When Olympic Wrestler Jake Herbert told a multi-purpose room filled with San Miguel Elementary students that he was looking to create 50,000 ninjas, the room exploded with excitement.
Effortlessly demonstrating front flips and back flips for the students energized them even more.
The special assembly held on Sept. 8 was to kick off the year’s Sunnyvale Youth Wrestling League (SYWL) program. Sunnyvale Wrestling Club provides a co-ed, 6-week program free of cost to third, fourth, and fifth graders at five elementary schools: Lakewood, San Miguel, Ellis, Vargas, and Bishop. Each wrestler has the opportunity to earn a team shirt also free of cost through attendance and effort.
Every training session for participants in the Sunnyvale Youth Wrestling League has the same four goals: learn one thing, end practice better than when you started, help someone else do the same, and have fun doing so.
“They will learn how to control their body and the importance of health and physical literacy—having a positive attitude, helping others, and knowing that they are 100% in control of their effort and attitude at all times,” Herbert said.
Herbert shared his own story of growth with San Miguel students as well as students at Lakewood and Bishop. From starting gymnastics when he was in the third grade to learning how to do a back flip at age 27, the now 31-year-old said you can never do too much today to accomplish your dreams tomorrow and that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.
“I was motivated by Olympic wrestlers as a kid and never in a million years did I think I would make it this far in my sport,” Herbert said. “I love kids and that they have their entire future ahead of them. When you get them to believe they can do a front hand-spring, or something they never believed they could do at first, it opens up the world and gets them asking, ‘what else can I do?’ And that creates that attitude that they can do anything.”
SYWL was co-founded by Sunnyvale School District alumnus, Fremont High School teacher, and wrestling coach, Daniel McCune. He believes the co-curricular program complements classroom curriculum to educate the whole student, providing opportunities for students to learn important life skills like resilience, discipline, work ethic, overcoming adversity, and grit.
“We believe that programming needs to be free to encompass the spirit of all,” McCune said. “If our school systems are providing education to all students, our co-curricular programming should as well, as they are just an extension of learning. We are not doing this to exclude even a single kid and have been fortunate to find the funding necessary to stay operational.”
Beginning Sept. 12, students practiced on Mondays and Wednesdays and competed at the fourth and fifth grade level on Fridays against other
League finals were held on Oct. 21 at Fremont High School where Bishop won the team title for the second year in a row!
For more information, visit http://www.sunnyvalewrestling.com/sywl.
Article by District Communications Coordinator Alia Wilson.