No athlete becomes a champion without the support of friends, family, or a positive mentor that inspires them to be their very best. In any sport, from football to bodybuilding, or baseball to pro wrestling, success requires a positive mindset that isn’t dragged down by the negativity and careless limitations that others may place on you. On Thursday, WWE superstars Bianca Belair, and the tag team known as “The Street Profits” (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins) took time out from training for their huge “Clash at the Castle” live event in Cardiff, to bring some of this positive messaging to the Boys and Girls Club of Wales. M&F were on hand to hear how important it is to support young athletes with professional mentoring and make sure that local authorities invest adequately in sports, empowering them to reach their full potential.
Since 2011, WWE’s “Be a STAR” rallies and programs have reached more than 500,000 children across the world, visiting hubs such as the Boys and Girls Club here in Cardiff Wales; a desperately needed charity that has been running since the 1920s, and seeks to promote sports and physical activity through vital youth schemes. The reality is that you just never know when a young person may be inspired to be the next Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, or John Cena, so reaching and supporting young athletes everywhere is a must. Unfortunately, however, a lack of government funding, the pandemic, and other social and cultural issues threaten to derail a young persons’ sporting career even before it gets off the blocks. It’s a subject that WWE Raw Women’s Champion, Bianca Belair feels strongly about.
“Encouraging kids to get into sports is everything to me,” says the former gymnast and track star, turned pro wrestler. “Playing sports gives you such a great skillset for life, whether you are doing professional sports or not. You’ll develop great leadership skills and [sports] teaches you about hard work.” Far from being born or created in a lab, even the elite athletes that you see on TV needed strong mentors to guide them toward success.
“On a personal level, my high school track coach always instilled in me, to just keep going,” says Montez Ford. “He coached me to be determined, and always try to outdo myself. He taught me about putting zero error into your training. He taught me about mindset, because in order to perform at a high level, your mind has to be clear.” Of course, sticking with sports past childhood could be of huge benefit to mental health in general, but studies suggest that most kids give up playing sports in a regular capacity by the time they hit 11 years of age. It’s a situation that threatens to thwart our ability to produce the next great athletic icons. So, by visiting young people as WWE travels from town to town, meeting with local governments and getting kids fired up about being active, there’s a chance that the next sporting star may be listening.
“I played football pretty much my whole life,” says Angelo Dawkins. “I didn’t start wrestling until my junior year of high school. I have to give credit to my coach because without him, I probably would not be here having this conversation. If I didn’t step onto a wrestling mat in high school, then I’m not in the position that I am in now.” Sticking with sports has been a defining factor for Dawkins, who is now a multiple time Tag Team Champion along with Ford.
These WWE wrestlers understand the reward that comes from hanging in there and enjoying the thrill of being competitive. “I grew up wanting to be an Olympic gymnast or track athlete, and I’m neither of those, but because I was in sports, it helped me get through college, it helped me get through early adulthood and has really contributed to my success here in WWE,” adds Belair, one of the companies most popular stars. She says that she gets a lot of personal satisfaction from encouraging kids to keep pushing themselves in order to reach their potential.
The “Be a STAR” rallies are not the only initiative that WWE runs to improve peoples’ chances of making sport pay. The professional wrestling juggernaut recently unveiled its “Next in Line” program, designed to offer a way for athletes to transition from other disciplines to the WWE ring. Recent signings have included University of Tennessee track and field athlete Chandler Hayden and most famously; the 2021 Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Gable Stevenson. These transitioning sports stars are now on the path to becoming the next big things in WWE.
If just one of the young athletes in attendance in Cardiff hears the words of Bianca Belair, Montez Ford, and Angelo Dawkins, then who’s to say that they won’t one day find themselves competing on a future WrestleMania or international stadium show like the one planned this weekend in Cardiff?
WWE “Clash at the Castle” takes place this Saturday, Sept. 3, live from Principality Stadium. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster. Watch live via Peacock in the United States and WWE Network everywhere else.