photo courtesy of Limestone Athletics
This is a guest column from Shannyn Gillespie
I recruited Coach Brandy Green to the US Olympic Education Center (at Northern Michigan University) because of her outstanding high school career. Coach Brandy was named the Asics Female High School Wrestler of the Year, a 4X US Girls Wrestling Association High School National Champion, a 2X Jr. Nationals Champion (Fargo), a 3X Cadet World Team member, & a 3X Junior World Team member.
Part of the reason why these interviews are being conducted is to showcase some of the talented coaches we have in US women’s collegiate wrestling. Another reason is to shine a light on female wrestling in the States so that everyone can see & hear what some of the coaches have gone through to get where they are.
Coach Brandy has some very interesting insights into our great sport and her interview is below…
What was it like to travel and wrestle internationally?
Traveling internationally was the highlight of what I did as a wrestler partially because I came from a home with a single mother. My mother raised 4 kids and we bounced from one place to another.
Getting to travel and train with other athletes and coaches at the level I aspired to be at, was in many ways, what kept the fire in me burning. I got to first hand learn how other cultures were and see places I could have only dreamed of.
My mother sacrificed everything to help us all grow. But living on pennies and a prayer only gets you so far. At an older age, I had a step-father and it was still a struggle in our house. My hard work helped me to see the world literally. I danced with the “Britney Spears” of Turkey on Wrestling mats, swam in the Black Sea, drank water from a spring in the middle of a city, & I got to make friends with athletes from all over the world.
I also got to stand on many podiums in these countries, making all the fun parts even better. Although there were tough times competing overseas, it was some of the best times of my life. To see Kings, Presidents, and others of power from other countries treat their winners like Michael Jordan and support them – was like nothing we experience in the US with wrestling.
What age did you start wrestling in competitions?
I started competing in 7th grade at age 13.
How has wrestling helped you in your life?
Wrestling has helped me grow into the person I am today in many ways. It has taught me to be a confident & perseverant person. It has taught me to rise above and honor those that work hard. It has helped me as a parent and wife with patience and consistency. It has given me the drive & grit to keep pushing to find the career so I can help others; helping others to grow is my passion. It has gotten me to where I am in my career today.
How many years have you been coaching at the college level and what has that experience been like?
I am in my 4th year coaching college and it has been a journey to get where I am. I was a GA [graduate assistant coach] and an assistant coach but wanted to be the one in the front seat. I worked hard to learn what it takes to be a head coach and used my grit to get there.
I waited patiently for the position at Limestone. Not knowing that Limestone would be the place, but just knowing I would only take a position that would be the best for student-athletes to thrive. Being a female athlete was a challenge, in itself, but being a female wrestling coach has had taught me much harder lessons. I take on those lessons so that the girls coming up have the best chance for success with limited barriers.
How do you balance marriage, children, & coaching?
In life, you are mistaken if you feel you can have a complete balance with a career, marriage, & children. That means I give 33.333% to each part and this cannot work in my opinion. Each aspect has sacrifices, but I do work hard to put them into perspective – to make each one successful.
I tuck my children in every night I am home. I kiss my husband every day I am with him and tell him I love him a lot. And I keep my phone on 24/7 for my athletes. These are my top priorities and then from there – each has sacrifices. I may be the mom at my kid’s horse riding practice on my phone (recruiting), but, most mom’s miss the opportunity of their own kid’s practices.
What will it take for high school girls wrestling to triple or quadruple in participation numbers? (Current estimates are 17,000 high school girl wrestlers.)
The growth at the youth and HS level, I think, needs two things… One, it all comes from the top down. If coaches have respect for girls in the wrestling room and welcome them as athletes, then it is more accepted by [all] the kids on the team. Two, [we need] more female coaches in the wrestling room with both girls teams & boys teams – having female wrestling coaches in the room is essential.
Young girls see a female [coach] and think they can do it too. When males have a female coach, they build respect and learn that females can coach as well. And, when the little 5-year-old girl walks into that environment, it is no different for her than the 5-year-old boy.
Why is women’s collegiate wrestling important in the USA? (Current estimates are 60 collegiate varsity teams.)
Women’s Wrestling has proven to help grow men’s Wrestling at the college level. It gives the [participation] numbers colleges need to have females on sports teams.
Presbyterian College, to my knowledge, is one of the first NCAA DI schools [recently Presbyterian College added an NCAA DI Women’s Wrestling program] to add a men’s Wrestling program since 2006. This happened with the push to bring on the PC women’s program.
Equally, Women’s Wrestling helped in keeping Wrestling in the Olympics. The male and female aspect aside, I want wrestling to grow. Our sport gives so much to the athletes and we need to have wrestling in our country.
What impact (if any) will women’s collegiate wrestling have on Japan’s world dominance in women’s wrestling? (Japan has won 22 of 29 team World titles.)
I think we have been growing at the college level, but, until we get the quality of freestyle coaches at the women’s college level, it is hard to say we will be catching up with Japan soon. Women’s college Wrestling needs freestyle coaches with the drive to want to grow athletes beyond a WCWA National Championship. This doesn’t mean we don’t have some great coaches now with the knowledge – because we do. We need more!
What was your experience like as a high school wrestler?
Wow, those days were so long ago. When you are in a room that talks about winning a HS state championship, you buy-in to that culture. I did almost have 100 HS boys varsity wins in Michigan at 125 lbs. – but never accomplished the goal of making it to individual states.
I think it may have been a bit different if I had the same HS coach all 4 years, that was in my corner, & that wanted to be there. I had a new coach all 4 years and each had a different idea of having a female on their team.
My senior year, I had the most supportive HS coach. I lost to the Michigan state champion 3 times by 1 point but still didn’t get what I wanted. I did some other great things: a few world teams- Cadet & Junior; and even a senior national team before graduating HS. I had 100-1 record against HS girls.
But beating the girls didn’t get me a place in the sport with the boys or many coaches because it was just girls. Wow, if I were a tennis player, I would have been a rockstar athlete with what I had accomplished. But, If you were not doing it on the boy’s side, it didn’t matter much. I wish I would have known better. I hope girls now can learn that this is not the truth – it does matter…
What current challenges do you see now for female wrestling?
Some challenges for female Wrestling have been pointed out… Coaches support, teammates support, the value of a female in the room, & respect for the level of competition a female can have.
I had an athlete’s coach tell her that she should not come to work with me because I was a female and had no clue what I was doing. I wanted to go shake hands with that coach and show him how much I didn’t know.
Support & acceptance is what will help us grow.
How can people contact you to learn more about your program?
I am Coach Brandy and the best way to contact me is by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. People can learn more about Limestone College through our 10-day Intensive Camp at https://five-point-wrestling-camp.ticketleap.com/5point/. This is an all-female camp and more info can be found at our Facebook page: @5PTWrestlingCamp.
Bonus: What are your goals for the future?
I have some really big goals. Life is too short to sell yourself short, especially when you are short! My current goal is to be in the top 1% of coaches in the sport of Wrestling in the country. I preach to my athletes that I train them to be and beat the top 1% all the time. But, how, if I am not in that top 1% yet? I have set my goals as well as my mile markers to get there. And, I am working my way to that point now.
Bonus #2: What are three things people don’t know about you?
I love to dance as much as I love Wrestling.
I hate spiders but not in a normal way. You come at me with a spider and I will crossface you.
I always thought golf was easy until I tried. I miss the ball at least 60% of the time. When I say miss, I mean I don’t even touch it with the club!
Bonus #3: What makes wrestling different than other sports?
Wrestling is different because it really is you against the world!
You train hard, you dig deep, you leave it all on the mat.
And, just because you worked or did all the right things doesn’t mean you always get the win. But, in all that hard work, you learn to get up and work harder to do it all again.
Thanks Coach Brandy!
After this interview was conducted, Joan Fulp & Andrea Yamamoto (Co-chairs of USA Wrestling Girls High School Wrestling Committee) reported that were approximately 22,096 high school girl wrestler participants in 2018-19. This number is an increase from the 16,562 high school girl wrestler participants in 2017-18 reported by the National Federation of High Schools.
The US Girls Wrestling Association (USGWA) that Coach Brandy won 4 times is a national, girls only, folkstyle state tournament series that culminates with a high school girls only national tournament. The USGWA Nationals was founded by Kent Bailo and is recognized as the first US girls only national wrestling tournament. The USGWA in its 19th edition.
For more from Shannyn check out his facebook page: http://facebook.com/uswomenswrestling.