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Team Certified Reaches Beyond the Ring

Off The Cuff with head coach Ernie Haines

Feb. 28, 2017
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As you walk into the Team Certified gym in the basement of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center (531 W. Vliet St.) on Milwaukee’s North Side, you find a haven for Milwaukee kids who’ve taken up the sport of boxing. You’ll also find Head Coach Ernie Haines standing in the corner barking out phrases like, “Move your feet!” and “Keep those jabs straight!” Haines, now retired from the ring, still loves boxing and has enjoyed the transition from fighting to coaching. He started Team Certified in April 2012 and it has grown widely since its inception. Team Certified now has gyms in Milwaukee, Michigan and plans for another in Indianapolis, with 45 fighters, 25 of whom are pro-ranked. To help with the rapid growth, Haines’ friend and fellow boxing enthusiast Tom Reed stepped in. Reed helps with financial needs and acts as a sort of manager for the fighters so Haines can focus on coaching. You can find Haines and his team at the King Center every week from 5-7:30 p.m., Monday-Thursday. “We would practice all week, but these kids got to heal up and get their homework done,” said Haines.

What gave you the idea to start Team Certified?

My son, Ernie Jr., was being bullied in school and it became a problem. He was in second grade and was coming home with his face all bloodied up. It didn’t take long, but eventually, I had enough of it. So I started training him. Other parents who were having the same problem saw me doing this and said, “Why don’t you start training kids for self-defense?” From there I came to the King Center, and they cut me out some space to work. The kids took to boxing and I liked coaching them so what started as a self-defense class has grown into what you see today. Some of the same children I began training in self-defense have turned into professional boxers.

How do you help your boxers outside of the ring?

When a kid comes here, they’re not always on the best path, so we help facilitate the change necessary to get them on that right track. We have laws and rules in place here to make sure they stay on the straight and narrow. One of those rules is, you only get one strike. There’s no room for three strikes these days, so you walk in the door with two and if you get one more you’re out. This rule makes sure that everyone here is serious about not only boxing but becoming better people.

We teach them how to be a part of a team. If one kid comes in here with his pants sagging, which is against our rules, everyone that’s here that day is going to pay. This practice teaches them how to be part of a team but also teaches them that their actions don’t just affect them, they affect everyone around them.

Our pros all sign contracts with us and in that contract is a behavioral clause. It says they can’t act in a way that would be detrimental to the team. They must act and carry themselves in a positive and professional manner. We have this because the pros are role models for the young boxers.

What do you want Team Certified to bring to Milwaukee?

Team Certified is Milwaukee; we started in Milwaukee, we train in Milwaukee and are going to stay in Milwaukee. We see all the benefits and revenues that boxing is bringing to other cities, and we want to bring those profits here. We’ve seen Showtime and HBO sponsor fights in small towns like Toledo, Ohio, and with a little help, we can make that happen here. People don’t realize all the revenues involved in professional boxing. When you put on a professional promotion, it’s substantial. Our goal is to host one of those promotions here this September.

What needs to happen to make that a reality?

Money, but not just donations or investors but sponsorships, too. Anything that can help us get these kids the materials they need to stay. So far, we have funded everything out of our own pockets. Me and Tom have paid for buy-ins, hotels, flights, gear, everything. Spending the money becomes addicting when you see it pay off. You’re seeing these children turn into productive members of society and you’re not paying attention to the money at all. You want to see them succeed so if that means money out of our pockets, that’s fine, but unfortunately the team has outgrown our pockets. We have a Go Fund Me campaign set up. Our goal is $50,000 but like I said before anything helps. 

Visit gofundme.com/team-cf to contribute to Team Certified. 

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