Shared from the 8/10/2019 Mon Valley Independent eEdition

‘Character Day’ benefits EF football players

Players learned important life lessons from four presenters.


Submitted Sgt. Ryan Tuszynski, a recruiter for the United States Marine Corps, speaks to Elizabeth Forward football players during “Character Day” Friday morning in the Elizabeth Forward High School cafeteria. EF head coach Mike Collodi has invited presenters to speak to his student athletes each year since 2016.


Submitted Marisa Floro and Caitlin Evan, educators from Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, speak to Elizabeth Forward football players during “Character Day” on Friday morning.

As the fall football season draws near, there are certain things high school players tend to focus on.

They tirelessly study the X’s and O’s, work to get faster and stronger off the field and do whatever it takes to impress their coaches on it. Elizabeth Forward head coach Mike Collodi is thrilled to see each and every one of his kids work to become better players, but what he’s even more invested in is the type of men they become off the field.

That is why, for the fourth consecutive year, Collodi hosted what he dubs “Character Day” Friday morning inside the Elizabeth Forward High School cafeteria.

Four guest speakers made presentations to members of the Warriors football team, who engaged with the individuals by asking questions and listening to the guidance they shared.

Bernie Colbert, Marisa Floro and Caitlin Evan, educators from Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, spoke to the student athletes about topics such as the importance of consent and the dangers of domestic violence.

According to its website, PAAR has provided services to Allegheny County for more than 43 years. It is dedicated to “assisting victims of sexual abuse and ending sexual violence in our community.”

“I think Character Day gives them a break from listening to me and provides a different voice,” Collodi said. “Bringing in PAAR, that’s telling them how to deal with consent, usage of social media and talks to them about domestic violence as well, which is running rampid in professional sports.”

Sgt. Ryan Tuszynski, a recruiter for the United States Marine Corps., also spoke to the students about the qualities Marines must have, comparing them to the traits players possess on the football field.

He discussed the importance of having character, setting a good example for others, putting heart into everything you do and showing strong leadership qualities. “The Marines are a brotherhood and they never leave a man behind,” Collodi said. “I feel like that is what we preach as a coaching staff to these kids. I tell them we are a brotherhood. We look out for one another and it’s great they got to hear firsthand from the men who developed that theory.”

“I feel like this was all very important,” junior Nico Mrvos said. “I like how they came in and asked us questions and if we had any questions, they answered them. It’s nice to ask and I feel like everyone benefits from that. If there is something you don’t know, now you know and you don’t feel awkward about it.”

One thing stood out to Mrvos following Tuszynski’s presentation, which included a number of stories that intended to motivate the student athletes.

“(Sgt. Tuszynski) talked about if you see someone in the street and they have an Elizabeth Forward shirt on, you’re going to go and help. Even if they have a Derry shirt on, you’re still going to help because it’s the right thing to do,” Mrvos ex-“ plained. (type ) helps build your character and it goes farther than football.”

Junior Chase Whatton said the annual presentations help members of the team get a grasp of what it takes to be a good human being, one with respect and character.

“I think this really helps us understand more of how things should be,” Whatton said. “It’s about making a good name for yourself, having a good reputation and being a smart football player and man.”

The annual event is always beneficial to the players, young and old.

Ethan Cain, one of six seniors on EF’s roster of 48 players, has been around the football program as long as “Character Day” has been in existence.

He has learned from each of the four presentations he has sat through and knows the young players on the team will undoubtedly benefit from hearing what the presenters had to say Friday morning.

“The earlier you start, the more impactful it is,” Cain said. “Coming in and doing this for my fourth year, it’s just a good refresher on the stuff you can and can’t do. It has helped me because there have been times since my freshman year where I’ve thought, ‘This isn’t a good decision and I shouldn’t do this.’ It really has kept me on the right path and kept me focused on football and just bettering myself as a person. “It’s all really important because on and off the field, we represent our school not just as a good football team but as good students and well developed people.”

Based on the long-lasting debate that many have had regarding the negative effect social media has had on today’s youth, Collodi believes the presentations by the PAAR representatives and Sgt. Tuszynski are even more important for his younger players to hear.

“We have to reach these kids even earlier now even before they make mistakes,” Collodi said. “They’re almost growing up too fast and I think it is the era of social media that’s causing that. By bringing guest speakers in to show light on what can happen if you don’t do the right things, it will impact their lives forever.”

Collodi said the topics discussed are ones his student athletes need to continue to hear. Therefore, during the middle of the season, 30 minutes will be dedicated each week to go over such topics. “It really just feels great that they know these things and that they’re going to practice it, it’s not going in one ear and out the other,” Collodi said. “We’re raising great kids here and I want them to be great men I want

. them to be great fathers and great husbands, and that’s what it’s all about. Sure you wanna win football games, but at the end of the day I want them to be great people. That’s more important.”

Collodi’s dedication to helping his kids develop into respectable young men doesn’t go unnoticed, either. “He has changed our whole program around. I give him so much credit,” Whatton said. “My freshman year I didn’t expect to learn about any of this stuff and it’s so good to know that our coach cares about us at the end of the day.”

“It says a lot about coach and shows he cares about more than just winning and having a successful program,” Cain said. “He believes that success comes from the people you have on your team and their character rather than just their talent and football skill.”

Knowing his veteran players understand the concept behind “Character Day” makes Collodi beam with pride.

Because he knows they are becoming good young men who will make a positive impact on the world.

And that’s really what “Character Day” is all about. “It’s so rewarding to see that because those are some of the leaders on the team and younger guys do look up to them,” Collodi said. “If they see them doing the right things when they’re out and about, it will trickle down.”

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