Recently we ran a competition on our social media outlets to have our Bulldogs community post their favorite photos from the 2018 season. Many of the photos chosen were not the typical "action shots" that most people capture of our athletes on the field. What we found most interesting was that the majority of the photos submitted were of teammates with their helmets off, full teams with a hand on each other's shoulders or a smaller group of teammates posing with each other before or after the game. While we could have easily written an article about any of the great photos submitted, one really stood out to us. It was a photo of four captains from our 2018 Varsity Bulldogs, Robert Anspach III, Brady Culhane, Chris LaMastra and Tyler Ryan. This photo captured the last time the four of them would walk out to the 50-yard line as captains of the Bulldogs before the start of a game. These young men played together through all levels of our organization and developed a special bond as a result of it.
Inspired by the photo, we asked Tyler Ryan "What initially got you into football? What made you want to start playing?" Tyler replied, "When I was 5, we were driving past Sunset heading to my soccer practice and I saw the Bulldogs practicing. I asked my mom if I could play that instead (of soccer) and she said you can't play that till your 6. So, I waited and when we were driving past Sunset again heading to my baseball practice, I saw the sign to register and told my mom I wanted to play. She asked me a couple times if I was sure and I told her I was, so she signed me up." Clearly, even at a young age Tyler knew he wanted to be on the football field!
The photo itself shows that these players are close, so the response when we asked, "What's the one word that comes to mind when you look at this photo?" was not surprising. Tyler's response was, "’Brotherhood’. I met the guys in the photo when I was 6. I played 8 years with not only my best friends but my brothers. And this photo just shows that, brotherhood."
Since this photo captured a moment in their final game together as Bulldogs, we wanted to understand what they would miss the most about playing football in our organization. Tyler replied, "I will miss the people and the organization. I won't miss the guys because we all still hang out and play sports together, but I will miss Bulldog game day because there was nothing like it."
Looking to the future, we wanted to understand what was next for these young men. They intend to continue playing football in high school at Clarence and some of them are looking forward to being trainers for the future generations of Bulldogs. It's great to see that these young men recognize the special type of organization that they are leaving as players and are anxious to give back and help shape future athletes coming up behind them.
Knowing that Tyler plans to come back and work with the younger athletes, we wanted to get an idea of what really stuck with him. So, we asked, "If you could go back in time and give your 6-year-old self advice, what would you tell yourself?" To which Tyler responded, "To always have a next play mentality. You can't change what happened the last play but you can do better the next one. No matter what, always work your hardest because you won't just learn the game, you'll learn to love the game."
We're very proud to have athletes play from the age of 6 all the way through until they are playing at the high school level. Anyone that has played or has children that have played football understands that there is more to youth football than just the game itself. We're often questioned by parents that are on the fence about their child playing football and it is easy for us to say, football is the ultimate team sport and is truly like nothing else to develop a young athlete physically and mentally.