The art of building resilience
It’s been said that, once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy. Emmanuel Olapade is too humble to see his success through that lens, but he credits the “discomfort” of the wrestling mat for pushing him to achieve what he thought he couldn’t.
Olapade is a third-year Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology student and a Dinos wrestler who placed second at the U Sports national finals earlier this year. He had never seen the sport before moving to Canada from Nigeria at the age of nine and was instantly smitten; he began competing in junior high school. He says it’s the ideology behind wrestling — the mental game more than the athletics — that appeals to him. “I’m not an aggressive individual,” says Olapade. “I approach the sport as if I’m trying to perfect an art.”
Such rare patience and striving are second nature to Olapade in other areas of his life; his family has always put working hard and getting excellent grades at the top of their priority list. After arriving in Calgary from Lagos, Olapade’s parents struggled to find opportunities to build a life here. They expected their son to aim high but, financially, university seemed an out-of-reach dream. Olapade started his journey at UCalgary despite uncertainty around how his family would manage after the first year.
Though deeply proud of his academic achievements, Olapade’s parents were concerned about their son’s participation as a varsity athlete. It seemed to them, says Olapade, “like wrestling was taking away from my focus and they didn’t see how it would help me succeed in the future.” A call from his coach as he tentatively began his second year changed all that: Olapade won the Parker Wrestling Athletic Award, created thanks to a gift from a Dinos Wrestling alumnus and awarded to high-achievers on the mat and in the classroom.
The award empowered Olapade to pursue athletics and education at equal intensity, and proved wrestling’s merit to his proud parents. “Seeing the doors wrestling opens helped them understand,” he says. “And it makes me more resilient and determined to achieve in everything I do.”
What Giving Gives Me
A coach offered me a much-needed scholarship to wrestle for the Dinos and the experience changed my life. Looking back, the resilience I gained through the sport was every bit as valuable to me as the knowledge I gained in the classroom. Giving someone else the same opportunity gives meaning to the financial success I’ve had — making more money at this stage just seems meaningless to me if I don’t do something positive with it.
Jim Parker, BA’94
Jim created a scholarship to fuel excellence in students, academically and athletically