It’s easy to find reasons for kids to participate in youth sports. Whether it’s baseball or soccer or football or basketball, youth sports promote an active and healthy lifestyle, they teach skills and discipline, they facilitate friendships, and so much more. However, for many kids who don’t play a sport, it’s not because of a lack of desire but often due to a lack of access. Some families may not be able to pay for equipment or fees that come with playing a sport, and in certain areas, there simply aren’t any quality sports programs available to children.

That’s where Beat the Streets Wrestling comes in. Beat the Streets is a nonprofit based in New York City that uses wrestling as a tool to help children reach their full potential on all levels–not just physically, but mentally and socially as well–by working with middle and high schools in all five boroughs of the city to provide wrestling education. As of 2015, Beat the Streets offered 75 boys programs, 20 girls programs, and 60 middle school programs to teach students wrestling. Following Beat the Streets’ success in New York, the program has spread to cities such as Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and others.

I had the honor of serving as the Executive Director of Beat the Streets NYC. In that role, I developed a number of new policies and procedures to improve operations as well as grew our fundraising initiatives so that we could offer our service to even more kids. Although I’ve recently stepped down as executive director, I still contribute time and energy to Beat the Streets as a consultant.

Although I’ve been coaching and mentoring young athletes for my entire career, my time at Beat the Streets has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Listening to the students talk about what wrestling had done for them was nothing short of inspiring. In fact, rather than focusing on the sport, most of the kids celebrated how it had made them feel more confident and focused and happy. Wrestling doesn’t just help these kids beat the streets: It helps to change their lives, and I’m honored that I was able to play a part in that.

For more information, visit Beat the Streets’ website!