GLENDALE — Still in his scrubs from his full-time job as a chiropractor in Arcadia, Robert Clarizio was at his second full-time gig, albeit a volunteer one.
Just after arriving at Hoover High, Clarizio helped set up practice lights for the football field, assisted in the snack shop, talked with coaches and took time to teach a youngster the proper tackling technique.
Across the field, the Glendale Tornados, a Pop Warner program, began warming up for practice. That meant that Clarizio was going to be at Hoover for at least another three hours, and by the time he went home, he would’ve had a 14-hour day.
As the first-year president of the Glendale Tornados, he has loved each part of his second job.
“It’s a lot of work, I’m still in uniform … but I love it,” said Clarizio, who took over the presidential duties from his brother, Andre, who moved on to serve as an assistant coach for the Hoover High football team.
Clarizio is one of 20 volunteers who are organizing, coaching, mentoring and devoting their time to the Tornados, who kicks off their second year of existence with season-opening road games on Saturday.
The Tornadoes have signed up 70 players, approximately the same total as last year, and have enough players to field teams in the flag football Cub division (ages 5-7), as well as the tackling divisions of Mighty Mite (7-9) and Junior Pee Wee (8-10).
A year ago, the Glendale Tornados had a team in the Midget (12-14) division, but Clarizio and the rest of his coaches scrapped that idea for this season.
“We learned it’s probably more important to start these kids off at a younger age and build them into the program because Pop Warner is a very competitive league,” said Clarizio, a 1990 Hoover High graduate. “We could be very competitive by starting off young. We learned to focus on the younger teams so by the time that they are on the Midget team, they will have more years of experience.”
John Palma, the head coach of the Junior Pee Wee team who was an assistant on the Midget squad, has been part of a more organized effort from the Tornados.
“We know our place more now as far as the Pop Warner League,” said Palma, one of three former Hoover High students on the Junior Pee Wee coaching staff. “Last year was a huge disadvantage. The other teams we were playing against had been playing for six or eight years.
“We cut off the oldest age and started them off at the youngest age and we are now building them up. It’s smoother. The expectations are different.”
The expectations have not included wins and losses. The expectations for the Tornados have included giving players confidence, teaching them how to tackle and simply being competitive.
“It’s about learning to play the game so when they get to the high school level, they’re not lost,” Palma said.
Parents like Jonathan Ahumada and Sukey Valdez, whose son Maximo plays on the Mighty Mite team, are noticing the improvements of the Tornados.
“I like everything,” Valdez said. “They are very organized. They are doing a great job.”
Noticing Clarizio’s work ethic and the Tornados’ organization, Russell Duckett opted to leave the Glendale Bears Junior All-American program and bring his son, Maceo, 9, to the Tornados this year.
“I thought this would be the best place for my son to play football,” said Duckett, who also took on the duties of coaching the Cub team.
Maceo also said he’s enjoying the experience of playing with the Tornados.
“It’s a really good experience,” said Maceo Duckett, a lineman on the Mighty Mite squad. “Last year, we didn’t do much. It’s better. We’re learning a lot, like how to tackle and how to pull.”
Clarizio said he talks to the Glendale Bears and has assisted the rival organization in obtaining older players.
“They needed older kids and when we had older kids come to sign up with us, we sent them their way because we don’t have a Midget team,” Clarizio said.
He also noted he is not worried about the Glendale Bears pulling away players from the Tornado program.
“It’s the same city, but it seems like they were getting players from almost like Eagle Rock and Highland Park,” Clarizio said. “Most of these kids that are playing [for the Glendale Tornados], I don’t think they would’ve been playing if we were not here.”
Hoover High Coach Matt Anderson said he’s looking forward to coaching the Tornado players when they reach high school.
“I plan on being here for a while,” said Anderson, who replaced Andrew Policky as the Tornadoes’ head coach after Policky left to coach at Arcadia High. “All of those kids, I am going to have eventually. They are going to feed into our flag football program at Toll [Middle School] and that is going to feed into our program here.”
In the meantime, coaches like Palma and Russell Duckett will continue working with possible future Tornadoes.
“I love football,” Palma said. “Unfortunately I did not get much playing time when I came to Hoover, but I love working with kids.”
Added Duckett: “I always say why would you be playing Playstation when you could be out here? You fall in love with the kids and the kids fall in love with you. It’s amazing.”
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