By Vanessa Herman
Like most Hancock Park parents, I have spent countless hours sitting on bleachers in local parks and gymnasiums watching my child swing a racket or bat or try to get a ball in a hoop or net.
Simone, who is now 11 years old and in 5th grade at St. James’ School, has tried numerous activities including tennis, softball, basketball, gymnastics, swimming and soccer, and while she enjoyed making friends with the other girls she met, none of the sports captured her attention beyond a season or two.
I am a strong believer in the benefits of sports for girls, including camaraderie, self-confidence and physical fitness, and was determined not to give up on helping Simone find a sport she could love.
A year ago, an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s travel show “No Reservations” introduced me to the martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and as I saw the women rolling around with each other on a mat, I had an inkling that this might be just the thing for my daughter.
While the show was still on, I did a quick Yelp search and was amazed to find that just blocks from my house, right in Hancock Park, is the Jiu Jitsu studio of a six-time world champion, Cobrinha. Within a few days, Simone was in a kimono and was having the time of her life with the other girls and boys in her class, many of whom drive from deep in the Valley just to train with Cobrinha.
“I’ve finally found my thing!” she proudly announced after just a week.
A recent Saturday, Simone was given permission by Cobrinha to enter her first Jiu Jitsu competition, and we were thrilled when she earned first place and won a gold medal.
While her victory was certainly heady stuff for her family, I am most excited by the hard work and focus that got her there. I am also so pleased that we continued to look beyond the typical sports for girls and found a gem hidden in our own back yard!
I am writing not as an advertisement for the studio or for my daughter’s success, but I find it interesting that a world-class athlete chose to open shop in our neighborhood; this is proof that exploring our neighborhood can lead to incredible finds; and that children can benefit from looking beyond the usual suspects of soccer and basketball.
Vanessa and Joseph Herman live on Rossmore Ave. and are the proud parents of Simone.