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McClellan girl's training with dad leads to PP&K victory

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Stephanie Hacke/South Hills Record
Lily Rockwell, at left, a fourth-grade student at McClelland Elementary School, proudly displays her Punt Pass & Kick medal along side Marie Bartoletti, a physical education teacher at McClellan.

Evenings, weekends and any spare time she had was spent in the back yard tossing a football around with her dad, or at the Thomas Jefferson stadium learning techniques to improve her passing skills.

Lily Rockwell, 9, a fourth-grader at McClellan Elementary School, enjoyed learning how to play the game she often watched on television, as she cheered on her favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It's not hard,” said Lily, who plays basketball, soccer and softball for teams in the West Jefferson Hills School District.

It was her constant training, in school practices and with her dad Andy's help, that Lily said led her to win the Steelers' team championship this year for the Punt, Pass and Kick competition for 8- and 9-year-old girls.

Lily was the first McClellan student to go that far in the competition, said McClellan physical education teacher Marie Bartoletti. Six McClellan students in previous years have advanced to the team finals.

The competition, for boys and girls ages 6 to 15, adds the yardage of a student's punt, pass and kick together, and subtracts deviations from the line.

The top scores at the local level advance to the sectional contest. Those top scorers then advance to the team championship.

“It's just a great experience,” said Bartoletti, who has been entering students into the competition for the last 15 years.

The program promotes an increase in physical activity, in a fun way, Bartoletti said. It also gets students to start watching and playing football, she said.

For Lily, it was a family bonding experience, as well.

Her dad, Andy, was the quarterback of his high school team at Perry. Yet, with three daughters, his chances of teaching football to his children have been minimal, Lily said.

Lily and her sister, Faith, 12, both have participated in the Punt, Pass and Kick competition, and spent time with their dad learning to play the game.

“It brought a smile to his face,” Lily said.

While competition began at McClellan, Lily advanced to events at Bethel Park High School, then the Steelers' training facilities on the South Side.

Getting to try her football skills at the Steelers' facilities was a bit intimidating for the 9-year-old, she said.

“I was really nervous,” Lily said.

Most of the youngsters competing stood poised and ready for the competition. Lily used her voice — chatting with the other children nearby — to relieve her nerves.

Winning the Steelers team championship, Lily had the opportunity to be showcased during a game on the big screen at Heinz Field. She also stood on the sidelines for part of the game.

Her parents watched from the stands.

“We had a lot of fun,” said her mom. Elizabeth.

Lily enjoyed her experience. But she doesn't plan on trying out for football anytime soon.

“I don't want to come home every other week and say, ‘Hey mom, here's another bruise on my arm,'” Lily said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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