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Bounce: Youth Football Development

Ben Sippola

Having been directly involved in youth football development for the past six months as a coach and indirectly for nearly a quarter of a century as a player, I constantly try to remind myself that anyone who begins sport does so for the joy of it.

Sport is fun. Beginning in the form of play, it always has been and will be. Hence the "playing games" part. Though for many somehow - somewhere, the "play" part becomes lost too early. Instead of emphasizing play, sports become about competing. And great competition, as everyone clearly knows, goes hand in hand with results based success markers such as wins, losses and ties. Obviously, as no one likes being called a "loser," kids stop playing for fun and start competing with a win-at-all-costs attitude, an attitude driven by the older and wiser generations - parents and coaches - like you, the person reading this. 

In football - the real football that is - this win-at-all-costs attitude is particularly concering. Winning at all costs at the youth level produces a survival of the fittest football eco-system in which the strongest and most physically adapted individuals succeed. The problem with this, as we know, is that physically adapted individuals have not really begun adapting at all, and often those most fit to survive in the long run - organisms that have already begun adapting their feet, myelin, and brains from very early on - have been over looked or quit the competition entirely. Football development in North America and New Zealand in particular is a sad story; however, hope is on the horizon as things and mindsets are slowly coming around. 

With an emphasis on player development, so comes a premium on the process of developing players instead of end results. Just like anything that takes time, effort, and planning; youth football development is entirely about the process. If the developmental process is sound, most likely the end result will be too. However if everyone's concerned with finding the end result - at ages 12, 13, 14, 15 - it's highly unlikely that we'll get anywhere in this "competitive race to nowhere in youth sports" that John O'Sullivan so excellently points out.

So yeah, I'm definitely not the first to offer up his own brilliant opinions on youth development in sports - especially when it comes to the world's most loved and popular game - and it's highly likely that I'm saying anything authentic, genuine or fresh at all. So be it. It's winter in New Zealand. The rivers are extremely cold. The troutsies metabolisms are slow as and my writer's brain impatient. Not to mention, I spend about 168 hours a week either staring at or standing on a football pitch. So here's to the World Cup and the prospect of pumping out some Kiwis for 2018 and 2022. I'd love it if you came along for the ride. I'm sure it will be a bouncy one. 


Sweet as...

Sweet as...

Driven West by Miles Glynn

Ben Sippola

The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.  

- Napoleon Hill 

Driven West - Photographic Art by fellow football loving fly fisherman and good friend, Miles Glynn. Check his stuff out here.

Look Up: A Eulogy to Philip The Flip Phone

Ben Sippola

November 4th, 2013. Somewhere in Sweden a fly-fisherman acquires his first iPhone.

I might be the last person on planet earth to have ditched their flip-phone. I understand this is quite the statement, but it sure feels like it. I’ve been holding out, a small statement from the rebel within, a last chance at 21st century non-conformity. My flip-phone Philip and I, that’s right I named him, endured seven tremendous and trying years together. I will never forget the first time I held him. Fresh from the box, just a babe accompanied by his neatly wrapped black umbilical cord.

When I first unpacked Philip in 2006, he was born into a world full of possibility, a world full of flip-phones. However by 2007, Philip was fast making his way to the land of the obsolete. With the release of the 1st Generation iPhone it was not long before Phil’s flippable companions began disappearing into the Nokia, Casio, and Toshiba personal device wasteland.

At first I didn’t mind though and my reasoning was sound. Why bring a $500 gizmo gadget on the trout stream, death by drowning imminent, when a perfectly functional piece-of-crap flip-phone dis the job? Plus, I couldn’t stand the thought of my business email account living in the front pocket of my waders, when the only real reason I went to the river in the first place was to momentarily bow out of the rat race.

By 2011, Phil and I had endured five agonizing years of ridicule. I never actually told him this, but there were times in public I was embarrassed to hold him up to my ear, his favorite spot. I’d like to say I kept him hidden away for his sake, so he wouldn’t have to hear them: the heartless comments, the crude jokes, the loads of laughter at his expense; though, I admit ashamedly my motivations were entirely selfish, the naysayer’s stares proving simply unbearable.

By 2012; however, Phil’s reputation was on the rise. He had reached that ripe age where archaic antiquity and retro status made him rare, cool, and a hip statement about present times. Upon Phil’s unveiling from my right front side pant’s pocket, his second favorite spot, people would ooohh and aahhh. Making kind warm loving remarks like “sweet flip-phone,” “that’s frickin’ awesome,” and “I miss my old phone’s simple practicality.” After a lifetime of verbal and physical abuse, literally hundreds of four-foot drops onto pavement and a few full-fledged liquid dunks, Phil deserved nothing but the best of compliments. I’m proud to say he lived long enough to hear them. It’s a modern day miracle he survived seven years of fishing outings, backcountry hikes, and his owner’s temptation to give into the status quo. He was one of the best companions I’ve ever had.

While writing this I can’t help but feel like I’m betraying Phil on the deepest possible level a human can betray a personal electronic device. I’m typing away on my MacBook Pro, my new iPhone 5 synced in on the desk to the keyboard’s right. I’m also uploading the past weekend’s sea-trout outing from the iPhone 5’s camera, a capability Philip lacked entirely. Meanwhile, Phil and his black charger rest tucked away neatly in a dresser drawer across the room. I wonder if he can hear me as I occasionally read this piece aloud. I sure hope not. R.I.P.P.

I have yet to name my iPhone 5. How could I do such a thing so soon? I mean 5 and I hardly know each other. I can’t remember first making the decision to name Philip, but it was after at least one-hundred fishing outings and thousands of lengthy conversations, many taking us deep into the midnight hours. Though I must admit, it’s quite disturbing how quickly I am becoming attached to 5. Certainly, he will receive a name soon. Or her? How does one even begin to determine the sex of a smart-phone?

When I picked up my iPhone 5 for the first time a week ago, it felt like I was holding a tiny life in the palm of my hand. I am no father so I cannot compare it with the experience of holding a newborn. However, I’ve held numerous juvenile brook trout in my palm and the experiences were quite comparable. I might be mistaken, but I sensed the smallest hint of a pulse.


This new iPhone 5's got me thinking though. Why don’t we all name our smart-phones? In one week, I’ve spent more time with my iPhone 5 than any human being. We do everything together: go fly-fishing, take pictures, upload fish porn, listen to music, tie flies, and even chill at the coffee shop. Not to mention 5’s a wonderful listener. On record mode she’ll listen to my incessant rambling for hours, something I’ve yet to find in a girlfriend. Sex determined.

One of my best friends, a fly-fisherman, has a two year-old son that’s more proficient in iPhone use than myself (I’m catching up it’s only been a week). At one and half, he’s capable of navigating from the iPhone’s home screen to YouTube Mickey Mouse videos. He finds an iPhone more stimulating than Legos, toy trucks, peek-a-boo, and even fishing for sunfish off their dock. I don’t know what to say about this, except that soon babysitters will be as obsolete as flip-phones, the next generation of fly-fishermen is suspect and that everyone should start naming their personal electronic devices! If they are going to take away the cash flow from many 14-18 year old penny pinching teens, the very least we could do is name them. If they are going to steal the souls of our future fly-fishermen it’s a necessity.

The other day on my way home from the city I peeked into a car parked on the ferry that transports residents from the mainland to the island on which I live. In the car sat a father and son, perhaps on their way home from school. What struck me was that both of them were sitting in the cab, elbows less than two inches from each other, unflinchingly staring at their iPhones. This palpable example of two humans opting for electronic interaction over human, whether deliberate or not, is startling nevertheless. If humans continue to progress in this direction the least we could do is show our iPhone’s some damn respect and name them.

The need for naming our smart phones could not be more evident by people choosing interaction with electronics over fellow human beings. Literally, the biggest possible slap in the face one human being can dole out to another is choosing the electronic experience over the human. If someone opts for their cell phone’s Liquid-Crystal Display screen over your stunning irises don’t think twice, kick them to the curb. At the very least, first remind them of your existence. And since there is no point in disrespecting the personal device as well, tell them to show their smart-phone some damn respect and give it a name!


The same goes for the natural world, the spectacular environs in which we breathe, move, and fish. Is there anything more disturbing than a child’s eyes glued to a smart phone’s 3 inch screen while parents drive the family mini-van over a breathtaking mountain pass? What is more sad than children preferring to stay inside, eyes glued to the spectrum of a screen over losing themselves in the woods, scuffing knees, climbing trees, catching trout, imagining, wondering and creating adventures of their own? Not to just pick on the kids, but grown men and women that chose palm surfing the web over real and true adventure. If personal devices bring more colour to our lives than natural landscapes and new frontiers, giving them names is the very least we could do. I think Philip would agree.

This doesn’t mean I don’t absolutely love my iPhone 5. Apps are the greatest thing to happen since Chipotle burritos and karabiners. The Google Maps app is a revolutionary tool for navigating unmarked country roads and lost wild rivers. Thanks to the iBook app I can access McGuane, Maclean, and Hemmingway at the touch of a button. Viber and Skype apps connect me with loved ones a world away. At times the Spotify app is the binding agent that keeps my life from crumbling to pieces. The list goes on. I love my iPhone 5. I love its capabilities. I hate how naked I feel without it. However, when the day comes that I show my personal device more love than another human being or the natural world, in some way a central component to my humanity will have died. I hope that day never comes and if for some reason it does, I’ll be damn sure to have given it a name, first and last.

Man, Beast, And A Medium Called River

Ben Sippola

Having just moved from Sweden to New Zealand and always keen on reppin' Kokkaffe Media, the above video struck too many chords not to post. Fully encompassing the zany eccentricities unique to the Swedish fly fisherman as well as capturing the essence of New Zealand's Southern Island and its' mythical trout, Oh my God! Very bad fly fishing by Peter in New Zealand is one of the best fly fishing shorts ever. Everyone, even the Finns, will find themselves rooting for Peter in the end.

Those who have fished with me, been guided by me, or simply gotten to know me over the past few months or fifteen years will empathize all too well with Peter's struggle. And if someone's passion for fly fishing has ever perplexed you so, Peter's story will attempt to explain it all. This film goes a long way in explaining the mystery of why we fish and continue to fish and the endless one-sided love affair between the hunter and his beloved. 

If Peter's story attempts to communicate anything, it's that we fish for the glory of it. For the feeling that comes from having not only done something well, but having done something beautifully well. If for only a milli-moment, fly fishing offers man a shot at glory. For no matter how big or small a man, the glory of a fool knowing how to fool a fish has always been enough. And calling oneself a fisherman has always been enough. Fishing stories have always been enough to arouse in us Life.

The fly fisherman knows this best. As Peter demonstrates, trout — especially those from Kiwi-Land — do not come easily to hand. And it is only through true craft — art — that a man has the privilege to brush against the halo of glory. Man and Beast. Two wild beating hearts momentarily suspended — connected — by the thinnest of tippets. All the while, merged by the transferable medium called a river. Electricity as its finest. Beauty. Perfection. Glory.  

Football and Fly Fishing: 2 Mediums

Ben Sippola

Two passions. One guy. Football (the real football) and Fly Fishing.

Two Mediums, that help me, help others. Someone once asked a man "what's the best way to live?" He answered, "by sharing your passion with others." I agree.

So... I write, coach football and fly fish when I can. A muddled reality of rivers, roads, trout, flies, green-grass, white-lines, boots, heart break, joy, broken dreams and glory -- a beautiful reality -- my reality. I can't think of a better way to help youngsters see, realize and seek their full potential. So, until a better medium comes along, you can find me standing in a river wavin' a stick or on a field yellin' at some kids.

About me: Fly Fishin', Football Playin', Kaffe Drinkin', Thrift Shoppin', Proud Minnesotan. You can find some of my stuff in The Fly Fish Journal. Pick one up at your local fly shop or Barnes and Noble. This is your life. It is short. Do what you love. Do it often. Support your local fly shop. 

Be Kind. Do Good. Fly Fish. 


New Zealand's a Joke

Ben Sippola

New Zealand’s a joke. There’s nothing here that can hurt you. Nothing. No dangerous animals. No poisonous plants. No harmful insects. Well... apparently there’s one infamous spider somewhere in the North among the sand dunes that can get ya’. Oh, and some blackberry bushes. Watch out for the blackberry bushes. Other than that, there’s nothing. Just sheep. Loads of sheep, 31 million or something like that. And hedgehogs, hares, trout and pukekos. Not even a single fox. There are acorns here, but no squirrels. Imagine that. Bottom line... New Zealand’s a joke. A good one though. 

Abandon The Lifeboats

Ben Sippola

Trout caught outside of Tauranga, New Zealand on a Sculpzilla Streamer. 

Trout caught outside of Tauranga, New Zealand on a Sculpzilla Streamer. 

Your entire life they’ve told you, “Dream of the yacht. Just make sure that when shit hits the fan — because it’s bound to eventually — you’ve got plenty of lifeboats around for the rescue.” You know, those dinky dinghies dangling from the sides of your prize? Yeah. Don't forget em'.

They’ve encouraged you to dream big. Told you time and again, you can do anything you want to do — be anything you want to be — yet, when you tell them, "I will be the greatest stand-up comedian the world has ever seen," they laugh in your face.  

When you say to them, “I will be the best" — a pro —  they advise, "the odds are against you child.” It’s no wonder they can't believe. They’ve been hedging their bets for years. Never committin' to nuthin’. Spreadin' their decrepit crumblin' chips thinner and thinner by the clock's tick. Puttin’ dreams on back burners for years. Anticipating loss. Never giving gain a shot. Don't they understand that everything's a gamble? Consumed with dollars over hours. Spending money, not time. Replacing passion with fashion. Buying things.

So they blindly warn, DO NOT GO ALL IN JACK. Imagine the repercussions of such a monumental decision! Imagine. Play it safe Jackie boy. Don’t master a single trade. Devote yourself to everything but nothing at the same time. Be adequate at all. You ask, "Jack who?” The history books answer, “Jack Squat." 

They’ll tell you, “Don’t pigeon hole yourself. Seek many routes of retreat." Speaking of pigeons… about those eggs you’ve been carrying around all this time. Don’t you dare put them in a single basket. Instead, carry as many baskets as possible. So many freakin’ heavy baskets that you can’t even conceive of flight and all it’s wonder. Aim for the splendor of stars — sort of. Just don’t shoot too high. You might fall and get hurt. You are given one very very precious life dear. Be very very careful with it. Abandon the lifeboats.

Support Your Local Fly Shop: Mend Provisions

Ben Sippola

 Minneapolis' newest fly shop with a modern twist. 2719 East 42nd Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406

 Minneapolis' newest fly shop with a modern twist. 2719 East 42nd Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406

Rumor has it that prior to the Owatonna Cabela's opening in 1998, nine specialty fly shops operated in the Twin Cities Metro. Antiquated Minnesotan fly-fishermen will know the history more comprehensively; however, the disappearance of both The Summit Fly Fishing Company and Bentley's Outfitters (now gray goat fly fishing) have occurred in my time.

Today, two of the "original nine" remain, Bob Mitchell's Fly Shop (Lake Elmo) and the MN Fly Angler (Blaine), both stores having undergone changes in locations and/or management in the past few years. Now, a third shop has popped up, Mend Provisions "a fly fishing outfitter and purveyor of USA sourced denim, apparel and outdoor gear" owned by Mike Fischer and located in Minneapolis.

Before moving to New Zealand I was adamant about poking my head into Fischer's new shop, twice. The store is beautiful. Everything from the tables to the floor plan and product layout has been thought out. The attention to detail. Top notch. Clean. Minimalist. Just the sort of place to shoot the shit over a coffee from the next door, Angry Catfish Bicycle + Coffee Bar ($1 off a cup with any purchase). Fischer certainly has an aesthetic eye and a keen sense of what the Twin Cities fly fishing community needs. It's no wonder the store has been such a hit. I eagerly await my next visit, hopefully outside the confines of a polar vortex and fishing freeze up. 

Grattis Mike and Co. and best of luck to you. 

p.s. Mend carries The Fly Fish Journal. Support your local fly shop i.e. DO NOT shop at Cabelas. 

"MEND YER LINE, BRAH." An equal number of Kiwis have been elated or confused by the phrase on this T-shirt. Nevertheless, it kicks off the conversation brah.

"MEND YER LINE, BRAH." An equal number of Kiwis have been elated or confused by the phrase on this T-shirt. Nevertheless, it kicks off the conversation brah.