FROM THE CATBIRD SEAT: ‘A Child’s Game’
In a week where the sport of football is crying out for good news, 64 local kids recently did their best to provide some. After a lengthy hiatus, the NFL's "Punt, Pass and Kick" competition made a return to the Northland last weekend, under the w...
In a week where the sport of football is crying out for good news, 64 local kids recently did their best to provide some.
After a lengthy hiatus, the NFL’s “Punt, Pass and Kick” competition made a return to the Northland last weekend, under the watchful eye of a Cloquet High School graduate and Duluth police officer - and a local coach who just wanted the best for his son.
Tom Sewell is a community police officer for the Duluth Police Department and a 2003 graduate of Cloquet High School. He wanted to find a way for officers to connect with kids from around the region and had the idea to bring back the competition.
“Too often kids don’t see us (officers) as anything but adversaries,” Sewell said. “This was a chance for us to connect on a local level with kids from Cloquet, Carlton, Esko and around the area.”
The competition allows kids to punt, pass and kick for distance with points subtracted for inaccuracy. The scores are then combined and winners determined.
“It’s a good constructive way to get kids active,” Sewell said. “We promote positive relationships. There were about 20 UMD players there, kids from the Valley Youth Center were there and kids from all different backgrounds got to compete on a level playing field. It was a good way to try something new.”
A total of 64 kids took part, one of whom was 12-year old Trevor Ojibway of Sawyer, who is a sixth-grader in Carlton. Young Trevor won his age bracket under the coaching of his father Sam, a first-year coach in the Cloquet Youth Football League.
“They held it on one of UMD’s practice fields and it was great,” Ojibway said. “There was a great turnout and of course I’m proud of Trevor.”
For Ojibway, coaching youth sports was something he wasn’t sure he’d enjoy, but like his son, he grew into the job.
“We let the kids bounce around at each position and we want them to play them all at this age,” he said. “It’s more of a learning exercise than anything else. We don’t memorize plays or that sort of thing, we just want kids to have the experience.”
And when it’s more fun, kids learn more key concepts.
“I think at this level it teaches the kids teamwork and having to rely on someone else for success,” he said. “It’s not just one person who makes a play. The center gets the ball to the quarterback and he gets it to the running back. It’s a team effort and I think at that age it’s something we try to emphasize.”
And along the way, the kids learn lessons about teamwork.
“It’s very rewarding,” Ojibway said. “When you’re practicing and telling the kids how to run and execute a play and then in a game they make a big gain or score a touchdown, the kids are screaming and celebrating. It’s great.”
“You do learn the team aspect, discipline and responsibility,” Sewell added. “At that age, it can be very positive and this certainly was.”
That goes along with teaching skills, and young Trevor has learned well.
“He does like to punt and he does well at that, but kicking the ball off the tee is a skill and it takes lots of practice,” Sam said. “That was his weakest thing, but overall he did well.”
Having won a local contest, Trevor now moves on to regional competition Oct. 4 at Bemidji State University. More success there would move him to a state competition at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
“I’m very proud of him,” Sam Ojibway said. “I knew as his father I’d always be proud of him, but he did everything well. I knew he would - I’m pleased and proud.”
The NFL then assigns state winners to compete at a playoff game, with winners honored at the Super Bowl. That’s perhaps the ultimate prize, but perhaps some of these kids could teach the league’s biggest stars how to behave. That certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
And there’s another refreshing innocence in all this. While interviewing for this piece, I asked to speak to Trevor. His father said he was in bed.
Good for him, and good luck, Trevor.