Old School Coach Adapts to New School Kids

Posted by Staff Writer On June – 1 – 2011

Old school coach adapts to new school kids
By Cari Hachmann/ The Portland Observer
Photo of Coach Roy PittmanA well-respected, community legacy, coach Roy Pittman is known for exposing character in his young` wrestlers at the Peninsula Park wrestling program in north Portland. His love and mentorship for kids has shaped and affected lives for 40 years. Photo by Cari Hachmann/The Portland Observer

Coach Roy Pittman of the Peninsula Wrestling Program is much more than a wrestling coach.  He is a sculptor of responsible young adults, and  for over 40 years, he has helped transform rowdy young boys into not only Olympic competitors, but worldly gentlemen.

“The first year you learn how to lose, the next year you learn how to win, and the next year you learn how to be a gentleman,” said Pittman about his standard coaching philosophies, which have been implanted on generations of local kids since opening the Peninsula program in 1970.

Girls are welcome too; however as a response to overwhelming statistics showing that young men today lag behind their female counterparts in most disciplined areas, Pittman puts a priority on understanding and ensuring the positive development of boys.

His philosophy is steeped in stats; Boys earn 70 percent of the D’s and F’s in school; make up 80 percent of high school dropouts, as well as account for over 71 percent of school suspensions and 77 percent expulsions. Boys also read and write on average between 1.5 years and 3 years behind average females.

Further, 14 percent of boys nationwide were diagnosed with ADHD by their 16th birthday and boys are five times more likely to commit suicide. Of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons, 93 percent are males. It’s estimated that 40 to 50 percent of African-American males will enter the criminal justice system sometime in their lives.

Pittman believes boys are often misunderstood in today’s society because they are socialized differently, naturally more aggressive and active, but slower to develop and less communicative than girls.

Focused more on the process of growth and risk-taking than on winning, Pittman has worked with thousands of boys and girls from all backgrounds, offering them an alternative to the streets and the sometimes restrictive structure of public classrooms.

Tivon Abel, a former wrestler and Jefferson High School student, said learning and training with Pittman transformed him “from being a Ritalin-dependent, unfocused, irresponsible and undisciplined 7th grader to a respectable, worldly young man, ready to take on challenges and responsibilities.”

Having earned two Masters’ degrees, pursued a career in teaching, and started a family, Abel lives happily today.

Photo of Coach Pittman instructing kids wrestling techniquesPeninsula wrestling coach Roy Pittman works with local kids helping them transform their natural need for rough and tumble play with becoming successful wrestlers and students.

Pittman also is a natural ally of kids, parents and teachers.

When parents drop their kids off at practice every day after school, they are not only confident that he will improve their kids’ moves on the mat, but he will prep them with skills for life in a family-like atmosphere free of judgments and comparisons.

“One thing I learned was that it’s ok to fail,” said Sean Newbury who first came to Pittman’s club in 1986. “Coming here and understanding what a positive attitude can do –it changed my perspective.”

Newbury began living with his grandmother after his parents left him for drugs and alcohol. She thought her grandson could use some character, so she drove him over to Peninsula Park and from then on, Newbury’s glass went from half-empty to half full.

Like many of his previous wrestlers, Newbury returned to Pittman, (once a Pitt wrestler always a Pitt wrestler), only this time with his 9 year-old son, Alex.

“He’s a really nice coach,” said Alex Newbury who started wrestling in the club at age 6.

Peninsula wrestlers range from ages 4 to 18, some are there to release energy, others are aspiring champions of the sport, but all have come to respect Pittman and trust him as a coach, mentor, motivator, and role model.

The coach encourages parents to work with him directly in order to better understand their child’s natural need for rough and tumble play and foster their goals of becoming successful wrestlers and students.

“To me, this is one solution to the gang problem,” said Pittman, “Reaching them at a young age and also, working with the family.”

One parent says her child has learned to control his emotions and become more in touch with himself.  He is able to better verbalize his opinions to his parents, control his diet, and not quit when things get tough, she said.

Under the Peninsula Wrestling Club’s Proper Etiquette: Good Manners rules, the young wrestlers are encouraged to conduct proper manners including daily hygiene; how to greet and open doors for people; shut off cell phones and electronic devices; and follow “tournament behavior” which applies anywhere in public.

Table manners, swearing, staring, bullying, interrupting, ignoring others, and wearing respectable clothing are other topics addressed in the good manner guide.

As part of the Oregon Wrestling Association, Pittman’s club meets all over the state. Such extensive traveling gives his young people the opportunity to compete with clubs of all levels, but it also helps them learn how to be responsible individuals who can present themselves maturely and represent the club in a positive manner.

The local community is encouraged to support the Peninsula Wrestling Club with two future fundraisers.

A rummage sale with treasures from more than 30 families will be held on Saturday, June 4, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 18201 S.E. Stark St.; and a car wash will be held at the Burgerville restaurant at 10903 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. in Vancouver on Sunday, June 12 from 10 am. to 4 p.m.

All the proceeds will help the team with travel expenses for the Western Regionals in Pocatello, Idaho. For more information or if you have any questions, contact Bridget at 360-433-8174