Tag Archives: Phoenix

Youth sports leaders to be recognized next week

Thirty-six youth athletes, coaches and youth sports contributors will be recognized for their dedication to positive leadership and outstanding character during the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission’s Youth Sports Awards Banquet next Saturday.

Winners of the Youth Sports of the Year Awards will be announced at the event, which will take place at 8 a.m. at Grand Canyon University’s new arena, 3300 W. Camelback Rd. in Phoenix. Register for the event here.

The nominees represent all levels of play from various youth sports offered around the Valley:

Jerod Aker (left), head baseball coach for Apollo High School.


Rob Gorrell – Coach and co-founder of Sandlot All-Stars Baseball.

Pat Murphy – Coach and co-founder of Sandlot All-Stars Baseball, All Nine Baseball Academy.

Patty Egan – Coaches cross country, girls soccer and track at Cactus Shadows High School.

Steve Bomar – Youth girls basketball coach and founder of the Gilbert Genies Basketball Club.

Eric KiblerHorizon High School baseball coach for more than 28 years and three-time recipient of the Arizona Coach of the Year award. In 2005 he received the ABCA High School National Coach of the Year.

Harry Demos CCV STARS sports pastor and director of coaching for boys soccer.

James Smith – Head track and field coach at Westwood High School, head coach and president for the AZ Flames Track Club, USATF Masters Chair.

Melissa Belote Ripley – Has been coaching club swimming for more than 30 years and currently coaches at McClintock High School and Rio Salado Swim Club.

Jordan Demos – Youth Soccer Coach for the CCV Stars Soccer Club.

Jake Peterson – Coaches middle school and high school football/basketball for Rancho Solano Private Schools.

Jaime Pagliarulo – Girls soccer coach for Hamilton High School, San Tan Soccer Club and Arizona Youth Soccer Association.

Steve LewisEmpowerment Through Sports (ETS) Youth Football League coach.

Dameon BlairBoulder Creek High School junior varsity basketball coach.

Jim Ewan – Football coach for Chandler High School since 2001.

Jerod Aker – Baseball coach for Apollo High School; he has been the head coach of a baseball team for a total of 15 years.

Joshua Braun (left) plays basketball at Boulder Creek High School.


Joshua Brown – Plays basketball at Boulder Creek High School, where he is a member of the National Honor Society and ranked 12th in his class.

Hannah Carson –  Track and field, Chandler High School. She’s ranked #1 in the nation for javelin and has qualified for the 2012 Olympics. She will be attending Texas Tech University on scholarship.

Zach Wright – Golf, Pinnacle High School, committed to Louisiana State University. He is currently ranked #12 Boy in the National Polo Rankings

Brandon Senior – Track and Field, honors student at Notre Dame Preparatory High School and member of the AZ Flames Track Club.

Nathan Ponwith – Tennis, Arizona Virtual Academy, participates in the United States Tennis Association.

Tyler Pugh – Football, basketball and baseball; attends Rancho Solano Private School.

Kyung Kim – Golf, Chandler Hamilton High School, currently plans on attending University of Southern California.

Molly Johnson – Baton twirling, Thunderbird High School, member of Phoenix Superstars Twirl Team, plans to attend Fort Hayes University in Kansas.

Dylan Hambright– Track, Arcadia High School, member of the Arizona Elite Track Club.

Shannon Gurley – Volleyball, attends middle school at Rancho Solano Private Schools, also participates in soccer and drama at school.

Wendy Riddell (S.T.A.R. Pony Club, ASU UC Soccer).


Jeffrey Kratzke – Volunteer coach for cross country and track at Cactus Shadows High School.

Hugh Smith-  Executive director of The First Tee of Phoenix, a non-profit organization that provides educational programs, values and healthy choices for Valley youth through the game of golf.

Lisa Sanchez – President of Holiday Park Little League, a volunteer position for an inner city youth baseball league.

Bob Capron – Oversees the Metro Phoenix United States Tennis Association. Inducted into both the USTA Phoenix Hall of Fame and USTA Southwest Hall of Fame in 2005.

John Canter – Started a community weightlifting and training program where 60 local kids are now involved and active.

Wendy Riddell – Youth equestrian coach and S.T.A.R. Pony Club board member, age group coordinator for ASUSC Soccer.

Erik Widmark – Executive director for the Grand Canyon State Games, the largest amateur sports festival of its kind in the country, since 1995.

Chad Robinson – Started the Prime Time Athletics flag football program, the official league of the NFL Flag program.

Peyton Sullivan – Youth Umpire for Deer Valley Little League, certified as a district umpire.

Scott Smith – Volunteer umpire-in-chief for Deer Valley Little League.

The Phoenix Regional Sports Commission was created to “enrich the community through sports.” The 501(c)3 non-profit focuses on three areas: bringing national and international sporting events to the state, assisting in the promotion of existing events and teams and supporting youth sports programs. Learn more.


A chance to play wiffle ball with the pros

Reggie Sanders photo from Wikipedia.Baseball fans young and old are invited to join Reggie Sanders and some of his professional ballplayer friends for a morning of baseball fun with the pros at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.

This free family event offers opportunities to meet players and collect autographs. Baseball-themed activities are planned for fans young and old.

A Big League Wiffle Ball Charity Tournament will be held benefitting the Reggis Sanders Foundation, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center and the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association

The event runs from 8am to 1pm on Saturday, July 9. The Wiffle Ball Tournament starts at 9am and baseball mini-clinics run 9:30-10:30am.

The Big League Wiffle Ball Tournament is a chance for players 18 and up to play wiffle ball alongside professional ballplayers and athletes in a non-competitive charity tournament. Pee-Wee Wiffle ball is available to ages 6 and younger.

Cost to participate in the tournament is $150 per player. Register by calling John Zackery, special events coordinator for the Reggie Sanders Foundation at 602-421-3479.

Salt River Fields, the Arizona Diamondbacks Spring Training Stadium, is located at 7555 N Pima Rd in Scottsdale.

FutureForKIDS hosts sports and fitness camp for at-risk kids

Kids take a warm-up lap before beginning a day of sports and fitness activities at ASU football's practice field.This past Saturday morning, armed with bright new t-shirts, dozens of aspiring athletes went through a series of stretches to get ready for a day of activity at Arizona State’s practice football fields.

Story and photos by Robert T. Balint

This past Saturday morning, dozens of aspiring athletes went through a series of stretches to get ready for a day of activity at Arizona State’s practice football fields. These were not Sun Devils, however, but participants of the Future for KIDS Youth Sports & Fitness Camp.

FutureForKIDS was started by its founder and president, Rodney Smith, in 1991. Smith had benefited from a mentor in his childhood, and wanted to extend those same benefits to kids as an adult. The non-profit aims to make differences in the lives of at-risk children, ages 8-14, of the Phoenix metro area. Through athletic camps, and, since 2002, academic mentorships, the volunteers of FutureForKIDS have reached over 129,000 children. At-risk kids’ chances of success are threatened by circumstances such as underfunded schools, youth crime, etc.

The program staff had arranged a series of stations all around the field: baseball tees, cones for soccer drills, and plenty of space for football passing, catching, and running drills. Before the kids were divided up into groups for the stations, however, two visitors stopped by to say hello: Dennis Erickson, head coach of the ASU football team, and the Phoenix Suns Gorilla. Erickson was slightly more verbose than the simian visitor, and talked to the kids about accountability and the importance of success in the classroom.

“The more you study, the more successful you are in school, the more successful you’re going to be at everything that you do in your life,” the head coach said. “I got 85 football players on my football team at Arizona State, and we ask them to do a lot of different things. We ask them to be accountable in all aspects of their life.

“Winning is one thing, [but] being successful in life and in school is the most important thing.”

ASU head football coach Dennis Erickson imparted words on accountability and success to the campers.

After Erickson’s remarks, and a good bit of clowning from the Gorilla, the kids hit the stations. A host of retired professional players, coaches and volunteers ran each location, teaching basic skills such as a quarterback’s drop-step, kicking and dribbling a soccer ball, and the proper mechanics of a baseball swing. One station featured relay races that included pushups, agility drills, and sprints in the challenges.

Always a fan favorite, the Phoenix Suns Gorilla meets and greets kids from around the Valley.

For Diego Valdez, 8, from Phoenix, the football and soccer stations were his favorite. He hopes to play football in high school, preferably at the receiver position, while a fellow group mate, Kyle Harris, 7, from Alabama, prefers playing quarterback. For Elena Geiger and Melissa Moldinari, two 11-year-olds from Phoenix, the soccer drills of dribbling around the cones and practicing footwork were highlights of the day. “It’s fun, and it’s like dancing,” Geiger said.

Derek Kennard, a retired offensive lineman who spent 10 years in the NFL, was in charge of running one of the running back and wide receiver stations. A bear of a man, Kennard helped the kids learn a football stance and how to take a handoff, and tossed up passes for the receivers. He gave extra attention to both the children who were having trouble, and the athletes of the group who were pulling down one-handed highlight-reel catches.

Derek Kennard celebrates another completed pass at his running back/wide receiver. Kennard played in the NFL from 1986-1996.

For Kennard, “Teaching something new for the kids, and seeing the excitement in their faces when they get it—the ‘Aha!’ moment” is the best part of the day, the coach said with a wide grin in between stations.

“To see how much confidence that gives the kids, and to cheer them on, that’s the thing. Seeing the happiness in their faces.” That’s what it’s all about.

Arizona Cardinals Isaiah Williams, left, and John Skelton, right, spent time with the campers, signing autographs and taking pictures. Skelton, a quarterback, threw some spirals to some of the hotshot campers.

AmenZone: back-to-basics fitness

Amen Iseghohi and some of young fans of his fitness program. Photo courtesy of AmenZone Physical Education Foundation.

No treadmills, no free weights, no machines. Instead, strewn about the AmenZone fitness center in Scottsdale is an assortment of… tires. Just tires, the kind you’d find on a car or truck. That’s the first hint that this isn’t your average fitness program. It makes sense—Amen Iseghohi isn’t your average fitness trainer. Or average anything, for that matter.

Raised in London, England, Amen was 8 years old when his family sent him to Benin, a small country in West Africa, to stay with his grandmother. It was here that he learned his unique philosophy on physical fitness. His grandmother told him to “Be active, always moving and to keep his mind and body working together as one.” To keep the boys busy, Amen’s grandmother had them stay active with the resources at hand—in this case, a number of rubber tires in the front yard. It wasn’t state-of-the-art equipment that gave Amen his tree-trunk frame; it was his inspiration to be more and accomplish more, with less.

“Enough with machinery,” Amen says. “Just keep it plain and simple. And you’d be amazed.”

At his center in Scottsdale, the former professional rugby player has implemented this minimalist style and used it to create entire workouts using nothing but a few feet of space, some pull-up bars, monkey bars, punching bags, and, of course, tires. The center runs Primal Classes and Boxing Classes for adults weekly, and a Friday afternoon class for kids 7 and up. In each workout, the lessons learned from hot days in Benin are clear: if the athlete has the right mindset, there is not much need for dumbbells and machines.

Accomplishing more with less was the main message of the AmenZone Physical Education Foundation Open House event this past Saturday. At the Scottsdale center, Amen and some of his young protégés engaged in a demonstration of a typical workout. With music blaring, and with each participant armed with his or her own tire, Amen guided the kids through the exercise with enthusiastic shouts. The kids darted around the tires, falling and doing a pushup on them; moved in and out of the middle of the tires laterally; and finished off the workout with a set of static high jumps. Amen moved through, giving praise with smiles and high-fives. The positive energy was high, which is one of the cornerstones of AmenZone’s foundation.

The kids’ workout was a demonstration of what Amen wants to implement all across the Valley. His non-profit, AmenZone PE, is set on giving grade school students a way to stay active and stay fit. The William J. Clinton Foundation reports that 92 percent of schools do not have year-round physical education classes. AmenZone PE, its website says, “is passionate about eliminating the devastating effects of low self-esteem in children by providing children with the inspiration, tools and knowledge necessary for making healthy lifestyle choices.”

To combat the health issues and emotional problems that come along with childhood obesity, Amen aims to empower kids by getting them active and improving self-esteem through his program. Where lack of self-esteem can lead to low confidence, poor grades, crime, and even suicide, high-self esteem enables individuals to reach their full potential, the program asserts. Through the holistic program, kids are taught about fitness, healthy lifestyle choices, and positive thinking and self-image.

AmenZone PE has partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, and the Native American Basketball Invitational. So far, 86 Arizona schools have expressed interest in incorporating Amen’s Primal Education into after-school programming.

“I know that I can accomplish anything,” said Andrew Haight, 12, from Scottsdale, an avid student of Amen’s. The classes “made him more secure and more confident.” Letters from students at Tonalea Elementary School lined the walls of the center, thanking Amen for the fitness and confidence that the workouts bring. From the program, kids gain both physical and mental strength. As Amen says, “The physical and spiritual are connected. There has to be a balance.”

For more information, class times, etc., check out Amen’s website, letsgetprimal.com. — Robert T. Balint

Two deals for affordable, summer-long fun

Summer is approaching quickly, and with no more pencils and no more books to occupy your kids as the school year comes to a close, it’s important to have a list of affordable activities up your sleeve. Here are two deals that will keep some money in your pocket and the kids’ idle hands from becoming the devil’s workshop.

Golfing at Encanto Park. Photo by Daniel Friedman.


The “Kids Play Free” program allows golfers 17 years and younger (when accompanied by a paying adult) to play on three City of Phoenix nine-hole courses without charge.

Aguila Par 3 • 8440 S. 35th Ave • 602-237-9601

This par three course located on 35th Avenue, just south of Baseline Road, features the Eagle’s Nest Café, which serves breakfast and lunch from sunrise to sunset.

Encanto Short 9 • 2300 N. 17th Ave • 602- 262-6870

This executive course, located just north of Encanto Boulevard on 17th Avenue,
has views of downtown Phoenix and nearby Piestewa Peak. It is well suited for beginning and intermediate players.

Palo Verde 9 • 6215 N. 15th Ave • 602-249-9930

A challenging executive course located on 15th Avenue, just north of Bethany Home Road. It includes three par fours and a lake.

Have more than one aspiring PGA star? Additional kids can play along for $5 apiece. The offer lasts all summer, from June 1 through Aug. 31. All three courses are open seven days a week, including holidays. Book your tee time at phoenix.gov/golf or by calling 1-866-865-GOLF (4653). Just remember to bring plenty of sunscreen and water; it is, after all, summer in the Valley.


If golf in the heat is not quite your forte, beat the heat and head inside for some bowling. The national summer program KidsBowlFree has several participating bowling alleys in Arizona. Although shoe rental rates still apply, by signing up online at kidsbowlfree.com, children 15 years and under can bowl for free until Aug. 31st.

Participating alleys include:

Amazing Jake’s: 1830 E Baseline Rd, 480-926-7499

Let It Roll Bowl, 602-944-4401

Cactus Bowl, 1630 South Alvernon Way, 520-327-6561
Fiesta Lanes, 501 W River Rd, 520-887-2695
Lucky Strike, 4015 E Speedway, 520327-4926
Santa Cruz Lanes, 3665 S 16th Ave, 520-622-2186
Tucson Bowl, 7020 E 21st St, 520-747-1363

Check kidsbowlfree.com for each alley’s hours of operation. What’s more, the program is partners with the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Challenge (PALA), a campaign by the White House to encourage exercise and active play across America. Bowling is credited as a physical activity that can go towards earning the PALA award. Head to presidentschallenge.org for more information on this program dedicated to promoting active lifestyles. — Robert T. Balint

Football combine kicks off this weekend

High school football players from throughout Arizona will have multiple opportunities to show why they are worthy of playing at the next level when the National Underclassmen Combine hits Phoenix this week and Scottsdale in mid-March.

“We’ve really had a ton of great players from Arizona including two kids that played in our first ever All World Gridiron Classic in DJ Hubbard and Jacob Arzouman,” says David Schuman, NUC CEO & President. “The state has a lot of talent and the prospects of seeing an athlete who could star in the NFL one day is always exciting.”

The Phoenix combine kicks off Saturday, Feb. 5 at Apache Junction High School and Scottsdale’s event is set for March 13. Registration information is available at nationalunderclassmen.com.

All participants will participate in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, bench press, vertical leap and shuttle run. In addition to official combine testing, athletes partake in individual skill period which includes drills, 1-on-1’s and 3-on-3’s along with other position-oriented competitions.

Following the combine’s completion, a special guest speaker will talk to the athletes about recruiting, education and making the right choices.

“We’ve had some great athletes from Arizona in the past including nationally rated Todd Peat and Brett Hundley among others, so I’m excited to see what this year’s field has to offer,” says Schuman. “Every season we see more and more great players from all across the nation. Arizona now represents an emerging football hotbed that will continue to grow. The truth is, you never know where the next great football player will come from and Arizona has proven that in the last few years.”

Statistics from every participant will be sent to colleges at all three levels and various recruiting bureaus such as ArizonaVarsity.com, Rivals.com and ESPN.com will be on hand to scout athletes. Select top performers will have profiles created for them on Rivals.com along with a special write up on nationalunderclassmen.com’s brand new recruiting network.

In addition, The NUC will host Special Teams camp combine which will give the best opportunity for kickers, punters and longsnappers to showcase their skills.
Top performers will be selected for the exclusive Ultimate 100 Camp, which features elite players in their region. The NUC’s event staff will also rank the best players by grade .

Athletes can sign up for the combine as well as preparation sessions and a recruiting seminar on http://www.nationalunderclassmen.com. Potential prospects can also call 1-888-NUC-MVP1 for more details. . All the information for registration and information is at nationalunderclassmen.com.

The National Underclassmen Combine is the most respected and longest running football combine and camp in the country. Since their inception in 2005, the NUC guided more than 50,000 athletes from all walks of life. 70 percent of the participants went on to play in college, with 20 percent earning D1 or D1AA scholarships. Notable alumni include standout rookie Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns, Marcus Lattimore, Robert Woods, Tyrod Taylor, Mason Walters, Tajh Boyd, and Steve Beauharnis. The NUC also hosted their first ever All World Gridiron Classic game last December in Charleston, SC.
For more information, go to Nucallworld.com and Nationalunderclassmen.com.
Contact – David Schuman, dschuman@nationalunderclassmen.com , 888-NUC-MVP-1