The Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League’s boxing program is making a triumphant comeback thanks to a new coach and generous grant funding from Clearwater For Youth. This exciting development offers an opportunity for youngsters of all skill levels to get involved in the sport.
The program was paused while the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League (PAL) searched for a new certified USA Boxing Coach. Now, under the leadership of newly appointed Coach Mario Perez, PAL’s youth boxing program aims to not only instill discipline, physical fitness and self-confidence, but also to provide a positive outlet for children and teenagers to stay engaged and active in a structured, supportive environment.
The program meets Monday through Thursday from 4-7 p.m. Coach Perez says the first hour teaches kids self-discipline and full-body health through exercises like weightlifting and cardio. The second hour is about boxing techniques, body posture, footwork, and proper boxing form. The remaining hour is open gym, giving participants a chance to continue working out, socialize, do homework, or just relax.
“It’s not just punching a bag,” says Coach Perez. “It is actually a true program where every need – physical, intellectual and emotional – could get to a higher level.”
“At the beginning, it was a little tough, because they’re kids; they just want to play, and now you have a guy telling them to do push-ups,” Perez laughs. “They’re on a different level now where they’re leaders, and I want them to see the difference when you take care of your body, mind and soul.”
The boxing program is also thriving thanks to Clearwater For Youth (CFY), a nonprofit that supports youth athletics programs and organizations. Although CFY provides grant funding to organizations throughout Pinellas County, PAL’s program is the only boxing program CFY currently supports, making it a unique way to improve children’s lives in the Lealman community.
“We’ve already supported Police Athletic League in the past, but when we were approached about possibly funding a boxing program, that got everybody excited back at work,” says Eric Harris, CFY Program Manager. “We believe that anyone who wants to participate in a program like this should be able to participate. We don’t want to let money or something like that get in the way.”
The grant funding from CFY helps provide essential resources so PAL can purchase equipment, cover operational costs, and ease the financial burden of running the program so coaches and leadership can focus on what matters most: creating impactful early life experiences for kids in Lealman.