`Coach Kelly' winner at Patterson

On High Schools

December 16, 2005|By MILTON KENT

You know how some guys carry around a picture of their best girl in their wallets and others carry spare keys or a library card? The other day, Patterson senior Tim Rich whipped out a copy of his most recent report card to show to anyone who would view it.

And for good reason, since his grade in each of his five classes was at least 90. While the city school system uses numbers to signify grades, everybody understands that a 90 or better is an A, and Rich, a second-team All-City defensive back, had five of them.

"If I had had all 90's, I think I would have carried my report card around, too," quipped Rich's coach, Roger Wrenn.

All 37 of Rich's football teammates averaged at least a 70, or C, for the first quarter, and while the kids themselves certainly deserve the lion's share of credit for their impressive feat, more than a little tribute goes to Patterson's academic coach, Kelly Bagdasarian.

Bagdasarian, in her sixth year at the school, may not calculate her wins and losses in the same manner as Wrenn, who has a 235-99-2 record in 32 years at Patterson.

But every time a student such as Rich aces a test, does well on the SAT or, even better, gets into a college, Bagdasarian, or "Coach Kelly," as they understandably call her at Patterson, can put another one in the win column.

"I know I'm not going to make a difference in everyone's life and everyone's not going to go to college or even get a job, but if I feel that I touched a significant amount of kids and they still call me after they graduate, then I think that's what I consider successful," said Bagdasarian.

Her presence at the school is made possible through the Play It Smart initiative, a partnership of the National Football Foundation and the NFL Youth Football Fund. The league and the NFL Players Association provide more than $4 million to the program, which targets at least one high school in each of the league's 31 cities.

Play It Smart seeks to improve football programs both on the field and in the classroom, as well as help players be better leaders at school and in the community.

According to the NFL, Play It Smart participants have graduated from high school at a 97 percent rate, with 81 percent going on to college, compared to a 57 percent college enrollment rate overall for students at those schools.

In addition, the school and Bagdasarian receive a major boost from Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden and his mother, Cassandra, who provide financial contributions and assistance to the football program through his foundation.

At Patterson, Bagdasarian, a distant relative of Ross Bagdasarian, the creator of the animated Chipmunks, is a combination mentor/counselor and tutor to the players, both in season and after football.

The players come to her with joys and concerns, and she wins their respect just by showing up and being there.

"I just made myself available," said Bagdasarian. "I attend practice. When I first got here, I would be at practice all the time just so they would see that I'm not some white girl that's concerned about grades only.

"I was here for their football, too, for them to have someone to talk to outside of their male football coaches. This is my office, and I invited them inside my office whenever they had a problem or when they wanted to get out of class and talk about something."

On the wall in Bagdasarian's office, tucked in at the back of the weight room and adorned with all things Red Sox and Patriots, owing to her growing up just outside Boston, is a chart in the form of a football field called the "Touchdown Club."

Patterson's players, who posted a team grade average of 82.4 for the first quarter, earn yardage across the chart for doing such positive off-the-field things as getting good grades, going to study hall before school and doing work in the community. They can lose yardage for bad grades, reneging on promises and missing study hall.

The players are rewarded for their hard work with such tangible things as visors, hats and jackets. For Bagdasarian, though, the reward is earning the players' trust and respect.

"I knew I could trust her when I first came up here and older guys were going to study hall," said Rich, who will be attending Springfield (Mass.), a Division III school, next year. "I decided to follow them and I saw what it was like. The stuff they were getting, I liked. I figured if I showed up, then I could be one of those guys and when they left, it would somewhat be about me."


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