Daisy Garcia-Montoya 
Education Reporter

At the Police Athletic League (PAL) of Kansas City, one coach is on both sides of the ring. 

Deyanira Gudino,   better known as “Coach DD,” has been a vital component in the expansion, and development, of PAL’s boxing program. Unlike others , Coach DD was a former youth PAL boxing athlete, before returning in early adulthood to lead the program. 

As an 11-year-old, Coach DD said she faced bullying in school. She tried to manage this situation, however, it wasn’t until she found PAL during a class trip that she said she found a way to  cope with these challenges.

Young Coach DD during early boxing days | Photo Courtesy of Coach DD

“I remember seeing a woman talking about being the boxing coach and I said, ‘That’s cool, I like that because I saw all the other sports were with all men and she was the only one.’ I remember thinking, ‘I want that’ so, I went home and told my mom, ‘I want to do boxing,” Coach DD said. 

Although her parents were cautious of this new boxing interest with its male-dominated history — they eventually agreed. 

“Once I was enrolled I talked to the boxing coach and she asked me why I wanted to do boxing and I said because girls were messing with me and I could use this as a way to defend myself,” Coach DD said. “She replied, ‘I don’t coach boxing so you can go in a fight, I coach boxing because this is a sport.’ All I said was okay. I was scared, but with time, I learned to trust.”

As her skills progressed,registration opened for USA Boxing. Previously, Coach DD had kept her undocumented status  a secret due to fear, but with registration, she decided to let her coaches know. PAL coaches and officers all became involved in her case, allowing her to compete. She won local and regional fights, which eventually led her to a national title at the age of 12. 

Today, Coach DD has returned to PAL full-time, now  leading others inside the ring. 

With three skill-levels available, and nearly 60 children involved in its program, she said her schedule revolves around not only teaching  boxing ins and outs but also how to navigate life and school. 

“I’m obsessed with these kids,” Coach DD said. “We feed them everyday, so most of the time, I’ll sit with them and talk. Lately we have gotten many kids that speak Spanish only, and it’s so beautiful because I try to get them comfortable to ask me questions in English and I just remember myself as a kid.”

Coach DD during a match.  | Photo Courtesy of Coach DD

Even with language barriers, Coach DD said her athletes remain consistent and eager to continue developing their skills.  She teaches them about discipline with the hopes of empowering them to grow beyond an athlete. 

“I have my higher level boxers feeling empowered and helping out the beginners, talking to them and teaching them about what they need to do in order to compete,” Coach DD said. 

Her long-time presence at the PAL and athlete familiarity, has led parents to seek  guidance in athlete communication. 

“It really does take a village to raise a kid, and I am slowly realizing that without being a parent myself,” Coach DD said. “I am part of the village that is raising these kids. These parents trust me to help make a decision, helping their child to motivate them to do well in school and finding a way where they can still do both.” 

With  help from other PAL officers, tutoring is also offered to ensure consistency of athlete’s grades.  Additionally, as participants begin the part-time job search, Coach DD and PAL  works to secure resources and  opportunities for its students.

Looking to expand,Coach DD said she considered  taking a group of  boxers to visit other PAL facilities. She shared her idea of visiting Tampa Bay, FL’s PAL facility with Coach Swag, who turned the idea into a reality.

Coach DD and fellow boxer | Photo Courtesy of Coach DD

Coach DD said  to her, the trip will not only provide students with more knowledge on PAL and boxing but also show there’s more to life and other possibilities available, if they remain disciplined and motivated. 

“I give all the credit to Coach Swag because she helped organize the itinerary, our plan to our Board of Directors and now we are taking 10 kids to Tampa Bay in August,” Coach DD said. “They’ll get to visit the PAL there and then we will get to explore the city. It’s very exciting because many of these kids have never seen the beach or been on a plane. It’ll show them that there’s something outside the Northeast, outside Kansas City and it’s important that they have that opportunity.” 

While they await this trip, Coach DD said  she wants to continue showing PAL participants  success stories of Kansas City residents. Also, she understands them as a former PAL participant, athlete and someone who grew up in the same streets.

“I think it’s just important for them to know that I understand them and that they have somebody that they can trust,” Coach DD said. “Someone who speaks English and Spanish, who knows about being Latina. I just want to make sure these kids see the value in themselves because I see the value in them. I really do, I know these kids and we are just really excited for Tampa.”