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I didn’t choose football. Football chose me… at first. I played because I was a bigger kid, and they wanted me to block. I went through the motions and got used to being mediocre in the eyes of my teammates and coaches. I wasn’t from a broken or impoverished home, and I didn’t have to fight or work really hard to get by. I was naturally smart and capable enough to do most things without significant effort or sacrifice.
When we moved to South Burlington my mom signed me up for Dolphins football. I remember the summer day she told me I had to go to practice like it was yesterday, even down to the striped polo and grey sweatpants. I didn’t feel like it. I met Rene. He pinched the fat of my gut and said: “We’ll make a football player outta ya.” Looking back on it, that day changed my life. Not in the epic way that many stories tell of, but it changed the way I looked at football, and therefore sports, being part of a team, and ultimately, life.
Becoming a Dolphin made me part of a brotherhood. A bunch of guys who had seen the leadership of their coaches and their daily effort yield success (VT state champions the previous year). Brothers who set an example of what football SHOULD be and what a TEAM should be. Coaches who encourage their players to push themselves just enough beyond what they thought they could do, getting better each day. Teammates who call you out when you slack without tearing you down.
When I realized what football COULD be, I CHOSE FOOTBALL. I came to practice with a new attitude. A sense of responsibility not just to my coaches, to my teammates, and to myself. My role as a lineman (STILL not referred to as a “skilled” position) went from a chore to an honor, as I became a stronger cog in the wheel of an undefeated machine. Together, we were imposing. On game tape, Mrs. Belisle caught the mother of an opponent exclaiming “Does that black team have the ball AGAIN!?” We rolled over opponents together, learning to depend on each other to accomplish something greater than being a noted player… we were a team. We were brothers.
All this by the end of the 8th grade… HA! It was on this foundation that my work ethic was formed. A work ethic that helped me through high school, varsity football, basketball and Lacrosse, earning All-State Defensive Tackle honors, a high school diploma, a degree in Mechanical Engineering, a job at Trek Bicycle Corporation, an amazing family and now my own business. Yeah, there were other factors of course, but stepping onto that field in black and orange with your brothers and coaches sure set the tone.
Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. Whether you play football or not, CHOOSE to do it, then be your best. It will change your life!
Nick Hoehl #70 1989
Tad Hoehl- Quarterback, 1989-1991
Dolphins football in many ways helped frame the person I am today. I remember one teaching “lesson” Rene gave me my first week of football practice as a sixth grader. I was invited to ride my friend’s mini-bike one day after school. Instead of going to practice, I made the poor decision to ride. I remember having the time of my life when my friends’ mom came outside and said, “Tad, you have a telephone call from someone named Rene.” I couldn’t believe he had tracked me down and to say the least I was extremely nervous. He told me to get to practice immediately of which I did. After receiving a long talking to and several other consequences, Rene used it as a teaching tool for me. He stressed responsibility, accountability and honesty, and although I knew he was disappointed in me for letting him down, he was more passionate about the fact that I had let the team down. He asked for me to apologize to the team and that has stuck with me for a long time.
Learning the game of football is just a small piece of what Dolphins football does in my opinion. Responsibility, accountability and honesty are again the three words that pop into my head when thinking of what Rene and his coaching staff try to instill in their players. It’s an honor to still be involved with the program and to have Rene so close to my family and I. Thank you to all within the Dolphins family for the ongoing positive impact on the development of our communities’ youth. I live in Shelburne, married with two little girls and as far as a job, real estate, property management and extremely lucky to help raise the children.
I was just talking with Anson Dorrance -one of the most successful coaches in the history of college athletics. He has won 22 National Championships as well as a World Cup. We were talking about the difficulty of recruiting and trying to predict future talent and how to develop one’s potential. Talent is a given. Everyone is going to be talented and skillful and likely they have been talented since they were young. The truly elite athletes certainly have a unique talent but they all seem to possess a few other things that the others either lack or do not have at the same level. The elite do three things better than others:
- They have an incredible drive for success- their desire to be great is elevated compared to peers
- They have an amazing work ethic- they arrive early, stay late and do the work when nobody is watching.
- They have an unparalleled belief in themselves. It’s not arrogance but a proven confidence that they can do what is asked of them and more.
Many of our greatest, elite athletes have had these qualities as they competed for national championships, Olympic medals, world championships, etc….Most, if not all, have also carried these qualities off the courts, fields and stadiums into their offices, businesses and homes. They are people of the highest integrity. They have not succeeded by accident, they did not take short cuts. They dared to dream Big and then worked to achieve their dreams. PRIDE it is a great formula for success.
Jefferson Jones, Jag Commander USN
The practice field in South Burlington is a sacred place: a place where countless numbers of young people have learned what hard work and dedication is all about. It is a shrine to the many ingredients in the recipe for success on the football field: the wind sprints, the bear crawls, the laps, the grime and the grit, the blood, the blisters, the sweat, the tears, the perseverance, the team-building, and the toiling away to the point of exhaustion. But the lessons learned on the practice field and the locker room are also a metaphor for life: if you put in the hard work, game day sure is a lot more fun. The sport of football teaches so many lessons that apply equally in the game of life: You play like you practice. The importance of teamwork. There is no substitute for hard work. Do your job. You can tell a champion not by how they respond to winning, but how they respond to losing. In just about any worthwhile life endeavor off the gridiron, these principles apply and stand the test of time. If you are lucky enough to have been a South Burlington Dolphin, you’ll learn these lessons and more at an early age; you’ll be a darn good football player; and you’ll be an even better person.
Nick Barup #35
I was a different kid. I just didn’t care how small I was, because when I put those pads on I was the biggest and fastest kid on the field ;). We know that’s a bunch of bull, but I still believe ;). Your a good man and my youngest is like me and if I’m lucky he will stay in Vermont with me will be seeing you soon.
The start of my legitimate football career began with the South Burlington Dolphins. A team with coaches that truly loved each and every player no matter their skill, athleticism, or any physical feature. To be a part of a team with this type of dynamic was a blessing because it taught me to love and care and work hard. Obviously, you always hear these things from your elders and peers but no one really shows you how to do it and I can honestly say the Dolphins showed me that and it’s something that I have carried with me for my whole life and I will continue to use and teach others about. On the other hand work ethic and pride were two huge themes of my dolphin career because it was what the coaches preached until they were blue in the face, It would get annoying and old at times but looking back it really made a difference in my life and who I am today.
My first experience with organized sports was when I was 8 or 9 years old. I, like many youths my age, was thrown into little league, soccer, basketball, etc. Needless to say, these sports were not for me. I did not have the hand-eye coordination and other athletic skills required to be successful in these sports. I remember being very frustrated by this fact and even though these did not work out for me and I wanted to quit I was continually pushed to try new sports, not only because my parents wanted me to stay active, but also because they instilled in me the idea of not giving up or taking the easy way out. At some point around 4-5th grade, I joined the local Dolphins football team and soon after that youth wrestling. As the saying goes the rest is history. Both of these sports require some level of athletic skill, but more than that they require the individual to be tougher mentally than their opponent. You see, while both of these are team sports they require the individual to compete directly against another opponent. You don’t have to be successful competing in these sports to be successful at the sport. The lessons, discipline, and mental toughness learned from each of these will be lifelong achievements. It goes without saying that what I learned has helped me get to where I am today, and most importantly to get me through the darkest times in my life. You cannot take the easy way out in these sports just like you cannot take the easy way out in life!
Javen Sears #31
The South Burlington Dolphins organization has shown me not only how to play football but to work hard in everything I do with my best effort. It has shown me you can do anything to achieve your goals as long as you put in your hard work every single day. As a captain on the field I had my own responsibility to show my teammates as a role model of how bad we wanted to win and far we could go together. I wasn’t a captain because I was a good player but because I showed my coaches how much I wanted to win and how much effort I put forth to that overall goal. Our coaches don’t make us do the practices and running, they give us the option and encourage us to work harder and become a better person so when a job comes up in real life, we can give our full potential to that because you want to get to the higher levels or you want to succeed to get there but only with effort. The coaches here are incredible and teach us how to become more successful in life and what you have to do to get there.
Coach Rene! Thank you for reaching out to me. Football teaches lots of great life lessons, but the Organization and Culture that you have helped build with so many others is why Dolphins Football has helped transform young men into becoming men. The coaches teach more about what it takes to be successful by instilling P.R.I.D.E in each kid. The Coaches taught us about working together as a Team to reach a common goal while instilling discipline and a strong work ethic.
The Dolphins run the organization like a Professional Team, giving each kid the attention and support needed to grow into Adults. Football was secondary, as the family atmosphere is unmatched at most levels. I am so very PROUD to have been a part of the Team, and getting to learn from so many great teachers. Never forget the 1995 CHAMPS!!
I am working for SolarCity as an Energy Consultant in Connecticut. Loving the job so far, and the challenges it brings.
Looking back, it was the first time in my life that I was a part of something bigger than myself. I learned that hard work and commitment does pay off. You get out what you put in, with the victory and the defeat. All of the years hard work, practice every day in the hot sun, the rain and bitter cold fall. I wouldn’t take it back for a second. Dolphins Football shaped the man I am today. Dolphin football also instilled in me a sense of duty, to my teammates and the coaches to try my best at everything I do.
Christian J DuBrul
The Dolphins football program teaches young people to have work ethic and be a responsible member of society through their motto P.R.I.D.E (personal responsibility for individual daily effort). Playing for the Dolphins program and coach Rene was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I still hold friendships with many people I played with when I was a kid and the memories will last a lifetime. If I ever have kids I would without a doubt want them to experience playing for the Dolphins. I now work as a Barber and still find myself applying things I learned in my adult life.
Who you become is based off what you are taught, how you are treated, and who you’re around. Dolphin football takes all of these things into consideration when running the program. Whether it be teaching the fundamentals of football and the basic rules of the game, or teaching life lessons and making friends that last a lifetime. The thing that is so unique about the Dolphins organization that I didn’t appreciate until I got older was the development of not just football skills, but life skills. I learned that it is impossible to be on a winning team without the right guys. Right guys doesn’t mean skill, right guys means right attitude. In order to be successful, you need to be closer than brothers on and off the field. As a Dolphin, that is what you will be given, a band of brothers. Going to USAF Academy
Dolphins football was some of the best years of my life and I will always remember them. Not only did it teach me responsibility, accountability and work ethic in a team environment on the field but it also prepared me for life in the real world. I have learned most of how to succeed in everyday life not from the classroom but from organized sports, with Dolphins football being a large part of that. I would not trade my years with the South Burlington Dolphins for anything as it was a huge part in my success in life.
Jason Barron North Country Mechanical Insulators President
Having coached on 3 State Championship Football teams at Rice Memorial High School, and being an owner of a leading Mechanical Insulation Construction company in the State of Vermont, I’ve seen men of character, as well as men lacking this important skill. In my working capacity, I’ve never seen a man, lacking character as an adult; all of a sudden have an epiphany and become someone whom I admire because of this character. This fact tells me that the development of someone’s character needs to happen during their younger years. My time spent as a football coach afforded me the opportunity to influence young men in a positive way by teaching them why having a high level of character is so important. I define character as what an individual does when they think nobody is watching them. The game of football, when coached the right way and for the right reasons, has shown me how influential it can be in developing a young man’s character. The character built through the game of football helps to lay the foundation for your ability to work well with others, to be able to persevere during difficult times, and to show you that defeat only happens when you stop trying. At the end of the day, a young man or women whom decides to play football, may be doing so because he or she wants to have fun with their friends, but that decision has put them on a path to success. Dolphin forever Jason
I’ve always said that there are two types of people on this planet. Those who have worn a football helmet, and those who haven’t. If your son or daughter has worn a football helmet, there is a good chance they will turn out to be the type of people I want working for me. Jason Barron Dolphin forever
The Dolphins football program has helped so many kids from all walks of life learn to be a part of a team. Team is where everyone comes together and works as a unit to reach a common goal. In football as in life it’s to be as best as you can be. The skills and suck that I personally learned are still with me today. To work hard on things that others may be better at than yourself but with determination and drive you can exceed your goals and get to where you want to be. The top. It’s a wonderful thing to see kids work together and figure things out that at one moment seem impossible and the next by working together having accomplished that task. It’s a great program and I was personally blessed to have you and all of my other coaches willing to take the time away from your life and families to help us grow understand and reach for things that seem so far fetched. For that I thank all of you. I am now the airfield foreman responsible for the daily operations airfield side at Btv airport. I have 12 guys whom I work with to get all the crazy tasks done in a timely fashion. We plow snow mow grass and ensure public safety in and out off our airport. The key of Dolphins football was ” to do something big for something bigger than yourself”. A quote from a children’s movie that speaks volumes.
Football has taught me more than I could’ve ever imagined. The life lessons developed through countless hours of practice, off season training, and games are lessons that I still carry with me today in my professional career. Teamwork, accountability, communication and dedication are just some of the traits I learned for what it takes for a team, on and off the field, to be successful. As a new coach, these are lessons I try to instill in my players because I know it will take them far long after their football careers have ended. The brotherhood that developed during the 8 years I physically played is something that still carries on today. We may be in different parts of the world, but we all still keep in contact and it all started while on a little field at JC Park. Those lessons we learned have gotten us all to where we are today. I ‘m currently a Business Analyst at PNC Bank in Pittsburgh, mainly working on business continuity. I also am a high school ice hockey assistant coach and part time flight instructor at the local airport.
Youth football, and the South Burlington Dolphins program in particular, was instrumental in my adolescent development. Football is the ultimate team sport; instilling life long lessons pertaining to accountability, collaboration, communication, perseverance, discipline, goal setting and team building.
The Dolphins program helped me to get along better and further respect people from different walks of life; whether relating to race, religion or socio-economic status. My time with the Dolphins aided me greatly in developing self confidence, and cemented a philosophy that hard work and doing things the right way will pay dividends.
I thank you for your steadfast commitment over the years to the Dolphins program, and hope you realize how integral your efforts have been to the growth and future success of the many youngsters you have fostered on the gridiron.
A little bit about my experience with the Dolphins is…
I started with the program in 1995 (more than 20 years ago makes me feel old…) where I spent my first three years on the Orangemen. When I started I knew absolutely no other players however was made to feel at home immediately from Rene and the family mentality that comes along with being a Dolphin.
Over the next 5 years I was a part of a program that any athlete would be lucky enough to belong to. Not only was I taught a winning attitude, I learned how to live my life with discipline and was taught leadership skills that have laid the foundation for my life.
Sports have maintained a huge part of my life. After the Dolphins, I attended Rice Memorial High where I was a part of the 2004 State Championship team.
After high school I went north of the boarder in Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and was a member of the football program.
Upon graduation I started my career with London Life as a financial planner and grew my practice which quickly led to a management role in Halifax. I currently am in the position of National Training Manager and travel across Canada providing development to our financial planners.
I’ll forever be grateful to Rene and the Dolphins for helping shape the man I have become.
Having been involved in public safety for 28 years I can’t stress the importance of social skills, perseverance, and ethics. Social skills allow you to communicate effectively with all different types of personalities and resolve many differences you may have with a positive resolution.
Perseverance, never give up. Dreams do come true. When you get knocked down get up again. You first learned when you learned how to ride a bike. Money does not define success, hard work does. These are some of the things I learn from Dolphins football
Ethics are important and define who you are as a person. So the right thing, make good sound decisions and choices and you will be a highly respected and successful human being.
Youth football and specifically the Dolphin family taught me more life skills in four short years than any other experience of my life thus far. I learned how nothing is given and if you work hard enough than you can put yourself in a position to attain your goals. I learned the power of losing and how to be strong when life doesn’t go your way. I also learned the meaning of PRIDE and how if you want to be successful you need to put in work daily in every aspect of your life and not take any day for granted. Not only did youth football teach me strategies and life lessons to make me successful in football but I have become successful in all aspects of my life using the same lessons on a daily basis. Since youth football I have attained a Doctor of Physical Therapy and became the first college graduate of my family and am about to embark on my career. I can not put into words the impact youth football has had on my life and I would encourage all children to join and learn the true meaning of P.R.I.D.E.
I hope this is helpful Rene and truly I can not thank you enough for everything. You are an incredible man and an incredible coach. Thank you.
If you ever need anything please reach out to me.
Zack Johnson #71
During my Dolphins football experience I learned many things. One of those things that I learned is that I became stronger and tougher when I did the daily pre practice warm ups. It made me realize that if I do this now it will help me later. Having the constant yelling and nagging from the coaches was very helpful. It became a part of who I am. This is because they only do it out of love. “I wouldn’t yell at you if I didn’t love you’’ is what the coaches would say. I had a great time playing on the Dolphins football team. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I could handle more than I thought and I was stronger and tougher than I thought. I am currently at College and I also have my own landscaping company, which is thriving because of the work ethic that the Dolphins football program has taught me.
In my five years of playing Dolphins Football I was able to learn much more than just the game football. There is something special about being on a team with a group of people, working hard together to reach a common goal, and in doing so learning how to work well with other people and how to deal with adversity when things don’t go exactly as planned. I have had so many memorable times with the friends that I made playing for this team. One of the best things about football for me was that it allowed me to just forget about everything else that was going on in my life and at school and to be able to just have fun with a great group of kids. Another special thing about playing for Dolphins Football was that it was an excellent way for me to make new friends, which was very handy going into middle school, and without football I wouldn’t necessarily have gotten to know as many people as I have. In football there is such a strong feeling of unity knowing that everyone on your team would do anything for you, and this is a very helpful thing to have during the tough years of adolescence. As a captain I was able to develop leadership skills that I have taken with me to this day. I am currently a senior at South Burlington High School, I am an honors student and participate in numerous clubs and sports. I am the lead Alto in the Jazz band and am one of the captains of the Lacrosse team. The experiences that I have had in the Dolphins program have most certainly helped define who I am today.
When I first started to play for the dolphin family, I was overweight and out of shape. I didn’t know how to tie my shoes, I didn’t know how to spell dolphin, and I didn’t know how to be a leader. I didn’t know what pride truly meant. But as my football career progressed I did too, I learned responsibility in the classroom and among my peers. I learned how to respect my fellow man and women. All of this was because of football and without it, I was lost. I never knew how much football would impact my life and others, from working early in the morning in the off season to dedicating touchdowns to a friend who had lost a love one, I would have never had the opportunity to do these things if I didn’t have football. As you already know football is more than a game, football is a part of my life.
I would not be where I am today without growing up with the Dolphins football family. Learning the values of PRIDE, and understanding how much hard work and comradery it takes to achieve a common goal allowed me to realize my full potential and continue to achieve it. I went from being a decent student to excelling in college and now work in sales for a thriving technology company in Boston.
Many people think football is just another sport and in some youth programs around Vermont that could be true. But Dolphins football teaches you the importance of hard work. The coaching staff wants to win but what they want more is to teach boys how to grow up and face a difficult task with confidence. The teams I participated on in Dolphins football were successful on and off the field. We were able to make it too the semi finals 2 years in a row and had by far the best defense in the state. But off the field we were a group of brothers that continued our relationship through high school. Having a group of guys you can lean on is important at any point in life but especially during high school. Football is a demanding sport but it teaches you discipline, responsibility, and teamwork. I played lacrosse basketball and baseball in South Burlington Youth programs and I couldn’t tell you anything I learned while playing those sports that contribute to the real world. But everyday I apply things I learned during my time participating in the Dolphins Program. I love the coaches like they are my fathers and my teammates like they are my brothers. Regardless of playtime you sons and daughters will grow together to become responsible individuals while having the time of their lives. Manager of Grazers Restaurant in Williston Vermont.
When I started playing for the South Burlington Dolphins I wasn’t the best listener. As a young child I was more interested in figuring out how to climb a fence than how to follow directions. As soon as I became part of the organization I almost instantaneously became a better human being. I was surrounded by people that wanted to become better and it was a family type of environment. I can still look back to days when I was an Orangemen always watching the Blackmen and striving to one day become one of the best players on the Blackmen. I learned how to never give up and no matter what to have PRIDE. I knew that I couldn’t go tell Rene what I had been up then I shouldn’t have been doing it. Being a part of the Dolphins taught me more than I will ever know. My work ethic directly comes from structure in which the Dolphins offered. I will forever be a Dolphin and will always feel like I’m in debt for the invaluable life lessons and skills the Dolphins have taught me. I look at Rene LaBerge as a second father! Josh is a D1 basketball player.
For most kids growing up in the 1990’s, after school meant going home watching television and playing video games while eating potato chips and drinking soda. Most parents recognized this alarming trend and signed their kids up for football. My parents signed up to play for the Dolphins when I was ten years old. I knew nothing about football, discipline, or accountability. Over the next four years I learned all those things. Football is a great sport…maybe the best sport. The reason why is because you are part of a team. In order for a team to succeed you need to be disciplined. If you go off-sides during the big moment in the game then you hurt your team. It’s magnified if you aren’t accountable. You need to learn from that mistake and get better. Not only because you become better but because your team becomes better. It’s been twenty-five years since I first put on a Dolphins uniform but that’s my lasting impression. In life, you are part of team whether it’s with your family or at work, and in order for that team to be successful you need to be disciplined and accountable for your actions. I live in Clifton Park, NY with my wife Stephanie and two kids, Emma and Jacob. I work as an Account Sales Manager for Red Bull.
Brett J. Beers
Playing youth football for the South Burlington Dolphins was of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of my life. The feeling I had waking up Saturday mornings to go play football for coaches, parents and players who truly cared and poured every ounce of effort into making sure we were the absolute best we could be is something I will never forget. I learned to win with “P.R.I.D.E.” and rarely, I learned to lose with honor and become better because of it. Playing back then I thought everything I was learning had to do with becoming a better football player, but that wasn’t exactly true. The coaches were really teaching us how to be better human beings and demonstrating the work ethic it was going to take to be successful later in life. Today, I’m thirty-three years old married to the love of my life with a two year old son and a daughter on the way. I work for one of the greatest companies in the world (The Sherwin-Williams Paint Company) as a sales representative. I love the life I’ve been able to build and attribute a great deal of my success to the things I learned playing four years of Dolphin football as a youth. I hope that my children get to be a part of something so great and I will do everything I can to make it so. I’ve lost touch with many of the coaches and people who played a role in my success, but all I can say is thank you, your time was well spent and I still appreciate it to this day.
I firmly believe that Dolphins football changed me for the better. Football taught me that with hard work and dedication, you can achieve almost anything. By lifting and practicing, I was able to get better and better and help lead my team to a championship in 2012. The main idea was the hard work, going to practice every day after school and doing whatever we could to achieve that goal of winning the state championship. Ever since then I’ve been a firm believer that no matter what the goal, you can reach it with hard work. For example, I’m currently working at Zachary’s pizza so I can achieve a goal. With hard work, results will follow.
My experience playing youth football taught me the importance of team work and perseverance. I was never the tallest, strongest, or biggest kid on the field. At times it was intimidating and internally frustrating to wish you could be something you were not. The easiest thing would have been to let things out of your control dictate how you live your life. Looking back today and reflecting upon my youth I realize that more than ever. I never gave up and looked for ways to contribute and make those around me better. Even today as a Solutions Architect at Seismic Software Inc. I am reminded of the skills I developed as a youth playing football that preach the importance of collaboration and teamwork.
Lukas B. Snelling
“My time with the Dolphins taught me that get something you want, you have to work hard at it. To me PRIDE means taking responsibility for yourself and putting in the effort to make a positive impact on yourself and the people around you. As a business owner, I find the lessons learned at the Dolphins help me lead and grow my organization. ”
– Lukas B. Snelling, Founder of Brave One Agency – A San Francisco Based Digital Marketing Agency
Let me know if you need anything else for it. You should know I talk about PRIDE all the time – That along with my mom’s saying of, “Don’t make work for others” have been two of the most driving principles in my life.
The years I played Dolphins Football were some of the most important formative years of my life. Being a part of such an amazing (and such a winning) organization taught me the value of hard work and how valuable PRIDE really is. The teammates I had in my grade school days are still some of my closest friends to this day. It’s because we learned at a young age that being a part of something bigger than yourself, and giving it all you’ve got day-in and day-out is what life’s all about. I wouldn’t be the same person I am today had I not been a part of the Dolphins family. After graduating UVM, I now live and work in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m working at Google in their marketing department and enjoy rooting for the University of Michigan football team.
Being a Dolphin: The Dolphins youth football program has been one of the most influential experiences of my life. The program provides young people an opportunity to grow as they learn discipline, perseverance, toughness and especially P.R.I.D.E. Having pride in how hard you work and how you handle adversity. Pride stands for Personal, Responsibility, Individual, Daily, Effort. This has shaped how I conduct myself as a man and I know there are many more who would not be half the person they are without the Dolphin program and the example set by Rene LaBerge. I am proud to call myself a Dolphin and hope the tradition continues for years to come. I’m a personal trainer and former semi-pro football player. I moved to North Carolina to work with pro athletes. Thank you. And also thank you for everything you’ve done for all us kids. Best years of my life were as a dolphin. I’ll never forget them. You’ve helped so many kids Rene.
Over the years as a Dolphins football player I have learned skills that will carry with me for my whole entire life. All of the coaches teach how to play football, but also teach how to become young adults. For example to never give up when things look difficult or always give 100% effort no matter in practice, games, or anything else outside of football. They also teach us about family and never stray away from your teammates. My time as a Dolphin was one of the best experiences in my life. Learning how to play football but also learning how to become a young man and good teammate. Right now I am a quarterback part of the South Burlington High school program and still using things the Dolphins have taught me in school and also on the field.
David Root 1991
Coach LaBerge asked me to write a little something about how much Dolphin Football has meant to me. Honestly, coach I’ve had tough time putting together what it’s meant because everything I write doesn’t come close to what you and Linda and the Dolphins have meant to me. However, I dug up some things that might be able help express some of my thoughts. I’m working on that letter.
Football is a game that takes a certain type of person to play. You have to be able to go to work on any given day and put you heart and soul into every single thing you do. You must be able to give your maximum effort, even when you are convinced you have nothing left to give. Football is a game that teaches you push yourself beyond what you think is possible, because it requires selflessness. While you might be able to achieve everything described above immediately, given time, football will bring teach you that the performance of your brothers by your side is more important than your own. Realizing that when you push the people around you to become better, will cause your best qualities will come forth. Max
Growing up I was a dolphin from the third grade all the way through eighth grade. Starting in the earthmovers, moving onto Orangeman and eventually Blackman. One thing that our coaches and captains made sure we understood was PRIDE. Every time someone says pride I automatically say personal responsibility of Individual daily effort in my head. It’s almost like a reminder that the dolphins program instills in you at a young age that lives with you forever. Playing for the dolphins really improved my football skills and made me ready to play at the high school level, however I am much more grateful to the way it helped mold me into becoming a good person. Its hard to realize at that age, just how important the life lessons football teaches you are, but as you grow older it becomes more clear how important those two a days were in the august heat, and the laps we did around JC park everyday before practice. Rene used to always say, the relationships you are making on this field right now would last a lifetime, and this couldn’t be truer for me. I am currently a junior at West Virginia University and I am proud to say that I am a South Burlington Dolphins Alumni. Michael Cunavelis
Playing for the Dolphins was one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences that I have had with sports. Dolphins football taught me the importance of a strong work ethic, teamwork and perseverance in a way that can’t be taught in a classroom. Success is never guaranteed and when I fell down in failure, it was through the coaches involved with the Dolphins that I learned to pick myself back up, learn from my mistakes and use them as teaching moments. I believe that any team sport helps to build character, but the lessons learned from my time with the Dolphins had more of an impact on my personal growth on and off the field than any other sport had and I am truly thankful for that. Thanks Rene and Linda!
Rene has asked me to explain my experience with football and what it taught me so that I could share with parents and potential young players. Thinking back I would have to say it was the most trans formative influence of all of the sports I played which was many. The teamwork and commitment football demanded helped me develop a strong work ethic and the drive to face adversity even when seeming to be outmatched. Football gave me motivation to better myself which lasted year round and ended up providing incentives to my teammates around me to keep up. Strong coaching provided leadership role models which I used later in my work career and life in general. The expectations of the coaches and the teammates does not allow for excuses or wining and teaches you to exceed your perceived limits. Football presents the player with challenges and successes that are carried with them long into the future which are used as reference points to how difficult the situation is that presents itself. Usually the current issue pales in comparison to the difficulty overcome on the football field. I was fortunate to have great coaches which were a huge influence in my life. I have both my sons playing football and am seeing the same type of experiences they are having as I had experienced. I cannot recommend football highly enough as development tool for changing a boy to a man, facing challenges they never expected to overcome and pushing their capabilities beyond what they thought they could achieve.
I grew up in South Burlington and ended up playing baseball at Clemson University and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 2010 MLB Drafts. I played a few seasons in the minor leagues and now I instruct youth baseball players and coach travel baseball teams. When Rene asked me to write a paragraph about what Dolphins football meant to me I knew there was going to be no way I would fit it into one paragraph. I started playing Dolphins when I was about 7-8 years old if I remember correctly and played all the way up until high school. Some of my greatest childhood memories were at Jaycee Park and at Rene’s house. I met some of my best friends playing on that team which I still keep in touch with today. I learned what playing sports is all about. How to work to earn something. How to communicate efficiently. Loyalty. How to work through adversity. How consistent efforts equal success. How to pick yourself up when you are down. How to pick your teammate up when he’s down. How to be a leader. What it takes to be a team player, and so much more. I can say with no hesitation that I was successful in my sports endeavors because of the life lessons I learned at such a young age playing Dolphins’ Football. Rene has been an unbelievable role model on how to mentor and build successful young men which is something that sticks with me every single day when I am working with the youth. I will always remember what PRIDE is – Personal Responsibility for Individual Daily Efforts.
Shawn A Farrell
Being a Dolphin player back in 80’s helped lay the foundation to the person I am today. As a young immature 6th grader weighing barely 70 lbs, the coaches taught me many valuable traits I adhere to today. The camaraderie of the Dolphins was amazing. I remember fondly how amazing it felt to put the jersey on and what it meant to represent our team. In life there are many wins and losses. In the program, we learned how to handle both winning and losing with class. We were taught not only the game of football, but how to be good students, children and citizens.
As an employer of around 80 people, often times a great majority of them being high schoolers, I find that many of my best employees are Dolphin Alumni. These individuals are highly competitive and have been taught discipline and work ethic.
I am a firm believer I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance and direction that was provided to me.
The Dolphins organization was one of the most influential factors for becoming the man I am today. The Dolphins are much more than just a football team. They are a place young people come together to grow and learn about themselves. Kids gain skills at a young age that some students in college are still trying to figure out. They gain the ability to become coachable and learn how to take criticism and apply that in a positive way. They learn how to fail, which is an extraordinarily important skill for kids in today’s world. When you fail on the football field the Dolphins organization does not let you quit, rather they show you how to take “failure” and work until it becomes success. Without Rene and Linda LaBerge, and the rest of the Dolphin coaches I would not have the work ethic and values that I have today. These values have been fundamental in helping me attend a four year college while playing two sports. The Dolphins have an important saying, PRIDE which means, personally responsibility for individual daily effort. Connor DeVarney
When I first started playing Dolphins football I was in second grade with no knowledge about football. I had no idea how to play or even what position I should be. The Dolphins program taught me how to become a better football player to ready myself for high school. The summer practices were hot and miserable at times, but it is times like these that teach hard work and perseverance which will help you in athletics, academics, and most importantly, in life. Being out on the football field every day with your boys allows you to make great friendships from a young age. My best friend today probably wouldn’t be my best friend if we hadn’t been through what we went through in Dolphins. It builds character. Now I am all done with South Burlington football, but I am fortunate enough to play one more game in the fall. The shrine maple sugar bowl game which is the best players in Vermont playing the best players in New Hampshire. Without the Dolphins football program, I wouldn’t have the skills or the drive to have earned a spot on this team. PRIDE Colby
Football has been part of my life since my earliest memories. It has taken many twists and turns to end back up in Vermont. I would watch games on TV with my brother and father. My brother graduated from South Burlington High School in 1974. I was 7 years old and I loved going to watch his games. One Sunday a NFL game was on, and I came into the room I asked, “Who is playing?”. My dad said, “The Dolphins and the Jets.” I said, “ I want the Dolphins to win!” The Dolphins won the game and I have been a fan of the Dolphins to this day. I started playing in the 4th grade in the South Burlington program. Back then 4th and 5th grade was flag. My brother and father both coached me during my 4th and 5th grade years. We practiced at Chamberlin Elementary School. I can remember my dad leaning into the huddle and calling plays.
After my 5th grade year I could not wait to play tackle football. I thought, how great is this going to be? I get to play for the Dolphins! The Dolphins are my favorite NFL team! That is when my life took a tragic twist. My father passed away during the summer going into my 6th grade year. I became an angry and troubled kid. I could have headed into a really BAD direction….and actually I wanted to do that. My life was turned upside down and I did not care anymore. That is when I started playing for Coach Rene. I was a 6th grader on the 6th – 8th grade team. Skill wise, I did not have much to offer because I was at the younger end of the team. I was angry and I would try to pick fights with teammates and was really not a good kid. I hated life and did not care.
That is when Coach Rene took me under his wing. He worked with me and gave me a love for the game again that I had lost. We ended up winning the Championship that year. My mom and I ended up moving to Virginia because that is where she was from. We stayed at a hotel the night of the banquet because we were leaving the next day. It was really emotional for me. I remember during the banquet, Rene saying, “I hate to see this guy not playing for the Rebels.” That night there was a knock on our hotel door, it was Coach Rene with a sign the team had signed and he told me, “He cared about me and wished me the best!”. The sign was a football field with the Dolphin logo in the middle. I hung that sign in my room throughout high school and then some. Coach Rene would steady send me letters about how the team was doing over the years. I thought, “He took the time to send this to me…. I really did not even contribute to the team that much.” I have never had a coach make such an impact on my life as Coach Rene did in that one season!
That is when I made personal commitment to myself. I thought,” Coach Rene was there when I needed someone, I will be there when someone needs me!” Not many people can make that kind of life commitment. Not many kids that are troubled can do this when they are 11 years old. I started coaching football when I was 19 years old in 1987. I started coaching kids that were 14 years old. I was not much older than them. I am still friends with them and see them every now and then even though they are in Virginia.
I moved back to Vermont in 1994 and started coaching with my brother on the 5th and 6th grade team in Essex. I remember seeing Coach Rene at the jamboree. It was at St. Albans that year. I gave him a hug and said, “Thank you for everything you have done for me!” I took over the head 7th and 8th grade team in Essex in 1995 and I am still currently the head coach. I owe Coach Rene in giving me my love back to football and passing it on. Coach Rene has passed on the love of the game to so many players. I am entering my 30th year of coaching. I have coached well over 1200 players in football, wrestling, baseball, and softball combined. I know many that I have coached that have gone on to coach as well. I have no idea of the amount of players that have been affected by Coach Rene and having such PRIDE in their teams that I have passed on. I thank Coach Rene for everything he has done for me. I am a better man, friend, and coach because of him. My life goal was to at least turn around one troubled kid and hopefully they pay it forward. I have no idea of how many players or parents over the years that have come up and told me, “Thank you, you have really changed me.” This letter may seem long, but I actually kept it brief and just hit a few points. I could go on and on.
I owe everything to Coach Rene and so do many others that he does not even know!!!!
Once a Dolphin, Always a Dolphin!!!! Humbly, Tony Arcovitch Dolphins 1978
Currently an Assistant Women’s Basketball coach at Saint Michaels College. Dolphins football was the foundation of who I am today as a person and as a coach (professional). As a coach you strive to be a model of what you teach… Ask Rene. Dolphins taught me to do the right thing, all the time. The right thing is to be on time, push your team to get better, compete, be disciplined, dedicated, listen, make sacrifices, be confident and love. Even though the right thing is not always the easiest as far as effort or popularity, the right thing is to strive to get better, be your best, learn and love what you do. I was pushed physically and mentally in a safe learning environment that built characteristics and skills that helped me not only in the classroom but in my life activities. I have pride. Anyone that went through that program will explain to you what PRIDE means but there is only one way to experience it. And this is to be apart of it. There is no way I would have the toughness or ability to overcome adversity the way I do today if it wasn’t for Rene and the Dolphins program. And for that, I am forever grateful. TJ Sawyer
Participating in youth football is something that has taught me valuable skills that I carried through all levels of school and my adult life. You are taught that with teamwork, communication, perseverance and hard work you can succeed at anything you do. It also builds long lasting relationships and forever categorizes you into a brotherhood. Most importantly it teaches you PRIDE: personal responsibility to individual daily effort. Without it, I would not be the man that I am today. I have previously coached college club football and High School basketball while currently working in sales in Essex Junction. It is difficult to put into words what Rene, his staff, and the South Burlington Dolphins have taught me, but I know that it was all positive and made me a better person.
Dolphins football was a great experience and the start of my football career. After moving from North Carolina and never playing football before, Dolphins helped me meet a bunch of new people and it became something I loved. Rene and his family have something special going on and the Dolphins program helps many kids. I remember when I first started in 3rd grade and after school the whole team would walk over to the field together. It was a family and I am so glad I was able to be apart of it. Dolphins helps you not only athletically but socially as well. The family you make and the brothers you get come a long way. I was a captain my 8th grade year and it was such a special honor. I got to be a leader to not only the blackmen(the older team) but to the younger kids as well. It helped me further my leadership skills in high school as I was a captain for my senior year at Salisbury prep school. You are missing out if you don’t play football, especially for the Dolphins. It is hard work, mentally and physically, but most important it is so much fun. The only advice I can share is to work as hard as you can and enjoy being apart of that family because looking back, I miss spending everyday with my brothers.
Family: going through Dolphin football on of the biggest thing I was taught was family, school, football. That was the order in which I should priorities my life. Looking back to see how Dolphins football changed my life I could tell I prioritized everything back words. That’s right I was a rebel, I took what I learned and turned it into football, school, family. I grew up in a different type of family one where I was an only child with a single mother. My mother worked nights to support us and we didn’t see each other a lot. When it came to school I didn’t fit in. My mother and I moved from Burlington to South Burlington when I was in the fifth grade. My first year of school was awful I was picked on because I didn’t come from a wealthy family like most, my race and my African heritage. Growing up with lack of parental guidance made me a very independent person at young age. A lot of emotions came with the bullying I faced and my indecency made me want to take matters into my own hands. Dolphin’s football despite my differences was an even playing field. It brings the youth in our community who are all brought up differently and teaches them to work together. Practices and games had their ups and downs but it was something we all went through it together and that’s all that mattered. We all had our individual positions just like how we were individuals in the community. Once we were taught how our individual positions worked together to reach our goal of the end zone it was clear we were all a part of something bigger than ourselves. We learned to respect one another on the field and off the field. I stopped being so independent and worked harder to fit into my community with my new group of friends from Dolphin’s football. The motto was once a Dolphin always a Dolphin. This motto came to life when it came time for me to sign to wall of our locker room. This motto was the reason why I substituted football for family in the order which I was taught to prioritize. Every year a group of 8th graders move on and signs the wall. My 8th grade year I read what was already written by others before and that’s when I knew it was family. Once we learned the importance Once a Dolphin always a Dolphin was the motto. When I was taught this I thought about how many people in our community where in my shoes and so many people will continue to be Dolphins. I understand that I was part of something bigger and the level of respect we had for all our teammates.
In this new light Dolphins football taught me a lot and continues to teach our youth values that stick with them forever. The first thing I remember being taught as a Dolphin was PRIDE. Pride stood for Personal Responsibility for Individual Daily Effort. I didn’t truly understand it until I saw the correlation between practice and games. The more effort I put out in practice the better I did in games. Pride has stuck with me and helped me shape my time management skills. I look at a clock and remember PRIDE every time. It reminds me to give my best effort to the tasks in front of me so I can get the best result. I’m the only one responsible for the effort I give in a single minute and the more I give the more PRIDE is shown and the more of a Dolphin I am. Coming from a family in our African heritage time is considered to flow like water. My time management skill would not be where they are today if it wasn’t for Dolphin’s football. One of the best things that football taught me was how control my emotions. Like I said I really didn’t fit into my community. I faced a lot of bullying, harassment, and racism. Instead of wasting my energy on those who bullied me I would save it for the games. Our youth needs way to express themselves and football is an amazing way. After every game it felt like a big weight was lifted of my shoulders and I could face those bullies without wanting to retaliate. Coaches could tell when I was playing with anger and when I wasn’t. What I loved was the ability to show me how much fun football was. As my love grew for the game I found other areas to relive my anger. I love football to this day and recently just stopped playing after my freshmen year in college. I compare the season I had now to the seasons I had during Dolphins football and truly miss the good old days where I played just to have fun. AdnaneBottom of Form
When I played football it made me strive for bigger and better things. I started playing in 3rd grade and me being the biggest on the field usually I excelled at my level quickly. Come to 4th grade I was good enough to play up a level. During this with the help of Rene and coach Ladd I was increasing not only as a athlete not only as a student but as a general person. I got to be more social gained more friends and was a lot more happy. At the end of my 5th grade season my love for football skyrocketed I would sit in a 3point stance trying to work on it after dinner. So come 6th grade I would be prepared also with the great speed school that Rene puts together I lost weight and stayed fit all year round. After the 6th grade season I was not only playing great but I was slowly but surly maturing into a man. In the summer of going into my 7th grade season me and coach Rene started to become more then just coach to player it was more of a friendship. Me and him would talk daily before and after work outs. And even in the off season. During my final 8th grade season I noticed that my life would have never been the same with out football and my coaches during practice I would be pushed to be better and do the right thing. The most important thing I learned about football is if your team is not a family on and off the field it will fall apart. PRIDE Tabious Dubose
Dolphins football helped me learn how to give 100% of my effort into everything I do. It also taught me that I am going to make mistakes and that I can learn a lot from them. It helped me make friends when I was too shy to make any at school. Next year I will be going to school at Castleton University and I wouldn’t have been able to get this far without the skills I learned through the Dolphins football program. Dolphins PRIDE Henery
I only had the honor of being a Dolphin for 1 year (my 8th grade year), as I moved over from the Burlington Giants at the time. I had made the decision to go to South Burlington High School the following year and felt that it was in my best interest to meet some of my team mates a year early that I would be playing with in high school. It was one of the better decisions I have ever made. It was that season back in 1990 that not only turned into a Championship season, but a season of dedication, perseverance and honor that is the foundation of Dolphin Football and something I was proud to be a part of.
Playing the previous years for Burlington, there was one team that we feared playing against to be honest. No one wanted to play against the dominate South Burlington Dolphins. Not only did they seem like the biggest team in the league, but a very skilled and well coached team. There was not doubt they had a leg up to the rest of the league and it showed with the amount of hardware in their trophy room. I think the biggest take away from that year is not only the life long friendships that I made, but what the Dolphins stand for. Honor, respect, perseverance and hard work is what all team sports at that age should strive to teach young kids, but not all of them achieve this. Not only did the South Burlington Dolphins instill those characteristics in me back in 1990, but they continue to do the same generations later. If that isn’t a measure of success, I don’t know what is. Go Dolphins! Bryan Cairns Vice President Champlain Oil Co.
Rene, As you know, I’m currently a financial services professional for the past 24 years with New York. Looking back to my days quarterbacking the state champion Dolphins many of the skills I learned then help me in my business practice today. Listening, being a team player, a leader and problem solver seem to be those I use most frequently in my practice. After listening to my clients problems, I try to come up with a game plan that they understand. We set goals and benchmarks which I quarterback them to reach. This is the fun part of my business and when I use this type of team approach everyone wins. One must be a leader on and off the field and in the difficult world of financial planning it helps to make difficult concept easy to understand and implement. Much like our days playing for the Dolphins some of the best game plans were those that everyone understood and worked together to achieve. Many people say life’s not about winning and losing but how you played the game. I believe if you follow the basic principals were learned at a very young age playing football and apply them to your life, the winning usually takes care of itself. Keep up the good work and go Dolphins! PJ Financial Services
Professional Agent, New York Life Insurance Company Life Member of the Million Dollar Round Table and Senior Nylic
I played with the South Burlington Dolphins for 3 years ’82 – ’84. The time I spent with the Dolphins is easily one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences of my youth. When I first joined the team I was an undersized, shy 6th grader from another town that lacked a football program. Within days I was hooked on football, my new teammates and on being a Dolphin. Back then, training, practice and game-day was all very serious business for me but looking back I realize the serious business is really in the development of youth, a service that Rene LaBerge has been selflessly providing for generations of kids in the Burlington area. Teamwork, leadership, discipline, confidence, character are just a few of the critical components, instilled, that I carry with me today as a husband, father and Senior Relationship Manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). It’s remarkable to think of the thousands of lives, across generations, that Rene has touched over the years and I’m consider myself blessed and proud to have been a South Burlington Dolphin. PRIDE always Houston
I hope everything is going well for you. It seems like yesterday I was in your house looking at all your sports trophies and history. I still have my PRIDE award in my room. It’s one of my proudest awards. It’s been 5 years since then now and I’ve had quite a ride. In the fall I decided to finish up my football career at UNH. It didn’t go as I planned, but no part of me regrets it. I made 1 start in my career and they benched me after 12 reps. Boy did it hurt, but youth football in Winooski and Vermont prepared me for that. I didn’t play for your youth football program, but I did play for Mark Young and the Spartan program. I learned respect, teamwork, friendships, work ethic, and so much more that has prepared me for the world. My entire football career was because of how much I learned to love a game at such a young age. The structure that comes with a team has helped me become more organized and goal driven in the classroom. On the field my goal was to win, I was going to do whatever I had to do to feel the feeling of winning. In translated into the classroom where I had fantastic grade in college and something to be proud about. Many time I lost though, and I learned about adversity. How does one over come adversity? I got benched after 12 reps in my only career start. I had worked my butt off from the 6th string qb to become the backup to when the starter got hurt I was the guy. They gave me 12 reps and that was it. I was standing on the sideline ready to walk away. Ready to go throw my helmet and quit. But what I learned from a very young age from my dad and mom, my brother, and my coaches, was that quitters never succeed. The only real time in my career that I wanted to walk away from the game I loved during a game. I couldn’t do it though because I was taught not to quit when I was a little kid in Winooski. It still hurts sometimes but not a day goes by that I’m not proud that I stuck it out. Currently, I’m in my last semester at UNH and looking for a job in Boston. I’m hoping to end up in the financial world and someday move back to VT.
I hope that story can tell you a little bit about how much being in a program with good coaches and great supporters like yourself shows work ethic and social skills. If you need anything ever feel free to contact me.
Football has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I remember being about four years old watching the Buffalo Bills in my living room with my dad and being glued to the television. Everything about the sport was so exciting. The first player I ever really cared about was Doug Flutie. Now Doug Flutie wasn’t the best quarterback of all time, nor did he win a Super Bowl. But at that time he was my favorite athlete because he was small and fast like me. I remember getting “Flutie Flakes” and eating a bowl of them as I watched the Bills. I remember diving on the football whenever someone fumbled on the screen like I was right there in the pile with them. I remember getting my first pair of shoulder pads and sleeping with them at night like they were a stuffed animal. Football for me was comfort.
A lot of things changed when I moved to Vermont. I was the best player on my team when I lived in New York and suddenly I’m in a whole new environment. Apparently I had a bit of a reputation before even joining the South Burlington Dolphins as “the red head from New York”. My dad had gone around to a few of the teams in our area to see how the programs were run and when we finally landed on the Dolphins, we knew it was the place. I used to get dressed for practice in the back seat of my parents car in New York and suddenly now I had a locker room. My team in New York had just started when I joined; the Dolphins had already won more than fifteen state championships before I even got there. Coach Rene’s basement, although it smelled a little funky sometimes, felt like where winners played. I remember being amazed at all the tradition too. Everybody in town went through the program and all left their mark on the walls before they left. I knew this was where I wanted to play.
I was really nervous my first few weeks because I didn’t know anyone. I was a small redheaded kid who could play football. I remember our first scrimmage against our rival, the Burlington Seahorses. I was so nervous before that game and I didn’t want to screw up and be the kid that messed it up for everyone. Fortunately, I played great. Not just because of my own efforts, but because the guys around me were so well trained. I had sixth graders opening holes open for me the size of a car, I couldn’t believe it. After the game, my teammates congratulated me and I instantly felt welcome.
Over the next few seasons I was coached by some of the most dedicated coaches and developed some of the strongest relationships in my life. Football was an outlet for everything. Whenever I had a bad day, I had football to look forward to. Even if I had a bad practice, at least I got to go hangout with my best friends. Coach Rene cared about every single child that walked into his basement and wanted every single one of us to succeed. He came off a bit rough sometimes, but anyone who really knew him, knew it was because he cared so much. I remember messing up a few times in a row during practice and Coach was yelling at me because I kept missing a block. I was frustrated at the time because I was pretty small and couldn’t take on the bigger kids that I needed to block. I wanted to go home right then and there but coach made us stay until we got it right. I now realize he was doing it because he was teaching us about trust. How we all need to protect each other, we were all brothers. If I missed my block that meant Johnny was getting hit. If I run the wrong way on a play, someone else is getting tagged because of me. Football is about more than just yourself; there are so many moving parts that in order to be successful, you need to be more than a team. The Dolphins always taught P.R.I.D.E which stood for Personal Responsibility for Individual Daily Effort. I still remember what it means to this day without having to Google it. It meant putting everything you had into everything you did because you should care enough to do it. Not because someone told you to. That alone shows the impact of football, everything I did throughout my seasons has a Dolphin has made me into the man I am today. Coach Rene didn’t just make a successful youth football program, he created a family. A family that I can always count on, and I am truly blessed to be a part of it today. I’m a getting my Bachelor’s of Science degree with a Communications major and a concentration in business from James Madison University. I’m graduating in May and then I’m taking a few months to travel before I’m moving to New York City Will “Ferret” Thompson #21
My name is Jules Vollbrecht, I am a South Burlington Dolphins player. Throughout my four years in the program I had come to learn what it meant to be part of a team and what it meant to push myself which later gave me the strength to follow my dreams.
Dolphins wasn’t just about butting heads with the enemy teams and seeing who comes out on top. It was about setting goals as a team, push through the hard times together and becoming a family. I remember the long hours of practicing under the sun as well as the rain and mud. Plays we would run over and over and over again just so our guards would block the right linebacker or D-end. Or the post sprinting throw-ups due to too much BK. Laps for not having clean practice pants. All the while building character and responsibility, showing we can either move head or stay behind. When someone did fall behind to pick them up and remind them who we were.
Personal Responsibility Individual Daily Effort, since dolphins these have been the words that have helped me to become who I am now. This would be a full time student as well as an active member of society. I’m currently going to DeVry University for Electrical Engineering Technology as well as managing a Sandwich shop on the weekends. I have been able to keep my goals in mind and discipline myself to a schedule that works for me. I don’t know if I would be as far as I am now without the early structure that Dolphins had brought to me.
Although some may disagree with football as a sport because of the roughness and injury, we must understand that throughout our lives they’re will be pain, psychical or psychological. Just cause were knocked down doesn’t mean we should give up we must have self-obedience and the will power to motivate ourselves, because missing one tackle one block could mean game over, for you and your teammates PRIDE Jules
I experienced playing youth football with the SB Dolphins from grades 5th thru 8th. From my time there I formed many great relationships & bonds that still exist today. For me, football seemed to be the ultimate team sport. It truly taught me so much about life and development at a very important time in young persons life. It requires teamwork, respect, perseverance, hard work, dedication and sacrifice. All of which are really important life lessons that helped me become a better person, a better husband, a better father, and be better in my work career. Great coaches and mentors along the way also play a huge role. I currently live in south Burlington and now have 2 boys coming up through the Dolphins program. It’s great to see all the new research being done to make this sport become safer. There are risks every where in life and in every sport. Recently football has been highly scrutinized, but I feel the benefits from this great game and what it provides in a young persons life is worth it. BJ with his brother Todd owns Barrett tree service in South Burlington BJ Barrett
Dolphins football played a very important role in my life and helped turn me into the young adult I am today. While playing, I didn’t realize how much of an influence the organization had on me. However, looking back, I can honestly say that I learned lessons that will stick with me forever. Dolphins football taught me the importance of hard work and perseverance, as well as the importance of always treating people with respect. During my time as a Dolphin, I learned that nothing would be handed to me and I would have to work hard to achieve my goals. Playing on the team helped me develop lifelong relationship, as well as learn values that have helped me get to where I am today. I am currently pursuing a degree in Economics at the University of Virginia, and I would like to thank coach Rene and the rest of the Dolphins organizations for all they’ve done for me. Dolphins PRIDE Victor
In football you are taught that the only way that a kick-off team can be successful is when everybody stays in their lane; when everybody takes Pride in their job even if you aren’t the one to make the tackle. Dolphin’s instilled this idea of PRIDE in me, to do my best in every aspect of my life no matter the recognition. The South Burlington Dolphins gave me the opportunity to create lasting friendships, learn how to be part of a team, and how to take coaching. As a teacher and coach, I see many youth struggle with being able to accept constructive criticism and use it to improve themselves. My time on the Dolphins taught me that improving myself and using the coaching would not only help me, but it would keep my teammates safe and help us succeed. Win or lose, being with my teammates, my family, after the game in the locker room was where I learned how to be a teammate and a friend. Whether it was learning from our mistakes after a loss or celebrating our hard work in a victory, being with my family in that locker room gave me a sense of accomplishment. I wouldn’t trade my time on the South Burlington Dolphins for anything in the world. Dolphin PRIDE! – Chris Mahl, Captain #47, 2003
As a early teen I thought I knew everything about the world and about life. No one could tell me different and teach me new things because I already had everything figured out. The biggest things I thought I had figured out but really didn’t was how to be respectful of my parents, how to get good grades in school and work ethic.
Rene and Dolphins football at a young age shaped me into a man. It taught me the values in education as Rene wouldn’t let me practice or play football without maintaining a C average and above. He even had one of the other players tutor me to help me get better. Rene put me to work in the off season doing things around his house- Raking leaves, cutting the grass, general labor things that I think he sometimes just made up to keep my busy so I could earn a few bucks and teach me the value of a dollar-work and earning things you want.
Playing football for the Dolphins and for Rene taught me discipline. Everyone thinks it’s a barbaric physical sport and the truth is that it’s a 90% mental game of discipline, something I knew nothing about until playing for Rene on the Dolphins.
Dolphins football and the mentors involved in the organization shape and guide young individuals to have a much better chance of being successful in the future by teaching players life morals and lessons that children just don’t want to hear or listen to from their parents.
I at the age of 23 opened my own small business doing aircraft repair, inspections and servicing. At my current age of 29 I have expanded business and now have a division doing Radio and GPS troubleshooting and installation on aircraft.
As a young 12 year old, I had no idea about the journey I was embarking on, or the lessons I was about to learn when I walked into the Dolphins’ locker room over 24 years ago. Being a part of something more than just myself, comradery, discipline, teamwork, leadership, wins, but even more importantly losses, these were the lessons I learned as a Dolphin. They have helped shape my life and what would eventually become a career as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. Dolphin’s football provided me with life experiences to draw from when I faced opportunities later in life and also when I faced adversity. These were the lessons Coach LaBerge and the rest of the staff had introduced me to and helped me learn from. I now server as a Major in the Air Force, where every day I am presented with new challenges and leadership opportunities… lessons I was introduced to on the football field years ago. I am often asked why I joined the military and why I have continued to serve for over 15 years. As I reflect on my answer, I always come back to the same lessons I learned on the football field… being part of a team, comradery, discipline, and the challenge. Best of luck and take advantage of every opportunity you get. Your time as a Dolphin will be some of the best memories of your life. FOISY, MATTHEW P Maj USAF
*Accomplishment, knowing that hard work pays off
*Confidence, being pushed to help the rest of the team
*Hope, receiving encouragement and support even if you made a bad play because there is always next time
*Structure, rules are to be followed because they just don’t hurt you but the whole team if you don’t follow them
Thank you for all of the great years of your coaching- many fond memories. Gavin owns an underground drilling company
I started playing football for the Dolphins in the third grade. I didn’t really know how Dolphins had affected me until I got in to high school. Football has showed me to be respectful to others and to the referees, to be a better person, to be reliable when you are needed, and to persevere through things even if it gets hard or you don’t want to do it. One scenario that sticks clearly in my mind is in a game against Essex my Sophomore year of high school football. We were down 14 nothing and the refs were not good, they were either not calling anything or making bad calls. With 7 minutes left I came from playing receiver to playing quarterback. I manage to get two touchdowns and got a two point conversion to tie the game and send the game into overtime. We lost that game but it shows how I have grown as a man and as football player. It was hard not to argue a call with the refs and treat them with respect even though their calls were questionable. I came in because the coach knew that I had proved to be reliable in the clutch. I persevered by coming from behind even though we had a slim chance to win. Dolphins also taught me how to be responsible for my actions with the acronym PRIDE. PRIDE stand for Personal Responsibility for Individual Daily Effort. Being in the Dolphins program and playing football has giving me quality’s that I can use to succeed in everything that I do. This includes sports, academics, community service, and helping younger athletes learn what PRIDE really means. I remember one of my coaches in Dolphins said to me: “When your brain says no I can’t do this, your body is only 40% done.” I believe this is true because I have experienced it myself. With all of these attributes that I have gained has made me just a better overall person. I will never forget what I have learned from the Dolphin program. I would like to thank the Dolphin program for giving me a opportunity to play the sport that I love and for giving me life lessons that I can take with me for the rest of my life.
Paul R. Frail, PhD
My best memories are not just pages in a photo album or action sequences in my dreams; rather, they are an addictive experiences that I have tried to duplicate and replicate much of my life without success. When I arrived for my first SB Dolphin practice in 1990 I was unaware how powerful and influential the next three years of my life would be for me. Between the Coaches, teammates, and competition the foundation for a successful scholastic and professional career had started and continuous today. During this three year period Coaches helped me understand where I am today, where I was versus my competition, and to look beyond those marks to where I could achieve. Teammates would go on to be some of the strongest friendships I would forge in my life. Competition drove me to become a critical thinker and develop the mental strength needed to push myself beyond my bounded capabilities. A subtle learning during this period, which would take me years to fully understand, was that to field a football team you require 11 people; however, to be a successful football team you require 22 to 33 teammates. This lesson would be the beginning of seeing and understanding that my peers, regardless of athleticism and personality, are people with potential to contribute. When you go beyond our youth and the football field, seeing people based on their potential, will create thriving friendships, communities, and positive outcomes for all. Now, being a father and looking back to my days as an SB Dolphin, I have finally duplicated these experiences and recreated what I deemed unattainable, by ensuring I pass my learning and teachings as their coach to my children as they begin their journey into competitive sports. I have no doubt, that the tradition of the SB Dolphins continuous today and the same experience awaits future youths as they begin their journey as I did back in 1990. Dolphins PRIDE Paul
My name is Devin Hebert I am currently a senior at South Burlington High School. I will be attending Hamilton College next fall and I know I am where I am today because of Dolphins Football. Through my years as an earthmover, Orangemen, and then a Blackmen I learned valuable life lessons. These include hard work, sportsmanship, teamwork, and most of all dedication. My 8th grade year as a Dolphin I set a high goal for myself. To be a running back. Through my whole football career I had been a lineman but I was on the brink of being able to be a running back. In order to do that I had to train my hardest and stay true to my goal. I was only able to do this because of the support of my coaches and the dedication that they had instilled in me. That year I learned that dedication pays off. Not only did I become a running back but I ran for 200 yards and a touchdown in the state championship game (that we won by the way). Football is one of the most important parts of my life and without Dolphin football I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
To the Dolphins there is no greater reward in sports and life in the something that you have the work really hard for. Back in 1980 we were down by 14 points in a really looked bad we were beat up and discourage. We regroup to come back and win by 14 points to take the championship game. To this date that make room I Cherish the most 42 and 28 Dolphins over the Jets will never forget the game. Never doubt yourself !! Always go full speed. You can accomplish anything if you practice and played with heart and compassion. Stand tall you are the custodians of a proud and long tradition of being a Dolphin ! Work hard! Never quit! Listen to Rene and Good luck Todd O’Neil World Racquetball Champion
Football is a great sport. Growing up around great coaches, learning and developing important skills like teamwork, sacrifice, confidence, humility and work ethic were an integral part of my development. I grew up around the game, my father was a high school coach, and I had the pleasure of being around the game and the people throughout my youth, then in High School and then in college. I would not trade in the experience, lessons learned, and friendships for anything. As I work now as the Director of Sales for a plumbing company I have the opportunity to invest in associates development. I use the learnings from my experience with football and athletics to help others achieve their professional dreams when they earn and deserve it.
There has obviously been a lot of debate surrounding the health concerns of playing football. Injuries of all kinds can occur in any sport. My belief is that if your child choses to play football, it is an outstanding way to learn life lessons that are applicable to anything they decide to do in their future. If you decide that another sport is a better fit, that is understandable as well. What is important is that they learn to prepare, to compete, and what it takes to be a valuable part of a team. Garry Jordan Director – Sales, Wholesale Distribution Kohler Co.
I owe a large part of the credit for who I am today because of what I’ve learned over the years playing football. I began playing the sport in fifth grade learning the importance of teamwork and dedication. Through the years, I’ve formed many lasting friendships, some of which have not only been personal, but also turned into professional relationships because we share the same mentality of working hard to become successful. I believe that youth team sports are extremely important in the development of children and that every child should have the opportunity that I had. Don is one of the principals at Overhead Door.
I was a part of the South Burlington Dolphins team during my 7th and 8th grade. In 1992 expectations for winning were very high. My older cousin, Chris, won the state title the previous season with the Dolphins. Even at a young age I knew I was joining a team that was expecting a lot out of me. This is in essence of what sports are, the physical competitiveness that asks us to work as a team to win. Every practice was treated like a game. We were all taught to practice how you will play, with strength focus and determination. Looking back at my years with the Dolphins I can see how this translates into my everyday life, being prepared, visualizing and meeting your goals. Learning to win gracefully but losing with dignity. Coach Rene and Coach Belisle asked a lot of us as kids. Even after we took off the jerseys for the final time, and as we grew up, they still expected us to act like South Burlington Dolphins. Years later many my of teammates became long lasting friends, they continue to support me and my family through the businesses we run. As a father now it is my hope that my kids will choose to play sports. I can only hope they find an amazing program like Rene’s Dolphins where they can be taught the value of competition, teamwork, and representing not only yourself, but your community and your family. Thanks for everything Coach Rene!
Tyler Riano Lord
Dolphins football was easily one of the most fun and important pieces in my middle school experience. It allowed me to play with some of my closest friends and make more friends, all the while learning how to become a better teammate and football player. The practices help young people learn good work ethic, social skills, and ultimately how to become a better person. Playing in the games every Friday night or Saturday morning helps teach the of perseverance and sportsmanship. When your team is winning, you learn to continue to play hard, have fun, and be respectful to the other team. If your team is losing, you learn to stay calm, confident, keep doing your best until the final whistle and to continue being respectful to everyone on the field. As a dolphin one of the first things we learn when we walk into the locker room for the first time is the meaning of PRIDE, and if you truly embrace it, it will stick with you forever. Personal Responsibility Individual Daily Effort. It means that in football, as well as life, you have a personal responsibility to yourself and to those around you to give your individual daily effort to the fullest extent in everything you do. And if the entire team understands and embraces PRIDE, there is nothing you can’t accomplish together.
Dolphins football taught me a lot of things, the most important being that hard work always beats talent. Never being the strongest or fastest kid, football was tough for me but what that challenge taught me is that work ethic and focus can overcome anything. Dolphins also taught me about brotherhood, about how having your friends back is as important as having your own and how friendship is as important as any score at the end of a game.
Rene! hope all is well, sorry for the delay. In the process of moving into a new apartment in Boston and am in the middle of finals week at college. Sending love to you and the Dolphin family!
I played for the South Burlington Dolphins from 1994-1999. I played on both the Orange men and the Black men. I was lucky enough to be voted Captain on both teams. In my final year we lost in the Championship game to Essex by the final score of 18-20. A game that still stings when I think about it after all these years. When Coach Rene reached out to me asking if I would write a paragraph about playing for the Dolphins. I thought, what a peace of cake! Those were some of the best years of my life. As I sat down to right this I found it was harder then I thought it was going to be, not because I have a shortage of words for my time with the Dolphins or that I didn’t learn valuable life lessons and learning experiences on the team, but because its hard to put such a meaningful part of my life into words. I can still remember my first day of practice. I had just recently moved to South Burlington that summer going into my 5th grade year. I had very few friends that lived in SB so I was a little nervous and hesitant to get out of my father’s truck that day. By the end of that football season it felt like those teammates had been my friends my entire life. The sense of “brotherhood” you form playing organized sports is something that you can’t really explain or put on paper. The bonds you form with teammates and coaches are relationships that will stick with you for a lifetime. There is nothing like being out on a field with ten of your teammates on a Saturday morning giving it your all and knowing those ten other kids have your back as well as you having theirs, it’s something that will stick with you forever. As a kid on the cuff of entering young adulthood I think its very important to get involved and play organized youth football. Playing football taught me respect, responsibility, pride, how to lose and how to win as a team, a good work ethic and discipline. All of these are major life skills that as an adult I use on a day to day basis, professionally and in my personal life. Being a part of the Dolphins has helped mold me into the person I am today. I am very thankful for Coach Rene and the South Burlington Dolphins and highly recommend and encourage kids to play youth football. At the end of the day its more then just a game and the lessons and experiences you learn will last a lifetime. I know when I have children of my own I will not think twice to sign them up for football.
Captain Tyler Abate
Being a Dolphin,
I played for the Dolphin’s from Kindergarten-8th grade, totaling 9 years of my 21 year old life. I will always remember the tradition of honoring the PRIDE Rock for Cpl Mark Evnin USMC who passed away in 2003. I live by the words on that rock, Personal Responsibility for Individual Daily Effort (PRIDE). That rock was a symbol, which taught me many traits with one of them being perseverance. Whenever I walked onto the practice field and felt like I couldn’t give anymore, I would remind myself I could push through. This one trait is something I use today to help myself stay resilient through the tough times of school, work, and family. I could never repay Rene and the Dolphins program for all it has done for me. One day I will coach my child what it truly means to be a Dolphin.
First of all I’d like to thank the National Football Foundation for this induction. Words cannot express how grateful and honored I am. When I began playing football my freshman year, after having played soccer throughout my youth, I would have never imagined this opportunity. Most of all, I’d like to thank my family. They were with me every step of the way, even when I broke my wrist during warm-ups of my third game ever. Where many others would have stopped all together, my family made it clear that there was no doubt that I’d be back the next year.
I’d also like to thank everyone who has supported me along the way, including my junior varsity coaches, Pat Brown and Chris Gilbert, who welcomed me into the program with open arms. They taught me the game that I’ve come to love, and without their help, I would not have been able to be here. I’d like to thank Dennis and Doug Belisle, who joined our coaching staff just a couple of years ago and have helped build the program back to what it needs to be. Thank you to Coach Brennan Carney and Coach Adam Cate, who pushed me to be my best day in and day out. Whether it was insisting on one more rep, or forcing me to fight through the fatigue, they instilled the confidence and ability in me so that I could perform at the varsity level. Coach Carney and Coach Cate have helped shape me into the person I am today. And finally, I’d like to thank my second family – the one that was with me on the field during every practice and every game. It was in my teammates that I found a home that allowed me to grow not only as an athlete, but as a person, a friend. For that, I will forever be grateful.
Football is an incredible sport. Back in 2012, I heard countless times before my first practice that football is a game purely consisting of men wearing tight uniforms hitting each. It was within two practices that I was convinced otherwise. Changing sports from soccer, a mainly free-flowing sport with limited play design, football genuinely confused me. Hole numbers, gap assignments, routes, coverages… and I thought all I had to do was run fast and catch a ball. After my first game, I realized that football isn’t a meathead sport – it’s not a game where brawn dominates brains. Football is the most intricate take on chess-like strategy I have ever encountered in my life, and my only regret is not starting earlier.
I moved to Vermont right before I started 8th grade, so naturally it was a pretty nerve-wracking time. Right off the bat I started practicing with the Dolphins and quickly got to meet the rest of the team. Getting to know them allowed me to feel comfortable walking into school that first day, and from that point on, those were the guys who became, and continue to be, my best friends 9 years later. The Dolphins gave me a sense of courage, comfort, and success in my 8th grade year that sent me on a trajectory the team certainly had a part in playing. The coaches, the players, the parents, the community all coming together like that showed me what Vermont was about. The Dolphin Pride that is instilled in every player continues throughout high school as South Burlington PRIDE, and is a vital aspect to any school’s teams. My move to Vermont was one of the greatest transitions I could have gone through, and I could not have asked for a better way to start it off than becoming a Dolphin.
Joining the Dolphins football program was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I was fortunate to have started a year earlier than most of the other players and the few guys from my class who played together that year are still my closest friends. Being on the football team taught me to take pride in everything I do; I also learned to depend on my teammates and how important it is to have commitment and trust in order to be successful. Playing football required thinking very quickly on your feet and making split-second decisions so that you can effectively adapt to the constantly changing game. The skills and lessons I learned playing in the Dolphins program including: the power of teamwork and working hard, decision making, problem-solving and the PRIDE of accomplishing a common goal have all been invaluable in achieving my goals. I am working as a Sales Engineer at Dynapower Co. and my job allows me to help collaborate with cross-functional teams of skilled people on a variety of very complex and interesting projects.
P.R.I.D.E. – Personal, Responsibility, Individual, Daily, Effort. I touched that sign every time I left the locker room, no matter why I was leaving. If I was on my way out to practice, to a game or on my way home, I always touched it to remind me that it applies to all aspects of life not just football. I’ve never been an outspoken leader but by working hard on a daily basis and taking responsibility for my actions I’ve lead by example. I applied this philosophy to all aspect in my life and not just Dolphins.
Discipline, Knowledge & Hard work – There are a lot of football fans out there but few truly understand the amount of discipline and work that goes into preparing for just one game. Over the years I don’t know how many hours of game film I watched and studied. Not just of opponents of my game play. Trying to understand the other team’s strategies, recognize formation or even subtle movement or actions by other player that might tip off a blitz, or route or play. Studying my own game play to correct mistakes I make. This hard work and discipline carried over to other aspect of my life like my studies and job. Best Jeff He works for the JP Capital
As a child growing up, I dreamed of playing football. The idea of catching, that game winning touchdown, or making a big hit on defense, was a always a childhood dream. Well those dreams were brought to reality the first day I stepped on the football field at Jaycee Park in 7th grade. I was surrounded by years of experience in coaching, but most importantly, coaches that knew how to coach kids. I had an opportunity to play for a team that bred success both on and off the field, had excellent coaches/mentors to help instill a true love for the game, in a safe competitive way.
Football teaches you that you get what you put into it – if you work hard, success will follow. The lesson learned on the practice field at Jaycee Park has carried into my life as a husband, father, and professional in the Business Lending Community. Thank you Rene, and so many others in the community for your support as a youth… helping to live out my childhood dreams. (Yes, my dreams came true as I caught that game winning touchdown for the State Championships, ’92) Jason Pidgeon (Charlotte, VT)
My experience with youth football was extremely beneficial and impactful and one that I will always cherish. I grew up in Shelburne VT and was asked by some friends to join the South Burlington Dolphins youth football program in 6th grade. There was a group of us from Shelburne that traveled every day after school to South Burlington for practice to be a part of this team, it was a big commitment and required a lot of sacrifice but we learned at an early age how important that was. We learned what it meant to be part of a team, how to set goals as a group, and how to work together to achieve a common goal. We learned how much hard work it took to be good at something, how dedicated you had to be and what commitment to teammates was all about. I remember it wasn’t always just fun, we had to work really hard and we learned what it meant to be challenged and to be pushed outside your comfort zone. The coaches were really good about teaching us sportsmanship and respect not only of the game but for the other players both on our team and on the teams we played against. I fell in love with the sport and the experience, those were three very important years in my childhood and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. We learned how to win, we made it to the state championship in my final year and we lost to a team we had already beaten during the year. That was also something I will never forget, we learned how to lose a tough game, how to deal with defeat. Most importantly, I remember the relationships I forged while playing for the dolphins. The coaches were some of the best people I’ve ever met, I still admire and look up to them to this day. I met kids form other towns that I stayed friends with for years and years, we always have stories about youth football to share when we see each other in passing. There was always a mutual respect that we had for each other as we remember battling on the football field when we were younger. When I look back and think about my childhood I can honestly say that the years I spent as a member of the Dolphins football program were the most fun, most educational, and most rewarding years I had. Thanks to Rene for all his hard work and dedication, he has been a great coach, teacher, mentor, and lifelong friend. Currently I am an owner and Vice President of Noyle Johnson Insurance Group, we are based out of Montpelier with 3 offices and 48 employees. We are an independent insurance agency representing over 25 insurance companies handling all lines of property and casualty coverages for both commercial and personal customers. I am Presently living in Moretown, VT and I have identical twin boys that are 11 years old. Sean Star
When I enlisted in the Dolphins Youth Football Program, I simply intended to gain an understanding of the game of football. I never expected to be taught valuable lessons about life at every point. Coach Rene LaBerge and the rest of the coaches involved with the program helped mold me into the man I am today. The most important thing I learned from the program was the value of hard work and perseverance. I learned that most of the important things in life don’t come easy: that if you want to be successful, you have to work hard. This is something that I continually try to apply to all areas of my life. And now, as a starter on the varsity football team, and a potential captain for my upcoming senior season, I look back to where it all started and only have one thing to say to the Dolphins Organization. Thank you. PRIDE Manny
“I don’t want to play anymore, just take me home.”
Football began in my house when my oldest son was in the third grade. He started in flag and played. And that was it. He played, and had fun and didn’t think twice about not playing. There really were no “ah-ha” moments with him. It was part of who he was and what we did as a family in the fall. He was a big kid, never really handled the ball much but was loved by all the coaches and his team mates. And he just loved playing ball.
The fall of his fifth grade year his world was turned upside down. His father and I had begun an ugly divorce and not until on particular day heading to football practice did I realize how much it was affecting him.
“I don’t want to play anymore, just take me home.” He said from the back seat.
I was shocked. I had never heard words of quitting from my son – ever. I knew that things were tough; I also knew that turning the car around and letting him sit in the house each afternoon would be the worst path I could lead him to…and my battle began. Tears, yelling, refusal to get out of the car ended with me getting out and heading to the locker room. I found a coach and explained what was happening – I told him he could not quit. If he did, I was afraid of what the future held for him and that this program was the only thing that was solid and stable for him at the time. I needed him to play football. With that, he headed out of the locker room met up with my son, told him to get dressed, get on the field and run his laps. And that was it. I am sure (and according to witnesses) there was more said, but that was it. My son was on the field and running a few minutes later. His coach found me and told me it was going to be okay. “Bring him every day and he will be okay.” And he was right.
My son went on to be co-captain of his 8th grade football team and continued to play his entire high school career. He learned had a family that walked the halls of his school with him, and just because they were off the football field they still must act like a team, to stick up for each other everywhere.
He also found lacrosse with the encouragement of many of his football team mates and coaches. He played with heart and determination through college and co-captained his college team at a D3 school.
No, my son isn’t playing in the NFL. However, my son is an amazing individual that is responsible and caring. He has amazing work ethic and character as well as a wonderful group of friends that include many of his past teammates. He is also a great role model for his younger brother who just finished his last season of youth football (that’s 9 years) and is heading to the high school to play for the same team. My son is an adult who played youth football and is a better person for it.
I am more than happy to offer this letter of support for football based on my experience as a parent with Benjamin as a Dolphins player.
I haven’t had any experience with other youth football organizations besides the Dolphins. I believe the way you have developed and maintained the Dolphins Football League is exceptional. I don’t know what Benjamin would have done without the opportunities that have been offered to him through his participation in Dolphins youth football and sports in general in the South Burlington school system.
I remember being concerned about physical injuries and especially concussions. My concerns, even when he twisted an ankle were always met with the utmost concern, education and a reassurance that coaches held safety as a priority. Our children are always facing risks when riding bikes, playing outside, even taking the bus to school. When i weighed the real and perceived risks and observed the consistent presence of medical professionals and expectations of players i always ended up deciding it was well worth it. Besides, once Benji’s love of football began (probably after his first game) I don’t think I would have been able to talk him out of it.. He has developed as a young man in ways that not many other opportunities could have offered. He understands and lives by values that were absolutely learned by his participation in youth football with the Dolphins. The deliberate and systematic way the connection to academic performance was always clear. He actually took the Dolphins P.R.I.D.E. standards to heart and it has impacted his personality in such a positive way, I still wish i could find an appropriate way to thank you and the coaches for the excellent work you have done with my son and the other youth over so many years.
Some of the lessons he has benefited from;
Learning how to be a member of a team is best learned by being on a team.
Learning how to win and learning from a loss are equally important
Personal conduct on and off the field is as important as a players individual stats. or accomplishments
Hard work pays off.
Practice makes perfect
Even if officials make mistakes, sportsmanship is required and makes winners even if the score board says you lost.
In football and in life you will get out of things what you are willing and able to put into them.
I could go on for hours and hours about how playing for the Dolphins changed my life. I met my best friends playing Dolphins and some of my biggest mentors by playing Dolphins. It taught me about hard work dedication and preparation. I became a better teammate football player and person by playing football for the Dolphins. It wasn’t about the 10 touchdowns the total yards the highlight plays to me it was about getting hit getting back up and making my teammates coaches and mom proud. I only played my 8th grade year but that was enough to give me the greatest memories of my life. We won the state championship and that moment I got to hold the title up was the best day of my life and our accomplishments will live forever and ever. For the first time in my life I felt that I was really good and dedicated to something and that was football, till this day I still love coach Rene and admire the man that he is. No matter where I’m at where I go or what’s going on in my life I’ll always have PRIDE in everything I do and that’s something nobody can take away from I mean nobody- Ricky Worthen #28
I wanted to share with you our experience with the Dolphin Football Team.
It all began when my daughter Lea was a Cheerleader for the Dolphin Football team. Our family went to the end of the year award ceremony. My son Steven sat on the edge of his seat watching every move that day. He listened closely while the Football players gave speeches that literally filled the room with tears. He saw the excitement and the closeness of how this team was. That moment inspired him to play football in hopes to be apart of what he witnessed that day.
Steven began as an “earthmover” on the Dolphin football team. He was so excited, nervous yet willing to put his all into something he had a new passion for. With the daily practices and many games he began to learn a new type of discipline, one that gave him the courage and determination to be the best he could be. Football now became a huge part of Stevens life. It gave him satisfaction and sometimes disappointment. Through his years of playing football, he discovered what it felt like to be a part of something really “BIG” and very important. The game taught him to respect others and gave him the drive to achieve Higher levels for himself and his team. Steven stayed with the Dolphins for many years…Going through many exciting and rewarding stages. Winning State awards, Being Captain of his team and on his days off sometimes just hanging out with the coolest person in his life -Coach Rene. Best part for me was seeing My boy up on stage during the end of the year award ceremony. He was crying while giving his speech on what it meant for him to apart of this team. It brought me back to the day when he was that little boy sitting in awe watching the boys doing the same thing as he was now. You wouldn’t think a sport would have such a huge an impact on a person’s life but this was the beginning of molding my Son into the Great Man he is today. I think I can speak for MANY Boys/Men that have come across the Dolphin Field. They return back to that field where it all began to say hello to a GREAT man that taught them respect and honor, on and off the field.
What has football done for our sons?
As I walked to the field to register for football for the first time with my three boys, ages 10, 8 & 6 in tow we never realized how the game of football would change our lives forever. Needless to say 12 years later after many years of youth football and high school football none of us could have imagined what football would bring to my boys lives. There is no other sport like football, the bonding of teammates, the sense of belonging and the true reward you gain through both triumphs and set backs, you know you have 20-40 other players there to support you and you learn that if you put in your best effort reward will come.
Life lessons such as leadership, team work, humbleness and pride all came from football. These are the type of lessons you will carry with you for the rest of your life. My boys did very well in school, but could never have grown up and learned the many life lessons that you learn on the football field. My boys worked hard at football, none star athletes, but they found their niche and their own personal way to contribute to their team; one was a kicker, one was the leader in team spirit, one played just about every position on the field, whatever was needed that week by the coaches.
Football is like family, every player looks out for their teammates, older players protect and support the younger players. Football also opened my boys up to other family’s struggles and made them much more aware that their football team was for some players their only “family”. They learned to be supportive and encouraging to players who needed that extra encouragement.
Everyone on the football field, whether a starter or one that is on the practice squad contributes to the success of the team. It is the only sport where everyone’s small part contributes to the success of the whole!
There isn’t a Dolphin that doesn’t remember PRIDE and what it means: Personal, Responsibility for Individual Daily Effort. Cliché, maybe, but it is still meaningful for each and every Dolphin that has walked into that locker room. It is something that resonates with every player that goes through the program. From school bus rides from FHTMS to Zachary’s before practice, to the meticulously clean locker room, to seeing the blackmen game jerseys for the first time. I especially remember my alternate QB practice jersey, I remember the day I came into the locker room and there it was in my locker. I had finally earned it in the eyes of my coaches.
Today I am a 10 year Varsity Head Football Coach. I am the youngest head coach to ever win a Vermont state title and Vermont state coach of the year. I was a four year starting Quarterback at Wesleyan University earning many different honors. I played my high school football for Coach Mac at SBHS and won a state title and a runner-up. However, everytime I think about football I always go back to where it all began, that basement. It’s where I learned to put pads in my pants and perfected how to put in my belt.
Being a Dolphin means more than just being won a team but it is first time you are taught why football is the greatest game. It teaches the true meaning of team. You get to experience everything that you need to carry with you beyond the game and into your adult life. I ran my four laps before every practice, I never quit my sprints, and I always tried to yell the loudest during stretches. I have countless memories that I could share but being on the wall in Rene’s office and having my Dolphin State Championship coat in my closet will always mean something to me. I am and will be a Dolphin for life.
In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than
4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual
While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more
veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present
during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with
the same sentiment – “John Scolinos is here?
Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”
Who the hell is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be
In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a
college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an
impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue
shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung – a
full-sized, stark-white home plate. Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell
is this guy?
After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging
around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some
of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly
where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate
since he’d gotten on stage.
Then, finally .”You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate
around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,”
he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others,
acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m
not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball
people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in
my 78 years.”
Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches
were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”
After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,”
more question than answer.
“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in
Another long pause.”Seventeen inches?”came a guess from another reluctant coach.
“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have
in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear.
“How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”
“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.
“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home
plate in college?”
“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.
“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”
“Seventeen inches!””RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major
“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.
“And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball
over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered,
drawing raucous laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah,
that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it
eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have
a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can
make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'”Pause.
” . what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our
team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets
caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to
fit him, do we widen home plate?
The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog
lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate
toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something.
When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete
with a freshly drawn door and two windows.
“This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we
parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our
kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen
Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American
“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is
going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need
to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are
allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”
Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross.
I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something
about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned
something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around
his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own
weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself
and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families,
our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.
“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from
this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher
standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our
spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or
unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if
our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves
accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to
.” With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around,
and revealed its dark black backside. “. dark days ahead.”
Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the
lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my
first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar
wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the
ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.
His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players – no matter how good they
are – your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches. Coach Scolinos
Football can change a life I have seen it happen so many times! This sport has help so many people I have a whole book full of them I can’t let anything happen to it.