Brian Menditto is a member of the Hopewell Valley Bulldogs Pop Warner football team in Hopewell, NJ. This 11-year-old pulls double duty by playing fullback on the offense and linebacker for the defense. Even though his school does not have a football program, Brian has been playing since he was eight. With the help of Brian's Dad and his neighbor, Pop Warner Little Scholars, a national youth sports organization, came to Hopewell. "My school didn't have a football team, but I've always liked playing football. When Pop Warner came to town, I figured I'd play." Brian's Dad currently helps coach, and his sister even participates in the Pop Warner cheerleading program. Talk about a family effort!
This past season, Brian's Pee Wee team posted a 4-4 record, but in this league, winning isn't everything. "You have to have a certain grade point average to be able to play." Pop Warner is the only organization of its kind that emphasizes both academic and athletic excellence. Athletes must show signs of improvement in the classroom each year before they are allowed to compete. At the end of the season, they are rewarded for excelling both in the classroom and on the football field. "We have a banquet, and we all get trophies...it's cool."
Brian says the Bulldogs train just as hard on the field as they do in the classroom. "In practice, we work with the sled to help us with our blocking. We run laps, do agility drills and use tackling dummies too." They also travel around their area playing different teams. "We don't travel really far from home, usually not more than two hours away. The coolest place I've been to play football is Fort Dix, N.J. it's an Army base! We didn't actually play on the base, but it was cool to be there."
If you're looking to get involved in football in your area, Brian suggests checking out the Pop Warner program, as well as camps. "If I knew someone who wanted to learn more about football, I would tell them about the camps we go to. My friends and I go every year." You can also check out programs at your school or local county or city recreation centers. Don't worry if you don't have a football team. You can find lots of great info and ideas on the Pop Warner website, and maybe even start a league in your own town like the Bulldogs.
Whether you like offense or defense, football is a great way to get outside and burn some energy. Brian admits he likes playing on both sides of the line. "My favorite part about playing football is running the ball."
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