CSN IS HOME OF THE TRAIL BLAZERS

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CSN IS HOME OF THE TRAIL BLAZERS

CSN is home of the Blazers! Check out what you can expect from us all season long.

Throughout the season you can catch Rip City Live on CSN before every single Blazer game. The Scoop streams live on Facebook for even more pregame coverage if you can't be at a TV.

Talkin' Ball (on TV) and The Scoop (streaming) follow every Blazer game with locker room interviews and tons of analysis and social media involvement! 

And if you miss Talkin' Ball on TV, you can always download or subscribe to the podcast edition and have it sent directly to your phone to listen to the next morning!

Kelsey Plum shows off rocket arm at Spurs game

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WNBA

Kelsey Plum shows off rocket arm at Spurs game

Kelsey Plum, the former Washington Huskies star guard and the number one overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft has quite the future… in the NFL(maybe).

Plum, who recently joined the San Antonio Stars of the WNBA, showed support for her new home when she showed up to a San Antonio Spurs playoff game. Now only did was she in attendance, but she help with the NBA arena ritual of throwing free t-shirts into the stands.

Anyone who has been to an NBA game knows two things: 1) Everyone wants one of those shirts. 2) Unless they are using the slingshot or a t-shirt cannon, the shirts probably aren’t getting past the first 10 rows.

Enter QB, we mean PG Plum. Plum did her best Uncle Rico impersonation and dang near threw the t-shirt over the mountains.

That is the definition of a rocket arm, a cannon, a bazooka, a rifle, or whatever other analogy you want to use to describe something that shoots a projectile really far, really fast.

Plum will most certainly set the WNBA on fire this season, she was the top pick for a reason, but if this basketball thing doesn’t work out there may be some other sports calling for her services.

Early trends with the 2017 Seattle Mariners

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USA Today

Early trends with the 2017 Seattle Mariners

By 

Some interesting trends are starting to emerge in this young Seattle Mariners 2017 season, some encouraging, some not so encouraging. A quick glance at team statistics reveals a pretty good offense, a pretty good defense, and woefully bad pitching, with some individuals outpacing expected production and others lagging behind expected production – typical of an early, small sample size.

OFFENSE

On Fangraphs leaderboards, the Mariners rank sixth in the majors in offensive WAR with a combined .243/.329/.398 slash line. The team as a whole is taking walks at about a 10% clip to rank 7th in the majors, which is contributing to a 12th rated team OBP. Getting on base at a healthy clip has contributed to the Mariners being 8th best in the majors in scoring runs.

Individually, the usual suspects appear atop the Mariners leaderboard, with Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano hanging out in the top five. Cruz is currently hitting .297/.396/.527 and an impressive wRC+ of 163. Cano is maybe even underachieving some at .265/.333/.422 with a wRC+ of 112, but it is early.

However, the Mariners are getting production early from some unexpected contributors in the play of Mitch Haniger and Taylor Motter. Haniger is hitting .338/.442/.600 with a wRC+ of 200 and a ridiculous BABIP of .411. Motter, who primarily filled in for Jean Segura at short but has hit himself into a utility role, has a stranger stat line. Instead of doing everything well at the plate, he’s flashing power he’s never shown before, but still struggling with the hit tool, as he did for much of his minor-league career. A slash line of .250/.311/.625 is odd, to say the least – enormous slugging, paired with average BA and OBP. He has gotten unlucky, as demonstrated by his .237 BABIP.

Haniger, who came over from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Taijuan Walker for Jean Segura trade, was always touted as an everyday outfielder. He has an average hit tool with a little pop and a good glove. In 2016, at AA, AAA, and the majors in the Diamondback’s organization, he hit a combined 30 HR. ZiPs (R), the most bullish of the projection models on Haniger going forward, see him hitting .248/.320/.431 with 17 more HR and finishing the season as a near 3 WAR player. Not shabby by any means, just not what he’s doing during this early season hot streak.

Motter, on the other hand, has never projected to be a starter and is certainly slugging out of his league so far. On two occasions in the minors with the Tampa Rays, at A ball and AAA ball, he slugged under .400 while playing 99 and 88 games respectively. He looks to be a 15 HR or so guy, who just happens to be hitting a HR every 11 PA right now. ZIPS (R) is also most bullish of the projections on Motter. That model has him playing about 100 more games and hitting close to .244/.300/.412.

The “good” news, though, is that Kyle Seager hasn’t hit his stride yet. Currently hitting .246/.360/.344 with a one tic higher than league average 101 wRC+, Seager hasn’t contributed much to the offense, so far, and you expect that will change soon. So, between the usual suspects doing what they do, surprises doing more than could’ve been expected, and one major piece underachieving, the Mariners should stay in the upper third of the majors in offense.

DEFENSE

One of the stated goals this offseason by GM Jerry Dipoto was to get more athletic and better on defense, especially in the outfield. And, even with the recent designation for assignment of Leonys Martin, that has been the case early on. As a team, the Mariners rank 11th in the majors in UZR/150 and 9th in the majors in Fangraphs combined defensive metric. The outfield specifically ranks 10th in UZR/150 and 11th in Fangraphs Def stat.

While no one player stands out as exceptional in the Mariners outfield, Jerrod Dyson, Mitch Haniger, and, until recently, the aforementioned Leonys Martin, have been around league average, allowing hands of stone Nelson Cruz to primarily DH.

PITCHING

The Pitching, on the other hand, has been just a notch above abysmal. Ranked 26th in WAR, only the staffs and bullpens of the Miami Marlins, Tampa Rays, Detroit Tigers, and the San Diego Padres are worse. And none of those teams were picked to contend going into 2017, whereas this Mariners team was seen as a borderline wild card contender. Following the 19-9 shellacking from the Tigers, the Mariners team ERA ballooned above 5.00, to become the only team with an ERA with a 5 to the left of the decimal point other than the Tigers.

While James Paxton has been phenomenal posting 1.78 ERA and an even better 1.16 FIP for 1.3 WAR already, the rest of the staff has been disappointing to say the least. Felix Hernandez, the once guaranteed stopper in the rotation, is off to a 4.73 ERA, which, unfortunately, correlates with his 4.78 FIP. Hisashi Iwakuma sports a 5.31 ERA with an even more ominous 7.51 FIP. The rotation is rounded out with Yovani Gallardo at 4.84 EAR but an encouraging 3.61 FIP and Ariel Miranda with a 4.35 ERA but a less than encouraging 5.31 FIP. Rotations with four starters below league average usually don’t go to the playoffs.

Closer Edwin Diaz has not gotten much work with few games that need “closing,” and the one stellar performer is the nicknamed “Scrabble” – Marc Rzepczynski – who as of Tuesday hadn’t allowed an earned run. The bullpen as a whole is ranked 27th in baseball and has a ghastly 6.52 ERA and a better, but not good, FIP of 4.77.

IT'S EARLY BUT...

Yes, it is early, with more than 140 games to go, but early impressions of 2017’s Mariners are a bit surprising. For a fan base used to low scoring games due to the combination of excellent pitching and anemic offense, this year’s version of the northwest green and navy blue is poised to be the exact opposite – a high powered offense that will need to score a ton of runs because the pitching staff is going to give up a ton of runs. Nine runs against the Tigers this week was a good effort, just eleven too few to notch a W. Don’t be surprised if you see a few of those sorts of games this season.

Milestones projected for Safeco Field in 2017

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Milestones projected for Safeco Field in 2017

WRITTEN BY BRIAN HIGHT

There’s a nifty little tool on Major League Baseball’s website, in the statistics section, that projects milestones for the coming year based on the pace a player has accumulated any given statistic over the course of his career. If you’re an Albert Pujols fan or just an admirer of his career, you may want to plan to attend a few Los Angeles Angels games this year when they visit the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

Albert Pujols Milestones

According to MLB.com, Pujols should drive in his 1836th run when the Angels visit Seattle in early May, with a specific projection date of Tuesday, May 2nd. The poignancy of Mr. Pujols’ accomplishment – if he indeed achieves the milestone then – won’t be lost on long-time Mariners fans. By climbing to 1836 RBI, Pujols will pass Ken Griffey, Jr. on the all-time list and move into sole possession of 15th.

But hold on. Pujols and the Angels return to Safeco in mid-August when he’ll be climbing up the hits list. In a little misleading “milestone,” MLB notes that Sir Albert will pass Adrian Beltre for 31st all-time with his 2942nd hit on or about August 11th. But, alas, while on the DL currently, Beltre will certainly have accumulated a few more hits by August. So, the really historic moment may come the next night on August 12th when Pujols smacks hit number 2843 and passes Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson. Mark your calendar. It’s a Saturday night game.

And just when you thought there couldn’t be anymore Pujols milestones, come back to the ballpark in September when he may surpass Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray on the RBI list by driving in his 1917th run. That would move the sure thing first ballot HOFer into 9th place all-time. September 8th is the projection date for that little milestone.

Other Milestones for Visitors

For visiting players not named Albert, there are a few notable milestones. Just next week in the opening series against the Houston Astros, second baseman Jose Altuve is on pace to swipe his 200th base, and, in that very same series, Carlos Beltran should drive in his 1540th run to tie him with Willie Stargell for 47th all-time.

Another fella you may have heard of, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, will be in town from June 19th through the 22nd and that series should see two milestones fall for the Venezuelan slugger. On June 19th, Miggy is on pace to pass turn-of-the-century, Hall-of-Fame legend Nap Lajoie for sole possession of the number 35 slot on the RBI list. Then over the next two nights, Cabrera should collect RBI number 1600 and hit number 2600. Capping off the series, Cabrera could hit HR number 462 to tie him with Adam Dunn and Jose Canseco for 35th all-time.

What About the Mariners?

So, while maybe not historic, there are some personal milestones on the menu for Seattle Mariners’ players this season. On June 6th, in the opener against the Minnesota Twins, Robinson Cano is due to score his 1100th run – we sure love round numbers. Then on July 21st, ironically against the New York Yankees, Cano’s original team, he is on pace to gather his 500th double.

While a few years younger, not to be outdone, Kyle Seager should get his 200th double in that same series against the Yankees. Another milestone for the elder Seager – his little brother in LA is very good also, by the way – should come as a mild counter to Mr. Pujols and the Angels when he drives in his 500th run, to leave him only 1400 behind the LA first baseman.

But the milestone most casual fans tend to remember is when a player creeps up the HR list. Safeco Field has that on the calendar for one of its own players also. Nelson Cruz should launch his 300th career HR into the stands in the Emerald City on or about June 20th in the Tigers series.

Take Me out to the Ballpark

So, not only should the Mariners’ season be exciting in terms of the pennant race, but there are lots of historical milestones to look forward to. It cannot be over emphasized that between Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Carlos Beltran, not to mention Mariners’ own Robbie Cano, Seattle fans will be watching future Hall-of-Famers play live and in person in 2017 and setting some personal and historical milestones.

The opening series kicks off Monday, April 10th against the Houston Astros when the milestones start falling with Altuve and a swiped bag. Watch it.

Eugene's Brent Primus fights for lightweight title at Bellator 180

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Bellator MMA

Eugene's Brent Primus fights for lightweight title at Bellator 180

By 

It’s been about a week since it was announced that Eugene, Oregon fighter Brent Primus would be facing Michael Chandler for the lightweight title at Bellator 180 on June 24th at Madison Square Garden. Some seemed surprised by the decision to slot the 7-0 Oregonian up against the likes of Chandler. Primus is not yet a household name and with only 7 fights to his credit, his relative inexperience is tough to overlook. That being said, his career trajectory is incredibly similar to Chandler’s and some would argue that he is in a perfect position to play spoiler to the defending champ.

When a young Michael Chandler was making his way up the rankings, his early fights were quick and decisive. Through his first 6 fights, he had 6 finishes, 5 of them coming in the first round. He followed up that run with his two hard fought fights, a decision win against Lloyd Woodard and another decision win against Patricky “Pit-bull” Freire. Following these two decision victories, he would get his first chance to fight for the lightweight title. He upset then champion Eddie Alvarez and with just nine fights to his credit, he was the new lightweight king. Now, 10 fights later, Chandler stands 16-3 with the belt firmly strapped to his waist.

Enter, Brent Primus. Primus, much like Chandler, has made waves in the early part of his career. Through his first 5 fights, Primus had 5 straight first round finishes. He followed that run with two hard fought fights, a decision win against Derek Anderson and another decision win against Gleristone Santos. Following these two victories, he is now getting his first chance to fight for the lightweight title. Sound familiar? Primus has essentially matched Chandler step for step to this point in his career. Chandler certainly understands this and has gone on record saying he was offered a very similar shot when he faced Alvarez and that he is not taking Primus lightly. However, he has also said that he expects Bellator officials to bring in top talent to face him in the future. If that isn’t looking past your opponent I don’t know what is.

As far as major differences between Chandler and Primus are concerned, there are two main points to address. First, both fighters have strong grappling backgrounds but each in a different discipline. Chandler was an NCAA Division-I All American at the University of Missouri while Primus is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Wellington “Megaton” Dias. Chandler is clearly the better pure wrestler but the overall grappling advantage might go to Primus. His submission skills far outweigh Chandler’s, and he trains with many of the top wrestlers in the state of Oregon, which will help him to defend against the control and pressure of Chandler. The other big difference here is age. When Chandler got his first shot at the lightweight title, he was just 25 years old. His relative inexperience showed in the fight even though he able to leave the cage victorious. Fast forward 6 years and Primus will be getting his first shot at the age of 32. While this may seem like a minor difference, it could pay off greatly for Primus should the fight become mentally taxing. He is one year older than Chandler currently and with both fighters being in their athletic prime, this could easily turn into a fight that forces mental errors.

Experience is something that Michael Chandler might look to lean on come June 24th. Both his time in the spotlight and his time in the cage will help him against Primus. But Primus has a veteran moxie that many fighters getting their first title shot don’t have. Having spent time training with Donald Cerrone at the BMF Ranch and the team at Gracie Barra Portland, Primus has surrounded himself with veteran talent from the highest level of the sport. History has a funny way of repeating itself; don’t be surprised if Primus becomes the prime example of that at Bellator 180.

Seattle Mariners’ rotation has fans ‘Smyl-yng’

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Seattle Mariners’ rotation has fans ‘Smyl-yng’

BY 

The World Baseball Classic this spring has taken many of the every-day, Seattle Mariner hitters out of the lineup and away from the team’s clubhouse. Lost in the shuffle of that group has been starting pitcher Drew Smyly, who is pitching in the classic for the American squad.

If you have been following the Mariners this spring training on the ROOT Sports Network, you probably haven’t thought much about Smyly with the success of James Paxton, Chris Heston and some of the other arms with the Mariners in Peoria, Ariz. since he is away from the team and not pitching regularly. Before the WBC started, Smyly (1-0) pitched in two games for Seattle, going five innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five.

Then came his turn to face some international players in a U.S.A uniform.

His success continued in his start for the Americans when he tossed 4.2 innings with eight strikeouts in a win against the potent lineup from Venezuela. His spring stats combined so far have yielded 9.2 innings, four hits and 13 strikeouts. That’s a pretty impressive start to his Mariners career.

LET’S NOT GET EXCITED…YET

It’s no doubt Smyly has fans ‘Smylyng’…(get it…smiling/Smylyng…) so far, but for some reason the 27-year old left-hander has teased his prior teams with excellent spring trainings as well.

In Smyly’s five-year career, he has gone a combined 11-2 with a 3.26 ERA in 85.2 innings with a WHIP of 1.05 and 70 strikeouts to go with it. Compare that to his 2016 stat line in Tampa Bay, and Smyly was a different pitcher – finishing 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA in 175.1 innings with a more human-like WHIP of 1.27. (WHIP is calculated by adding walks + hits/Innings Pitched in case you didn’t already know that.)

His career numbers are somewhere in between the two spikes with a record of 31-27, a 3.74 ERA and a WHIP of 1.20. With more emphasis being put on the regular season starts and a much larger sample size to analyze, the Mariners might not be sure what they will get out of their No. 4 starting pitcher.

SMYLY’S JOURNEY TO SEATTLE

Signed in August of 2010 by the Detroit Tigers, Drew Smyly quickly made his way through the minor leagues of the organization before debuting for the Tigers in 2012. He went 4-3 in his rookie year, starting 18 games in his first taste of the majors.

He served the team as more of a reliever in his sophomore season, but posted great numbers – going 6-0 with a stingy 2.37 ERA while appearing in 63 games.

In 2014, Smyly was involved in one of the more prominent MLB trade deadline deals as he went to Tampa Bay along with shortstop Willy Adames (who I believe is one of Tampa’s top prospects this year and knocking on the door to the majors). The Tigers got that guy who is now in Boston…what was his name…oh yeah, David Price! (On an unrelated note, there is a guy who lives in the Gresham, Ore. area currently who looks EXACTLY like David Price. I walked up to him as a complete stranger and asked him, ‘has anyone ever said you look like David Price? He said, yeah, I get that all the time.’ It was super -weird. He had a Red Sox baseball hat on, backwards of course, and everything. #DopplegangerAlert)

Anyways, back to the trade.

Coincidentally enough, the Mariners were also involved in that trade. The Mariners sent Nick Franklin to the Rays and the Tigers gave Austin Jackson to the Mariners. I feel they could have made that deal a lot less complicated if they knew Smyly would be a Mariner in 2017.

Smyly’s career in Tampa wasn’t necessarily a fun one. It was highlighted by a lot of disabled list stints and lots of inconsistencies. He made only 12 starts in 2015 and had the aforementioned down year in 2016.

Did I mention he struck out eight Venezuelans? They weren’t like, local teenagers on the streets of Caracas or anything. The Venezuelan WBC team has some serious thunder. Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez and other players currently seeing every-day at bats on Major League teams faced him, got dominated and ultimately lost the game.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM SMYLY?

Pitching behind King Felix, Hisashi Iwakuma (I think I spelled it correctly WITHOUT needing to Google it for the first time ever) and Paxton, Smyly certainly won’t be expected to be a superstar. I assume he prefers it that way. Actually, he may even pitch fifth in case the M’s want to split up the lefties (with Paxton going third). No matter how you slice it, the pressure on Smyly will be relatively low heading into the season.

If he continues to pitch scoreless innings for the Americans, however, the expectations may rise.

I would like to see 13 wins and 30 starts. Is that optimistic? Maybe but I feel it is realistic. He is 27 years of age now entering his sixth season, so hopefully the maturity factor will help his game a little bit. He really just needs to stay healthy.

I don’t expect him to fan eight hitters every 4.2 innings he pitches, but if he can even out to 9k/9IP ratio, I think manager Scott Servais will be pleased.

FINAL WORD

The WBC has had an interesting effect/affect (See one of my previous columns where I rant about the difference in those words) on the Seattle ball-club this spring. Maybe Smyly seeing the quality of players in the ‘big-game’ environment this early will help his preparation for the regular season.

He has always pitched well in March – that has never been an issue. This is his first-year pitching for Team USA, so it will be interesting to see if the talented left-hander can finally turn a successful spring into a successful season.

Go Mariners…and good luck Ducks! And in a random thought, April the giraffe – we are rooting for you. Please just have the baby, so our social network feeds can feature something else.

Prime Fighting 9 gives birth to future stars of the Northwest

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Prime Fighting 9 gives birth to future stars of the Northwest

BY  

Editor's Note: You can catch Prime Fighting 9 on CSN at the following times- 3/19 @ 12:00AM, 3/23 @ 8:00PM, 3/24 @ 11:30 PM, 3/26 @ 7:00PM

The Vancouver based fight promotion, Prime Fighting, closed the books on another successful event this past Saturday night. Prime Fighting 9 took place at the Clark County Event Center in Ridgefield, Washington and the fans that were lucky enough to be in attendance witnessed the first steps of some of the brightest young starts in the Pacific Northwest. The exuberance of young fighters is often on full display come fight night, but the scene at Prime Fighting 9 was mostly intense and focused. As I walked around the dressing rooms before the fights, a few of the fighters were already pacing with nervous anticipation. The emotion shown from the fighters on this card were very real. On a night when so many of these young athletes made their debut as professionals, it was clear that these fights meant more than simply wins and loses. If this card represents what you can expect to see in the future from Prime Fighting and their athletes, we are in for a treat.

This card was full of finishes as 7 of 9 scheduled bouts ended by TKO or submission. There was a lot to like about this card, below are my top moments from the night. And don’t forget, if you missed this event you can see it on Comcast SportsNet Northwest next week. It airs on March 19th, 23rd, and 24th.  Set your DVR’s!

  1. Rogue Combat Academy Comes up Big

Rogue Combat Academy (RCA) truly shined at this event. With two fighters making their professional debuts the stakes were high for the Central Point, Oregon gym. That being said, from the minute their first representative, Tristan Lindi, stepped into the cage it was clear that the coaches from RCA had a game plan and he was following it to a tee. He used a dominant wrestling game to overwhelm and smother his opponent for nearly three full rounds before getting the stoppage. Following the victory, I spoke to Lindi who said,

“It went pretty much how we planned it. He checked a kick of mine early and that effected my movement so I just went back to dominating on the ground. My cardio felt great and even with the five-minute rounds I could have kept smashing. I felt great.”

If Lindi’s performance was dominant his teammate, Austin Vanderford’s was perfect. There was no more dominant winner on the card than Vanderford. With his coaches giving him instruction, he put on a ground and pound clinic that left his opponent a bloody mess. The debuts of these two fighters could not have gone better and the corner work from RCA was direct, vocal, and most importantly absorbed by the two young athletes.

  1. Another Star Emerges from Gracie Barra Portland

The Gracie Barra fight team is never lacking in talent but there is another star in the making at this gym and his name is Johnny James. At just 22 years old, James is still a bit raw but this young man definitely looks the part getting off the bus. In any other world, he would probably be playing football but fortunately for fight fans he stepping into the cage instead. He had a very dominant performance on Saturday landing a series of leg kicks that seemed to only get harder as the fight went on. The kicks eventually caused his opponent to lose so much mobility that he got an easy takedown and eventually the stoppage. James did show his inexperience early with some looping and out of range striking but he began to clean up those issues as the fight wore on. He will undoubtedly continue to blossom under the tutelage Fabiano Scherner, Ian Loveland, and crew.

  1. Steven Southern and Kevin Boehm Have a War

Steven Southern of Vancouver Elite MMA and his opponent, Kevin Boehm of Art of War MMA, had a fight that truly set the bar for the rest of the professional bouts on this card. Southern came out like a man on fire; he was landing his strikes from range, inside, and even in the clinch. Southern made a mess of Boehm early when he landed a blow that clearly broke the nose of Boehm. Through a round and a half this fight appeared to be nearly wrapped up for Southern. That, however, was not the end of the fight and Boehm made a truly valiant effort to in trying to swing things back his way. Boehm leaned heavily on his wrestling in the latter moments of the fight and if not for some crafty submission attempts by Southern he may have turned things around. However, the damage done early was too much for Boehm to overcome as Southern took home the decision. Great performance from both fighters and Boehm’s tenacity certainly won over many in attendance. A bloody and exciting affair.

All Star Coach Bio: Peter Hawley

All Star Coach Bio: Peter Hawley

I have been coaching high school and middle school football, youth basketball, youth and middle school wrestling, middle school volleyball, middle school track and high school baseball for the last 16-year span.

My dad is the one that helped develop my love for not only playing, but coaching sports. As a child, growing up with a defensive coordinator and PE teacher for a dad, we learned to be the first one to the field and the last one to leave. To this day, my wife will contest that this trait is strongly ingrained into my personal belief as a coach. When I was a child I sat at games and asked a lot of questions about schemes and the reasons decisions were made both on and off the field. 

In high school I played three sports; football, basketball and baseball. I was selected to play in the Shriners 2A-3A football game. During my senior year of high school I tore my pectoral muscle and would end up a red shirt the following year in college for the baseball team. As I was practicing and waiting for my pectoral muscle to heal I joined the football team. My arm never healed, so I decided to help coach baseball at the local high school and finished out my football career. 

While on the football team I visited with a handful of NFL teams and worked with a professional long snapping coach. From these experiences, I learned how to break down skills and drills for the sports that I loved.  

From baseball, I joined the ranks of coaching high school football. I was blessed to coach with my dad. This would be one of two times I would coach with my dad. The other time is when I was working with a middle school student with special needs. This student chose to go out for wrestling and needed a personal 1-on-1.  Not only did my dad show me how to coach, but how to deal with students to help them grow as young men and women, no matter what ability they bring to the team. 

As a coach and an educator, I love to watch student growth take place in many shapes and forms. Not only do my students grow and mold into young men and women, I have grown as a coach and an educator. To this day my goal is to help coach coaches as they are wanting to learn the trade of a middle school coach.
 

All Star Coach Bio: Jeni O'Neil

All Star Coach Bio: Jeni O'Neil

Volleyball has been a love of mine since I was 9 years old. I remember going to a HS volleyball game when I was a 4th grader and while most kids my age were off socializing, I was memorized by the game going on in front of me. The intensity and grit of the game provided such a rush for me. I marched home and begged my mom to get me signed up because I wanted to learn all I could about this amazing sport. Back in that day though, club volleyball wasn’t available for kids until 7th grade and I remember having a countdown. From the moment I turned a 7th grader, I lived and breathed for volleyball playing for Kalama HS, Cowlitz Volleyball Club and Western New Mexico University. 

When I stopped playing though I knew that there was too much love for the game in me to give it up completely and that’s when I turned to coaching. I had some pretty phenomenal coaches thru out my years of playing and I wanted to be that inspiration for the younger generations.  I made my coaching debut as a MS coach and I instantly fell in love. I realized quickly that coaching was much more than just loving the game but also about empowering the athletes to want to be the best they could be through their work ethic and competiveness. Sometimes I think I fell in love more with coaching then I had when playing because the relationships I have built with the athletes over the years is incredible and there’s not a day that goes by that I am not thinking of ways to better improve myself as a coach. 

I coached a MS team for a few years as well as a JV team before I was asked to be the assistant at our local community college, LCC. That was a great year for me because I got a taste of teaching and implementing strategy of the game in addition to teaching skills. In 2008, I was named the Head Coach at Kalama HS (my alma mater) and I worked hard to build the program. It definitely takes a village though and I have been extremely blessed with two assistant coaches who give so much to me and the program. 

The players I have had the pleasure of coaching aren’t just my players. They become family and over the past 9 years I have had phenomenal athletes and kids come through the program who strive for excellence and have the wiliness and desire to want to learn. As a coach it’s about figuring out what makes each player tick then implementing and motivating to allow for each player to come together as a team. For this sport, team work and camaraderie is essential and it’s my responsibility to ensure that is happening. In the gym we work hard, outside of the gym we have fun. As a coach I find balance between the two as I want the girls to love the game and have fun but teaching discipline within one’s self is such a great gift and I learned it as a player so I try to facilitate that into my teams as well. 

This past season my team won the State Championship for the first time in school history. This will always go down as one of the best days of my life. The joy and love that was shared on that day between the coaches, players, parents, fans and school was one of the most incredible moments and I am so proud of each and every player. This is a memory that will last a lifetime.  

Coaching Experience 
2003-2004- Kalama MS Head Coach
2005-2006- Kalama JV Coach
2007- Lower Columbia Community College Asst Coach
2006-2008- Cowlitz Volleyball Club 18’s Coach
2014- Current- Aces Volleyball 14’s Coach
2008- Current- Kalama HS Volleyball Head Coach
 

All Star Coach Bio: Davontra' Ford

All Star Coach Bio: Davontra' Ford

Coach Tra’ began his cheer career in 2007 when he was convinced by one of the current members of his high school’s team to try out. From that moment coach Tra’ was hooked!

With a background in dance, drama, and musical theatre Coach Tra’ really created a strong passion and overall love for the sport! After doing 3 years of cheerleading in high school Coach Tra went on to compete and coach as an all-star cheerleader in the Portland Area. Building an even stronger desire to continue on this path Coach Tra became a member of the Portland State University cheerleading squad bringing home a 4th place finish at College Nationals.

In 2011, Coach Tra began a new career as an instructor for the Universal Cheerleading Association and has been employed by Varsity for the past 5 years. Through Coaching, Camps and Choreography Coach Tra has traveled all over the country learning new techniques and coaching methods. Currently alongside being the owner of Dynasty Ford Cheer Coach Tra is the Head Coach at Portland State University and Moutai View High School in Vancouver Washington.

Coach Tra only hopes to help those around him find a passion and sport that they absolutely can love doing!