Cole Abate, who recently turned 17, recently gave an interview on the BJJFanatics Podcast and shared his experience of being a teenage professional athlete.
He credits jiu-jitsu for helping him mature and grows into the young man that he is today. He says that being around training partners who were grown adults, instead of the kids his age from school, was a major influence on him and encouraged him to grow up quickly.
“Growing up I was already a little more mature than the kids I was around at school. I think a lot of that comes from me being surrounded by such experienced adults and stuff growing up.
Especially whenever I started training jiu-jitsu, because soon enough I was training in the adult class and I was surrounded by the adults in the class and I was one of the only few kids training. So I would do that class at night, and I remember just hanging out after class and being around everyone else and making friends like that. My best friends weren’t the kids at school, they were the guys I was hanging out with at the gym after class, or when we would go out to eat afterward and just hang out. I think just being around them, there was a big influence from their maturity on me.
And it kind of just showed me that there was a huge difference between the people that I was around at school and these guys I was training with every day. So I think whenever I would go back to school, I think when I was like 8 or 9 is when I really started committing myself completely to jiu-jitsu and I would go to school and I knew that my path was with jiu-jitsu.
I knew I had to have a good education if I wanted to have an academy one day or open up my own business and work with the sport. But seeing those kids, they were regular kids. Most people don’t know what they’re gonna do whenever they’re 7, 8, 9 years old. So of course I had friends at school, I was always social, I was really friendly. But I knew that my path was with jiu-jitsu.
I was going to school just so I could get finished and go to train at night. That was until I started doing home school, and I’m still doing that today so that I can train and travel and do all the extra stuff that I need to do so that I can be a professional athlete within the sport. I think that maturity comes from being around such experienced adults. Especially now at the academy that I’m training at. A lot of those guys have been on the same path as me.”