Beat The Streets - New York City Wrestling

As part of the "High School Beginnings Program," a larger effort to support Junior League wrestlers, coaches, and parents with navigating the high school admissions process, Beat the Streets New York held four Junior League kickoff events. The Queens kickoff was held on October 3, Bronx on October 5, Brooklyn on October 10, Staten Island on October 12. Approximately 400 youth in total attended the borough kickoffs. 

 Kickoffs started with an introduction to BTS so that Junior League wrestlers and families could better understand the organization's mission, which is to "develop the full potential of the urban youth and strengthen the culture of New York City wrestling." A large part of this mission, especially with the Junior League, is to encourage youth wrestlers to continue engagement with the sport. Wrestlers know that longer engagement has led to greater impact and character development in their own lives. This was not only an opportunity for youth wrestlers to learn more, but for parents, as well. 

Brendan Buckley, BTSNY Executive Director, viewed the kickoffs as the perfect platform to tell the BTS "story to kids, coaches, and especially to parents."  While Buckley wants everyone to take away an understanding of the character building qualities gained on the mat or the lasting impact of long-term involvement with the sporthe thought it was especially important to address the parents and illustrate to them the benefits their kids can receive. "We made all of our parents aware that Beat the Streets is meant to a be a permanent fixture in the lives of our kids and provided examples of the types of opportunities we provide, from assisting their children with the complex high school application process to providing scholarships to attend camps and participate in travel teams," said Buckley. 

Besides learning about BTS and wrestling, all student-athletes learned more about high school admissions and how to position themselves at great academic and wrestling high schools. They were informed of all the resources they have, between teachers, counselors, and coaches, to help figure out the best fit. They were also informed that these resources will simply help make the process easier-- the student-athlete and their families must still play an active role in research, selection, and eventually filling out and signing the application. 

The talk continued with some key facts regarding the various requirements for Catholic, charter, private, and specialized high school admissions. Otherwise, there are hundreds of public high schools and programs for student-athletes and their families to choose from. Kids and families were given many valuable tips on how to hone in on particular schools based on location, environment, academics and activities, and generally what is required for admissions. Student-athletes were also given guidance on how to approach high school fairs and visits. More information about specific schools can be found here.

The kids and parents were also informed about the sample application they'll have access to with their matriculation booklets. The Junior League coaches will review draft applications with their teams later in the fall to figure out if the list represents the best fit for each kid.  

The importance of research, between using a smartphone or the high school guide, was emphasized. Kids were encouraged to work with teammates to learn more about schools, which is yet another way to navigate the process. 

After this talk, kids had a brief wrestling session followed by pizza to cap the day off. 

Parents were really engaged throughout the kickoffs, with many visibly impressed and teeming with questions. Ken Elliott, father or Tottenville Middle School wrestlers, was one of those parents. Elliott described the amazing energy at the kickoff: "It was so exciting to see so many kids learning new techniques, working hard and enjoying every moment. It was hard to tell who was having more fun--the kids wrestling or the parents watching!" Elliott added that this is the second year his own kids have been involved with BTS. "It has given them benefits and opportunities I never expected," said Elliott.  He commended the coaches for instilling qualities, such as confidence, focus, and responsibility, in his kids. 

Jacque Davis, Girls Development Directorattended the Queens kickoff. Davis was really impressed with the parents, who she described as "so awesome and interactive." Davis believes these kickoffs can be "the beginning of a brand new BTS culture," especially when it comes to parent engagement.  Besides parent engagement, Davis was eager to talk about Olympic gold-medalist Helen Maroulis' surprise appearance at the Queens kickoff. Maroulis, who recently volunteered at a refugee camp in Greece, wanted to get more involved with BTS upon her return to NYC. At the Queens kickoff, she ran a small practice and happily answered the many questions directed towards her from parents and youth. Maroulis even showed her personal journal to the kids. After this, an incredibly long line of kids formed to take pictures with Maroulis. 

Like Davis, Penn Gottfried, Junior League Director, thought these kickoffs will be integral to strengthening the NYC wrestling culture. "I can't wait to see it grow," said Gottfried. The key to the kickoff, according to Gottfried, was to have "coaches, parents, and kids in the same room to discuss different opportunities that BTS offers, as well as the benefits of wrestling in general." These three groups have to be on the same page, and BTS wants to empower all three with the right tools. 

In addition to the kickoffs, Junior League teams visited borough high school fairs this past weekend. Antonio Sparaco, the Junior League coach for Rocco Laurie in Staten Island, thought the fair should be mandatory to 7th and 8th graders because it was such a great learning experience for kids and parents. "It was a great opportunity for both the students and parents to learn which high schools with wrestling programs they could potentially apply for," said Sparaco.  He added that the fairs were also an opportunity for wrestlers and parents to learn about locations, activities, and school-related programs. 

Thanks goes to New York Community Trust, the Heisman Trophy Youth Development Fund, and the DeWitt Wallace Fund for Youth, for supporting the "High School Beginnings Program."  

Beat the Streets Wrestling is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. If you would like to support our mission to improve the lives and futures of New York City public school students by giving them the opportunity to wrestle, please click the donate button below: