“In my opinion, sports teach you that the more work you’re willing to put into something, the better you’re gonna be and the more you’ll be successful." - Chris Lytle
Welterweight veteran Chris Lytle is a no nonsense fighter in the Octagon, so not surprisingly, he doesn’t mince words when it comes to rising crime rates among the youth of the United States.
“It’s no mystery, there is no ‘why is this happening?’” said Lytle. “You know why this happens. Kids need guidance, role models, and a direction to go in. When your mind is young, you see what you think is a really cool thing or what you aspire to be, and it could be a couple of things. It could be a guy in the gym showing boxing, or you could think an athlete is the greatest, and your mind can form around that and you can be successful. Or you can be around a bunch of guys selling drugs or in a gang, and your mind’s gonna conform to that. When you’re growing up there are a lot of different places where you can go, and it’s no secret that when people don’t find the right things to put their interest in, that’s when they go down the wrong path. And when you see a kid who doesn’t have a chance, that’s a horrible feeling, and you want to help.”
So he is.
Along with longtime trainers Pat McPherson (who is also a detective in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department) and Keith Palmer, Lytle is involved in an initiative that will create the Indy PAL MMA program in Indianapolis, Indiana, to teach boxing, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu, as well as offer academic support and mentoring, at no cost.
“The PAL used to do the same thing with boxing back when I was a kid and a long time before that, and now we’re just trying to move that over to MMA and provide a place where these kids don’t have to pay money to do this,” said Lytle. “You can just come in and work with the Police Athletic League and they’ll provide them with trainers. Pat’s gonna be there, I’ll come in and teach them stuff, and one of my other coaches, Keith Palmer, will teach some boxing.”
The program already has a location secured, but to get the funds needed to provide equipment and other necessities, it has submitted a proposal to the Pepsi “Refresh Everything” campaign, which awards grants to worthy projects. This is certainly one of those.
“These young kids, they’re hungry to learn and they need something like this,” said Lytle, an 11 year MMA vet who also compiled a 13-1-1 pro boxing record. “A lot of them, they don’t have any place to go and nothing to do, and idle time is a bad thing because you’ve got nothing to do besides get in trouble. And they like the UFC, they want to do it, but they have no avenue. Now, when you can catch people’s eyes and get them to see the positive things, like maybe seeing me on TV and then in the gym and saying ‘I want that,’ boom, we could have saved 10, 20, 50 kids who decide that this is the avenue they want to take.”
And as Lytle points out, the Indy PAL MMA isn’t designed to create the next generation of fighters, though there have been plenty of notable fighters who have emerged from PAL programs over the years. It’s meant to give kids an outlet and a positive activity to participate in while teaching them lessons that go beyond learning the proper way to throw a 1-2 or hit a double leg takedown.
“I’ve always been very active in sports, and the older I get, it’s not necessarily the sports, but what the sports teach you,” he said. “In my opinion, sports teach you that the more work you’re willing to put into something, the better you’re gonna be and the more you’ll be successful. I remember growing up, there were some great athletes that were just so naturally gifted that they didn’t have to work as hard; they could just succeed at anything they tried. And you know what, when they got older and they graduated, they were not successful later on in life. They never learned the lesson. Look at who the best coaches are. It’s not the best athlete; it’s the guy who was the overachiever who became a decent player. And it’s because they knew every little facet of what you have to do to get there and how to work hard. I think sports show you that when you really work hard and when you dedicate yourself, it becomes ingrained in your mind and you’re gonna accomplish more than you ever thought you could, and it translates into other parts of your life, and not just sports.”
The Indy PAL MMA’s $50,000 Pepsi Refresh grant proposal is live through May 31 and supporters are encouraged to vote each day at http://www.refresheverything.com/indypalmma.
Supporters can also vote by texting 106352 to Pepsi (73774).