Beat The Streets - New York City Wrestling

On March 1, 2017, the Positive Coaching Alliance announced their 2017 Double-Goal Coach Award National Winners. Over 2,000 nominations were whittled down to 150 finalists, and were further reduced to the 50 national winners. Among the 50 names on the winners' list was BTS Junior League coach and Unity Prep English teacher, Joe Eassa.

Eassa began his wrestling career just outside of Baltimore, in Ellicot City, Maryland. He attended Ellicot City's Howard High School, where he was a state qualifier. Additionally, he was a member of the All-State Academic team. He continued to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the NCWA division for three years. Unfortunately, a recurring injury forced Eassa to sit out of his senior season.

Though Eassa had initially started helping some area high schools back when he was an undergraduate, it was during his first year teaching that Eassa became involved with Beat the Streets Baltimore. In fact, Eassa helped start one of the first wrestling programs for BTS Baltimore.

After two years of teaching and coaching in Baltimore, Eassa moved to New York City. Luckily for Beat the Streets New York and the young wrestlers of Unity Prep Charter School, the move didn't mean the end of Eassa's relationship with BTS. Eassa has been involved with BTSNY for four years now.

Eassa is one of the seventh-grade English teachers at Unity Prep and believes that being a wrestling coach makes his role as a teacher easier. "I am able to build relationships with my toughest students. [Being a coach] gives me a platform to push my messages of making positive choices and doing the little things to achieve your goals."

Eassa explained that Unity Prep's athletic director, Aaron Coleman, introduced the school's coaches to the Positive Coaching Alliance organization.

"Instead of thinking of winning as the ultimate goal, [Positive Coaching Alliance] pushed me to think more about my lasting impact on these kids in their future. And that’s exactly what the award is for, pushing life skills as well as athletic excellence."

Eassa stated that he was nominated by his athletic director, parents and teachers at his school. This level of support behind him can only be a testament to the quality of his coaching and teaching.

When Eassa was asked to give advice to other coaches, Eassa discussed the "two-pronged responsibility to get kids to buy into the disciplined aspect of wrestling as well as to enjoy the sport." 

Eassa believes that coaches "have great power to impact student’s lives...the more visible coaches are in the classroom, the more students will take their learning seriously." Eassa provided suggestions based on his experience, such as making visits to other classes, communicating with other teachers, or making grade reports a part of practice. Regarding grade reports, Eassa elaborated that "I have seen many kids become much more invested in their grades when you set that expectation for them and show them it is a priority."

Eassa believes practices at the middle and elementary school level should be structured and fun. During every practice, Eassa has his wrestlers play some kind of game, either as a warmup or as an end to practice.  With school as sometimes boring or draining and home lives often emotionally exhausting, Eassa views practice as the prime outlet for energy and creativity.

Eassa's coaching advice has been proven to come from experience. He recalled that his favorite moment as a coach was at city finals this year "because it was a culmination of three kids achieving their goals after putting in hard work."

Eassa told the story: "I had two returners and one 1st year wrestler in the finals. The year before my two returners had gone a combined 7 and 8. They had missed multiple tournaments due to behavioral suspensions or failing grades. However, this year they turned it around and both won the city tournament, going a combined 37-2 in the process. It was a really great feeling to show them how their hard work and making the little choices can really pay off over time."

While Eassa believes any wrestling coach would tell young wrestlers to "set goals and then work hard to achieve them," he gave this additional piece of advice not often given to youth-- "you should also make sure that you recruit your friends to join the team." Why?

On one level, "wrestling is more fun when you have your friends at your side as teammates," said Eassa. On another level, kids should feel as much responsibility as any adult to "grow the sport" because they "have just as much power."

According to Positive Coaching Alliance, a Double Goal Coach is one who recognizes that teaching life lessons is more important than winning. Double Goal coaches are defined by their achievements of the following: "Coaches will model and teach players respect through Honoring the Game. Players focus on mastering their sport, which leads to higher effort, learning and improved athletic performance. Athletes also will also have more fun and feel good about what they are accomplishing because coaches are empowering them with positivity as they fill their Emotional Tanks."

Evidently, Eassa is a natural fit for this award. Congratulations on winning this award, Joe Eassa!

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