"What gets me out of bed every day is knowing that we're putting smiles on kids’ faces."
In this episode of the podcast, we speak with James Mangan, the Executive Director of Beat the Streets Philadelphia.
James comes with a depth of experience from all levels of the organization. He grew up in Philadelphia and began wrestling at 10 years old. “The first day I showed up, I realized that there was something different about this, there was something unique, there was something special.”
James looks back on his early years on the mats and the mentors who helped him achieve his goals. “They had this unique ability to teach lessons on a wrestling mat. You didn't realize you were learning life lessons as a little kid.”
James never forgot about those mentors who helped him, so when he graduated, he dedicated himself to giving back to the next generation of Philadelphia wrestlers by becoming a volunteer coach.
Mentors don’t just help you on the wrestling mat though, James explains. “It's one thing to learn how to wrestle and be tough and be resilient. It's another thing to leverage that to achieve your goals off the mat. Mentorship is the only way we can possibly do that with an individual focus.”
James gives much credit to the partnerships Beat the Streets has with the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University wrestling teams as well as the Olympic level Regional Training Center, which provide a pipeline of mentors to work with the student-athletes.
One of the things that James is most proud of is that Beat the Streets is able to unite the youth from so many diverse parts of Philadelphia. “Even though now we have 29 different programs,” James says, “it still feels like one team, one community.”
This sense of community doesn’t stop at the local level either. The support from Beat the Streets National is invaluable, according to James. “Having that ability to reach out to a peer in Los Angeles or Chicago or New York City, and partner with them on initiatives to better serve our youth is extremely incredible.”
How does James define success at Beat the Streets Philadelphia?
“If I leave a practice and the kid is smiling, I know we did right. If I leave a mentoring session and the kid is smiling, I know we did right. It may sound corny, but what gets me out of bed every day is knowing that we're putting smiles on kids’ faces and making a difference in their lives.”
A special thanks to Gear2Compete for supporting this episode and for helping us share inspirational stories from the Beat the Streets community.
If you are inspired by these stories and would like to help Beat the Streets provide opportunities for more student-athletes, please consider supporting our mission by visiting our donation page or by sharing these stories with friends and family.