A Fighting Chance

Wrestling has always been center stage for Addison Ray ’15. As an athlete, he has six years of experience duking it out on the mat. He’s been a coach for nearly as long—five years at the high school level. Now, the Belchertown, MA, native is combining his passions for sports and business to help at-risk youth make better choices.

Addison joined Boston Youth Wrestling (BYW) as a program coordinator in January 2020. The nonprofit uses wrestling as a vehicle for education, leadership development, and empowerment. The job is a perfect fit for Addison, who cultivated a love of service as a Dorothy Day leader at Elms for three years. BYW offers him similar opportunities to work for a more equitable world.

“Our goal isn’t just to make great wrestlers, but to give our underserved youth a fighting chance at better opportunities,” Addison said. “This is definitely a dream job for me.”

Beyond the Book

Addison spends most of his mornings in the office developing youth programs, building connections with schools in the greater Boston area, and helping the executive director grow BYW’s business. Majoring in accounting and marketing prepared him to manage the many overlapping responsibilities of nonprofit work, Addison said. But his education at Elms went beyond gaining a textbook understanding of business principles. Learning the value of ethical decision making, relationship building, and networking was equally important, he said.

“Hearing my professors’ stories really taught me that business isn’t so black and white,” Addison explained. “There are shades of grey that we need to be able to judge for ourselves. The lessons I learned from the professors I met helped me become the business professional I am today.”

“Our goal isn’t to just make great wrestlers, but to give our underserved youth a fighting chance at better opportunities. We utilize socio-emotional learning to teach them the values of leadership so they can be leaders on and off the mat. This is definitely a dream job for me.”

In the afternoons, Addison changes gears and travels to one of BYW’s 17 partner schools, where he leads wrestling practice. Having the chance to return to his coaching roots is an opportunity he doesn’t take lightly, Addison said.

“During practice we go over technique, a theme of the day, and healthy habits like eating, sleeping, and exercising,” he said. “The best part of working with BYW is seeing our youth grow. Getting to see each one learn something new, get their first win, or even becoming champion is something to behold.”

Finding Comfort in the Uncomfortable

Addison’s career path didn’t follow a straight line after graduation. As a senior, he turned his sports marketing internship into a job offer, working as a sales manager for the Valley Blue Sox baseball team. He continued to gain experience in sales and marketing as a cost analyst and buyer for a local food corporation. But, in both cases, something was missing, Addison said.

Knowing when it’s time to branch out and look for new opportunities can be challenging, Addison said. But he credits his time at Elms with giving him the mental discipline and emotional intelligence to make tough decisions.

His advice to rising business majors carries this theme.

“Sometimes, we might be put into unfamiliar situations—embrace them,” he said. “Those experiences are the chances to grow and better yourself. If I didn’t have the career path I had, who knows if I would be here today, working in the sport I love most.”