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Westport PAL Pushes Academic, Athletic Balance

Staples High senior Chris Coyne will be a member of the Yale University football team in the fall. And he says the lessons he learned with the Westport PAL football program helped him make it to the elite New Haven campus.

“They did a good job of instilling qualities that can help in all aspects of your life,’’ Coyne said. “If you’re disrespectful, you’re going to hear about it. If you’re not working hard enough, they’ll let you know. They help develop traits that can help in a lot of areas. A lot of times, you don’t even realize you’re learning a lesson, and it’s a lesson learned early.”

Coyne isn’t the only football player to benefit from playing the sport and from PAL’s influence on college admittance. Former players who have gone on to play at some prestigious academic institutions include Matt Santora and Francios Auzerais at Trinity, Mike Samela at Amherst, Brian Wrapp at Williams, Josh Kozel at Yale, Andrew Kennedy at Columbia, Brian Levine and Devin Graber at Penn and Brandon Pacilio at Middlebury.

“There are two things that they really stress,’’ Coyne said. “Responsibility and respect: They really go hand-in-hand in football. I can’t tell you how many times I was sprinting after practice because I forgot a pad.”

Coyne’s coaches in the Westport PAL program taught football. But they also taught players to keep their priorities straight. “You have your family first, then religion and school. They made their priorities known,’’ Coyne said.

He played in the Westport PAL program for four years. He said two of his coaches, Carm Roda and Jon Boone, were among the most influential people in his life. Boone joined the Staples football coaching staff last year. “I could not have any more respect for him,’’ Coyne said. “He’s such a great role model.”

Football’s focus on teamwork is especially essential in helping young athletes develop confidence. Coyne played basketball, soccer and baseball growing up in Westport. Football helped him find structure that the other sports couldn’t deliver. “Football is such a different sport,’’ Coyne said. “Basketball was more about the individual. In football, it was all about the team. You could have been the worst player on the team or the best, but everybody was treated the same.”

Staples football coach Marce Petroccio reinforced the lessons Coyne learned in Westport PAL. Coyne, who also considered Dartmouth and Georgetown, said he would not have gone as far as he has without the education he received in Westport PAL.

“I’m going to say no,’’ Coyne said when asked whether he would be headed to Yale without going through the Westport PAL system. “They teach you patience and responsibility and respect. You learn what it means to work hard. It’s all stuff that you learned in PAL. I don’t think I would’ve gotten the chance to go to Yale if I hadn’t played in the PAL football program."

Has your child or children benefitted from the Westport PAL program? Start the discussion below!

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