Beat the Streets Philadelphia and Police Athletic League of Philadelphia Celebrate Expansion of Programming in Southwest Philadelphia

Capital and Programmatic Improvements Made Possible Thanks to the Generosity of Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation

WHO: PAL and BTS Participant, Aboubakare Diaby of the Southwest PAL Center; Capt. Krista Dahl-Campbell, PAL Commanding Officer; James Mangan, Executive Director, Beat the Streets Philly; Joe Sullivan, President, Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation Board of Directors; April Thomas-Jones, PAL Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA Leadership from the Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation, Beat the Streets (BTS) Philly, and Police Athletic League (PAL) of Philadelphia gather today at the Southwest PAL Center to cut the ribbon on the new wrestling room made possible by a $55,000 donation to PAL and BTS to expand their partnership into a new section of Philadelphia. 

BTS Philly is a preeminent wrestling based youth development nonprofit that is committed to fostering the holistic growth of student-athletes living in under-served communities. BTS has formally partnered with PAL for 12 years to bring sports-based youth development and mentoring to young people living in the cities high-crime and low-income neighborhoods. Today’s announcement celebrates a second location, growing the partnership from one location in Port Richmond to two, allowing each non-profit to double the impact. 

PAL’s Commanding Officer, Captain Krista Dahl-Campbell says, “We are excited to continue building upon the relationship with Beat the Streets in a new location. Southwest Philadelphia has challenges but it is also dynamic and interested in solutions for their children. This partnership allows PAL to offer kids in the community an additional opportunity to learn and grow in a team environment.”

“As a former PAL kid and now Executive Director of Beat the Streets Philadelphia, I couldn’t be happier to be expanding our program to Southwest Philadelphia. I grew up wrestling in the program we operate at PAL Clearfield and the experience forever changed my life. Thank you to our funding partners from the Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation for making this possible!” exclaims James Mangan, Executive Director, Beat the Streets Philly.

Aboubakare Diaby is a senior at Central Highschool and has been a part of both the Beat the Streets and PAL programs for over 5 years. He and his family live in Southwest Philadelphia, very close to the PAL Center on 5900 Elmwood. Aboubakare and his brother Mahamadou would spend 2 hours on public transportation each day to get to and from the Beat the Streets wrestling program located at the 24th District PAL Center. Aboubakare was so excited to hear about the opening of the Southwest PAL wrestling room that he even decided to help out as an assistant coach to the younger wrestlers.  

“The opening of the Southwest PAL wrestling room is not only an opportunity for the sport of wrestling to grow in Philadelphia, but it is also an opportunity for me to give back to my community. My involvement with Beat the Streets Philadelphia is beginning to come full circle and I can’t wait to continue to give back and change the lives of others” said Aboubakare Diaby.

“One of the missions of the Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation, along with supporting the families of fallen and injured first responders, is to help build healthy connections in the communities they serve where there is mutual respect and trust between police officers and the children in those communities. Supporting PAL and Beat the Streets Philadelphia was a perfect fit. Being able to provide a safe place for children to learn a new skill such as wrestling, while receiving academic support, and with the guidance of PAL officers, is what our foundation is all about” said Joe Sullivan, President, Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation Board of Directors.

PAL’s Executive Director, April Thomas-Jones claims, “the value in this partnership is that it brings two organizations together to do what they do best. Beat the Streets is clearly a best-in-class wrestling and mentoring program, and PAL is building positive police community relations. To have a funder that sees the importance of both is a win win win! Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation is able to bring communities together through impactful programming, Beat the Streets can serve more kids, and PAL can bring more opportunities to its youth.

WHAT:  

The Police Athletic League of Philadelphia, Beat the Streets Philly, and Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation will have a check presentation and short remarks at the Southwest PAL Center to celebrate the ribbon cutting on its continued partnership and new space.

WHERE: Southwest PAL Center (5900 Elmwood Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19143)

Parking lot on site

WHEN: Tuesday, March 30, 2021 – 4:00 p.m. 

Interview Opportunity at Southwest PAL Center 4pm-5pm

Who: Aboubakare Diaby is a senior at Central Highschool and has been a part of both the Beat the Streets and PAL programs for over 5 years. He now helps as an assistant coach the younger wrestlers.  

Scene: Ribbon cutting in new wrestling room. Formal remarks at podium beginning at 4pm with opportunity to interview PAL and BTS Kid, Aboubakar immediately following.

About PAL: 

PAL is “Cops Helping Kids.” We aspire to be the premier youth-serving organization in the city, by reducing crime, promoting character development, and improving educational outcomes. We accomplish this by having Philadelphia Police Officers, supported by civilians, offer educational, athletic, and recreational programs to youth in some of the city’s highest crime and lowest income neighborhoods. PAL Centers are safe havens, offering a variety of free programs and other events to attract engage Philadelphia’s youth.

AboutBeat the Streets Philadelphia: 

Beat the Streets Philadelphia (BTSP) is a sports-based youth development nonprofit that is committed to fostering the holistic growth of student-athletes living in under-served communities. BTSP implements mentoring, academic support, and wrestling programs throughout the greater Philadelphia region as vehicles to ‘Positively Alter Life’s Trajectory.’  

About the Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation:

The Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation (FBBCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to improving the lives of children in the Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey area. We achieve this by providing necessary financial relief for the families of fallen or critically injured first responders (police officers, firefighters, EMTs)  and cultivating positive relationships and interactions between police officers and the children in the communities they serve. In 2019, the Families Behind the Badge Children’s Foundation raised over $1.1 million dollars, primarily from its two signature events, The Ben to the Shore Bike Tour and the Gathering of Heroes. To date, the FBBCF has raised over $9.5 million dollars for the children in our community. Every year, over 80% of all proceeds go directly to those programs.

Kerry McCoy: The Critical Importance of Team Dynamics

This past Saturday, we were honored to interview wrestling legend, Kerry McCoy. During his athletic career he became: a High School State Champion in New York (2 time finalist), a 2 time NCAA Division 1 National Champion at Penn State, a 5 time U.S Open Champion, a 2003 World Silver Medalist, and competed in both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. Post-athletics, he became an assistant coach at Lehigh, head coach at both Stanford and Maryland, Black Wrestling Association VP, California RTC Coach and coached the 2008 Olympic team.Having been a part of countless successful teams during his time as an athlete, coach and director, the meaning behind the “team” has held much importance during Kerry’s career. 

    Growing up in Longwood NY, Kerry had 3 siblings and a mother who was always one of his biggest sources of inspiration. He described his mom as “a single mother raising four kids while going back and trying to get her high school and bachelor’s degrees, but always being there for the important moments in my athletic career.” Moreover, he explained that his mother’s words of encouragement always resonated with him in moments of hardship or stress. He also credits much of his success to his High school/College/Olympic coaches, who “gave wisdom in many different ways.” Outside of his circle, he always looked up to Muhammed Ali for inspiration and motivation as well. 

   Kerry has been a part of some remarkable teams in his years as both an athlete and coach. From a great high school program, to being a part of a world-renowned program at Penn State University, to the national team in multiple different Olympic games, the meaning behind the word “team” has held extreme significance in his career. He added onto our definition of team by describing it as “a second family.” Moreover, he stated that “from the first day I started wrestling, the atmosphere that I’ve felt as an athlete and wanted to recreate as a coach is family.” Kerry was able to thrive in environments such as these. He detailed one of the first moments where team had significance in his athletic career. He explained a story where during his Junior year of High School, he was preparing to wrestle in the County Tournament finals in which the winner goes to the State tournament. He mentioned that a teammate of his, Nicky Hall (a senior who was also a nationally recognized wrestler), took the time to help create a game-plan, practice moves and then successfully execute them in the match where he won his first County Championship. McCoy then said “Nicky had his own championship match to prepare for, and for him to take the time to help me like he did really showed me the deeper meaning behind a team. He cared about me and wanted our team to be successful.”

    McCoy used the lessons learned from the great teams that he was a part of in his coaching career by turning two different programs in Stanford and Maryland into well respected teams. Kerry also detailed the differences in the meaning of “team” as an athlete compared to a coach: “As an athlete, you’re focused more on yourself and how you can be the best you. You’re always going to put in the extra work. From runs, to being in the lab. But as I became a coach, I realized that my perspective had broadened. I had to make sure that all of my athletes were motivated, but some guys’ goals are different from others. While one guy might be in the lab 6 hours a day working to be a national champion, another guy has other obligations as well. Others might become doctors, lawyers and more, so I have to realize that they are just as committed but have different paths in life.” He continued to instill the same message about team no matter who the individual was, but had the knowledge and experience based on previous teams he had been a part of to adapt to a coaches’ environment. 

    We at Beat the Streets Philadelphia thank Kerry McCoy for taking the time to talk about the meaning of team, his success as an athlete and coach, and his personal experiences with the sport of wrestling!

Gabriel Townsell: Defining Grit through my own experiences

This past Thursday, we had the pleasure of hosting Gabriel Townsell on our virtual group mentoring call. Gabe grew up in North Lawndale on the west side of Chicago, which he describes as the most dangerous part of Chicago from his youth. He credited his faith-based family for supporting his faith endeavors and successful wrestling career through the years, in addition to his creation of music. Regarding the area Gabe grew up in, he stated the following:

“Coming from that environment to the suburbs, both for training and high school, made it apparent to me that there were things about life that I understood, things I’d seen or experienced, and people I related to that wouldn’t and couldn’t be understood by someone there. I saw two distinct Americas, and the gap between both was bridged by wrestling.”

On our group mentoring call, Gabe expanded on his experience living in North Lawndale and his transition to Stanford University. At Stanford, Gabe was a three-time NCAA qualifier, a three-time NWCA Academic All-American, and received a degree in political science with a law concentration. Here at Beat the Streets Philadelphia, one of our core values is grit, which we define as the passion and perseverance to pursue a long-term goal. Wrestling is a sport that truly tests the grit of every participant out there. We asked Gabe how grit has played a role in his long-term success. He said the following: “I’ve fought through adversity, whether it be injuries, losses, personal tragedies, internal obstacles, whatever… but recognizing that the odds aren’t a death sentence with regard to any of those things has paid off in the pursuit of every goal I’ve had.” He continued to touch on the fact that some things that happen are out of our control, and what matters is handling what we can control in the best way possible. One example that Gabe shared of displaying grit in his life was when Stanford wrestled Fresno State at the Battle of the Midway. While dealing with two of his childhood friends getting shot and losing a childhood coach, Gabe gave his prayers and went out to secure a win with a pin. That action took an immense amount of self-control emotionally and physically. Talk about facing adversity and showing a tremendous amount of grit in a time where things weren’t turning out for the best.
We asked Gabe to give his definition of grit, and he answered, “my definition of grit is the ability to find personal reasons to pursue one’s passions and keep them central in all circumstances.” His idea that keeping one’s passions central in all circumstances is something that we can all relate to and utilize throughout our lives when experiencing a scenario that hasn’t necessarily turned out the best for us. Transferring from his neighborhood in Chicago to Stanford, a predominantly white institution (PWI), Gabe also gave his insight into overcoming any fears that may have arisen and advice to any black student-athlete wrestlers out there. The main piece of his advice stated:

“My advice would be to call whatever makes up home for you a lot and make sure you know what it is you want from your college experience and how that betters you specifically; even understanding everything on the front end will come with a fair number of culture shocks as a Black student from a predominantly Black neighborhood at a PWI.”

Coming from a family with two highly-educated and middle-class Black parents, Gabe mentioned that his role model through it all was his father. He stressed the resilience that he observed of his father and that his father taught to him. Having that resilience in all areas of your life strengthens the way one goes about conducting their actions. There is one final and decisive quote from Gabe.

“As long as I have dreams, I will relentlessly pursue those dreams. That much I can guarantee.”

Thank you again to Gabriel Townsell for taking the time to attend our group mentoring session this past Thursday and sharing his insight on his experiences as a black student-athlete, how he dealt with adversity, and the grit he displayed through his actions! Make sure to check out his music on all platforms!

Giving Tuesday Partnership – Yes! Athletics

YES! Athletics Celebrates GivingTuesday with a Buy One, Give One campaign during the month of December 2020, joining millions around the world participating in the global generosity movement

Philadelphia PA, December 1, 2020 – Beginning this GivingTuesday and continuing for the month of December, YES! Athletics will inspire generosity by giving one pair of wrestling shoes for every pair sold to Beat the Streets Philadelphia.

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement, unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and their world. GivingTuesday will kick off the generosity season this year by inspiring people to give back on December 1, 2020, and throughout the year.

YES! Athletics is excited to partner with Beat the Streets Philadelphia this holiday season to provide the necessary wrestling gear for girls participating in the program.  Yes! Athletics hopes to give 50 pairs of wrestling shoes during the December campaign.  To support this campaign, go to www.yesathleticsusa.com and use code GIVING.  Shoes will be delivered to Beat the Streets Philadelphia by January 15th.

Deb North, Founder of Yes! Athletics shared her excitement for the program, “This is exactly the type of organization I was looking to support.  I am excited to be able to support BTS Philly and their programs.  If a pair of shoes can prompt a girl to start in this sport, it could change the trajectory of her life considerably.”

Ben Reiter, Senior Director of Development at BTS Philly shares in Deb’s enthusiasm.  “ I am excited to form this partnership and look forward to a long relationship with Yes! Athletics.  We truly appreciate the generosity and passion that this company shows for the sport of wrestling.”

GivingTuesday was launched in 2012 as a simple idea: to create a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past nine years, this idea has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

People demonstrate generosity in many ways on GivingTuesday. Whether it’s helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving to causes we care about, every act of generosity counts. GivingTuesday has raised billions of dollars for critical causes around the world and gets 21 billion impressions on social media from people and organizations speaking up for the causes that matter to them and encouraging others to get involved in their communities.

“GivingTuesday inspires people all around the world to embrace their power to drive progress around the causes they care about, not just on one day but throughout the year.” said Asha Curran, GivingTuesday’s CEO, and co-founder. “With country and community leaders, millions of organizations, and countless givers of all kinds, GivingTuesday is creating a shared space where we can see the radical implications of a more generous world.”    

Those who are interested in joining YES! Athletics’ GivingTuesday initiative can visit https://yesathleticsusa.com. For more details about Beat the Streets Philadelphia, visit https://btsphilly.org.  For more details about the GivingTuesday movement, visit the GivingTuesday website (www.givingtuesday.org), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GivingTuesday) or follow @GivingTuesday and #GivingTuesday on Twitter. 

About YES! Athletics

YES! Athletics is a sporting goods company by women, for women.  

Born during a wrestling gear shopping trip with her youngest daughter Annie, YES! Athletics empowers young female athletes by filling the gap in sporting goods for girls in sport.

Youth girls participating in traditionally male sports are both vulnerable and brave. Yes! Athletics supports this vulnerability and bravery with sporting goods in feminine styles and colors specifically designed and manufactured for girls with no size conversion needed.  Girls should not be limited in sports by limited options!

YES! Athletics Mission: To empower young females to try sports they might not have previously considered by offering traditionally male sports gear in feminine styles and colors. Yes! Athletics helps females feel welcome and recognized. Offering shoes male athletes have traditionally worn in styles and colors appealing to female athletes, Yes! Athletics supports girls in sport. 

About Beat the Streets Philadelphia

Beat the Streets Philadelphia was founded on the principle that all children have the potential to become productive citizens when provided the proper support. This belief has endured since the establishment of our first program in 2009 located in the city of Camden, NJ.

Beat the Streets Philadelphia Mission: Beat the Streets Philadelphia (BTSP) is a sports-based youth development nonprofit that is committed to fostering the holistic growth of student-athletes living in at-risk under-served communities. BTSP implements mentoring, academic support, and wrestling programs throughout the greater Philadelphia region as vehicles to ‘Positively Alter Life’s Trajectory.’

About GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past eight years, it has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

Whether it’s making someone smile, helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving some of what we have to those who need our help, every act of generosity counts, and everyone has something to give. GivingTuesday strives to build a world in which the catalytic power of generosity is at the heart of the society we build together, unlocking dignity, opportunity and equity around the globe.

B.J. Futrell hired as Mentoring Director

Philadelphia, Pa. – Beat the Streets Philadelphia (BTSP) is proud to announce the hiring of B.J. Futrell as the new Mentoring Director. Futrell will join the BTSP executive staff, and work closely with critical partners: Penn Wrestling, Drexel Wrestling, and the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center to deliver mentoring to BTSP Student-athletes

Futrell was a resident athlete at the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center from 2016-2019. During this time, he served as a coach and mentor at BTSP, working extensively with student-athletes. 

Futrell returns to Philadelphia after serving as an Assistant Coach at the United States Naval Academy during the 2019-2020 season. Under his leadership, Navy qualified five wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament and crowned two EIWA champions. Additionally, Navy had three wrestlers become NWCA Scholar All-Americans.

Collegiately, Futrell was a two-time All-American for the University of Illinois. He was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and twice achieved NWCA Scholar All-American status. Futrell earned a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology in 2012 and a Master of Education in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership in 2013.

On the Senior Level, Futrell was a member of the 2017 U.S. National Team and a 2014 University Worlds silver medalist. Throughout his career, Futrell placed at over 20 different Senior-level events and won titles at the Dave Schultz Memorial International, the Bill Farrell International and the Ion Corneanu & Ladislau Simon Memorial in Bucharest, Romania. He was also a member of the Titan Mercury Wrestling Club team that brought home a title from the 2016 Club World Championships in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Futrell will begin his new position in August and is eager to make an impact within the program.

“It is always worth more to invest in people than to invest in things. Studying education in graduate school allowed me to gain an understanding of the contemporary and historical barriers to the distribution of education. The current education system perpetuates social and economic inequality across generations, and BTSP is working to reduce these disparities. I am now in a unique position to be able to provide more access to academic support, serve the underserved community of Philadelphia, and grow the sport of wrestling. Accepting this position was a WIN, WIN, WIN. I couldn’t be more excited to work with this team, bring more hope to the communities of Philadelphia, and continue to change the life trajectory of the kids that are a part it.” said B.J. Futrell.

As part of an organizational restructuring, Ben Reiter, who served as the Mentoring Director since August of 2017, will transition to a newly created Senior Director of Advancement & Strategic Partnerships position. Ben expanded the impact of Mentoring through collaborative initiatives, innovative curriculum, and personal passion for the mission.

Executive Director, James Mangan is thrilled about the changes.

“B.J. is a dynamic individual with a first-hand understanding of the vitally important work of mentoring BTSP student-athletes. Having served as a Mentor, Coach, and Partner in the past will allow B.J. to have an immediate impact on the organization as we build on past success and position for a rapidly evolving future.”    

At BTSP, we strive to positively alter life’s trajectory of the youth we serve by living the core values of Grit, Compassion, Service, and Team.  


Beat the Streets Philadelphia (BTSP) is a sports-based youth development nonprofit that is committed to fostering the holistic growth of student-athletes living in at-risk under-served communities. BTSP implements mentoring, academic support, and wrestling programs throughout the greater Philadelphia region as vehicles to ‘Positively Alter Life’s Trajectory.’

Graduate Success Stories: Nate Asia

COVID-19 has clearly had a tremendous impact on all of us over the past few months. It’s affected each of us in so many ways.

Beyond the disease itself, however, many of us have been forced to miss out on so many big moments which would normally be cause for celebration. Weddings, birthdays, grandparents meeting their grandchild for the first time, & the like…

One group that has missed out significantly has been high school seniors. Senior class trips, proms, graduations. They’ve missed out on the opportunity to spend their waning weeks of high school with their closest friends who are likely headed in a multitude of directions following graduation.

While we certainly can’t replace prom, or graduation, or that last hoorah with friends, what we’re hoping to do over the next couple of weeks is to recognize a few outstanding student-athletes who have some incredible plans following graduation – and we hope you’ll join us.

Name: Nate Asia

High School: Northeast High School

GPA: 4.03

Post-Secondary Plans: Attending Duke University, majoring in Engineering

Other Accomplishments: 2020 PPL Finalist, 2020 PIAA AAA Regional Qualifier

Nate’s wrestling journey began in the 6th grade as a member of the BTSP-sponsored George Washington Youth program. As he recalls it, “My dad was worried that I was just a little too small for football, and so he found the program at GW Youth & signed me up right away.” Nate quickly took to the sport, really enjoyed it, and even won a lot of matches despite his lack of experience. Specifically, he remembers his coach Frank Calderon very fondly. He vividly recalled Coach Franks’ supportiveness and true passion for the sport. It meant a lot to him, even back then, that Coach Calderon took the time to give him individual attention as he learned rather than ‘just focusing on the good kids.’ Following his first season in the sport, Nate decided to pursue other sports, but would later return to wrestling – citing his positive experiences as a youth wrestler as a primary rationale for giving the sport another try down the line.

Entering his freshman year at Northeast, Nate was lucky enough wind up in class with Coach Siravo who began recruiting him almost immediately. According to Nate, while the idea of returning to the mat was initially met with some trepidation on his part, he quickly became excited after attending his first high school match. He remembers the energy in the gym and the fond memories of youth wrestling as key reasons for his deciding to return to the sport. Immediately following that season, Nate began attending optional workouts in the spring and never looked back. By the middle of his sophomore season, Nate had earned a starting spot in the lineup at 126lbs and was fortunate enough to be a part of a Philadelphia Public League Championship team! Although he and the team struggled at district duals that year, Nate remembers it as a turning point for him. “I got beat pretty bad at districts. I was pinned quickly twice, and the team struggled as well. After that, I realized I needed to focus on developing ‘my package’ of consistent attacks.” He realized that to be more competitive against tougher competition, he’d need to become adept at basic, high percentage attacks. And he did just that. Throughout his junior and senior campaigns, Nate leaned heavily on double legs and cradles as he continued to improve each year. To cap off his senior season, Nate was a Philadelphia Public League finalist & PIAA NE Regional Qualifier at the 132lb weight class!

Although Nate’s high school wrestling career has come to a close & the School District of Philadelphia celebrated graduation this past Tuesday, this is just the beginning of the next chapter of his life. This fall, Nate will attend Duke University to study engineering – and that’s not all!! In one way or another, Nate also plans to remain involved with the sport by getting involved with the Duke wrestling program! Congratulations Nate!

Now, a few months after his high school wrestling career has ended, Nate has had time to ask himself a larger question – How is wrestling going to impact me in life? Nate and I spent some time discussing this very question recently and here is what he had to share:

Trust

As Nate tells it, he used to struggle greatly with trust. In teammates and in classmates alike, Nate was the type of student who shied away from group activities through his early high school years and preferred to work alone.

Wrestling, however, taught him how valuable a team can be. He couldn’t say enough about his teammates at Northeast and their support for one another. He’s proud of how the team lifts each other up and how they have helped him through tough times. In time, he’s even come to enjoy team success above his own achievements. A member of two Philadelphia Public League Championship teams at Northeast High School (’18-’19), Nate said, “Winning individuals’ tournaments is great, but it doesn’t compare wot winning something like the PPL Duals where everyone on the team has a hand in it.”

Recently, while the impact of COVID-19 has certainly made maintaining personal relationships tough, Nate says that his teams’ tight bond has been able to overcome those barriers. Between regular facetime calls, group texts to check in on each other, and recently a few socially distanced hangouts, the team has managed to stay tight. “Even after high school, with everyone headed different directions, I know we’re going to stay close” he said.

Humility

“Recognizing self-achievement without flaunting it. Everyone wins and everyone loses – it’s a part of life. It’s important pat yourself on the back after a big accomplishment, but you shouldn’t throw it in anyone’s face because at some point you’re going to be on the other side.”

Time Management

“To be able to balance everything in my life – family, school, friends, wrestling, etc. – I have needed to learn to manage my time. Wrestling is more time consuming than a lot of other sports. So, even though I feel like a lot of sports require you to learn this skill, it just feels like wrestling requires you to develop this a little more.”

Sacrifice

“I felt like I needed to do more than my competition on and off the mat if I wanted to improve and start achieving my goals. In wrestling, everyone practices after school and wrestles in dual meets. However, if I wanted to improve, I needed to show up early and stay late – and that concept easily translates to school too. Every kid is supposed to show up every day, do their homework, etc. If I want to achieve more, I need to be willing to do more.”

For Nate, doing more has meant taking responsibility for his education & driving it in the direction he desired. During his sophomore year, he took the initiative to attend an 8-week seminar at the University of Pennsylvania called Access Engineering. The course, aimed at educating teens on engineering, proved to be a pivotal point him. This would pique his interest so much so, that this fall he’s planning to study engineering and ultimately pursue his career in electrical & computer engineering.

As he continues into his college studies, Nate is planning to continue developing this mentality as he pursues very significant goals. Specifically, Nate says that he’d like to focus on sustainability and apply his education to improving the energy efficiency of large cities! But similar to wrestling, “I need to find to right opportunities to shoot my shot and pin the obstacles  to achieve my goals.”

Ousmane Diarra – In Their Shoes

I just want to start off by saying thank you to everyone here in attendance because if weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be here tonight giving this speech. It’s because people support BTS, that the mentors and staff can have such a huge impact on kids. So, thank you again!

         For me, BTS has been more than just an organization; BTS is a family, a community, a safe haven. A place where you can go to learn, seek guidance and get advice; a place where you are always surrounded by positive influences whose sole purpose is to guide you to the right direction.
        My journey started in the second grade. I immigrated from Mali to the United States at the age of seven not knowing any English. I was immediately put into school and in the first few years I was an awful student. I was always at the bottom of my classes because I couldn’t speak or comprehend English. It was frustrating and one day I just decided that enough was enough. I dedicated my whole summer to teaching myself English. It was hard at first, but I just kept working at it until finally the new school year began. I was unrecognizable to teachers because my reading and writing levels had skyrocketed. A couple years removed from being the worst student in my grade, I graduated that middle school valedictorian and made it to the best high school in Philadelphia. My first real obstacle was English, and I pushed through it with grit alone

         Once I got to Central high school, I was immediately overwhelmed. The curriculum was way above my level of education and the students were much more educated than I was. I spent four years catching up to those kids and when I finally caught up, I had made it to Drexel University.

         As you can tell, I’ve been faced with some serious obstacles and disadvantages. I’ve always prided myself with my incessant work ethic but at a certain point that is not enough; opportunity and support has to be present and that’s what BTS was for me. I became involved with BTS in the summer of my junior year. What started out as a simple ACT Prep, developed into a lifelong friendship. There I met my mentor, Eric Freedman, A medical student from the university of Pennsylvania. At first, he was just a mentor, but later he developed into something else: a role model. I’ve never met anyone as educated as he was, and this gave me the opportunity to pick his brain. I was interested in the medical field and he would always share his experiences and give me tips on how to go about chasing my dream. On top of that Eric was the man! He was the one responsible for pulling my ACT score from a 23 to a 28. This may not seem that significant, but this is a difference of 35 more correct questions on the second attempt. So thank you Eric!!

         Eric also helped with the college process. I’m a first-generation U.S college student so my parents couldn’t really help me in that department. What seemed so easy and natural to my peers, was overwhelming and scary to me. I didn’t know where I wanted to go, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Eric guided me through the whole process and ultimately helped arrive at my destination; I would go to Drexel for Public Health!

         More than a year has passed since this chaotic college process took place, so why am I still apart of BTS? It’s really simple because BTS has become a family. I understand the impact BTS can have on kids and I intend to reciprocate that impact. I honestly would not be where I am today without Eric. So why can’t I be an Eric for some other kid? I realized that I could be an Eric so that’s why I’m volunteering with Beat the Streets. The cycle is coming full circle, I now tutor a reserved kid named Mahamadou; and he is also coincidentally from Mali. I view him as a little brother and that’s no surprise because BTS is a family. I see my young self in him and I’m doing my best to guide him. It not just about school homework. It’s much more than that. I want to do the intangibles; be a positive role model and be the person he comes to for help. So I guess that why I’m back volunteering with Beat The Streets. I want to have the same impact on kids that Eric had on me. Thank you        

BTSP Statement

The entire Beat the Streets Philadelphia community is struggling with the very real pain and heartache caused by the death of George Floyd and the subsequent civil unrest. We recognize that we live in an uncertain time where answers to difficult questions aren’t always immediately available. We stand by our youth as we all wrestle with difficult emotions and question what the future may hold. While we will not profess to have definitive answers, we recognize that passively accepting the status quo is not a viable pathway. We admire the courageous actions of peaceful protesters advocating for constructive and necessary change.

Organizationally, BTSP remains resolute in our commitment to supporting our youth’s holistic development. We are determined to live out our core values of Grit, Compassion, Service, and Team. Embodied in those core values is an active pathway towards the positive change that we all aspire to achieve.  As communities navigate this pain-filled period, we will continue to use our programming to prepare and empower our student-athletes to serve as ambassadors of the positive change that we wish to see in the world.

Nick Rubino-In Their Shoes

“Loss is a part of life. If you don’t have a loss you don’t grow. This isn’t tough, this is life.”

– Dominick Cruz

In my decade of experience in combat sports, I have always carried myself with a sense of self-confidence and always patted myself on the back for my ability to overcome & adapt. This was instilled in me through my years of training with my team at Martinez BJJ. Coach Will Martinez led by example and taught me what it meant to be committed through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. These qualities always shined during my training or martial arts competitions. I wasn’t always the most talented, however I felt I always was the most determined, no matter who stood across from me on the mat. As far as my determination has taken me in competitions, it is now taking me even further in life. 

During my freshman year at Central High School, I decided to expand my abilities as a martial artist and joined the wrestling team; one of 30 programs in Philadelphia supported by Beat the Streets Philadelphia. I learned quickly that the winner in this sport is decided through determination and their ability to overcome. The sport fit me perfectly; it made me feel electric! Not only did I like the sport, but it turns out I took to it pretty quickly too. In just my freshman season, I even won the individual Public League Championships! That left me hungry, I wanted to top that, so I set a long-term goal of becoming the first state qualifier and medalist in Central High’s history. Little did I know, however, that would never come to fruition due to matters out of my control.

During the summer, I poured my heart and soul into my training. I improved as a wrestler. When December of my sophomore year came, I felt like I was ready to make history. Then, just one week into the season, I grew ill with an illness that completely changed my life. I remember the week vividly. I won my first match, but felt horrible the entire time. Being the determined person I am, I chose not to listen to my body & continue on to my next competition. Unfortunately, this time I wasn’t so lucky. I was gassed the entire match and actually collapsed due to exhaustion at the final whistle. I was later diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and I was forced both off the mat and out of school entirely. I visited numerous doctors and hospitals, continuing to get the same response; there was no viable treatment and that I may live the rest of my life like this, bedridden. After six months of fighting, finally, I was given hope. Using a combination of drugs, my cardiologist found an answer! In short order I was no longer bed ridden, and soon, I would be ready to wrestle again!

That offseason, I went to competition after competition, training 2-3 times a day. It was a rough start initially getting the rust off, but, eventually I was beating state medalists! Now, having regained my self-confidence to go along with my unwavering determination, I was ready to qualify for states my junior year! Just as I had come back, however, things took a quick turn when I tore my labrum during the first scrimmage of the season. For almost a month, I decided to wrestle through my injury & postpone surgery. However, I was left virtually unable to practice and instead would run up to 10 miles per day. Even with these limitations, I had compiled a 12-2 record. Then, my family and doctors decided that my season should end early and I received surgery to repair the ligament. I was heartbroken.

After a 7 month recovery with strenuous rehabilitation, my senior year was going to start soon. All of the adversity I had faced no longer mattered, I was ready to take what was mine! Then, the unthinkable happened. Just three weeks after being cleared by my doctor to wrestle, my shoulder dislocated and I tore the same ligament again. I trained so hard, I had wanted this for so long and now I could never achieve my goal. There was an eerie sense of devastation that I had never felt before, it felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I wasn’t sure I could go through it again. I seriously considered ending my wrestling.

After a few weeks I was off to see another surgeon. He gave me a few options and asked what my goals are. I told him I wanted to wrestle in college. He explained in order to do that I would need a complicated procedure called a Latarjet. It involves restructuring the anatomy of my shoulder. Also, if my shoulder dislocated again I wouldn’t have a choice in  continuing to wrestle.  I decided that I would have the procedure. I am still recovering from my most recent surgery, which will take 9 months to heal, with an even more intensive rehabilitation. I am hopeful my shoulder will never have a recurrence because of the stronger procedure.

I have learned when facing adversity a support system is essential. The unwavering confidence I had in achieving my goals was disrupted by reality. When injured, isolation occurs from your sport. You miss the day to day activities and your team moves on without you. I tried to stay connected to the team as much as possible. I ran some summer practices and contributed as best I could. Beyond friends and family, there was a small group of people that supplied the needed encouragement to move forward. They talked to me as if I still had something to look forward to in wrestling if that is what I wanted to do. It meant a lot. Beat The Streets always kept in contact and asked how they could help. The disappointments of the past were slowly replaced by excitement for the future. I am currently in discussion with a few college coaches and deciding where would be the best fit for me both academically and athletically. While I haven’t yet made up my mind on where that is, I do believe collegiate wrestling is in my future. While not always easy, wrestling teaches us how to get up off the mat. And I’m going to continue to do just that.

PIAA State Championship Preview

This past weekend, a record-high 40 Philadelphia Public League wrestlers took to Bethlehem Liberty High School for the 2020 PIAA NE Regional Tournament. We are so proud of the kids’ hard work & dedication to the sport. To see that hard work result in another record-setting season is just a bonus!

Following an absolute bear of a tournament, we are proud to share that two extremely deserving student-athletes advanced to the PIAA State Tournament this coming weekend in Hershey, PA!

Before we continue, however, I’d like to acknowledge a few guys who had strong tournaments. Aboubakare Diaby (138), Reynaldo Garcia (138), Naseen Pennington (152), & Ahmir Ragsdale (160), & John Colbourne (195) all had strong showings, and although they came up short, each of these guys impressed us greatly!

Now…on to our 2020 PIAA State Qualifiers!!!

Angel Garcia (US #10 / PA #4) Mariana Bracetti Academy 

What more can we say about Angel at this point? As he prepares to make his 3RD (Yes, 3RD) trip to the PIAA State Tournament, Angel has already solidified his position as the most accomplished wrestler in Philadelphia Public League history. The PPL’s all-time leader in wins (124) is gearing up to take on one of the most talented weight classes in the nation. Don’t believe me? Just ask FloWrestling! The PIAA AAA 170lb weight class features an astounding 5 top 12 wrestlers nationally & 6 DI commits. While the challenge of the weight class has forced some to drop down or bump up, Angel has embraced the challenge. Angel is looking forward to being tested & seeing just how high he can climb on the podium.

Off of the mat, those close to Angel are incredibly proud to see how the young, scrappy kid from Rizzo PAL has grown into the young man he is today. Angel prides himself on his loyalty to his family and his teammates, coaches regularly take notice of his leadership, and his relentless pursuit of excellence in all phases of his life is abundantly clear. Congratulations Angel, now take care of business!

Daishawn Tilghman (PA #14) Overbrook

 A 4x regional qualifier, Daishawn Tilghman, is FINALLY a PIAA State Qualifier. Few wrestlers have shown the Grit that Daishawn Tilghman has throughout his wrestling career. I could write about his trials & tribulations this kid has faced for hours, but I’ll try to keep it brief. In the last 12 months alone, Daishawn suffered a disappointing end to his season at regionals in 2019 (despite being favored to qualify for the state tournament). He lost at NHSCA’s deep into wrestle backs. He had a blood round loss at Fargo in Greco-Roman. To top it all off, dropping a 1st round loss at regionals this past weekend (he was the #2 seed). After such a string of heartbreaking defeats, most wrestlers would have likely packed it in and called it a career, but not Daishawn. With tremendous support from his teammates and his coaches, Daishawn managed to rattle off three consecutive wins by fall, followed by a 1-0 decision to avenge his first-round loss in the consolation finals!

As proud as we all are to see Daishawn finally “get over the hump” he is far from finished. Having been ranked as high as #6 in PA this season, Daishawn is completely capable of climbing the podium in Hershey & now has the confidence to believe he can do just that.

Daishawn has always been an absolute joy to coach/mentor, and everyone lucky enough to know Daishawn would tell you that. Daishawn is consistent, smart, funny, & studious; he’s the total package. I can say to you both personally & on behalf of BTSP that he will be missed as he graduates from Mastery Shoemaker this spring. While his plans are not officially set just yet, Daishawn has a number of exceptional options in front of him & he plans to continue wrestling in college. Great work so far Daishawn, now finish the mission!