Tag Archives: team parent

State cheerleading finals

The state cheerleading finals will take place this Saturday, January 30, at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.  The 4A/5A finals will take place between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. and the the 1A/3A competition will start at 5:30 p.m. and run until 8:30 p.m.   A schedule of the finals and a list of the teams participating can be found here.

One of the teams participating will be the defending state champion Mountain View Toros, whom we featured in this blog last September.

Admission to the state cheerleading finals is $8 for adults and $6 for students with a student ID card.  An all-day pass, which gives you the ability to re-enter the arena, is $15. Make sure to dress warmly.  Because it is hockey season, the temperature inside Tim’s Toyota Center will be kept between 62 and 70 degrees to preserve the ice. If you cannot make it to Prescott Valley this Saturday, you may watch the cheerleading competitions live here — 4A/5A and 1A/3A.

If you have a young daughter or know of a young girl who is interested in taking up cheerleading, you should view Vicki Balint’s video about American Elite Cheer in Scottsdale.   — Dan Barr


With wrestling, there’s no substitute for hard work

Robert Balint (left) faces an opponent on the mat.

I was introduced to wrestling during my freshman year of high school. In fact, before the wrestling coach recruited me during football season, I didn’t even know that Brophy College Preparatory even had a wrestling team. Before high school, I played baseball, basketball and soccer, but I never once came into contact with a junior high wrestling program.

Arizona is far behind states such as Pennsylvania or Iowa, where the sport of wrestling is closer to a way of life than a mere pastime and 4- and 5-year-olds are hustled onto the mat by screaming parents. Like all sports, athletes who begin training earlier have a greater advantage than latecomers, as they have more time to learn and master the techniques, giving them a head start on muscle memory and body awareness.

That shouldn’t discourage high school athletes who have no prior experience. There’s no substitute for hard work. No matter how experienced a wrestler is, he still has to work for victory.

So what should you do if you have a child in seventh or eighth grade who is interested in wrestling?

Find the nearest grade school with a wrestling program. It probably will be a club program, not an actual school team. Club coaches teach the basic rules and fundamentals. They’ll take just about anyone who shows up ready to work. Here are some contacts to try:

Desert Mountain Wolfpack Wrestling Club
12575 E Via Linda, Scottsdale, AZ 85259
602-826-8887 • cfredericks@susd.orgwolfwrestling.com

Sunkist Kids Wrestling Academy
P.O. Box 12520, Scottsdale, AZ 85267
480-205-3015 • gressley@sunkistkids.orgsunkistkids.org

How is wrestling different from other sports?

Wrestling is a balance between an individual and a team sport. In dual meets, which pit two teams against one another, the two wrestlers in each weight class wrestle each other. Whoever wins captures team points, the number of which awarded depends on the nature of the win. After all 14 weight classes are done, the team points from each individual match are added up, and whichever team scored more is the winner.

Each team member has not only a personal desire to win, but also a responsibility to do well for the good of the entire team. Getting pinned sacrifices the most team points, so even if a wrestler has no chance of winning, he still has to fight hard to avoid giving the other team extra points that could decide the match.

The victor.

Concerning individual matches, wrestling is as close as you can get to a non-team sport. There’s nobody out there on the mat to help you. There is only your opponent. It’s a do-or-die situation: no substitutions, no half-times, nothing.

What are the time commitments and physical challenges of wrestling? What are the benefits?

Athletes should be prepared to dedicate a large amount of time to wrestling. Because the sport demands an extremely high level of conditioning, going to practice every day (grueling though that may be) is crucial to success. As for the physical challenge, there is not much that is more difficult than doing sprints after a couple of hours of drilling techniques and sparring with teammates. After all, it’s full-on combat.

However, if you commit, the rewards are great. Close bonds with teammates, personal pride and self-confidence are all gained from a sport that lets you be as successful as you want to be: it all depends on your personal work ethic. Wrestling helps develop determination, confidence and a refusal to quit. Like Olympic gold medalist and American wrestling legend Dan Gable said, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” — Robert Balint

A real hockey mom

Rachel's back windshield.

Rachel Harris is a Hockey Mom. It even says so on her car. For the past six years, she has nurtured and supported the hockey career of her 12-year-old son, Jack, who is now a rugged 110-pound defenseman for the Arizona Hockey Union U-12 97 team, otherwise known as the Polar Bears.

Jack playing hockey at age 6.

“When Jack was 4, he was invited to the Polar Ice rink in Chandler for a birthday party,” Rachel recalls. “He was frustrated that he couldn’t skate, but he saw some 5-year-old hockey players learning how to skate. He decided right then that he wanted to play hockey.”

Luckily for Rachel, an on-air contributor for Channel 3’s mid-morning show, “Your Life A to Z,” and her husband John, a local attorney, the Polar Ice rink in Chandler is a five-minute drive from their home. But I’d guess that the miles they have put into hockey-related driving since Jack first learned to skate would equal the distance to the moon and back.

“In second grade, he started taking private lessons at 6:30 in the morning. He would work on his skating, shooting and one-on-one situations,” says Rachel, who acknowledges that being a Hockey Mom can be time-consuming. “But it is a lot easier [now] than when I had to stay at the rink and tie his skates.”

Jack has steadily moved up the youth hockey hierarchy, from Mite to Squirt and now to PeeWee. He now has practice three times a week with the Polar Bears and plays about 50 games during the season, which stretches from July until March. Included in those 50 games are six tournaments, some of which are out of state.

Rachel and her mom in Hockey Mom and Hockey Grandma tees.

“We went to Whistler (British Columbia) in July for a four-day tournament against some Canadian teams. It was a great experience for everyone,” says Rachel, noting that several of the Polar Bears families are good friends because their sons have played together for the past six years.

The Polar Bears also played in Denver this past October, and are tentatively scheduled to play in Las Vegas in December and Salt Lake City in the January.

“Travel for these tournaments has made our family more cohesive,” Rachel said. “We usually plan some vacation [time] around them.”

Hocky Mom Rachel and Jack (12).

So what does Rachel think about that other Hockey Mom, who is currently on a well-publicized book tour?

“I got teased a lot during the presidential campaign, especially because I put my hair up and wear glasses. But I’ve had my Hockey Mom sticker on my car for six years, long before anyone heard of her.”

So what are the benefits of youth hockey in Arizona?

“Hockey has taught Jack self-discipline and he is very careful to eat healthy foods. I cannot say enough good things about it,” Rachel says. “And, oh yes, hockey is so great in the summer. That’s when I can’t wait to get inside the rink.” — Dan Barr

2009 Polar Bears Hockey Team.

You’ve got to show up

One of the great lessons that sports can teach is that you have got to get up after you have been knocked down.

Danielle Mark learned that lesson Monday night at the state 5A badminton semifinals at Shadow Mountain High School. Because she did, she and her Xavier College Preparatory Gator teammates will play for the state title this Wednesday night against Mountain Pointe.


Xavier badminton doubles team Carissa Pappas (left) and Danielle Mark.

Three weeks ago, I wrote about Danielle and her doubles partner, Carissa Pappas, when they played a Saturday tournament at Chaparral High School (“What most of us don’t know about badminton”). On that day, I asked Danielle what advice she would give young girls who wanted to play badminton.

“Our coach always says, ‘You’ve got to show up,’” Danielle told me on that day. “Show up both mentally and physically.”

Well, on Monday night, Danielle was nowhere to be seen in her singles match against Chaparral’s Joelle Fang, who displayed a deft touch with drop shots and placement. Danielle was skunked in the first game 11-0 and lost the second game 11-8. The match was over before it began. Danielle was frustrated, flustered and upset with herself.

About 45 minutes later it had all turned around. Now playing doubles with Carissa, who had previously won her singles match, Danielle looked like a different player. She was confident and assertive when only a short while earlier she had looked listless and confused.

With Xavier’s other doubles team losing and Chaparral threatening to pull even in the team match, Danielle and Carissa convincingly won their doubles match in straight games, 15-2 and 15-1, and in doing so propelled their team into the state finals.

“It’s not over yet,” said Carissa after the match, “but this is amazing.”

“We have been wanting this from the get go,” said Danielle of the state title. “And now we are so close.”

Xavier will have its hands full on Wednesday with Mountain Pointe, which beat Millennium 5-3 in a spirited group of matches on the other side of the gym. If nothing else, the Mountain Pointe girls should get the tournament award for “most creative team shirts.” Theirs are black and state on the back “We put the Bad in Badminton.”

The essence of a great teammate is showing up when your team needs you the most. Danielle got up after being knocked down on Monday night and now her team moves on.

The 5A badminton state championship will be at Shadow Mountain High School, 2902 E. Shea Blvd, at 6:30pm Wednesday. Admission is $5. The championship should be highly competitive. From what I saw on Monday, if any of the girls gets knocked down, they won’t stay down for very long. — Dan Barr

Those of us with children in the ocean

If you need more evidence that swimming is a lifetime sport, the La Jolla Rough Water Swim is proof positive.

Our family recently followed the Chaparral High Swim and Dive team for its annual trek to the lovely seaside town just north of San Diego to compete in the 1-mile ocean swim off La Jolla Cove. Son John, a junior, and daughter Emily, a freshman, are longtime club swimmers and teammates.

La Jolla Rough Water Swim

La Jolla Rough Water Swim

For the high school athletes, it’s an early-season bonding event, a quick two-day turnaround that leaves the team slightly bleary-eyed and sore on Monday morning, but brimming with a sense of accomplishment, wonderful memories and a newfound appreciation for each other and their sport.

For those of us with children in the ocean, the Rough Water conjures up a mix of excitement, fear and extraordinary pride.

For this year’s 2,038 finishers — ranging in age from a 6-year-old to Virginia Flagg, 83, of La Jolla — it is testament to hard work, endurance and the joy of swimming.

The event itself — now in its 93rd year — is so well run that there’s really no need to worry (still, that’s what I do best). Lifeguards on surfboards are placed along the triangular course to keep swimmers from going too far off track and aid those who are struggling. The dry land scene is well organized, too, and includes food booths and plenty of room in grassy Scripps Park above the cove to spread out and relax while awaiting your swim. Teams and families come from up and down the West Coast, Arizona and Colorado to compete in America’s oldest and largest open water swim competition.

The Rough Water is no mean feat, and the Sept. 13 event — John’s fourth, Emily’s second — absolutely lived up to its name, with 10- to 12-foot swells and much slower times to prove it. In all the years we’ve been hanging around La Jolla, I can’t remember seeing waves this big.

Younger swimmers, up to age 12, swim a 250-yard loop within the cove. The amateurs (all but three of the Chaparral crew), ages 13-18, swim the mile in separate boys’ and girls’ heats, following a course that takes them out to sea for 800 yards, above the La Jolla Underwater Ecological Reserve, banks left for 460 yards, then around a second buoy for the 500-yard leg back to shore.

A men’s and women’s masters event follows the same course as the amateurs, in several waves to accommodate nearly 1,000 swimmers, ages 19 to 83-year-old Virginia. The 3-mile Gatorman course is basically a roundtrip from the cove to just short of Scripps pier. Among the 491 finishers were Chaparral swimmers Sam Morgan, Tanner Roe and Cody Vitez. Sam took fourth overall, with a time of 1:01:38.

The camaraderie with fellow parents and former strangers is a comfort and a hoot — all of us lining the boardwalk three and four deep. Peering through binoculars to get a glimpse of our kids as they gather on the beach for the start. Getting out of each other’s way so we can snap a photo. Hollering their names though we know they can’t hear us. Looking out for each other’s children as they come back into view after they round the second buoy and head for shore. Congratulating each other before rushing off to embrace our wet, salty, exhilarated swimmers.

As proud as we are of these teenagers, the Rough Water also has something to offer their parents, and grandparents. Most of the top finishers were in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

In the men’s masters, you have to get to 14th place before you find a 19 year old. The third-place finisher, 42-year-old Patrick Brundage of Scottsdale, a dad with our club team whose daughters swam the 250 and the mile, came in just after 53-year-old Scott Bonney of Burton, Wash. Ben Weston, 28, of La Jolla took first. Tanner’s dad, Peter, 49, one of the Chaparral chaperones, also swam the mile.

The women are equally inspiring. Connie Falcon, 30, of La Jolla, took first; Amy Dantzler, 45, of Los Angeles, came in second; and 50-year-old Robynn Masters of Salt Lake City took third.

I don’t know if most kids took notice of the “old folks,” although my daughter and her friend chatted up Virginia after her swim. But as a runner nearing my sixth decade and wondering how long my knees will hold out, swimming holds the possibility of lifetime fitness. How many other sports can several generations enjoy together? How many are prescribed as rehab for injuries, at the same time offering a cardiovascular workout while building endurance and muscle strength? How many offer a head-clearing mental workout at the same time? Just swimming.

We’ll be back next year to cheer on the Chaparral High team, and our youngest will try his first 250. Interested? Check out the La Jolla Rough Water Swim home page to learn more. — Mary K. Reinhart

Bringing girls lacrosse to Arizona

srblog_girls_laxIf you have a young daughter who loves sports, I have a deal for you. On Saturday, May 9, take her to the Scottsdale Sports Complex, 8021 E. Princess Dr. in Scottsdale, where she can attend a free two-hour lacrosse clinic and then watch some of the top women’s college players in the Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates (WDIA) national championship game at 12:30 p.m.

The free clinic, which will run from 10am to noon, is open to girls from kindergarten through 9th grade and will offer instruction from several top high school coaches and players. Like most girls lacrosse events in Arizona for the past nine years, the driving force behind the May 9 event is Jessica Livingston. Jessie, who was an All American lacrosse player at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, moved out to Arizona after her graduation in 2000 and started girls lacrosse in this state. She founded the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association, runs lacrosse clinics and camps for girls of all ages all year round and has coached Chaparral High School to several state championships.

Jessie has brought her love and excitement about lacrosse to more than a thousand girls over the last nine years. Her lobbying convinced the WDIA to hold its 16 team national championship tournament at the Scottsdale Sports Complex from May 6-9. For more information about the WDIA national championship tournament, check out www.uslacrosse.org/events/ia/index09.html. The WDIA championship game will be followed by the Arizona High School All Star game. As for the free clinic, you may pre-register your daughter at www.azgl.com.

Lacrosse is a great sport for a lot of reasons, but I will give you one I did not know about until a few days ago. According to a recent study performed for the NCAA, women’s lacrosse ranks among the college sports with the highest graduation rates. While college graduation may be a while off for your daughter, it is never a bad thing to hang out with other smart and athletic girls.