Friday, April 12, 2024

Life lessons from the mat


Life isn’t always black and white. We don’t only answer yes or no questions. And rarely are we faced with only wrong ways and right ways to do things. But when it comes to building skills to produce winners on a wrestling mat and in life, there is only one way: the Wright Way. For over 10 years, my wife and I have owned and operated Wright Way Wrestling, a business initially started to coach wrestling and train physical disciplines to create better athletes. Today, our business has become so much more.

I was first introduced to wrestling when I was 5 years old. My father, Timothy Devail Wright, was coaching college wrestling in the Quad Cities at Augustana College. That college gym is my first memory of wrestling, and since then, my dad has been my biggest inspiration. I wanted to be great, just like him. I went to Iowa Central College, where I was a two-time All-American, national finalist and furthered my career at Grandview University. There I was two-time All-American, two-time national champion and undefeated in my division. But when I transitioned to coaching, I found my passion.

Through coaching, I am able to provide the same inspiration my father provided me in a sport where I didn’t see many people who looked like me. Wrestling isn’t considered common in minority communities, especially in Indiana, where basketball reigns king. We’re looking to change that using Wright Way Wrestling as a platform to develop strength and confidence, create championship mindsets and build character.

All children need to be taught how to navigate life, but African American children require experiences to both overcome societal obstacles and to realize their potential. Capabilities develop through interactions that shape children’s physical, social and emotional development, and all too often, African American children in low-income communities face obstacles to education that restrict them in most areas of their adult lives. Research has shown the importance of long-term consistency in expectations, high-quality instruction and social support for children. Without access to stable development opportunities and social learning comes a certain amount of volatility and often, an inability to reach one’s full potential.

In his song, “Immortal,” J. Cole expressed it best: African American people are told to “sell dope, rap or go to [the] NBA.” We accept the challenge. Wright Way Wrestling is more than wrestling — we aim to give underprivileged youth opportunities and allow individuals to gain life skills and coping mechanisms from the sport. We offer post-graduate athletes, veterans and coaches a place to get back into the sport, whether for recreational, therapeutic or health purposes. We are committed to developing partnerships with those whose mission closely aligns with ours to better serve a wide variety of individuals.

With four children of our own, my wife and I see firsthand how this sport can bring people together. My 5-year-old son is already hitting the mat and so is our daughter. We also work with other father-son duos, and it is beautiful to see their connection flourish in the ring — just like it did for my dad and me. Wright Way Wrestling continues to highlight the diversity and accessibility of the sport through moments of connectivity.

I always knew I would make a living from this sport that I love so much. Through the will of God, I was granted an opportunity to create a business with my craft to feed my family, live out my passions and give back to the community that helped build me.

Wrestling truly is for everyone. We’re currently working to grow and diversify the sport to provide opportunities for boys and girls of color, African American children, multicultural children, fatherless kids and beyond. We want people in our program to recognize that no matter where we started, or what barriers we face, we all stand as equals on the mat.

Brandon and Emily Wright are founders and owners of Wright Way Wrestling.

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