Sports | March 10th, 2022
FAMU Women’s Wrestling Team Deserves Recognition
By: Roni Graham
With a start in 2002, Thomas White cultivated the first official women’s wrestling team at Florida A&M University. This was done before any other historically Black college or university.
With a title that holds such great significance, the Rattlers on this team often feel that they are in need of more recognition. With FAMU Athletics not having the team listed on the site, or an official roster, the ladies’ hard work often goes unnoticed.
The lack of support is visible within the university. Asia Ronan, a third-year wrestler and the team’s captain, sees the impacts of being underrepresented on campus.
“We have amazing wrestlers who deserve scholarships, who put in the work but it’s hard to keep that same level of consistency knowing you’re not gonna get that recognition from the university,” said Ronan. “I think one of the hardest things to hear is ‘man I didn’t even know we had a wrestling team,’ and we hear that a lot.”
Currently, the only way for wrestling athletes to receive scholarships is through external resources like NWCA. Ronan is sure of the potential they have to bring in revenue. “They don’t see wrestling as a profitable sport. But if it was advertised in that way, it would be,” said Ronan.
“Our team morale would be boosted with more support. There’s a difference when our tournaments have actual students in the stands compared to just coaches and wrestlers.” The team captain knows the interest is there but struggles “when people barely know [they] exist.”
White is a FAMU alumnus and has been coaching both the men’s and women’s wrestling teams consistently for 20 years with no pay from the university. The growing frustration comes from knowing the benefits the team could have with well-deserved assistance.
“How many people knew we just had a home wrestling event that they could have walked down the street for?” said Coach White.
Lack of simple social media posts for events affects the team tremendously. “Imagine if we could get a spectator to come in at four or five dollars per person, that could easily raise us enough money for travel far out of state,” said White. This is something common for the team as they travel constantly and coaches are held responsible for expenses.
White is big on receiving acknowledgment for the ladies that he sees other student-athletes receiving simply because they work just as hard.
“Our athletes are given responsibilities and priorities just like any other student in the university,” said White. “Our ladies are no different than any other funded athlete based on time, passion, injuries, and tears.”
He is also aware of what comes with being someone who plays sports on an HBCU campus. “They use wrestling as a means to make sure their grades are stable, and that they’re focused on completing the goals they came to college for, which puts them in the same category of being respected and accountable,” said White.
Jetarshie Williams, a second-year student from Miami, doesn’t understand what makes her team any different from the more supported ones.
“It’s honestly hurtful because we’re putting in as much work like any other team,” said Williams. “If we had more people posting and talking about us, people would be able to see how hard we’re working.”
Williams is also aware of the cultural significance of being a part of this team. “ Since it’s not common to be a black woman wrestler, we need more appreciation,” said Williams. “We’re really underestimated and everyone should know what we have to offer.”
Alongside White, Frederick Simmons, who is also a FAMU Alumni and staff, has been a coach without pay for the wrestling teams for 11 years. he is not primarily focused on how much he gets paid, so he still provides proper help to his wrestlers, even if that means paying out-of-pocket.
“It is my passion to see young athletes positively motivated in real life and the classroom,” said Simmons. “Wrestling offers an outlet for students to really strive for something.” Regardless of the lack of support, Simmons strives to give women what they need to have a healthy space.
Jennifer Charles, a Haitian native, thinks of wrestling as therapy when she is an active member of this team. “It helps mentally, it’s an escape,” said Charles. Whenever I was going through hard times, going to practice and wrestling for two hours straight without thinking about anything, it definitely is my outlet.”
“I’ve gotten stronger by being a member of the FAMU women’s team. As a whole, we are resilient. Wrestling for this team is really my escape,” said Charles.
The women of the team want more exposure so they can acquire credibility and respect. The team doesn’t have enough girls for practicing, often leading them to not properly train or wrestle the men’s team.
“We just need help with getting out there and with spreading the word so we can get more people on the team,” said Charles.