Category Archives: Social Issues

Call To Action: Giving Tuesday

Wrestlers are some of the most grateful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. It could be that being involved in a sport that asks so much of the athlete both physically and mentally, has made wrestlers appreciate not only everything they earn but everything that is given to them as well. And, what is the one thing that most wrestlers are grateful for? The are grateful for the opportunity to wrestle. Time and time again you will hear wrestlers say that the reason they are successful or were able to overcome a challenge was because of the tools they acquired through wrestling.

With so many positive feelings toward the sport from those directly involved and fans alike, one would think that sport was in pretty good shape. In a sense it is, new opportunities are being created for future wrestlers; the latest generation of American wrestlers, on the international circuit, are poised to change the wrestling world landscape with dominant performances; and, the wrestling community mobilizes quickly when the sport’s place is threatened by those who cannot begin to understand the value and benefits it brings. But, that is just on the surface, it’s what we see in the media, it’s what makes us feel good about where the sport is at and where is heading in a public and global sense. Locally, the outlook may not be so rosy.

Sometimes, we forget that most youth club organizations are run by volunteers. We also tend to look at stipend-earning high school coaches as being justly compensated for the work they do and take it as a sign that the program is in a healthy state. It is easy for parents and wrestlers alike to overlook the sacrifices and work those coaches and volunteers put into the sport simply to give other wrestlers the same opportunities they had when they were wrestling at that age, and it’s getting more challenging each passing year.

It is not a rare thing to hear the story of a high school wrestling coach having to turn over a significant amount of hard-earned funds, raised over the summer, to their athletic director because the coach made the mistake of going the extra mile raising that money and the A. D. can find good use for those funds. It is also becoming more common for club coaches to have to find ways to subsidize some team members’ expenses out of their own pockets because the children’s parents have hit hard times and have become unable to make their financial contributions to the team.

I can list many examples where local wrestling is facing challenges. For those of us still involved in wrestling at some capacity, we know what is going on at our child’s or our own old club and at the high school team we tell stories about. For those of us no longer in touch with those local organizations, but who still attribute the character traits we have to wrestling, life happens, I know. We get busy, we get sidetracked, but let me tell you, things are getting tough for the youth club and high school teams of which you were a part. They need our help.

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner and we will be taking inventory of the things we are grateful for, hopefully surrounded by people we are grateful to have in our lives. I hope at some point during that day wrestling comes into our minds. Hopefully, it will stay there through Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Sofa Sunday, and Cyber Monday.That way, when Tuesday comes around we will be ready to take action.

For the past six years, the Tuesday following Thanksgiving Day has been known as Giving Tuesday. And, what is this day about? The movement’s website puts it best:

#GivingTuesday harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities; it provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address local challenges. It also brings together the collective power of a unique blend of partners— nonprofits, civic organizations, businesses and corporations, as well as families and individuals—to encourage and amplify small acts of kindness.

It is with that goal, “to encourage and amplify small acts of kindness,” that I present this post to you. I know times are tough and getting tougher. I am not expecting anyone to whip out a checkbook and give an exuberant amount of money. But, if everyone who has been touched by wrestling (athletes, parents and fans alike) were to donate a small amount to their youth club, high school, and/or college teams—the impact would be considerable.

So, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving Day, remember it’s #GivingTuesday so #GiveToWrestling because as you all know, wrestling will give back.

Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017

There are very few people who, at this point, have yet to hear about the terrible abuses Dr. Larry Nassar subjected the athletes USA Gymnastics had entrusted to his care. As a result of the survivors’ courage in bringing this monster to justice, a new set of protections have been enacted. Senate Bill 534, Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017, was signed into law February 14, 2018, and is effective immediately. The bill amends two federal statutes: (1) the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 and (2) the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.

USA Wrestling in its commitment to further protect the athletes that put their trust in the organization has sent out an email which contained information from the fact sheet the U.S. Center for Safesport released and which provides additional information about the new law. In the coming weeks, the Center will be reviewing and analyzing the new law and reaching out to experts and organizations for guidance on implementation.

We must all remain vigilant and act accordingly so that we may protect those who have put their trust in us as administrators, coaches, parents, and teammates.

The contents of the fact sheet follow:

Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017

On February 14, 2018, S. 534 was signed into law and became effective immediately.

The bill amends two federal statutes: (1) the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 and (2) the Amateur
Sports Act of 1978.

(1) Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990

(a) Extended reporting duties

The bill amends the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 to extend the duty to report suspected child
abuse, including sexual abuse, within 24 hours to certain adults who are authorized to interact with
minor or amateur athletes at a facility under the jurisdiction of a national governing body. A “national
governing body” means an amateur sports organization that is recognized by the United States Olympic
An individual who is required, but fails, to report suspected child sexual abuse is subject to criminal

(b) Civil remedies

Additionally, the bill amends the federal criminal code to revise civil remedy provisions. Among other
things, it changes the civil statute of limitation to 10 years from the date the victim discovers the
violation or injury (currently, 10 years from the date the cause of action arose). The bill also extends the
statute of limitations for a minor victim of a federal sex offense to file a civil action to 10 years
(currently, 3 years) from the date such individual reaches age 18.

(2) Amateur Sports Act of 1978

The bill also amends the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.

(a) Designation of United States Center for SafeSport

It designates the United States Center for SafeSport to serve as the independent national safe sport
organization, with the responsibility for developing policies and procedures to prevent the emotional,
physical, and sexual abuse of amateur athletes. These policies and procedures developed by the Center
must include:

  • A requirement that (a) all adult members of a national governing body or a facility under the
    jurisdiction of a national governing body or at any event sanctioned by a national governing
    body, and (b) all adults authorized by such members to interact with an amateur athlete,
    immediately report an allegation of child abuse of an amateur athlete who is a minor to: (i) the
    Center, and (ii) to law enforcement
  • A mechanism that allows a complainant to easily report child abuse
  • Reasonable procedures to limit one-on-one interactions between a minor and an adult
  • Procedures to prohibit retaliation
  • Oversight procedures, including:
    • Audits, to ensure the policies and procedures are followed correctly
    • Consistent training is offered
  • A mechanism for national governing bodies to share reports of suspected child abuse

(b) General requirements for youth-serving amateur athletic organizations

The bill also modifies the obligations of amateur athletic organizations – a not-for-profit corporation,
association, or other group organized in the United States that sponsors or arranges an amateur athletic

  • Amateur sports organizations seeking a sanction for amateur athletic competitions must
    implement and abide by the policies and procedures to prevent emotional, physical, and child
    abuse of amateur athletes.
  • Amateur sports organizations, which participate in an interstate or international amateur
    athletic competition and whose membership includes any adult who is in regular contact with
    an amateur athlete who is a minor, must:

    • Comply with the reporting requirements of the Victims of Child Abuse Act
    • Establish reasonable procedures to limit one-on-one interactions between an amateur
      athlete who is a minor and an adult
    • Offer and provide consistent training to adult members who are in contact with amateur
      athletes who are minors
    • Prohibit retaliation

Letter From a Coach – The Long Beach Poly Incident

Below I reproduce in its entirety (minus the coach’s phone number) a letter that was provided to me and to other outlets by a coach. I am not going to make indictments against any party but I will say that there were mistakes made on all sides and the only people being punished are the wrestler-girls. I don’t know if there is anything that can be done to resolve this issue in a positive way, but one thing is for sure it should never happen again.

This past Saturday at El Toro High School the Long Beach Poly women’s team was turned away, and not allowed to wrestle in the regional CIF championship. This was due to coaches not inputting the girls into TMI on time. That is a fact. The deadline was Tues 1/30 by 11 pm, ours went in on Weds 1/31 between 9:30 and 10:30 pm. The link on TMI was still wide open. There were some re-entries done on 2/2/18. We did not realize we had done anything wrong until we got to the school and the girls were waiting to weigh in. There were no phone calls, texts or emails to any coach or athletic director that we had made an error. I am told that they did have a discussion about us on Thursday 2/1/18 in a seeding meeting, though. At least 36 hours before the event, plenty of time for correspondence of some sort. Other schools with similar situations were called. Buena Park is the example they kept throwing out on Saturday. We contacted Glenn Martinez via email from the venue. He responded with very matter of fact emails saying that since we registered late we could not wrestle. In the building, we had a 3 hour waiting period before Rob Froh from CIF told us there was no way to get our girls to wrestle. It was a hard deadline and CIF had to stay consistent. During that 3 hour stretch, we did some research on TMI and found other schools in other divisions who had also entered wrestlers late. We brought those examples to the CIF rep, in the name of consistency, and instead of letting our girls into a tournament with plenty of room; they pulled the girls who we pointed out from their respective tournaments. A shameful and disgraceful act, if you ask me, and the absolute last thing we wanted to in this situation. Rob Froh had another CIF rep, whose name I never got, there with him and the Savanna coach, Rob Gaze, was a middleman of sorts. They had several discussions and made at least a dozen phone calls. I don’t know to who, but in the end, we did not get the answer we wanted. We left the venue as the 131 weight class got called up in the 1st round, around 11:15 am.

Now, in that same venue, there were 2 girls who were also registered late but were allowed to wrestle. 5 matches each, actually. It seems they have both qualified for the Sectional Championship, too. In no way, shape or form do I want them removed, but why didn’t they get held up from weigh ins? What was the difference between how late we were versus how late they were? Was it a hard deadline, or just hard for certain people? If they do pull those girls (which I truly hope they do not), what do you tell the girls they beat on their way through the bracket?
Fast forward to Monday, 2/5. We made some phone calls and did some digging and found that several teams were able to register late. Part of our investigation came from handfuls of teams not being on the pre seed sheet, but on the brackets. We have talked to a couple of those coaches directly and vowed not to name names publicly. They can choose to come forward if they want.

All we want at this point is 1 spot. We have 1 sole senior on our team. Jurnee Frazier. She is a stud. She is our 1st four year female and she is battle tested. She has placed at regionals the last 3 years. She has placed at sectionals the last 2 years, making her a 2X state qualifier. Currently, she is 19 – 3 with 19 pins. Only 1 of those losses was from a girl in the CIF SS. She would have been the 1 seed in our region. For her not to get to finish off her career due to an error that a coach made is heartbreaking. We are not asking for a seed. We are not asking to rewrite what happened last Saturday. Just to give her a spot in that 160 bracket at sectionals. She has done more than enough to earn it. She is an A student and has been in talks with competitive colleges. For her not to get a shot to wrestle at the next level because of this would be devastating. Any help, advice or positive input would be appreciated.

As a coach, I have offered my stipend, time and even coaching job in order for her to continue. I have been soundly rejected to this point.

On another note, there is a weight going to sectionals with 9 girls (instead of 8) from 1 region. 137 from Central, I think. If that can be done it may an easy fix.

Thank you,

Brian Johnson

An Opportunity To Wrestle

The Transgender Issue

Over the past few days, I have seen something I never thought I would see in the wrestling community, ugliness. And, it’s my own fault, I guess, for falling for the beautiful veneer the decorates the exterior of the tight-knit group that is the wrestling family. Sure, there are rivalries and disagreements but at the end of the day we’re all part of the same family, striving for the same goals.
But that all changed when Mack Beggs won the 110-pound girls state wrestling championship in Texas. The community was polarized and derisive comments followed.

Image by: ParaDox
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license.

“She’s a cheater.”

“Is that a girl or boy, or is confusion just another sex type?“

“What a person ‘Identifies as’ does not change REALITY.”

“If she is injecting testosterone, she should not be allowed to wrestle.”

At first, I was going to write a post which included references to testosterone levels; the differences between the terms gender and sex; the rules the IOC and the NCAA have in place for transgender athletes. But as days went by, I realized it wasn’t going to make a difference. Science is not going to sway the opinion of someone who does not want to be swayed.

So, as I write this, all I can hope for is to appeal to people’s empathy. I’m not asking anyone to empathize with Mack Beggs. He has shown he is a poor representative for this issue. He claims that he wants to wrestle boys but that the UIL, the organization that oversees high school sports in Texas, won’t allow him to do so because of the sex defined on his birth certificate. Sure, I could say the boy wants to win a championship, he’s acting like the impulsive teenager he is. That is why, instead of sitting out the season and suing the UIL for the right to wrestle against boys, he went along with its decision and won a girls’ wrestling championship even though he identifies as a boy. But, Mack seems to be more than just impulsive. He has had the opportunity to wrestle boys at USA Wrestling tournaments and has opted to register and wrestle in the girls’ division. I can’t imagine that his most devoted apologists can easily explain those choices. I know I couldn’t.

And yet, Mack will not be the last transgender person that will want to compete against the gender they identify themselves as. It’s for those future boys and girls, that want to be athletes and want to be seen as they see themselves, that I want people to empathize. It shouldn’t be too difficult for people involved in girls wrestling.

It wasn’t so long ago that my daughter was hearing derisive comments too, when boys were the only wrestlers available to her.

“Only dirty girls wrestle.”

“Girls that wrestle do it because they like getting grabbed.”

“Girls don’t belong on wrestling mats.”

“It’s not fair for a boy to have to wrestle a girl because whether he wins or loses, he still loses.”

Once she started wrestling girls more often the comments changed but not the tone.

“Most girls that wrestle are lesbians, are you a lesbian?”

“I could win a tournament too if I was only wrestling girls.”

“You wrestle? That’s so cute.”

My daughter is lucky. The opportunity for her to take part in this sport is built on the back of girls that endured a lot more than she ever has. Girls that were run off teams by teammates and coaches alike. Girls that were convinced through unfortunate accidents to not return to practice the next day. Her success in this sport is built on the back of the girls that did return to those hostile wrestling rooms day after day. And, her dreams are the fruit of those daring coaches that saw the passion and promise in those pioneering athletes and decided they wanted to be a part of that new and exciting movement and were willing to put up a fight for their right to do it.

I have witnessed programs, that swore they would never allow a girl in their wrestling room, field a full female team and I have witnessed shy, reserved girls turn into confident and outspoken warriors. So, it pains me when I hear coaches and parents spouting about the long journey girls’ wrestling has endured to be where it is today; clamoring for equality and respect for the athletes and then they turn around, and without a second thought, say transgender wrestlers don’t belong on the mat because (if they are a trans boy) it’s not fair that they inject testosterone or (if they are a trans girl) their ability to produce testosterone outweighs the estrogen treatment they are receiving.

This may come as a surprise to some, transgender people are not putting themselves through the rigors of transitioning to get an upper hand in sports. They are doing it so they can finally be themselves. It just so happens some of them have fallen in love with wrestling and they just want the opportunity to wrestle. Do you remember that little girl that just wanted an opportunity to wrestle? Can you imagine who that little girl would be today, if someone had told her she couldn’t be on the mat and everyone had just said, okay?

I don’t have an elegant answer to resolve this issue and make every fear dissipate. What I do have is empathy. I’d like to believe I’m not alone.

Bring Back Our Girls

bring_back_our_girlsI will always be reluctant to stray away from topics that deal with female wrestling, doing so always introduces the danger of losing the focus of both the audience and myself. But there will always be issues that give reason for exceptions, this is one of those issues. Our daughters are fortunate enough to have been born in a country and to families that believe they can do whatever they set their minds to, even wrestling. They do come across detractors and opponents but they are able to pursue their dreams with the peace of mind that they can pursue their dreams without fear of their life and safety being threatened by those who disagree with their  goals and aspirations. But it is not so in other countries in the world. And though, it is almost inconceivable to think that an educated girl can be so threatening that someone would think it best to make them disappear, that is exactly what is happening.

On April 14th, more than 230 Nigerian girls were taken from the Chibok Government Secondary School. Since then, more girls have been kidnapped from other parts of north-eastern Nigeria and the number is getting closer to 300. This terrible deed was committed by the extremist group Boko Haram. The  groups leader, Abubakar Shekau, even has the gall to threaten selling the girls as child-brides for what amounts to $12 each! Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin,” (haram literally means forbidden) is the Hausa name for The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, an Islamic group that focuses on Takfiri (a branch of  Islam that believes their faith is being weakened by deviations in the way the religion is practiced and does not think twice about using violence against other practitioners of Islam) militancy and terrorism.

There are a few theories about why this outrage was committed but the explanations at this point are a distraction from the fact that there are girls being held against their will, in an unknown location and away from their families. Also, whatever the reasons, this cowardly act is nothing more than a misogynistic response by a repressive and backward organization to the idea of young women having a future that does not involve being subservient and at the mercy of a male authority figure. They commit this type of atrocity  because they think they can get away with it. They don’t believe anyone has enough courage or concern to stop them. We must do everything in our power to prove them wrong.

What can you do? Two start, there are two thing that you can do to support these girls and their families:

  1. Like the Bring Back Our Girls Facebook page. There you will find more ways you can help along with the latest news.
  2. Sign the petition on asking the wold leaders to take action against these criminals.

We must keep these girls, and all girls like them, in our thoughts and  prayers and hope for their safe return to their families.

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