Mentors help Boys and Girls Club
Just behind a tall blue, plastic curtain, the gym bursts with organized chaos. The plastic undulates as small bodies press and lean into it. The air fills with children’s shrieks and laughter.
On the other side of the curtain, Mike Trisler is striving to bring order to the chaos. Trisler, 44, is a weekly fixture at the Boys and Girls Club at South Tahoe Middle School. A Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do instructor, Trisler donates his time and talents to the kids.
His students – a few dressed in the traditional belted white shirt and pants – form two lines facing a blue curtain that separates them from the many other club activities. Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial art that helps teach discipline and focus.
“They focus without really realizing it and that turns around and helps their grades,” Trisler said.
The children mimic Trisler’s moves. When they mess up, they’re given a set of push-ups. These are completed as quickly as possible as to not miss out on the lesson.
Trisler is ever present to offer an individual tip and helping hand as he molds his pupils into the proper positions. Some still have trouble paying attention, but it’s hard when so many things are going on around them.
Eric Cady, 9, has been coming to the class since September. She says her reason for taking the instruction is self-defense.
“It’s really fun, but I took it because if I was in trouble one day, I could protect myself,” she said.
Cady doesn’t mind the pushups and thinks Trisler is fun.
Rick Johnson, father of 12-year-old Nate, the most advanced student in the class, thinks a little discipline and activity with other children can only be good for his son.
“He really likes this and it’s an incentive to keep his grades up,” Johnson said, while watching his son from the sidelines. “He’s got their attention,” he commented, pointing to Trisler.
Several parents show up early to watch their children. All are thankful for Trisler’s donation and amazed that their children yell out “Yes sir,” to his questions.
“My son is at the age now where he needs to learn discipline and some respect,” Anna Pike said, watching her 8-year-old son Christopher. “I want to encourage him to keep coming to these classes.”
The kids linger after class vying for Trisler’s attention. Parents have questions about uniforms. After the crowd filters out, Trisler talks about his sport and his own experience with cultivating self-control.
“I had a heck of a temper when I first started,” Trisler admitted. “Tae Kwon Do cured me of that. I teach about respect and control rather than devastation. You don’t need to break a guy’s face to get a point across. I’m not out to make them lean, mean fighting machines. I’m trying to make them better people. You want to grab them all in and say ‘don’t do this and don’t do that,’ but some are going to slip away.”
Trisler said he incorporates the children’s behavior at home into his testing. They might not pass a test if they didn’t clean their room that week or do their homework.
“I ask for the parents’ input. I might ask them if they think they deserve to pass,” Trisler said.
“A couple of Trisler’s students have passed the testing to get their first belt, a yellow belt.
“A lot of the kids come to the class on a seasonal basis so it’s hard for them to progress,” Trisler said. “In mastering Tae Kwon Do maybe 25 percent is the coach. It’s the heart in the student. It’s the child and their desire to want to do it. To develop the skill it takes a good attitude.”
Trisler said some of his students at the club have that desire.
“Some of the kids are dedicated,” Trisler said. “Those kind of students are hard to find and I would probably teach them for free at my center.”
At the end of the class Trisler likes to see happy kids.
“If I’m doing my job, they’re having fun,” he said.
The Community Oversight Council and Family Connections have children in need of mentors. Anyone interested in becoming a mentor can contact Lynn Nolan at (530) 542-0740 to fill out an application.
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