In this episode of the podcast, we speak with Lakita Williams, a Beat the Streets graduate and coach. Lakita began wrestling as a junior at Mastery Charter School Shoemaker Campus after several of her friends joined the team. “It wasn’t meant to be serious,” she explained, “but it ended up being really serious.”
According to Lakita, the wrestling room was a safe space where “regardless of what race you are, what gender you are, what your sexual orientation is, you can find a space where people are going to uplift you, push you towards your goals, and motivate you to be the best version of yourself.”
Lakita has spent her whole life battling what she calls perceived fragility. “I was born three months early, so I was really tiny and I had some health complications,” she explained. So her parents never let her play football with her brothers and many people treated her like she was fragile. But Lakita pushed back and began committing herself fully to the sport of wrestling.
As a black female, Lakita spent her life overcoming barriers, which served her well on the mat. “I didn’t know that’s what would make me such a good wrestler,” she says. “Those innate abilities to get control over whatever obstacle comes my way, whether it be racism, sexism, or an opponent who is top seed.”
While her willpower and toughness helped her thrive on the mat, it was the community that kept Lakita coming back every day. Beat the Streets gave Lakita “that feeling like you finally belong somewhere.”
Lakita is grateful for those mentors who inspired her along the way and talks about the motivation provided by “seeing someone who has been through what you’ve been through defy the odds and surmount whatever challenges may be in the way.”
Now Lakita is able to give back to the younger generation through her coaching and mentoring. Being a role model means a lot to Lakita. “Not everybody has that,” she says. “I didn’t always have someone who looked like me. And I think that’s really important.”
Lakita doesn’t just talk about it, she leads by example. When she tells young girls they should try wrestling, they listen to her. “I did it,” she tells them. “I come from the same neighborhood you come from, I grew up down the street from here.”
We are so grateful to have Lakita as a part of the Beat the Streets family and for sharing her story with us!
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A special thanks to Yes! Athletics for supporting this episode and for helping us share inspirational stories from the Beat the Streets community.
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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
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:
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”