BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA- Rosendale Elementary’s principal is reaching for an outrageous goal in the hopes that he can encourage students to do the same.
Joe DiCaprio will be trying out for the Glens Falls Greenjackets, a semi-pro football team, despite not playing football since his high school days.
Although he was recruited to play linebacker and tight end at a few colleges, when he arrived at SUNY Courtland he decided to leave competitive athletics to focus on academics.
He will be trying out for the linebacker position or strong safety for the Greenjackets.
Since DiCaprio took the role of principal at Rosendale in 2015, he has sought to whip up school spirit, with the new school mascot and events focused on bringing the school together.
DiCaprio himself is one of the most spirited people in the school and he’ll need a lot of that in the coming weeks.
“I lead by example. If I’m telling kids to do something, then I want to be doing that something,” DiCaprio said.
With the importance placed on school testing and on ‘result’ based learning, DiCaprio wants to prevent students from getting discouraged every time their test results don’t measure up to how much they feel they’ve learned.
“The process is really important and working hard towards better learning is important,” DiCaprio said.
Thus, he has decided to let the student body in on his own journey of what it’s like to work towards a goal that you think might be really difficult or nearly impossible.
DiCaprio is working to try out for and join the Glens Falls Greenjackets, a local semi-pro football team.
“When I started thinking about doing this, I called up the coach and explained to him what I wanted to do. . . he asked me if I knew what I was getting myself into,” DiCaprio said.
Although he played football in high school and college, DiCaprio said he hasn’t played a real game since then.
But that’s what makes the goal outrageous (and it’s what DiCaprio said will make the work more rewarding).
Over 20 weeks – from November 7 to March 20 – DiCaprio is working towards that goal and keeping Rosendale students updated on his progress in a blog he calls: Project Growth to the Gridiron (G2G).
Every day (or almost every day), DiCaprio pledges to workout and work on his football skills.
“I keep everyone updated on my progress on the blog and I’ll be honest with the kids. When it’s cold and raining, or when I just really don’t want to do it, I’ll tell them that,” DiCaprio said.
He hopes that it will inspire his students to work hard even if they’d rather not.
On the blog, he records what his mile time was for the day, the total number of pushups and sit-ups he can do in one minute, the time it takes him to do a 40-yard dash, and a few other metrics.
Parents are also getting involved.
“A few parents volunteered to coach me and help me out with this,” DiCaprio said. Aline Stabler, one such parent, has been offering nutritional plans and advice.
Fuller Black, parent of Niskayuna students Davina and Dasha, will be coaching Dicaprio.
They’ll be hitting the football fields within the next few weeks to work on technique.
“We’ve got to see where he’s at . . . then we’ll show him drills and work on his stance,” Black said.
Black is probably one of the best resources that DiCaprio could have, as Black is a former player on the Greenjackets.
“When he first told me about it, I liked the idea and wanted to help out,” Black said, “It’ll tell kids that you’re never too old to achieve your dreams, if you put effort towards it.”
Despite all the work he’s put in and all the work he’s going to be putting into the project, DiCaprio said that he knows the chances he’ll make it in will be slim. Most of the team are players who are fresh out of college and played football throughout high school and college.
“The coach told me that he wasn’t going to give me any special treatment because of the project and I told him please don’t,” DiCaprio said. Because getting on the team is not the point.
It’s the dedication and validation that comes with simply doing the hard work on a daily basis.
Project Growth to the Gridiron (or G2G) is the first in a series of challenges that DiCaprio said he’ll be taking on.
“I want to do a different challenge every year,” DiCaprio said.
Although he hasn’t planned on what his next challenge will be, DiCaprio said it will be just as ‘large-scale’.
To track Dicaprio’s progress, visit his blog at: https://sites.google.com/niskyschools.org/growthtogridiron