Each year, about 400 men and 100 women participate in the Notre Dame club boxing teams. During their off-seasons, volunteers from both teams have joined forces with the South Bend Police Department (SBPD) to teach the sport to local children in a biweekly after school program. Senior Rose Raderstorf currently serves as the program’s president, organizing Notre Dame involvement and working to improve the program further. The students’ work is part of a larger SBPD initiative to get involved with the community youth, organizing camps that give kids opportunities to learn new sports and participate in structured after-school activities, Raderstorf said. Notre Dame students began to volunteer with the SBPD boxing club three years ago, and the program is now known as “Box Like a Champion Today.” “The program developed when the first volunteers saw a need [at the gym] to have better role models and more coaching than what was being provided at the time,” Raderstorf said. “The first volunteers were from the men’s team, and those guys decided to turn it into a program for both club teams to get involved with.” The gym, attached to the Grace Community Baptist Church on Harrison Avenue in South Bend, is open Monday and Wednesday. Raderstorf said the program serves both grade school and high school youth, offering cardio workouts and fundamental boxing training. “The gym itself is split into two segments, with the younger kids first and the older group next,” Raderstorf said. “There’s a ring set up in there, and we have mitts and punching bags to practice with too.” Most of the younger kids are just looking for a fun workout, but some of the older participants are trained boxers looking for access to equipment, Raderstorf said. “With the grade school kids, we run laps and do a workout, and afterwards we usually do some form of boxing training, but we try to switch it up to keep them interested,” Raderstorf said. “The older group has 7th and 8th grade boys and some young adults who fight in real competitions in South Bend or Chicago, so this is an actual gym for them to train in. They get a much more intense workout.” The police officers that run the gym know the sport and an outside coach comes in to work with the youth too, Raderstorf said. Senior Ragan Todd, one of the women’s boxing team captains for this year, said she enjoys volunteering in the program and continuing with the sport even after Baraka Bouts ends in November. “It seems like [boxing] is something that there’s an interest in around here, with little kids who just think it’s kind of cool and then older guys there who have won Golden Gloves or other titles,” Todd said. “We have [Mixed Martial Arts] fighters who are focusing on the boxing aspect of their fighting as well as younger kids who look like they don’t do any other form of exercise beyond this.” Both Raderstorf and Todd said one of the program’s major goals is to keep kids busy and involved in the community. “We’re looking to give them an opportunity outside of school for a structured program to keep them safe and give them good options to pass the time,” Raderstorf said. “Another goal is to develop good relationships with the South Bend police and their peers, and it’s definitely a good way to keep kids out of trouble,” Todd said. Raderstorf said many of the children are from lower-income families so this is a unique opportunity for them to try a sport like boxing, which requires a lot of equipment and instruction. “For a lot of them, it’s hard to find something to do after school, and the older kids will acknowledge that there are plenty of other things they could be getting in trouble with if they didn’t have this to do,” Raderstorf said. “The one-on-one mentoring and coaching is really important to them too. The volunteers and police officers are collaborating on plans to add a tutoring aspect to the program, where participants will be encouraged to bring homework to the gym to do after the boxing workout. Raderstorf said this is a major goal for the upcoming semester now that the volunteer base is more regular. “Some people think it’s strange to teach fighting to kids like this, but it’s taught in a very respectful manner so they know how to use the skills properly,” Raderstorf said. “It’s a sport that demands great respect for your opponent, and that translates into other areas of life as well.”
Checking into the break, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team did what was unexpected — it sputtered, tying two games against St. Cloud State. Since then, the Badgers have looked spectacular, soundly sweeping perennial powerhouse Minnesota and a rugged Providence team. The team’s strong play to begin the second half of the season has head coach Mark Johnson extremely pleased. Right now, with a .896 winning percentage (20-1-3), the women in cardinal and white are in exactly the same position as their championship squad from a year ago, and a major reason why can be credited to the play of Meghan — or Meaghan — Francis.Meghan Francis Duggan and Meaghan Francis Mikkelson, that is. Both have the same first and middle names and both have had marvelous seasons for the Badgers.“It’s kind of funny that we both have the same name,” Duggan said. “Mikkelson and I always joke about [it].”Besides sharing the same first and middle name, Duggan and Mikkelson are two of Wisconsin’s rising stars who have emerged as top-tier scoring threats on a team loaded with talent.Duggan, a freshman from Danvers, Mass., is the team’s fourth-leading scorer. Mikkelson is third.In 24 games, Duggan has notched 16 goals to go along with 12 assists. Her 16 goals rank fourth in the nation among freshmen and her 28 points are tied for third. “Duggan is probably the most skilled player on our team, and she’s a freshman,” senior captain Bobbi-Jo Slusar said. “She has unreal hands. Duggan’s very skilled on and off the ice, and she’s a great player and a great person.”It was a sentiment expressed by Mikkelson as well, who referred to Duggan as “a phenomenal player” with a great work ethic.While Duggan’s teammates are impressed with the contributions she has made and the numbers she is logging, the freshman seems unconcerned. Instead, Duggan focuses on winning.“I didn’t even know my numbers,” Duggan said. “Individual achievements aren’t really important to me. As long as the team’s doing well, and we’re winning and playing hard and such — that’s what matters.”Johnson attributes the young forward’s success to the confidence she has gained from playing alongside Patty Kazmaier Award-winner Sara Bauer, and to her work ethic in general.“She’s confident, and being on the front line the past few weeks with Sara and Jinelle certainly helps,” Johnson said. “She does a lot of little things. First of all, she works hard and competes every shift. She wants to get better and she pushes herself to become better.”Mikkelson’s presence resonates on both ends of the ice. From blocking shots with her body on defense to running the things from the point on offense, she does it all.Entering last week’s matchup against the Friars of Providence, Mikkelson had a scoring streak of six games, notching 12 points during that stretch. For the season, the St. Albert, Alberta native leads the NCAA in points by a defenseman with 29. “She has great hands and a great shot,” Duggan said. “She’s smart, makes great decisions, and I think she’s a solid backbone of our team.”But the senior wasn’t always a scoring threat.Before converting to defense prior to the 2005-06 season, Mikkelson scored just 34 points in two seasons. Now, barely over a year and a half later, she has nearly tripled that production. Mikkelson’s play has really opened up things offensively for other players, indicated by her 23 assists this season.“I was lucky that it worked out so well,” Mikkelson said. “It’s really fortunate that the coaches gave me the opportunity to play back there. It seems to be working out really great and … I learn from (the defensemen) each and every game, too. Hopefully I can continue to get better and continue to improve.”Even though Wisconsin appears to have little room for improvement, having suffered just one loss in the past 36 games (32-1-3), head coach Mark Johnson makes sure his players don’t get complacent. He also stresses that the team gives its full effort for an entire 60 minutes — something Wisconsin learned the hard way when St. Cloud State scored two goals in the final eight minutes to skate to a 3-3 tie.“Coach Johnson does a really great job of keeping us focused and working to get better all the time and not to underestimate anyone,” Mikkelson said. “You cannot let up, no matter who your opponent is. That’s when losses happen.”With 10 regular-season games remaining, the dual personality of Meaghan — or Meghan — Francis will do everything in her power to bring home another piece of hardware for the UW women’s hockey team.