There is a figurative river of energy that flows through the building on 14th Avenue North in Columbus — sometimes wild and unrestrained, but always powerful and filled with potential.
For centuries, man has sought to harness to raw power of real rivers to channel it in useful ways. Engineers now use it to produce electricity and promote commerce.
Oliver Miller, 63, is not an engineer. For 41 years now, he has been teaching Taekwondo and boxing at his studio on College Street in Columbus.
Since January, Miller has been teaching the same skills at the Columbus Boys and Girls Club that he has employed for all those years at his studio.
But in some respects, his mission at the club is much like that of an engineer.
“We reached out to him in search of somebody who could help us deal with all the different conflicts here,” said Brittany Turner, the unit director at the club. “We see kids that have conflicts they struggle with, whether it’s at home or school or here. It’s been great.”
Tuesday, Miller’s current class of kids put together a short presentation at the club, followed by a brief ceremony recognizing Miller at “Mentor of the Year.”
Every Tuesday and Thursday, from 4-5 p.m., Miller teaches a group of youths the fundamentals of martial arts — punches, kicks, blocks. It’s become so popular that the club has rotated kids through the program to keep Miller’s participant numbers manageable.
“It’s not the same as it is at my studio,” Miller said. “I only have them for two hours a week and the kids come and go. So what I can teach them about the sport isn’t very much compared to what I do at my place.”
That, said Miller, isn’t the real point anyway.
At the Boys and Girls Club, Miller is looking for a way to divert otherwise troubled kids’ powerful “river of energy” for good.
“What I get out of this is trying to conquer these rascals,” Miller said. “I’m trying to figure them out. Trying to do what keeps them busy, figuring out what they like and don’t like. It’s a challenge for me, but I’ve always liked challenges.”
Turner said the twice-weekly sessions with Miller are all about equipping kids to tame their energy and emotions.
“It’s about giving kids that tool they can use when they are angry or upset, a way to channel that in a more positive way,” she said.
That, said Miller, is also his main objective.
“This generation is a different group. It really is,” he said. “They have so many things to distract them these days. It takes away from being able to get into the gym and running around. That’s the challenge. The kids are going to love you regardless. One minute, they’re mad at you, the next minute, they’re back happy. That’s how it is with kids.
“So the main thing is helping them find ways to use that energy that they like because they’re going to use it one way, a way that’s unacceptable, or another, a way that’s positive,” he added. “What I’m trying to do here is find that positive way.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.