Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wie, Wie, Wie All The Way Home

Ah, Michelle Wie…what is going on? This situation lately is such a mess it seems. It’s unfortunate that the media circus is around her decisions about her career (or rather, her parents’ decisions?). At any rate, even Annika Sorenstam is weighing in and the golf blogs and sports media are aflame with Michelle Wie’s decision to ditch the women’s event to play with the men. It all seems so erratic – one week we are marveling that she misses out when she is in the lead because she forgets to sign her scorecard. Another week, we are wondering why she is calling more attention to herself by playing in the men’s tournament. She shrugs it all off, but we are all left to wonder the motivations behind the whole thing. Let’s hope this young and talented athlete gets a handle on things and comes out on top of all the criticism and difficulites.

Golf WRX has a long commentary about the entire situation.

The Golf Blog has run more than one post on it. One post is of Wie’s and others' defense of her decision to play. Another discusses Annika’s comments about the whole thing.

Fanhouse talks about why she continues to get exemptions to play in the PGA.

The New York Times goes into quite the analysis.

The Golf Channel is speculating which will garner more headlines – Wie or Annika. They also run the story about Annika, Paula, and Helen Alfredsson wondering what she is thinking.

Personally, I hope she uses her talent and becomes a legitimate golfer in everyone’s eyes. She has the ability to play and it would be a shame to just end up being a footnote that she was a sideshow and waste that talent.

What do you think? Is ditching the major women’s event a smart move? Should she be playing in the PGA event?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wild World of Wednesday - July 30, 2008

NBA: Ron Artest is moving to the Houston Rockets. There was a rumor that the Lakers were trying to get him by offering up Lamar Odom. Speaking of the Lakers, in spite of “moving back to Europe” rumors, Sahsa Vujacic has re-signed with the Lakers. Also in the NBA, everyone’s favorite referee Tim Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison. His defense put forth the “gambling addiction” sob story.

NFL: The first preseason game is this Sunday. Can you smell the excitement? I can. I’ll be headed to at least one Chargers and one 49ers game at some point during the season and I can hardly wait. If I really had my wish I would also get to Raymond James to see the Bucs at least once. You know, I used to hate them until I went to college there and met a nifty Bucs fan guy. Now I realize that the whole league talks so much trash about them. Why? The NFL Network gives them no respect whatsoever. Last time I checked, they won a Super Bowl more recently than the Falcons, Saints, or Panthers. Oh yeah, the Panthers even LOST a recent Super Bowl. The Bucs defense is always strong and Gruden knows what he is doing. Why no respect? Seriously…all I have to say is…fire them cannons! If anyone knows where I can get the simulcast online for free to hear Gene Deckerhoff call the game while I watch it on my NFL Sunday Ticket, please let me know. I miss hearing his voice.

: Manchester City is making a play for one of Chelsea’s best. They confirmed today that they are quite interested in Ben Haim. Chelsea just completed their preseason tour in Asia with a win over Malaysia XI. As much as I absolutely love and adore soccer/futbol I could never cover it as well as Monica does at A Futebol Fan. Check out her rather extensive coverage here. You can check out other good soccer blogs from around the world also in my links section.

: The 2008 World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational is on this week. You can check the Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday for coverage and CBS over the weekend. Many are picking Stewart Cink to be the winner but don’t count out Geoff Ogilvy or some of the other talent.

Today in Sports History

1932 - The Summer Olympic Games open in Los Angeles

1947 – Arnold Schwarzenegger is born (no, this is not my foray into politics – he was a sports/fitness figure before he was a politician)

1990 - George Steinbrenner is forced by Commissioner Fay Vincent to resign as the principal partner of the New York Yankees

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tales From The Inbox - July 29, 2008

Golf: It’s that time of year again. My inbox has been dominated by summer sale flyers from various golf equipment companies. This is when everyone blows everything out and makes way for the new stuff. If you’re in the market for clubs, it’s coming up on a great time to buy since the new models will be out soon. That means the old ones have got to go – just like cars. The old models are on sale, the new ones are arriving! Technology keeps getting more interesting and it seems like drivers get bigger and bigger. In fact, I almost fell into the trap over the weekend. My driver is 454cc and I tried a 460cc out. At first, I thought I would trade up. After hitting about 50 range balls I discovered I knew what I was doing when I bought my original driver. My woods also - I love them all and they are staying in my bag! I just might upgrade my irons…

Futbol/Soccer: Apparently a scout from England’s West Ham football club, Tony Carr, is in the States scouting talent. This is a growing trend with European clubs as Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, and Portugal's Benfica have all started scouting in America. They are all very interested in kids from the United States. It’s nice to know that we may be catching up with the rest of the world in this sport! Seriously, I’ve said it before: the rest of the planet is absolutely absorbed in the sport so we must be missing something.

Baseball: Alright Dodgers…sending your mailing list recipients a chance to bid on already overpriced tickets…seriously!

Today in Sports History

1988 - Baltimore trades Mike Boddicker to the Red Sox for Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling

1995 - Monica Seles defeats Martina Navratilova in her return to tennis

1995 - Carolina Panthers defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in each team’s 1st NFL exhibition game by a score of 20-14

1996 - Tommy Lasorda calls it quits after twenty seasons as manager of the Dodgers following a heart attack and an angioplasty procedure in June. Bill Russell takes over for the man who won two World Series, four National League pennants and seven division titles. (By the way, I’ve never fully gotten over this.)

2003 - Boston Red Sox batter Bill Mueller became the first player in MLB history to hit grand slams from both sides of the plate in a single game in a 14-7 win at Texas.

Monday, July 28, 2008

5 Questions With The First Tee

The five questions interview this week comes to you with two bonus questions at no extra charge!

The First Tee is a program that teaches young people life skills through the game of golf. By teaching that golf is “more than a game”, children from diverse backgrounds benefit from this non-profit organizations teachings. No, this is not a country club environment open to only those with the highest socio-economic status. The Golf Center at Palm Desert is the home of The First Tee Coachella Valley chapter. You would think that being in the golf haven that the Palm Springs area is that this chapter would be one of the oldest in the organization. Not so, they’ve just come to fruition after a few years of hard work in January of 2008. If you’ve watched any recent events or flipped through a golf magazine, you’ve likely heard of The First Tee. The program teaches nine core values to participants: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment. Golf is the perfect game to instill these values in young people. I caught up with Jan Hagan, Executive Director of the Coachella Valley chapter in his office and found out just how amazing this program is.

1. Tell me about how you got involved with The First Tee and what the program is about.

I was a high school principal in San Diego and would first winter in Palm Springs and then retired here and learned the game of golf. I’m not a really a golfer, but I got involved with The First Tee for the exceptional curriculum that it offers. It really is more than the catch phrase of "its more than a game". We take the children and teach them social and life skills. They learn how to introduce themselves, shake hands, look people in the eye, goal setting, and so much more. As their golf skills increase, their life skills increase.

I’ve got a really great staff as well – not just golfers but golfers that are really great with kids. These are people I would have loved to have work for me back when I was in the school system.

2. How does a parent get their child involved in The First Tee? What can they expect from the program?

We are trying to reach out all across the Coachella Valley and let parents know how. At the most, the program will cost a parent $100 for the entire year. If the child is on reduced price lunches through the schools, the cost is only $50 a year. If there is a real financial need we have other ways of getting the children in. Cost will never be an issue for a family that wants to have their children participate in The First Tee.

The program includes lessons and camps throughout the year and they can take one class right after another. In addition, we provide the clubs, the curriculum, and at least one value-added experience a month. For example we just took the kids to the Classic Club on a tour that most people would pay $195 for.

Also, we try to make this the club that really makes the kids feel comfortable – it’s their club. I like to use the analogy of the old television show Cheers – where everyone knows your name. I want the kids to feel like that here, like a second home. We talk about all of the values with the children here and translate it in their club here to school, home, and then later on in life when they look for jobs and move on. We keep track of their grades and make sure parents feel like they are getting a good value for their time and money in this program. These kids also learn the rules of golf and are accepted at just about every course because they know the rules of the game and not to tear up the courses.

3. How do you get your funding and keep the facility and the program going? How can the average person donate?

This facility (The Golf Center at Palm Desert) is run by the Parks and Recreation District of Coachella Valley. Before all of the cities around here became cities, they were just communities near Palm Springs. The Coachella Valley Parks and Recreation District is now a multi-city governmental agency and The First Tee is run through that. The actual cost per each child is close to $500 and the District picks that up short the $100 (at most) that the parents pay. Part of my duties are fundraising and right now we are looking at some tournaments in the near future.

We can take donations of cash or equipment, both of which are tax deductible that we give a receipt for. When people donate equipment it benefits the program in one of three ways. Sometimes the clubs can be used as they come for one of the older kids. Other times, the clubs can be modified to be used by a smaller kid. Finally, if neither of these options is feasible we are able to liquidate the clubs into cash by selling them and that goes directly back into the program. We make sure that donors know that the equipment will be utilized in one of these three ways but all benefit the kids. We give each participant a set of clubs that they can use, not to keep, but they always have a set that fits their level.

4. What are some of the successes that you have experienced since you’ve been involved with The First Tee?

Even though we’ve only been operating since January we still know that we have made a difference. We have parents tell us all the time that their children are more polite and overall more well behaved. They really can’t believe the results.

One story that sticks out for me is when we took a group eight of our top kids to Torrey Pines during the US Open. We had a junior clinic there with the kids and it was getting rather late in the day. I think we were the last group of kids out there that late since we were staying the night in San Diego. We were standing at the 18th hole and a group of people started walking over toward us. It turns out none other than Tiger Woods and his entourage was coming our way. Tiger was totally “in the zone” practicing before the Open. One of our kids had this large “bouncy ball” that looked like a golf ball and tosses is to Tiger and asks him to sign it. I didn’t have time to react and thought “oh no” since Tiger was totally focused in his practice and I wasn’t sure how he’d react. Well, he was quite gracious and got a pen from his caddie, signed the ball, and threw it back. That really made this kid’s day and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving participant. This young man really exemplified what The First Tee is all about.

Also, we focus on diversity and inclusiveness with The First Tee. For example, part of our program deals with special needs children and teaches them about golf and the life lessons. Well, each day we have what we call “Tiger of the Day” for the kid who really exemplified what lessons were being highligted. We had one kid who really wanted this honor for some time and had worked really hard at it. This one particular day he tried and tried and just powered through and got to be “Tiger of the Day”. This is something that can be quite difficult but seeing this young boy want, work for, and get this deserving honor was rewarding for all of us involved.

5. How young can children become involved in The First Tee?

The program is set up for children from 8-17 and we’ve had so many parents ask about younger that we started a program for the 4-8 year-olds called the Little Linksters. They aren’t cognitively ready for some of the life lessons that we teach but we can start them out with simple concepts of honesty and sportsmanship. They learn the basics of golf through games like golf baseball and tic-tac-toe.

6. Is this program nationwide? How can we find chapters of The First Tee and more information about your chapter?

To find out more about this chapter visit our website at The national website is There are over 200 chapters and they are in major metropolitan and smaller areas alike. Now that we have a chapter here in this heavily-golfed area we are looking to be an exemplary chapter.

7. What else should we know about the program?

Well, every chapter of The First Tee can not only use donations of money and equipment, but of time. We can’t keep hiring staff as the programs grow because it wouldn’t be affordable anymore. A group of committed volunteers is vital to the success of the program and we try to make it a truly rewarding experience for those who do volunteer.

By the way, The Golf Center at Palm Desert is an excellent par 3, 9 hole course to practice your short game on. Stop by before you have a round at one of the large courses instead of the practice range and you’ll be ready to go. No matter what the time of year, green fees are never more than $10 for nine holes and $15 for 18. The facility also offers lessons for all ages, a driving range, and a snack bar. You can also find more details about the track by reading my review at Golf WRX.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Sports Wrap - July 27, 2008

MLS: There are four games today: New York vs. San Jose, Los Angeles vs. Dallas, Chicago vs. Kansas City, and Columbus vs. Colorado. The Galaxy are still slightly behind Real Salt Lake in the west and New England is alone atop the east.

Futbol: Real Madrid's coach is concerned about the club's obsession with Cristiano Ronaldo. He does not want the team to miss out on other athletes that may boost the roster. In another part of the futbol world, Ronaldinho will be the captain of the Brazilian team at the Olympics next month.

WNBA: Again, plenty of coverage today: New York vs. Atlanta, Connecticut vs. Washington, San Antonio vs. Detroit, Los Angeles vs. Minnesota, Indiana vs. Phoenix, and Sacramento vs. Seattle. After a strong start, the Sparks are near the bottom of the pile. Sacramento will be the one to watch today as they've won their last seven in a row.

MLB: As usual this time of year, there are baseball games all over the country. Tampa Bay is still on top of their division. Boston is two games behind and New York is three. Go Rays! Here in Los Angeles, the Dodgers are clinging to life a game behind Arizona. I feel like a broken record with baseball for sure and am considering just doing a copy and paste from the prior Sunday from here out.

Today in Sports History

1959 - William Shea announces that he plans to have a baseball team in New York City in 1961

1975 - New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is born in New York.

1997 - Stewart Cink wins golf's Greater Hartford Open by shooting a 267

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Great Outdoors Blogspotting

I’ve been meaning to find some good sources of info for outdoor extreme and not so extreme sports. I managed a collection of blogs, sites, and articles of things that are or sound like a blast to do:

Adventure Racing

The Wall Street Journal had a story about this just the other day about an event in Montana.

I also found this blog about adventure racing in Texas. No events are planned in the immediate future but it covers prior adventures.

You can always check out the Weekend Warrior’s Guide to Adventure Racing as well.

Here’s one more that covers ultrarunning, adventure racing, and mountain biking.

Checkpoint Zero is also a great collection of information about using the mountains and wilderness to their fullest.


The US Open of Surfing wraps up this weekend. If you aren’t near Huntington Beach, check out the live webcast.

Have you watched On Surfari yet? Shayne and Shannon are getting ready to start filming their ultimate surf adventures again. Check their site for upcoming details and sign up for the newsletter while you’re at it. You can catch them on FuelTV and I’ve heard also on the National Geographic Channel. In case you missed it, they took a minute for an interview here a few months back. They really are people with big hearts that appreciate every one of their fans.

California Surfing is a good spot to pick up forecasts and other surf info.

How about Stand Up Paddle Surfing? I haven’t done this but its now on my list.

General Adrenaline Addiction

The Adventure Blog covers surfing, rafting, skydiving, skiing, and much more for adrenaline addicts.

I found skydiving blogs here and here. Have you been skydiving? I went quite a few years ago and did AFF (accelerated free fall) in Taft. It is the most amazing time and I would highly recommend it.

What your favorite adrenaline-fueled sport?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Going Golfing

Yeah, I’m ditching responsibility and going golfing today. Well, not exactly…I’m too much of a conscientious dork to fully neglect all of my duties. However, I am headed to the desert for a quick round. Yes, I know that it’s July and the desert is hot. I like it that way. I went golfing in the desert earlier this month and had a blast. Of course, if you aren’t a heat-lover, I don’t recommend trying to play 18 holes in 100+ degree (F) weather. It really is nothing to joke about and you can get into serious trouble quickly. Please take my word for it on that one.

I’ll be trying out my cool new golf shirt from Tattoo Golf. It’s in bright orange so no one will be losing sight of me on the course. Hopefully I can find my swing because it sure didn’t come with me to the practice range last night…argh! Talk about an exercise in patience.

Check out a five questions interview that I did with Tattoo Golf earlier this year here. As I’ve mentioned before, they’re one of those companies for those of us who don’t want to wear the traditional or stuffy attire but still want to look sharp. They’ve got new designs all the time so check them out.

Other golf happenings this weekend:

The Evian Masters is happening in France. Lorena Ochoa is ahead at this point at seven under. Annika Sorenstam is trailing the pack at one under.

The RBC Canadian Open has begun with a soggy course. Eric Axley, Mike Weir, and Anthony Kim are tied for first place going into today.

The Mastercard Senior Open Championship and Nationwide Children’s Invitational are also happening now.

Today in Sports History

1966 - Mao Tse-Tung swims the Yangtze River.

1992 - 25th Olympic Summer games open in Barcelona, Spain. This is the Olympics that sees the dominating "Dream Team" in USA Basketball.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Army Changes Its Mind: Caleb Campbell

We all change our minds. Just ask Brett Favre. Sometimes changing one’s mind is not a big deal. You know, like when you decide to have salad instead of rice. Other times, a change of heart can be more serious. For example, you decide you really don’t want have children. Unfortunately for Caleb Campbell, someone else changed their mind and his life will be on a totally different track now.

Campbell was that remarkable story during this year’s NFL draft. He played his college ball for Army on the defense. On the last day of the draft, his story was profiled and he was interviewed during the live show. For the first time the entire weekend, fans in the crowd cheered together for one thing. They cheered for the military guy who had a shot in the NFL. You see, if he was drafted by an NFL team he could forgo active duty. The Army would consider him an ambassador of sorts for PR and other image-boosting purposes. He would still have recruiting and other duties with the military. That has all changed. A change in policy means that he will not be able to play in the NFL and must report for active duty.

I bet he feels like he was punched in the gut. Imagine having your course in life determined by this event. Here he worked to settle in to his new life that he believed was his for the last few months. He thought he was off to the high life of the high-paying NFL. Guess what? Just kidding, he has to serve. It seems like a cruel joke.

His story brought out a lot of emotion when it happened. There were those who thought that if he went to play in the NFL that we was not a leader, that he was basically a traitor, or that he should pay back his educational costs to the Army. Others were happy for him and believed he worked hard and could set an example for young people. Both sides were very passionate about the situation and some forums even became a heated political battle between commenters.

However you feel about Caleb Campbell, his decisions, and the Army; it’s disappointing for someone to have a dream come true that only very few get to experience only to have it taken away a short time later.

What do you think? Is this what he deserves? Should he be allowed to play in the NFL?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wild World of Wednesday - July 23, 2008

NBA and Basketball: Do you miss the NBA season? I do. There has been a lot to catch up on with the trades and other business happening. I’ve been getting my fill at Club Lakers and And One . Speaking of basketball, have you heard of 3BA? It’s a new league of 3-on-3 basketball with different rules that tours the country. They’ll be in Anaheim for the next stop on July 26th.

NFL Football: Brian Urlacher is finally happy with the Bears and has signed a contract extension that keeps him in Chicago until 2012. Peyton Manning will reportedly be ready to take the field with the Colts at the season’s start. Manning had knee surgery in the offseason that has some speculating if he’ll miss a start. Donovan McNabb claims to feel great and is ready to lead the Eagles to a winning season. We’ve all heard the phrase “I’d rather have Donovan McNabb in a full body cast than another healthy QB.” Hopefully it won’t come to that and he stays healthy through the season.

Golf: Rocco Mediate called in to the Dan Patrick show yesterday morning. Seriously, how can you not like this guy? He comes across as a real, down-to-earth, everyman. He says he’s even game to do a commercial with Tiger Woods where he’s at Tiger’s place cleaning his pool. Listen to his appearance here. Phil Mickelson also made an appearance and predicted that the San Diego Chargers would win it all this season…not that he’s biased there…

MLS Soccer: Real Salt Lake is now in first place in the West, followed closely by the Los Angeles Galaxy. New England is tops in the East with a comfortable lead over Columbus. Tomorrow MLS All-Stars face the Premier League’s West Ham squad. A hooligan alert has been sounded in North America for West Ham’s pre-season tour. Great.

Surfing: The US Open of Surfing has been going on since Friday and continues through Monday. The Festival Venue opens tomorrow and will feature skate, FMX, and concerts. The event takes place in Huntington Beach in spite of the marine layer.

Today in Sports History

1936 – Brooklyn Dodgers draftee Don Drysdale is born in Van Nuys, Ca.

1973 - Los Angeles Dodgers favorite Nomar Garciaparra is born in Whittier, Ca.

– Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey is the MVP of the MLB All-Star Game.

1995 - John Daly wins the British Open.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

NFL Trading Fun

Yeah, I often find trades amusing. I remember way back in the day when I was a child and players “stayed with their teams forever”. When Joe Montana went to the Chiefs it was absolutely horrible. A franchise player like Joe didn’t often jump ship like that. Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith were always Cowboys. Barry Sanders was always a Lion. Dan Marino retired a Dolphin. Today you just don’t see so much of that. Of course, I can see Peyton Manning staying a Colt, but otherwise I’m not so sure…

The most interesting trade over the last few days has to be that of Jeremy Shockey headed to New Orleans. Some Saints fans are a bit perplexed about the whole thing. (It’s OK Nola, deep breaths…deep breaths…everything will be just fine…) It will certainly be interesting to see how this pans out down there. Will his attitude calm down? Can he possibly fit in with the fan favorites? I would bet that Saints fans will be a bit torn but eventually welcome him…unless he starts talking too much…

Jason Taylor got his way and is out of Miami. He’ll now be in a Washington Redskins uniform. No offense to either team…but I’d rather live in Miami. DC is cool, but that’s just the problem. I’m too much of a sun-lover to live where snow falls. At any rate it will be interesting to see how he performs. Will he be too busy traveling to New York to pursue a modeling or film career? Will he be able to concentrate on the game? Only time will tell.

Speaking of time…time seems to heal all wounds if you’re Chad Johnson. I heard an interview with Carson Palmer on AM 570 KLAC the other day and he says that things are going great with Ocho Cinco. It wasn’t too long ago that Johnson was calling his team out on ESPN and everywhere else that would give him air time. Hopefully he’s rehabbed his physical and emotional injuries and can move on. Palmer sounded like he was ready to get on with the season and had plenty of nice things to say about his home state.

I’m sure there will be more trade shenanigans in the weeks before the season starts! Can you smell it!?

Monday, July 21, 2008

5 Questions With A Team Owner

Linda Clarke is an owner of the Tri-County Titans, a minor league football team from the LCFL in Orange County, Ca. A Southern California native, she was introduced to me as “Auntie Linda”. Brought into the football business by her nephew, she considers her team to be family. Indeed, this petite woman has a very calm and consoling demeanor when you speak to her. However, when she needs to say something to the team you won’t be struggling to hear her. An employee for General Motors by day, she has two biological children of her own. Linda took a moment away from the game for a quick interview.

1. How did you become the owner of a football team?

My nephew – he was the owner of the Westside Warriors and needed help. I came along and we changed the name to the Tri-County Titans. Now we are in our 5th year.

2. What is the most exciting thing for you being involved with the team?

The relationships with each of the guys individually. I sort of take care of them and get involved with each of their lives. We try to instill in them that family is very important and then this is like one big family. Family is very important.

3. What are some of the most memorable things for you with the team?

Just getting to know them all and getting personal with each individual. You know, one of the wives gets pregnant you have a shower or you have other parties for them for different parts of their lives.

4. What are some of the most frustrating things you deal with?

I sometimes wonder how I do this. First I think, “I don’t have any kids on the team, what am I doing?” Other times I think I have 50 or 60 children! My husband asks me every year also – why do I do this? This takes a lot of money and it can be frustrating. But then, all one of the guys has to do is say, “Hi Auntie”, and then I remember why I do this. That’s why.

5. So, that is how you are able to keep doing this?

Yeah, sometimes I have moments where I don’t know why but I then know that the guys definitely keep me doing this. I help them find a job when they don’t have a job. They call me when they play somewhere else and say, “Hey Auntie, can you come see me?” Or, they’ll ask me to come bring them food and I come. I’m just so proud of all my Titans - win or lose. I just hope they all have fun.

I caught Linda for just a few moments during halftime at the game on Saturday, July 19th. I’ll catch up with her again during the season for more. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Titans Wrap - July 20, 2008

The Tri-County Titans are a minor league football team based in Orange County, Ca. They are part of the LaBelle Community Football League that has teams all over California. Last night, they played their first home game of the season against the Orange County Jaguars.

The game began with the Titans winning the coin toss and electing to kick. The first possession of each team did not result in points but the Jaguars drew first blood with a touchdown at the 9:11 mark in the first quarter. The resulting point after was no good. Later, the Jaguars were able to force a safety. Titans CB Jaray Austin (9) intercepted a Jaguars pass in the waning seconds of the half. Score at halftime 8-0 Jaguars.

When the second half began, a new Titans team took the field. The team buckled down and started to get points on the board. In the 3rd quarter, CB Jaray Austin (9) again intercepted the Jaguars but this time ran in for the touchdown. The resulting two point try was good, caught by WR Terrance Moore (88), making the score 8-8. Coach Manny Ojeda commented on what an emotional game this was turning out to be for the team at this point. The Jaguars were their cross-town rivals and it was obvious these teams were well acquainted with one another.

Next, a back and forth scoring exchange – the Jaguars scored again, making the score 15-8. The Titans scored again with just over 6:00 in the 3rd quarter, WR Terrance Moore (88) making the touchdown. The resulting point after was good and the score was again tied, 15-15. The Jaguars scored again with 1:10 left in the 3rd and made good on the point after to make the score 22-15 in favor of the Jaguars. The Jaguars picked up another safety, making the score 24-15. With 1:49 left in the game, WR De’Von Edwards scored a touchdown for the Titans and the resulting extra point was good. The score was then 24-22 in favor of the Jaguars. The onside kick after didn’t go the way the Titans had hoped and the game ended in favor of the Jaguars.

One of the most exciting things about the game was the feeling of community and family. Amongst the crowd cheering for the Titans were members of the Southern California Breakers IWFL team. Titans head coach Manny Ojeda is one of the assistant coaches for the Breakers and they were present to support their beloved mentor. The Southern California football community is indeed one that supports each other. I saw people in uniform playing that I used to see supporting the Breakers at their games and now witnessed that come full circle with Breakers in street clothes supporting the Titans. Team owner Linda Clarke echoed the sentiment of family and community in an interview that will be on this site tomorrow.

Up next: The Titans face the Desert Valley Spartans on the road. The next game that will be covered here will be the match on August 9th against the South Bay Skulls at Mira Costa High School. You can find the full season schedule here. Stay tuned for more interviews with other members of the Titans and other teams in the LCFL as the season progresses. Follow Titans football here through their regular season that goes until the end of September and any post-season activity as well.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

5 Bizarre Sports

My sports ADD is in high gear today and I wanted to push the boundaries of the “traditional” sports notion again. Bizarre may be the wrong term for some of these so feel free to use your own descriptor. Basically, these competitors have the art of tongue-in-cheek and having fun down cold. Check out these gems:

1. USARPS League: That acronym is for the USA Rock Paper Scissors League! They’re even sponsored by Bud Light and had the championships in Las Vegas where the winner took home $50,000. The event was even broadcast on the A&E Network.

2. Bog Snorkeling: Alright, I used to complain when the visibility in the Gulf of Mexico was less than 5 meters. I’m not sure I’d be too excited about snorkeling in straight muck! That doesn’t stop these folks in Wales. They’ve got sponsors and a big event but know how to have a good time. On one pic they tell you that training is very difficult and the next shows them carrying two cases of “training supplies”. At least if you become ill you probably won’t change the water color! (Eeeewww!)

3. Underwater Rugby: This sport will have a world championship in Germany in 2009. There are very specific rules and regulations, right down to the colors that the home and visiting team wear. Players have to get the weighted ball down to the opponent’s basket underwater. This has been played in Europe for some time and is starting to really catch on here in the states.

4. Sepak Takraw: This sport is basically volleyball played as soccer. Players may use everything but their hands to move the ball. Sepak Takraw is played mostly in Southeast Asia and has a large following. It looks quite difficult!

5. Extreme Ironing: This proves that people really do have a sense of humor and will always push the limits of absurdity. Extreme ironing is just what it sounds like – ironing in very extreme places. (See today’s video)

What’s your favorite offbeat sport?

Friday, July 18, 2008

An Asterisk Without Tiger Woods?

Really? There are people who believe that the winner of the British Open should have an asterisk? That is absolutely absurd. Seriously. Let’s get real here. These professional golfers are all so much better than most of us will ever be. They have to be! Trust me, if they’re on tour, they’re excellent. Putting an asterisk next to any win they have is a slap in the face. They’ve prepared. They’ve spent hours practicing and being coached. You’re telling me that the only reason the winner of this event wins is because Tiger Woods isn’t playing? I say you’re grossly underestimating these gentlemen. Simply because he is the number one golfer in the world does not make his presence an automatic win (see New England Patriots story for assuming the win). Do the players who win events with his entry need an asterisk that says they deserve greater recognition because they beat Tiger? Of course not!

Every sport has dominant figures. Think about it. If you give golfers an asterisk for this, you need to give one to the New York Giants. How about one for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? They’ve managed to stay atop a division that has both the Yankees and the Red Sox. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m definitely a Tiger Woods fan. His mere presence has done so much for the sport of golf. He is an exceptional athlete and a remarkable competitor. He is getting rewarded quite handsomely for his achievements as well. The latest issue of Golf World has a clip that estimates he’ll be worth one BILLION by 2011. He’s worked hard for it and is now reaping the benefits.

However, the winner of any majors in his absence does not deserve some artificial asterisk. They deserve to be called the winner, plain and simple.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

5 Free Fantasy Football Sites

Have you ever wondered why people get so involved in fantasy sports? I knew the apocalypse was near when Fantasy Golf came around. Don’t get me wrong, you all should know by now that I love golf. I’m just a realist. I want to play golf and improve my game, not live vicariously through the pros. Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Basketball are way too time consuming for me as well. I know there is also Fantasy Futbol/Soccer in several of the leagues but I’d never get anything done if I did that (In case you do have time you can find Facebook’s Premier League here that has a fee or the Barklays version here that is free).

Even so, I do get into Fantasy Football (NFL). I’m playing again this year and the draft comes up in another few weeks. I haven’t played for a few years – it was Cadillac Williams’ rookie season when I last had a team. My team rocked! I had LaDainian Tomlinson that season where he had a touchdown run, reception, and pass in the same game. My kicker was Neil Rackers when the Cardinals only scored a bunch of field goals every game. My dud was Algae Crumpler. He was untradeable for some reason and only had like one really great game. I ran through several QBs including Byron Leftwitch and Donovan McNabb.

Alright, there are several viable sources for Fantasy Football, most of which are free or have a free option:

1. Yahoo! Sports
3. CBS Sports
4. CNN/Sports Illustrated
5. Facebook has one here and many others that you can find just by searching the term “fantasy football”

There are others out there as well. My football-loving pals over at Chicks in the Huddle are also hosting a league for a small fee and need some more chicks to sign up! Don’t forget to check out The Hazean, a blog that completely revolves around Fantasy Football.

Chime in everyone and let me know what else is out there – I’m all ears. Are you playing this season? Where are you playing? What are your favorite sites that give you FF info?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wild World of Wednesday - July 16, 2008

Futbol: Rhonaldino is moving from Barcelona to AC Milan. Mancini is leaving AS Roma for Inter Milan. Juventus has given up on their pursuit of Liverpool’s midfielder Xabi Alonso. Really, there is just way too much going on for me to properly cover. All I know is that the Premier League starts up again in mid-August.

Football: As the NFL season draws nearer, so do the wild stories. This week has been quite the Brett Favre rollercoaster and I’m all done talking about it! Today.

Baseball: The Homerun Derby was quite the spectacle this year with Josh Hamilton hitting 28 in the very first round. He should have won, don’t you think? Alas, Justin Morneau pulled it out in the end. Most fans are talking about Hamilton’s performance more than the winner’s. Morneau shouldn’t be too bothered about it though – he’s got the trophy. The All-Star Game was another marathon at 15 innings and the longest in history at 4 hours and 50 minutes.

Golf: Is golf boring without Tiger Woods? I don’t think so. Of course, I don’t get bored of golf. I’m definitely a fan of Mr. Woods, but it’s nice to see other players getting the spotlight also. I’m sure Tiger will recover and be back in the game before too much time passes. Even if he went so far as to retire I bet he would stay involved with golf. It would be nice for the other golfers on tour to answer questions about themselves rather than what golf is like without Tiger also. As a matter of fact, the sport existed before he played and will likely continue to thrive when he does leave.

Basketball: There are rumors of the Lakers looking to trade Odom. That dancin' machine Turiaf agrees to a new contract with the Warriors but the Lakers can make another offer.

Today in Sports History

1950 - Uruguay defeats Brazil 2-1 for soccer's 4th World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

1995 - 50th US Women's Open Golf Championship is won by Annika Sorenstam

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Brett Favre...Again

Being that this is a sports blog I feel compelled to comment yet again about the whole Brett Favre thing. I wrote a post when he retired a few months back commending his show of emotion. More recently I begged him not to return. With all of the new developments, there really isn’t something new I can write that hasn’t been said or rehashed in the last week. With that in mind, here is a list of places I’ve been getting my Brett Favre fill with:

Yahoo! Sports has the headline that reads Favre says the Pack should let him play elsewhere. How strange will that be to see Brett in another jersey?

Girls Dig Sports first asked Brett to let it go and then gave that observation a second look.

Gonner’s View wrote a letter of frustration about the entire shenanigans.

Pyle of List has a long commentary addressing Brett and the Packers fans.

On Opinion On Sports points out that there is no “semi-retired” in the NFL.

Afraid of Ed Hochuli broke his normal pattern of posting to discuss the matter.

With Malice even threw in his two cents when the whole thing was at the rumor stage.

Lombardi Ave wants ESPN to hush and also posted a collection of links about the Favre-versy yesterday.

Of course you can’t watch the NFL Network or SportsCenter without hearing about Brett Favre. Where have you been getting your Brett news? Have you written a Favre-related post recently?

Monday, July 14, 2008

5 Questions With A Sports Writer

I was recently acquainted with Lyndsey D’Arcangelo, writer of Girls Dig Sports. I was quite excited to meet her and am now convinced that I have a long-lost sibling (or at least a like-minded colleague)! Lyndsey’s blog covers just about every sport and she often opens with what she recently heard on sports radio that day. I knew I couldn’t be the only one! Lyndsey was kind enough to stop and be my guest for today’s questions:

1. How long would you say you've been an avid sports fan? Is this something that started in childhood? Where do you think this love for sport began? What are your favorite sports to follow?

I've been a sports fan for as long as I can remember. I grew up with two brothers so we were always playing some kind of sport. I started soccer when I was 5 and my love of other sports grew from there.

I think my love of sports was innate. I love to play, compete and push myself. I don't ever remember wondering why. It's just the way I am.

I’m a frequent watcher of ESPN. I catch Pardon the Interruption with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon whenever I get home from work in time. I read the sports page of the Buffalo News and browse when I can. I listen to ESPN radio and light up when I hear a woman call in because I know I’m not the only woman listening. I live, breathe, play, and watch sports so much that my entire year is segmented in my mind according to professional sports schedules. I try, if I can, to plan activities around playoff games. I even associate seasons with a particular sport. Every fall, I gear up for football. During those long, cozy winter days I watch a mix of hockey, basketball, and football. And once spring hits, I can smell the NCAA tournament coming. Summer is reserved for watching hockey and basketball playoffs, and the occasional soccer game or tennis match. And that’s my year in a nutshell. That’s the mind of woman who loves sports.

2. What sports have you participated in throughout your life? What organized sports have you been involved with? What do you continue to play today? Which are your favorite sports to participate in?

I've played soccer, softball, football, basketball and volleyball. I also skied, ran a half marathon, rollerbladed, and mountain biked.

(Organized) Mostly basketball and soccer. I even coached basketball for a year at the college level.

As a 30-year-old, I continue to run, walk, rollerblade, ski, mountain bike and play organized basketball and soccer. I also take Tae Kwon-Do. But basketball is my first love and favorite sport of all.

3. How did you become involved in writing about sports? What sites/publications have you/do you write for? Is sports writing a hobby, a job, or a dream for you? (or maybe all three?) What qualifications/education do you have for writing in general?

One of my first writing jobs was a reporter for a small weekly paper near Buffalo, NY. I covered high school sports in the area and I loved it.

I was recently asked to help out with high school sports for the Buffalo News and was also recently asked to write a blog called Girls Dig Sports for B5 Media (a blogging network based out of Toronto, Canada). I jumped at the chance because I wanted to give other women like myself a forum to discuss sports without feeling intimidated or as though they had to prove themselves.

Sports writing for me is like all the writing I do — it's incredibly fulfilling. I love to write and I was meant to write, so being able to do it for a career is a dream come true. I never wanted to pigeon hole myself into one category of writing so I do it all — I'm a freelance copywriter, journalist, novelist, poet, creative writer, and blogger.

I've been writing my entire life and have attended numerous writing camps when I was growing up. I graduated from Randolph-Macon College with a degree in English/Creative Writing. I started my own freelancing business in 2006 and showcase my writing on I have experience in advertising, journalism, higher education, and the creative writing world. I've also had two short stories published in national publications.

4. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing for a sports-themed blog? Do you often experience burnout, writer's block, or plain lack of motivation?

I guess it would be deciding which sport to write about. There are so many topics and stories to cover every day that I can't cover everything. My blog is dedicated to all sports, so I have a wide variety of topics to choose from.

(On burnout) Not really. I know myself pretty well by now and I know that if I'm not in a "writing mood" then I just won't write. I don't like to try and force it, so if I'm not feeling the creative juices flowing then I'll just do something else. But this happens very rarely, especially because at this point in my career I have my hands in so many different aspects of writing that I never get bored.

5. What would you tell young people that aspire to become sports writers? What sort of advice would you give them?

To be good at sports writing you must have two things: you must love sports and you must love to write. That's all it takes. As for advice, I'd tell them to never stop writing. Write often and explore all the options available for writers. Don’t limit yourself to just print - there's television, radio, the Internet, and more. Keep your options open and be willing to learn and grow.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Sports Wrap - July 13, 2008

: Today is the last of the matchups before the All-Star Game on Tuesday. The standings through the league are pretty much the same as they’ve been for some time now – Devil Rays, White Sox, and Angels atop their divisions in the AL and Phillies, Cubs, and Diamondbacks atop the NL. The Dodgers are doing just peachy and lost Takashi Saito last night. Expect to see more “great baseball” from them. (Yes, that was sarcastic.)

WNBA: Two games today: Connecticut @ Washington and Atlanta @ Chicago. The Los Angeles Sparks have slipped down in the standings to third in the west. San Antonio sit atop the west and Detroit is number one in the east.

Golf: The John Deere Classic finishes today and there’s a three way tie at the start of the day (Kenny Perry, Jay Williamson, and Will MacKenzie). Across the Atlantic, the Scottish Open is finishing up. The Jamie Farr Corning Classic also finishes today. Michelle Wie is struggling here, Paula Creamer shot a 60 in practice earlier in the week, and it’s still anyone’s win.

Today In Sports History

1934 - Babe Ruth hits his 700th home run in a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

1944 - Erno Rubik of Budapest, the inventor of the Rubik's cube, is born.

1963 - Spud Webb, NBA guard extraordinaire, is born today.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tales From The Inbox - July 12, 2008

The inbox if full of interesting newsletters and other tidbits so its time to share again. Some of these events have appeared in the past but are worth another share:

Life Rolls On: There are three events for Life Rolls On in July here in Southern California. Next Saturday, July 19th is They Will Surf Again at Zuma Beach. This event is in conjunction with Nike and Hurley and is still in need of volunteers on land and in the water. Click here for more information. On Monday, July 21st the organization will have its annual LRO Golf Tournament at the Malibu Country Club. There is still plenty of time to get involved with this also. Click here to learn how. Finally, Life Rolls On is the official charity of the US Open of Surfing July 24-27. Volunteers are still needed for this event as well that takes place in Huntington Beach.

Women’s Professional Soccer: The WPS League has announced their post-Olympic timeline for player recruitment. The WPS teams will build rosters through allocations of the Women’s National Team, international player draft, combines, other League drafts, and local team tryouts. Check their website for the complete information.

: Global Golf has introduced the Carolina Golf Guide to find information on where to play and package deals in the Carolinas. Speaking of packages, the Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort has some great offers this time of year. The resort sits on Lake Coeur d’Alene in Northern Idaho just 31 miles east of Spokane, WA. This caught my eye since they are giving away a TaylorMade rescue hybrid with certain packages.

Baseball: The Dodgers are giving us gas? This is nothing new except this time it’s for the car. Gee, you’re so generous (sarcastic tone). At any rate, if you purchase a ticket to the July 27th game, you get a $10 gas card. Check out the details here. On Sunday, August 3 is the next Nomar’s Carne Asada Sunday. Nomar Garciaparra hosts this event after the game where you can hang out and eat some carne asada and perhaps get a pic with Nomar. Oh, and if you haven’t played with this yet – go here and make yourself a virtual bobblehead.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I really enjoy getting my sports info from the independent bloggers that specialize in their sport of interest. If you’re a regular here, you know that I have a serious case of sports ADD and can barely stay on one sport for an entire post most of the time. Today will be no exception! Here are some suggestions I have about where to get specific about a sport:

: There are a few golf sites I frequent including Golf Girl’s Diary and The Golf Chick Golf Blog. Another really good golf-related site is Golf WRX. I’m not just saying the latter simply because I contribute to their blog. This site is worth checking out because they not only have a golf blog but forums and resources for every golfer. I also read The Golf Blog pretty regularly.

Soccer: There are some very dedicated soccer bloggers out there that cover nearly all of the leagues around the world. Start with For Girls Who Can’t Do Football for a fun view and then hop over to A Futebol Fan. Both of these cover football/soccer in far more depth than I ever could.

Basketball: If it has anything to do with hoops, you can find it on And One. I’m also a big fan of Club Lakers and Le Basketbawl. Club Lakers is actually more than one blog and a whole community.

Focus on Women’s Sports: Athletic Women Blog and Women’s Sports Blog are the best I’ve seen to cover women almost exclusively.

: On Surfari is my favorite surf spot on the web and I check out the Rincon Surf Blog from time to time as well. The I Surf With Friends network is a great place to get info as well.

Do you have a good source for specialized sports coverage? Let me know. I’m always looking for good sources! If you have a sports blog (or are a sports fanatic in general) and want to collaborate, trade links, or would like to guest contribute send me an email.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Someone Call A Toe Truck

Knowing my affinity for stretching the definition of sport my pal Carolyn from And One sent over this gem. Thank you for your continued support and contributions Carolyn! If you haven't seen her beautiful basketball blog then you are truly missing out. I swear she finds the most interesting hoops-related bits on the web!

Think your lower digits are something special? Not afraid to put one toe over the line? The Bentley Brook Inn in Derbyshire, England, needs you for the Ben & Jerry’s World Toe Wresting Championship.

Begun in 1976 at Ye Olde Royal Oak Inn, Wetton, Staffordshire, with the specific goal of “establishing a sport the British could win," the World Toe Wrestling Championship languished in obscurity after a Canadian won the crown the following year. Publican George Burgess rediscovered the rules in the early 90s; socks were tossed with disdain and toe training began in earnest.

In 2003, George toe-ld the BBC:

It's all down to perseverance, ankle strength and having a `toe-riffic' sense of humor.

Toe wrestling slogan? What else?

There’s no ‘arm in it.

No luck yet finding the rules online; each time I get close, the link is broken. Here’s a teaser:

Rule 7 - A player may, if the agony becomes too great, surrender by calling out the words "”Toe Much.”

Kids News Room clarifies:

The sport of toe wrestling has a similar format to arm wrestling. The day begins with an official Toe Inspection; no dirty feet allowed! Contestants sit facing each other on the "Toedium" and place their feet on a small wooden frame. They lock big toes and with the cry of "Toe-down," they wrestle both right and left feet until one person pushes his opponent’s foot to the bookend on the side of the frame.

The event is closely monitored by a referee.

The couple to beat and yes, I said couple, is Paul and Heather Beech. In 2005, at the 12th annual championship, Heather out-toed her sister, Alison Redfearn, for the women’s title while Paul, otherwise known as the "Toeminator", dashed Alan “Nasty” Nash’s hope for a 6th title. Mr. Nasty is no slacker; in 2000 he won the title with “an undisclosed broken foot.”

Ben and Jerry’s donated a year’s supply of ice cream to the winners. With four baby Beeches at home, that’s a lot of Jerry Garcia. And, if freakishly strong mutant toes are genetic, imagine the possibilitoes.


Toe Tidbits

World Toe Wrestling Federation president George Burgess and WTWF organiser Brian Holmes have unsuccessfully applied for Olympic status … world champion Alan "Nasty" Nash has even been knighted in the West Indian island of Redonda.

Nasty Nash is knighted.

(you'll have to follow the above link to see the certificate that was once here)

All proceeds from the event go to the Derbyshire charity When You Wish Upon a Star.

Scoured the Ben & Jerry Web site (US and England) for proof of past, present and/or future World Toe Wrestling Championship sponsorship in vain. We’ll have to take the BBC’s word for it.

July 22, 2008 (annual)

Bentley Brook Inn

£2.50 to enter; free to watch

Opening Hours:
Wrestling begins at 1pm

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wild World of Wednesday - July 9, 2008

That other basketball team in Los Angeles (you know, the Clippers?) has been in the news quite a bit lately. First, they reportedly had a deal working with Baron Davis and then Elton Brand agrees to a deal with the 76ers. The next few days should be interesting for the team as they try to be relevant in Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s cool to have two teams here. We certainly have the population for it. I’ve just been a Lakers fan since I can remember.

Don’t look now, but the Dodgers are actually winning a few games. In fact, Kuroda almost had a no-hitter the other night. At any rate, they remain ½ game behind the Diamondbacks. I feel like a broken record talking about baseball. The Dodgers are mediocre and the Rays are awesome.

Tomorrow night is the Chivas USA vs. L.A. Galaxy match. Yes, we have two MLS soccer teams in Los Angeles also (gosh, it’s great to be an Angelino). This is an especially important meeting since the Galaxy are in 1st place and Chivas are in second.

Today in Sports History

1877 – The first Wimbledon tennis championship is held.

1947 - OJ Simpson, once a celebrated athlete, is born today

1996 – Mike Piazza, catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the MVP of the All-Star Game.

1997 – Mike Tyson gets banned from boxing for biting Evander Holyfield on the ear in a June 28th match.

2002 - The baseball All-Star game is played in Milwaukee and finishes in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings when both teams ran out of pitchers.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Street Soccer Athletes

As promised – the answer to question five from yesterday’s post. Linda Bacigalupi notes that:

These profiles will give you an idea of how we have seen soccer affect lives. I think people often overlook the importance of adjuncts to traditional treatment such as art and sport for addiction, mental illness, medical illness, or other challenges. Sport can be an effective therapeutic enhancement when focusing on treating the WHOLE individual.

First is the story of Randal:

Randal had watched the SSPORT soccer team practice once outside in the park when the weather was nicer but did not join in. His love of soccer led him to eventually join the team in December of 2007 when we started practicing on an indoor field and he has been a member ever since. To participate on the team, Randal has had to meet many challenges which he has done with grace including a knee injury for which he now wears a knee brace, a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, his struggle with Alcoholism which is now in remission. In addition he recently suffered a concussion from an injury incurred during the first scheduled indoor league game for SSPORT. As a matter of fact, when he fell on the field and sustained the concussion he immediately wanted to jump back up and continue playing saying, “I’m ready!” He, in fact, was back the next week at practice and anxious to play. It is that enthusiasm in addition to his excellent soccer skills, team-player attitude, and positive outlook that are such important assets to the team as a whole. He appreciates that soccer provides him an outlet for regular exercise which he is well aware impacts his mental health, gives him something to look forward to as “the week is so long when you don’t work”, and brings him joy as he has told us “soccer has always been such a big part of my life…I used to coach my kids.” Randal hopes to attend the national Homeless Cup games in Washington D.C. this June. Judging from all he’s overcome, there is little doubt he’ll be there, leading the SSPORT Team to victory.

Next up, Jon: Profile of an Ann Arbor Street Soccer Player

(This profile originally ran on the Street Soccer USA site back in February.)

2007 was both a year of hardship and tragedy as well as a year of hope and new beginnings for Jon. The 46-year-old divorced, unemployed, homeless man who had struggled with homelessness and Alcohol Abuse since his divorce about 15 years ago was sleeping on the streets, drinking regularly, and doing “nothing” with his life. One autumn night, while sleeping at his campsite, another homeless man suddenly attacked Jon and slammed his head into his full backpack several times, causing multiple head wounds including a broken nose, laceration of the ear, and tore hair from his head. Jon attempted to press charges but when he went to court, he was escorted out and told by security officers that he was “drunk” and therefore could not be in the courthouse. Jon stated he had not been drinking, but was so discouraged by the experience that he never pursued the assault charge.

In August 2007, Sara Silvennoinen, LLPC/CAAC of the Washtenaw County PORT (Project Outreach Team) program, organized and initiated a local soccer team for the homeless in Washtenaw County. She decided to call the team “The SSPORT,“ for “The Street Soccer PORT” Team. The PORT program is a unique initiative funded to, as the name implies, outreach to mentally ill homeless individuals in the community, engage with them, and provide treatment, and/or connect them with other appropriate services. As an outreach program, PORT staff also regularly has contact with the homeless population at large, regardless of a mental illness diagnosis. The invitation to take part in the SSPORT Team and begin practices in August, 2007 was extended to the entire local homeless population.

Jon just happened to be at the park where the soccer practices were being held one day, and with a little encouragement from Sara, decided to give it a try. He began attending practices regularly, and soon was learning to play goalie for the team. He has been the most consistent team member and has exhibited his commitment to mastering the position of goal keeper so that he can represent SSPORT and participate in the Homeless World Cup in Washington D.C. next spring. Several PORT and local shelter staff have noticed a marked change in Jon since he began playing with SSPORT. Unsolicited remarks made by staff have been that his mood and affect have been brighter, he has been more social, he has noticeably decreased his drinking, and he has been a voluntary PR representative for the team by encouraging others to join and support SSPORT.

Additionally, he is now living in an apartment with a friend for whom he has been appointed as payee, has followed up with medical treatment as encouraged by his SSPORT coach, has become more motivated to look for employment, has voiced a desire to learn to type, and is always the jokester at practices, making his teammates and coaches laugh. Jon’s love for the game was especially visible when he and several other teammates attended a Detroit Ignition (professional indoor soccer team) game in November 2007. Tickets had been donated by community members so that SSPORT players could attend. Jon was rapt in the goalies’ every move on the field and he learned some new skills he could apply to his game during practices. He has also taken it upon himself to go the library to learn more about goaltending.

Jon’s own perception of how Street Soccer has impacted him are that it “gives me something to look forward to”, “I’m loving the hell out of playing soccer!”, and “without soccer life would be depressing.” He is a valued member of the SSPORT Team and his coaches are very proud of the progress he has made both on and off the field. We look forward to bringing him and his teammates to D.C. to meet and learn from other Street Soccer players from around the country and also to have the opportunity to put their skills to the court in a real soccer competition.

Monday, July 7, 2008

5 Questions With Street Soccer Coaches

A few months ago I interviewed Kat Byles of the Homeless World Cup organization. This event takes place annually and is a competition consisting of teams from all over the world. The United States is represented by a team made up of individuals that are chosen from other teams originating from around the country. One such group is from Michigan and led by Sara Silvennoinen and Linda Bacigalupi. They were both able to take a few minutes out of their very busy schedules to answer five questions:

1. How did you get involved with coaching for the Homeless World Cup? Had you coached before? What is your experience with soccer?

Sara: I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and have been playing soccer for as long as I can remember. I then went to Heidelberg College to play soccer. I have a bachelor’s in Mental Health Psychology from Heidelberg and my masters in counseling from Spring Arbor University. I have been working for Washtenaw County PORT, which does outreach to people who are homeless and have a mental illness, since 2005.

Last summer I was going on a trip to Finland and before I went on the trip I was talking with my boss, John, about homelessness in Finland. Because of our conversation I went online to look up information on homelessness and the first website that came up was the Homeless World Cup. Of course, this made me interested and I had to see what it was about. I emailed the link to my supervisor (Deb) and she said, “well start up a team”. That was all that was needed for me. I contacted Lawrence and Rob from North Carolina (U.S. team organizers) and they said they were having a conference on getting the teams started. I flew to the conference and shortly afterwards we started the team.

I have not had a lot of experience in coaching. When I was in high school I helped coach a neighbor’s team for a couple of seasons and then I coached soccer for a tournament called the Arborough games.

I have been playing soccer pretty much as long as I can remember and played in college. Today I continue to play. Right now I am on three different leagues that play four nights a week.

Linda: I was “recruited” by Sara Silvennoinen, our office sports fanatic. We both work under the umbrella of the Washtenaw County (Michigan) Community Mental Health Agency in a separate specialized program called PORT (Project Outreach Team) that is committed to providing outreach, case management, and psychiatric services to the homeless who are mentally ill and unconnected with any services. I am part of a newer sub-team of PORT called JPORT that is slated to serve mentally ill adults who are involved in the criminal justice system and unconnected with services; the goal is to divert those individuals who would benefit from treatment from jail to a treatment program.

Not too long after I had been hired at PORT, Sara, armed with the knowledge that I had played soccer years ago asked me to assist with the team, which I was happy to do. She later also talked me into playing on a co-ed community team and I have been playing ever since. I had played soccer from about 3rd grade through high school. Years went by (I’d rather not say how many) and though I missed the game, there was just not an opportunity for me to get back into it. Until I started playing again I had forgotten how much joy I get from soccer. And now, I also have the honor of enjoying the rewards of coaching, which is a completely new experience for me.

We are fortunate enough to have a very supportive Program Administrator, Deb Pippins, and Supervisor, John Loring, without whom we would not have been able to devote the time, energy, and resources to the team necessary to keep the project afloat.

2. How do you recruit your team? Do most have experience playing? What is the biggest challenge in finding team members?

Sara: Through our job we do outreach to people who are living on the streets. They have always heard me talking about soccer so this was a good way to have them come and play. We also put up posters in the shelter and telling the people we worked with. Now people know when and where the soccer practices are and they show up.

We have a good mix of people who have played, people who have never played, or have played when they were younger. My warning to everyone who comes out is that they will have a good time, so far my warnings have been right.

The hardest part has been consistency. We have a lot of people who would like to continue playing but can’t because a job is during practice or other situations in there live that make it hard for them to come out to soccer.

Linda: We just put up flyers at the local shelter. Some other players started participating when they saw us practicing at West Park (a community park). Others learned of the team by word-of-mouth from other players. Anyone and everyone have been encouraged to participate in the practices (even if they did not meet the “homeless” criteria). We were able to scrape up enough funding to sign up for a men’s league indoor soccer session early this spring, and all of the regular participants at practice were invited to play on the team.

As the U.S. Cup has been getting closer, we met individually with each interested (and qualified, i.e., homeless within the last year) player to develop a personal Action Plan. Each player made a commitment to work toward the goals on his/her Action Plan. We also developed a list of criteria with our Supervisor and Program Administrator. The four of us then reviewed each player’s progress towards individual Action Plan goals, and how well each player fell within the criteria parameters, and invited eight players to participate in the traveling team.

3. What is the biggest challenge about coaching for the event? Do you practice year-round? What is the training schedule like?

Sara: The biggest challenge with coaching would be the skill levels that everyone has. There might be practices with people who are very skillful and having one person who has never played before. Or having practices full of people have never played before with a couple of skilled players. This makes it difficult in making the practices challenging for the skillful players but trying to teach the players who have never played before.

We are very lucky to be able to practice year-round. We practice at a park near our shelter in the summer but in the winter Wide World Sports Center allows us to practice on there fields. This has been very helpful because without them we would not be able to practice in the winter. It is also exciting for the guys because they get to play on a real field.

Linda: We have been practicing every Thursday since late August 2007. During the warmer months we have been practicing at an outdoor park and using both a softball field and a concrete basketball court, so that the players could get accustomed to playing on a hard, flat surface similar to the one they will be playing on in D.C. During late fall and winter months a local indoor soccer arena, Wide World, very generously donated an hour each Thursday for our team to practice. The biggest challenge for me is making sure I don’t forget about all the other aspects of my job and get too preoccupied with the soccer team. After all, who wouldn’t be tempted to devote more time to playing soccer than writing progress notes (not that I don’t LOVE my job as a whole!)?

4. How do you fund the team's expenses and travel? What are the challenges there?

Sara: Detroit Ignition was very helpful with holding a game, and if people bought tickets from us we got part of the ticket sales. Part of our yearly budget we put a small amount away for the team. We also have had people donate money to our team. So, through this we are able to travel to Washington D.C.

The challenges have been finding different places to help. We have had a number of places say they are willing to help but then the last minute something happens and they are unable to follow through with their agreement. These have been needed donations and at the last minute we had to scramble to find other resources.

Linda: In the fall of 2007, the Detroit professional indoor soccer team, the Ignition, and their partners the Hantz Group donated one ticket for an SSPORT player to attend an Ignition game with each ticket sold. We invited the public to buy tickets so that our players could attend. Other people elected to make monetary contributions to the team. There is a small portion of the program’s budget that is slated for the team as well. The Ignition/Hantz Group also generously donated tickets to 2 additional games later in the season. The SSPORT players had a blast at each game, watching the professional players closely so that they might learn some new skills to bring to the field and getting their pictures taken with lovely members of the Ignition Dance Team. We welcome anyone to check out our website and click on “street soccer” for more information on the team and how to contribute donations.

5. What are some success stories you've witnessed? How does participation change people's lives?

Linda and Sara sent me two awesome stories about individuals that they have been involved with and have made incredible gains from the street soccer program. Since this post is a bit long already…tune in tomorrow for the answers to question five.