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LVSD Pop Warner Straps on the Helmets for the Start of Another Great Season

August 6, 2009
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Head Coach Steve Sizemore

Head Coach Steve Sizemore

As predictable as the 4th of July Parade marching down D Street and trick-o-treaters coming out on Halloween night, one of the city’s time-honored traditions, La Verne/San Dimas Pop Warner, returned for another season, when kids from age 5 to 15 strapped on their helmets for their first day of practice and conditioning at Bonita High School this week.

All the teams and divisions were out in full force, looked amazingly organized despite their vast numbers.

Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

Within minutes, coaches were in mid-season form barking out orders and encouragement: “Cut down the noise,” “Chop those feet.” “I can’t hear you.” “Get in tight.” “Don’t let me catch you walking.” Not even parents could save their children from the cascade of drill sergeant commands that the coaches seemed to have been saving up all summer long. Moms and dads, and uncles, aunts and grandparents could only watch helplessly from the sidelines.

For these kids of August, summer was clearly over while they’re non-football playing friends were still sleeping in, hanging at the beach or enjoying one more family getaway before the return of school on Aug. 24. For these dedicated souls, their lives, at least from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the next several weeks, will be solely learning and practicing the ABCs of football.

Here’s a brief preview of some of the coaches’ values and goals they’ll be laying out in the weeks ahead for their young charges:

Steve Sizemore, Centurions 

Sizemore spent the summer preparing for the fall season and the squad of 25 kids who will be under his helm for the next several months. “There’s a lot to teach the kids and get them prepared for,” said Sizemore, who played his high school ball on some of the great Monrovia High teams from the ‘70s. “We worked hard all summer coming up with a game plan, practice schedule and work assignments.”

He and his staff immediately explained the team’s goals before a single football was thrown or tackling dummy was pulverized. “We have four goals,” Sizemore said. “No. 1 is for the kids to play to their maximum ability. If they do that, everything else will fall into place. No. 2, play to win. That means expending 100% effort and playing smart football. No. 3 is making sure they play as a team. That means supporting their teammates. No. 4 is sportsmanship.”

What kind of raw talent will Sizemore be molding? Would Coach Sizemore size them up? “This is a good squad of kids,” he said. “About half have played and about half haven’t. We have a good returning corps of players who know each other well. And the new kids are a competitive bunch as well. They’ll be just as competitive from day one.”

Sizemore, of course, doesn’t have to be coaching football and sacrificing his dinners, but he chooses to. “What I like about football is what it can teach kids about life and overcoming adversity. When you get knocked down, you get back up, and you look for the support and camaraderie of your teammates to be there for you.

“That’s what football is all about.” That’s why Sizemore is on the football field instead of watching the six o’ clock news at home.

Reggie DeGuzman

Reggie DeGuzman

Reggie DeGuzman, Jr. Romans

 

 

During the day, DeGuzman is a district manager for Kelly Paper Company. In the evening, he is the head coach for the Romans. Demand for paper may be down as emails and the Internet grow, but that doesn’t keep DeGuzman from developing a game plan for the employees he managers or the players he coaches.

“Regardless of what you do, success is built on teamwork, hard work, effort, discipline and having the right attitude,” said DeGuzman, who played high school ball for Wilson in Los Angeles and Cal Lutheran at the collegiate level.

“I love being out here, just being able to teach the kids,” he said. “Right now, we’re just getting them in football shape and introducing some plays. Scrimmages are just two weeks away so we have to get them ready.”

Fortunately, DeGuzman has a great coaching staff to support him, including Bill Gallis, Joe Greco, Elias Valenzuela, John Grady, John Strycula and team manager Craig MacKenzie. “We’ve been coaching together for the last five years, so we can dive right into practices knowing what we want to accomplish.”

“Probably the hardest thing for these 12- and 13- year-olds to learn is to put the team above themselves and to trust the coaching staff … that we know what’s best for the team,” DeGuzman said. This year’s team will have a Glendora accent, with some eight to 10 kids hailing from “The Pride of the Foothills” city, west of La Verne. DeGuzman is also a Glendora resident.

Ultimately, DeGuzman would like to see his mix of players compete at a championship level. “If we can do that, we’ll be very happy,” he said.  Looking at the calendar, he says he’s especially keen to play annual rivals Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana.

“They definitely have good coaching staffs over there,” DeGuzman said, “so I respect them a lot.”

Pat Bearse

Pat Bearse

Pat Bearse, Trojans

 

 

Pat Bearse really has two jobs, one as an L.A. County Sheriff, the other as a Pop Warner coach, which he’s been at the last dozen years with his sidekick Mario Provenzano. While Provenzano still has a son on the team, Bearse’s last boy graduated several years ago from the league. He may not have a blood connection on the field, but his players are still like family to Bearse.

“I like coaching, I like teaching youth the game of football, and the responsibility, discipline and other things that come with the sport.”

He truly sees himself as a teacher. “I love seeing the kids develop throughout the year and grow up to be responsible people,” Bearse explained. “It helps give them a discipline that they carry on into their lives.”

Bearse admits it’s slightly easier to coach without having a child on the team. “Parents know that I’m doing what’s best for the team and for the kids without any bias,” he said.

Bearse also understands that his Trojan players are the oldest and most mature, but he said he has never discounted what kids in the younger divisions can do. “Kids at every level know how to perform. They are really smart and way more developed than we were when we were young.”

Helping Bearse look even smarter will be assistant coaches Provenzano, Kevin Pucci, Robert Gonzalez and Joe Sanmarco. Whatever his chemistry is with Provenzano, it’s stood the test of time.

“We’ve had our disagreements, but we’ve been together so long we understand what our team goals are,” Bearse said. “There’s no single play that makes or breaks a game or a season.”

Bearse and his coaches aren’t afraid of commitment or taking responsibility, either. They arrive at practice a half hour and early and stay a half hour afterwards. On weeknights, they’re breaking down game films and on weekends they might be scouting other teams. Bearse figures they have to, as other cities can pull from a population of 250,000 while the LVSD program draws from maybe 75,000.

“We’ll do the best we can to prepare these kids for what they’re about to undertake,” Bearse said, sounding as if he were back at the sheriff’s academy. “We’ll be going up against some powerhouses. They can stack their teams.”

Despite the odds, Bearse figures to come out on top and believes that coaching accounts for more than 50% of a team’s won-loss record.

“I really do believe that,” Bearse said. “Taking responsibility is what this team is all about.”

Victor Arteaga, Barbarians

Victor Arteaga, center, with staff

Victor Arteaga, center, with staff

 

The Barbarians are in extremely good hands. The entire staff consists of professionals in the medical, fire protection and public safety fields.

As someone trained to communicate directly and succinctly in a short time span, Arteaga didn’t waste out any time laying out the team’s four values for the season.

“We’re about team, heart, effort and pride,” Arteaga said, addressing the full team after a water break. La Verne Online eavesdropped.

“Don’t dog your teammates by giving half of your effort,” he said to shouts of “Yes, sir.” “Don’t be the weak link when everybody else is working so hard. Everybody’s out of shape, and we’re trying to work you into shape. Always try to do the best you can. Cheating and going half way down (on exercises), that’s not what we want here, because then we can’t count on you come game time.

“Heart – it takes heart to be out here and work as hard as you do.

“Effort — Did that show effort when you only went half way down? That’s not what the Barbarians are all about.

“Pride — take pride in those three things I just talked about.

“These are the qualities that build a good strong team,” Arteaga added. “With our players being seven-, eight-and nine-years old, this is the perfect time to give them a good solid foundation and instill the kind of values that they can apply in school and have serve them well the rest of their lives.”

Arteaga said his team was able to combine all those values in their bowl game last season en route to a 6-0 victory over Rancho Cucamonga, “But this is a new year, so we have to restart everything,” Arteaga said.

John Martinez, Jr.

John Martinez, Jr.

John Martinez, Sr., The Archers

 

 

John Martinez, Sr., proved he has the coaching chops to be a successful Pop Warner coach because on a day he wasn’t able to be interviewed, his son solidly and seamlessly stood in for him. Delegation is important part of being an able leader.

John, Jr. only graduated from Bonita High School in 2008, but he’s already on the gridiron helping his father. He’s young, but the players he’s helping coach are even younger, five- and six-year-olds.

“Start ‘em young,” Martinez said. “They can start their lives here and really learn the game from the ground up. They’ll become better players and better people.”

Teaching tykes, ages five and six, will challenge Martinez and his fellow coaches. In addition to helping players get comfortable wearing their helmets, it’ll be all hands on deck getting their young charges accustomed to a rigorous exercise schedule.

“Their attention tends to wander at this age, so you have to be on them,” Martinez said. “We have a smaller group, so we’ll be able to concentrate more on helping individual players.”

Can a five-year-old do a push up? “Sure they can,” Martinez said in a flash.

Then, what’s the toughest exercise for these young players to master?

“The duck walk,” Martinez answered. He then demonstrated the duck walk, which looked like a thigh-burner, toes pointing outward as he waddled forward, his seat low to the ground. “Sure they struggle with it, but with time, they’ll get it down.”

John Andrade

John Andrade

Craig Young, Gladiators

 

 

Head Coach Craig Young is lucky to have assistants like John Andrade, defensive and line coach for the Gladiators. John, a mortgage broker, absolutely loves football. Sundays at his house are filled by watching all the NFL games and tossing the football around during intermissions.

“We love the game completely,” said John, a fan of Kurt Warner, the Arizona Cardinals quarterback.

Racing the clock, John said he tries to mix conditioning with technical drills. At that moment some of his players were busting through an imaginary guard and tackle and chasing down a tackling dummy five yards out.

John is extremely high on this year’s team. “There’s a lot of phenomenal talent on this team,” he said. “We have quarterbacks who can throw tight-spiraled 40-yard bombs, a tailback who is lightning fast and a lot of other great talented kids. They’re fun to coach.

“There’s so much talent that we feel we’ll be doing an injustice to the team if we have a losing season,” John added.

Just one of the parents watching all the action this season will be Cindy Johnston, who has two boys, Andrew, 7, and Matthew, 10, in the program. “Andrew loves the competition,” she said. “He doesn’t like the warm and fuzzy sports where they don’t keep score. He wants to go and either win or lose.

“Andrew loves winning the games and executing the plays.”

As for mom, she enjoys watching the games in what will be her ninth Pop Warner season. Her 15-year-old is a Pop Warner graduate who now plays for Bonita High School. By now, she’s used to the short summer.

“We practically have our mail sent here.”

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