well, which the guys surprisingly seemed to love.
    My memories of that club were seeing my dad mentoring and encouraging guys who, in some cases, didn’t have that kind of guidance from anywhere else. They came because boxing was “cool” but they got so much more than that!

    • That is so great that you and your dad were able to impact the lives of some young men through Boxing… Boxing is a tool to teach so many other Character Building components.
      Getting these young men into and understanding Faith is one of the best things that you guys did.

      Thank you and your dad for doing that work.

      Jason Mata and Family

  2. Thanks Jason,
    Working with those young men has been a highlight in my life. I know you share those feelings yourself. I applaud your effoets.

    Toby Stolhandske-Bekah’s Dad

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