Walk into the Patton Rec Center in Southeast Detroit after school Tuesday through Thursday, and you will find 75 enthusiastic 8–14 year-old girls and boys learning the art of wrestling as they participate in Beat the Streets Detroit. Head Coach, Mike Conflitti, and his team of dedicated assistant coaches, many of whom were participants in the program, teach and perfect positions (moves) with the students.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending a practice. Class begins with students practicing skills learned in prior classes. Halfway through the class, a new move is introduced and the coaches go around helping each group master it. The last 15 minutes are left for the kids to “free wrestle,” a time where they can put together everything they learned. I was amazed at how quickly the kids picked-up on all the moves, and their toughness. Wrestling is a rough sport but these kids didn’t seem to notice, they were just having fun while learning.
Beat the Streets is a youth wrestling program that was started in New York City in 2004 and has since expanded throughout numerous U.S. cities. In 2007, the highly regarded former wrestling coach of Detroit Catholic Central High School, Mike Rodriguez, and former Michigan All-American Wrestler, Mark Churella, partnered to bring Beat the Streets to Detroit. The program is dedicated to improving the lives of at-
risk children by providing them with something meaningful and fun to do in a city where few after school programs exist. The program focuses on building character, discipline, and self-esteem.
Participants also learn about accountability and the value of hard work. Every Thursday, each student receives $5 if they attended every practice for that week, were on time and prepared, worked diligently, and listened. The program also provides the kids with a t-shirt, shorts, wrestling shoes, and a healthy snack. Clearly, this is quite an expense but Beat the Streets Detroit is fortunate to have the following generous corporate sponsors: Quicken Loans, Cliff Keen Athletic, FDI Group Insurance Services, and Detroit Parks and Recreation. Last but certainly not least, Christina Guzman is the operational guru that makes sure all the moving parts come together.
It often feels like the only positive stories about Detroit are regarding investments in Downtown and Midtown. While a strong core leads to a stronger city, there are so many individuals who are doing really amazing and positive things for Detroit. I hope this post will shed some light on the incredible work being done by Coach Conflitti, Mark Churella, Christina Guzman, and the other remarkable people and companies involved with Beat the Street Detroit.
(Be sure to “Like” Beat the Streets Detroit on Facebook to receive updates on the program and opportunities to help.)