Tag Archives: youth sports

It is not just practice

Is your son or daughter athlete frustrated that he or she is not getting enough playing time in games, and only really gets to play in practice?  Then you should have him or her read today’s New York Times article on how Aaron Rodgers, currently the best quarterback in the NFL, dealt with that problem during his first three years with the Green Bay Packers when he rarely got into a game.

And the winners are…

Youth Athlete of the Year Joshua Braun, Phoenix Regional Sports Commission President Jon Schmieder, Youth Contributor of the Year Hugh Smith, Youth Contributor of the Year Erik Widmark, Youth Coach of the Year Melissa Belote Ripley.

The Phoenix Regional Sports Commission announced the winners of the Youth Sports of the Year Awards at a Sept. 24 banquet. The awards recognize exceptional youth athletes, coaches and youth sports contributors for their dedication to positive leadership and outstanding character. The 2011 Youth Sports of the Year Award recipients include:

Youth Athlete of the Year, Joshua Braun

Braun is a senior at Boulder Creek High School, where he is a part of the National Honor Society and is academically ranked 12th in his class of 608 students. Braun currently plays on his varsity basketball team and the AAU basketball team for the Arizona Aces. He has been selected for the Duel in the Desert All-Tournament Team.

Braun was awarded Deer Valley School District Male Athlete of the Year in 2009, has been an All-State honorable mention athlete and was also named the All-Region Most Valuable Player. He helped coordinate various youth basketball camps, actively volunteered his time as a referee and has coached volleyball and basketball teams at his local community center. Braun also dedicates his time to numerous Anthem area events including Emma’s Run and a roadside cleanup effort with military veterans.

Youth Coach of the Year, Melissa Belote Ripley

Ripley spent more than 30 years volunteering as a swim coach. She is currently working with the Rio Salado Swim Club and has been the coach at McClintock High School for the last several years.

Her passion and commitment to the sport of swimming began at a young age and carried her through to the Olympics, where she brought home three gold medals. For the better part of three decades, Ripley has been committed to helping individual swimmers reach their full potential.

Youth Sports Contributor of the Year, Erik Widmark

Known as “Wid” by the community, Widmark has been the driving force behind the Grand Canyon State Games, which is the country’s largest amateur sports festival. Going on its 19th year, the Games offer spirited competition and positively impact more than 400,000 youth participants.

Youth Sports Contributor of the Year, Hugh Smith

Smith has been with The First Tee of Phoenix since 2006 and has been an integral part in growing the game of golf for youth athletes throughout Maricopa County. Through his dedication, the First Tee Life Skills Program has grown to five sites throughout Maricopa County, with 14 staff members and 3,500 full-time students enrolled. The program imparts lessons about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, how to make decisions by thinking about the possible consequences and how to define and set goals — from the golf course to everyday life.

Hugh has introduced golf into physical education programs in more than 130 schools, which now include over 50,000 students participating in golf-related curriculums.

The winners were honored at the Youth Sports Awards Banquet at the Grand Canyon University Arena. Thirty-four honorees in three categories were recognized and acknowledged.

The Phoenix Regional Sports Commission is a a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation created in 1988 to “Enrich Our Community Through Sports” by bringing national and international sporting events to the state, promoting existing events and teams and supporting youth sports programs. phoenixsports.org.

Fall registration opens for Lil’ Pals who love soccer

Paladin Sports has opened registration for the Lil’ Pals Soccer Academy, offering a six-week recreational sports experience for East Valley children ages 3 to 7.

Participation involves one practice per week and a six-game season. Volunteer coaches help children learn the basics of the sport, adhering to the US Youth Soccer format. Kids are encouraged to have fun while meeting new friends in the community.

Divisions are offered for 3-year-olds (U4), 4-year-olds (U5), 5-year-olds (U6) and 6- to 7-year olds (U7).  Seven-year olds must have one year or less experience in soccer and not be turning 8 before March 1, 2012.

Games will be held on Saturday mornings — Nov. 5, 12 & 19 and Dec. 3, 10 & 17 — at JO Combs Traditional Academy, 37327 N. Gantzel Rd. in San Tan Valley.

Practices are held in a variety of communities, depending on your location and coach. Shin guards are required; cleats are encouraged, but optional. Shin guards will be available for those children who do not have any.

Registration is $20 per child and includes a program T-shirt, soccer ball  and a trophy. Registration for the fall academy ends Friday, Oct. 7. Find more information here. 

Gilbert Youth Football League accepting fall registration


Gilbert Youth Football League will host registration for tackle and flag football from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 9, at Peter Piper Pizza (Gilbert & Williams Field roads). No experience is necessary.

GYFL offers programs in football and cheer beginning at age 5.

This photo is from the league’s newly designed website, which is updated regularly to include information about the league and players as well as coach and player development and links to sports-related news.

The mission of the GYFL is to provide a positive and enjoyable learning experience while teaching sportsmanship, fair play, integrity, honor, respect, loyalty, personal courage and dedication through football and cheer. The league serves families in the East Valley cities, including Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, Queen Creek and Apache Junction.

Additional in-person registration registration events will be held:

July 16, 10am-2pm – Dicks Sporting Goods, San Tan Mall

July 23, 10am-2pm – Peter Piper Pizza, Gilbert/Williamsfield

July 30, 10am-2pm – Dicks Sporting Goods, San Tan Mall (this is the final tackle registration)

Aug. 6, 10am-2pm – Peter Piper Pizza, Gilbert/Williamsfield (this is a flag only registration)

Aug. 13, 10am-2pm – Peter Piper Pizza, Gilbert/Williamsfield (this is a flag only registration)

Find additional registration information.

AZ Girls Lacrosse announces summer ball

Your daughter can keep her stick skills sharp over the coming off-season, as AZ Girls Lacrosse, or AZGL, is announcing a new summer league.

Summer Ball begins on July 7 and runs through August 4, with leagues for under-15, under-16 (rising seniors) and 2011 high schools grads/post-collegiate players. The format of the league is similar to AZGL’s Fall Ball — teams will play a game a week with no practices. Game times are at night to beat the heat, and play will be at the brand new Salt River Fields facilities at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. Here’s some more information from the website:

• Cost: $85 (includes jersey)

• Where: Salt River Fields

• When: Every Thursday July 7- Aug. 4

• How to register: There are two registrations depending on your child’s age. If your daughter is in fifth through 12th grades or just graduated high school, you register here. If your daughter graduated high school in 2010, is in college currently, or post-collegiate, she will register here. There are only a limited number of spots available so it will be first come, first serve.

Game Times

U15 and Younger 7:30-9pm

U16 – Rising Seniors 8:30-10pm

High school grads-post-collegiate 8:30-10pm

Sign up before June 30th to reserve a spot and grab the best deal. — Robert T. Balint

Coming together as a team

In the minutes before the start of Tuesday night’s state high school semifinal girls lacrosse game, the Chaparral Firebirds circled around their coach to hear some final words of strategy and encouragement. After head coach Jessica Livingston said a few words, the Firebirds held their sticks above their heads as team captains Makenna Pohle and Alexa Sarussi led them in a traditional pregame cheer, “Red Hot,” by yelling out the following question:

Chaparral Captains Makenna Pohle (l) and Alexa Sarussi (r) lead their team in the cheer "Red Hot."

“Our team is what?”

The rest of the team responds – “RED HOT!”

Our team is what? RED HOT!

Then all the players shout in unison, without seeming to inhale: “Our team is R-E-D RED H-O-T HOT. Once we start, we can’t be stopped! All right!”

After a split-second pause, Pohle and Sarussi then yell to their red-and-black-uniformed teammates, “When I say Red, you say Black!

“Red!” “Black!”

“Red!” “Black!”

“When I say Fire, you say Birds!”

“Fire!” “Birds!”

“Fire!” “Birds!”

The team then concludes in unison, “Goooooo Firebirds!” before breaking the circle and trotting onto the field to start the game.

“‘Red Hot’ is our ultimate pump-up cheer,” says Livingston. “We use this cheer before we go out on the field.  It brings us together as a team, unites us as one, and gets us focused and pumped before we take the field. Our captains lead the cheer with pride, and in essence their leading the cheer symbolizes their contribution of leading our team all year.  We’ve been doing this cheer for quite some time and the longevity of the cheer shows its importance to the team because it’s not just a cheer, it’s a Chaparral tradition.”

The Xavier College Prep Gators have their own pregame cheer, charmingly titled, “Blood and Pain.” Like the Chaparral cheer, the Xavier cheer starts with two players posing a question to the rest of the team, which is huddled around them.

“Who’s gonna bring that blood and pain?”

What????

“I said…Who’s gonna bring that blood and pain?

GATORS!  Ahhhh, OOOH!”

Xavier's Arden Anderson seeks to score against Horizon in an April 30 game.

 

So what do these cheers accomplish?

“Xavier’s pregame cheer, ‘Blood and Pain’ serves several purposes,” says coach Caitlin Bebout. “First and foremost, it unites the girls. They all come together in a close huddle with their arms wrapped behind their teammates’ backs. This signifies how they will work together as a team from the very start of the game. Next, the cheer gets them pumped up for the game. Taken partially from the Phoenix Suns’ pregame warm-up, their huddle starts to sway back and forth as they build up their energy. I’m sure on some level, it’s also used to intimidate their competition, but the ultimate goal of this pregame cheer is to unite the players and get them excited for the game.”

Pregame cheers are not just for girls.  Perhaps the world’s most famous pregame cheer is done by New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks.  Since 1888, the All Blacks have performed a traditional Maori ceremonial dance called the “Haka” before every game. Until six years ago, the All Blacks did the Ka Mate, which was composed by a Maori chief in the early 1800s.

In 2005, a new Haka, the Kapa O Pango, was written for the All Blacks.  The composer of the new Haka, Derek Lardelli, has said that its purpose is “about building spiritual, physical and intellectual capacity prior to doing something very important.” Lardelli added, “It’s about building the person’s confidence inwardly, their spiritual side, and then making that spiritual side connect through the soul and coming out through the eyes and the gestures and the hands. So it’s a preparation of your physical side as well as your spiritual side.”

Nor are male pregame cheers confined to New Zealand. Locally, the Mesa High School football team does their own haka before each game.

So how effective was “Red Hot” for the Firebirds in Tuesday’s semifinal game? Pretty effective, it seems.  After leading her teammates in the cheer, Makenna Pohle scored the first of her five goals of the evening less than a minute into the game and helped lead the Firebirds to a 20-13 victory over Pinnacle High School.

After the Firebirds lined up to shake hands with the Pinnacle players, they walked to the center of the field, laid down their sticks, put their arms around each other and formed a circle, swaying back and forth to do their postgame cheer, which starts in a whisper.

“C-H-S

A little bit louder now

C-H-S

I still can’t hear you…

C-H-S

What, what?

L-A-X

A little bit louder now

L-A-X

I still can’t hear you…

L-A-X

What, what?”

So with the game over, what is the purpose of a postgame cheer? Coach Livingston explains.

“This brings us together as a team at the end,” Livingston says. “We either win or lose as a team and not as individuals. Coming together as one at the end of the game reminds us of this. No matter how great or how frustrating the game may have been, we have shared the emotion together. It’s really not even about winning or losing, instead it’s about being a family. We leave it all on the field and since we are in a circle for this cheer, we can look into each other’s eyes and it brings us back to what’s most important — each other.”

Makenna Pohle, Alexa Sarussi and the other Chaparral seniors will do “Red Hot” one last time this Friday night, when they face the Horizon Huskies for the state title at 8 p.m. on Field 16 at the Reach 11 Sports Complex, 2425 East Deer Valley Rd., in Phoenix.  It will be a rematch of last year’s state title game, which Chaparral won 21-4.  This year, however, Horizon, which easily prevailed over Corona del Sol 21-8 in Tuesday’s other semifinal game, enters the championship game as the number one seed, while Chaparral is the ranked second in the state.

While Friday night’s championship game promises to be highly competitive, with its result in doubt until the end, there little doubt that for the seniors, Friday night’s team cheers will carry a little extra energy and emotion. — Dan Barr

Postscript – On May 13, Chaparral won the state championship in a highly competitive game, defeating Horizon 14-13 in overtime.  To read more about that game, click here.

MLB Pitch, Hit & Run Contest this weekend

2010 PHR finalists. Photo courtesy of Major League Baseball.

Paladin Sports Outreach will  host the Aquafina Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run local competition this Saturday, April 9.

The free skills competition is open to boys and girls ages 7 to 14. The top competitors have a chance to advance to compete in the PHR National Finals, which will take place at the 2011 MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field in Phoenix.

The competition will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. at JO Combs Traditional Academy, 37327 N. Gantzel Rd. in San Tan Valley.

All participants must bring a copy of their birth certificate and fill out a registration/waiver form, in-person, prior to participating in the competition.

Girls and boys will compete and be awarded in separate divisions. Girls compete in a softball division and boys will compete in a baseball division. Any method of underhand/overhand pitching or throwing is allowed.

Your child’s age as of July 17th of this year determines his or her age in this year’s competition.

Paladin Sports Outreach is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, established to bring sports and recreation programs to undeserved communities in the San Tan Area and beyond.

For more information call 480-285-9459 or email info@paladinsports.org.

Youth rugby on the rise

The Scottsdale Wolves at practice. Maya John running with the ball. In support from left to right: Gearoid O'Brien, Aiden John, Rydge Grewe and Garrett Kirkendoll.

“There is some sort of basic obviousness to the sport,” says Joel Borie.  “You take a ball and as a team try to carry it across the opponent’s line while they try to physically stop you.  You don’t need to understand all the rules to appreciate the object of the game.”

Borie is the coach of the Scottsdale Wolves, a co-ed touch-rugby team made up of players 6 through 13 years old.  At the moment, the Wolves are one of two U-13 teams that participate in the Arizona Youth Rugby Union.  The Wolves are sponsored by International School of Arizona, while a second team, BASIS Scottsdale, consists of 5th, 6th and 7th graders from the BASIS Scottsdale school.

Brennan Kelly (with the ball) being pursued by Alexandre Borie (9) and Max Cohen (3). Rydge Grewe (left) looks on.

“Rugby is a true team sport,” Borie says. “All players contribute, get a chance to carry the ball and to score.  Football, on the other hand, has a few stars and the rest of the ‘team’ are enablers.”

Borie is a 43-year-old Frenchman who was born and raised in a rugby culture in southwestern France. He moved to Arizona in 1990, got his MBA at ASU, got married and is raising his three children in the Valley. Two years ago, Borie came across Scottsdale Youth Rugby and started bringing his then 7-year-old son, Alexandre, to its practices.  Eventually, Borie got more involved in the club and this year became its head coach.

Games between the Wolves and BASIS Scottsdale take place on 70-by-40-yard field at Chaparral Park at Hayden and Jackrabbit in Scottsdale. There are seven players on a side. One of the players for the BASIS is Borie’s 11-year-old daughter, Danielle. Borie’s wife, Michelle, is the executive director of the International School of Arizona, so games are truly a family affair.

Borie hopes to expand youth rugby in the Valley.  There are currently seven high school club rugby teams and this fall a U15 tackle rugby team will be started in Scottsdale.

“All sizes and skill levels have some room in rugby,” Borie says. “Big and tall, big and short, small and fast, small and smart.  There is a place for everyone.”

If you would like to learn more about youth rugby and see the Wolves and BASIS Scottsdale play, you don’t have to wait long. They play tomorrow, March 26, at noon at Chaparral Park. — Dan Barr

Sports training for toddlers?

Are these fun activities and exercises in socialization or is it “Baby Mozart” stuff?  The front page of today’s New York Times features an article about the value of sports training for toddlers. Even more interesting is a six-minute video on the Times’ website called “Born to Run? — Sports Training for Babies and Toddlers.”

Mercury to host clinic at tomorrow’s Sports Explosion

Kara Braxton. Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Mercury.

Phoenix Mercury forward/center Kara Braxton and director of basketball operations Bridget Pettis will be on site tomorrow at the Phoenix Women’s Sports Association’s Sports Explosion. The event takes place from 8am to noon at Grand Canyon University.

Braxton and Pettis will host a basketball clinic for youth from 11am to noon and will be available to answer questions and sign autographs. Members of the Mercury’s Hip Hop Squad and Scorch, the mascot, will be performing at 10am and hosting a dance class prior to the basketball clinic.

Bridget Pettis, director of basketball operations for the Phoenix Mercury, at a youth clinic held earlier this year. Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Mercury.

The Sports Explosion is a free interactive and educational event designed to connect youth and families to resources and opportunities for healthy, active lifestyles. The Phoenix Women’s Sports Association (PWSA) is a non-profit organization that reaches out to underserved girls and women, providing them with opportunities to reach their greatest potential by building confidence and self-esteem through participation in sports and fitness activities.

The Phoenix Mercury has been providing affordable and entertaining basketball in the Valley for 14 seasons. The team will tip off its 2011 season in June.

Grand Canyon University is located at 3300 W. Camelback Rd. in Phoenix. Learn more about the event.