All posts by Ben Diggan

A Friend From Below

To some people, surfing is viewed as a sport for lazy people. Other people believe surfing to be more than that. Surfing to some is a way of life, to be one with the ocean and all its inhabitants. Unless you live on a beach or an island, I think that way of thinking is a little extreme. But personally, I find myself in the middle somewhere. My family spends about one to two months a year at the beach. But now that I’m in college I don’t get to go for most of it, which kills me inside every year. In fact, I haven’t been able to travel to our Cape Hatteras house in three years. The first two days of my last trip consisted of rain and thunderstorms which killed my hopes of getting any decent days out in the water. Thankfully, after the storms passed it turned into one of my best trips down there.

The best part of being there was waking up at the crack of dawn and going right out onto the deck to stretch a little before eating breakfast. The same salty air filled my lungs every time I opened the sliding door. When I came back in I would go directly down the spiral staircase from my room to the living room, leading me to the kitchen. Like every other morning that started at quarter to six, my uncles would be cooking bacon and sausage with a some of eggs on the side to compliment. They would both sneak out of bed, away from their wives to leave the house early to surf. The only problem with this is that they both have four kids each so my aunts got stuck getting the kids ready for the beach every day.

What made this trip one of my best was the day we all went clamming in the bay. We packed up the trucks with boards and clam rakes and the kids jammed in with their water toys then we left for the bay. I too my scuba gear because there were some parts of the bay where we went that had nice free diving areas. I didn’t have one of our spear guns with us so I was just trying to explore and see what I could find.

What I found was a friend, 15 feet below the surface. I went down on a dive that began like any other. As I was swimming I was poking with a long rake handle I found in the truck and I found something squishy. Like a moron, I poked it repeatedly until it moved. I was scared, I didn’t know what it was. I panicked and started to race to the top when I saw a cloud of sand appear in front of me. I was racing for the top but because I was curious, I turned around to look. When I saw what it was I stopped and was instantly relieved. It was a giant skate which looks like a stingray but is friendlier. It wasn’t scared of me I think because it was quite large and just gracefully swam right by me. It made my whole trip, I never experienced something like that. Next time I go I’m going to the spot in hopes of finding my friend again.

A Field Day for Kids with Exceptionalities

It’s amazing to think how just a couple of different sports being played in one arena can change the lives of so many. During my senior year of high school, I was given the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than my peers and myself ever imagined. Just three of my closest friends and I were asked to think of a creative event for the special education students we worked with. Out of the five, three of them were immobilized and were in a wheelchair permanently. We wanted them to feel normal so we thought of something that they normally wouldn’t experience.

Every high school student has the chance to experience at least one high school dance. My friends and I wanted to give them that chance. After talking to our principal she allowed us to proceed with our event as it would be on school property during daytime hours. As we began setting up the event, the special education classes from our middle and elementary schools asked if they could come. They were allowed of course because they were in the same school district. Soon after we received phone calls from the surrounding districts asking us if they could come to our special daytime ball. As if overnight, we went from setting up something for just 13 kids to over 80.

Every high school student has the chance to experience at least one high school dance. My friends and I wanted to give them that chance. After talking to our principal she allowed us to proceed with our event as it would be on school property during daytime hours. As we began setting up the event, the special education classes from our middle and elementary schools asked if they could come. They were allowed of course because they were in the same school district. Soon after we received phone calls from the surrounding districts asking us if they could come to our special daytime ball. As if overnight, we went from setting up something for just 13 kids to over 80.

The aides from the other districts were just happy their students could get out of the classroom and get together to have a day full of fun. The only problem with this was with so many kids we ran out of space and decided to set everything up outside instead of in our gym. After talking between the four of us, the decision was made to cancel the dance and have a field day instead.

With roughly nine school districts coming to our stadium there was a concern for liability, so we had to get approval from the board. Getting the okay from them was just the beginning for us. Brainstorming the multiple events and games as well as where they would be set up around the field was a challenge for us because we wanted to pick games that wouldn’t leave anyone out.   As the day came closer everyone became more excited every day and were even more ecstatic when our final plan had been accepted by

As the day came closer everyone became more excited every day and were even more ecstatic when our final plan had been accepted by the administration. We spent months on this day and wanted everything to go perfectly. Some people were skeptical because it was just myself and three of my friends, we were just young high school kids. But on that morning, it just felt right.

The day went just as planned and the kids couldn’t have been happier. Even some of the kids that never cracked a grin couldn’t stop smiling as soon as they got off the bus. The four of us just walked around and spent time with the kids that came from all over the area to an event that we created for them. With help from just two teachers, we did it all and it was all for the kids and that was all we wanted.

With the day coming to an end, it was time for a medal ceremony. I built a podium with a ramp on both sides to that the kids in wheelchairs could have their time to shine on the podium. As gratitude, the four of us were the only ones putting the first place medal on each and every kid as they walked up by themselves. I thought my day had ended and that I couldn’t possibly learn anything more from these wonderful students, but I was wrong.

Dalton was a student at a school not far from ours and didn’t have much to say when I met him earlier. I was putting the medal around him and admiring his achievements that day and he whispered something to me. I didn’t hear him at first so I asked him to repeat himself once more. Leaning in I saw a look in his eyes of complete happiness as if he never experienced it before. He repeated, “I’ve never been a winner before.” With just those six words, he changed my life in seconds.

Dalton had no idea what he had done to my future but I dropped out of Pitt shortly after to pursue a degree in special education instead of a degree in engineering. I was going a new direction in life because of him and owe him for that. A day filled with different games was something so simple to think of but drastically impacted so many of these kids in a good way. Sports can change lives whether it consists of playing the sport or just spectating.

A Night of Memories to Last a Lifetime

I’ve never been arrested, however, there was an instance where I came very close. It started in my friend Andrew’s living room as we huddled around the tv yelling at each other over the hockey game. In between periods Andrew’s father told us a few stories about his college days. He described one of his best memories to us giving us inspiration to follow in his footsteps.

It was during the 1985 championship game in the March Madness tournament. He had been going to law school at the time and was studying for a test when his drunken housemates barreled into his room. They were screaming, “They won Jon, they won. Villanova won March Madness, we have to go see our friends there and you have to drive since you’re the only sober one.”

They all went and what happened there was unbelievable. Jon claims they were lighting dorm furniture on fire, flipping cars, and had gotten tear gassed by the end of the night. He ended it by saying, “Boys’ if they win this year you have to go. It will hands down be one of the best nights of your life.” We joked about going but never realistically planned on it, even if what he said was true it would surely not be like that again.

It was mid-way through March so the NCAA basketball tournament was on the final stretch. With the final four games coming to an end, it looked as if Villanova had a chance of making it to the finals. When they made it we couldn’t believe it, the game was scheduled for a Monday which was a problem if we wanted to go seeing that we all had class early the next morning. As the game started I got a call from Andrew who was at Bloomsburg University, an hour and a half away from us. He informed me he was on his way in case we went to Villanova’s campus. He arrived eight minutes before the first half was over and it was then that we decided to go.

Not knowing what to expect was part of the experience. My friends and I found a parking spot that was in walking distance to the campus. We had no clue where to go from there because no one with us had any contacts there, so we just began walking. Looking for the stadium is where our night started but not in the way we had predicted.

We searched for a way onto campus, crossing over train tracks we found a fence that our one friend insisted we climb over. Out of nowhere we were ambushed by German Shepherds barking at us as eight cops ran up to us with their flash lights. Yelling at some of us to get up against the fence and for the others to lay face down on the ground. We thought for a second our night was over before it started but it was a misunderstanding and they let us go with directions of how to get to the viewing party.

Walking into the stadium we were surrounded by cheers and yelling by the student body as they watched their team play for the title. Finding the last seats in the nosebleeds, we stood there and cheered so we wouldn’t stand out in the crowd. As the game came to an end it was close and there was a chance they could lose. The students stood in silence during the last play, we couldn’t believe how quiet it was in the gym.

The final play ended in victory for the Villanova Wildcats and the air around us erupted with excitement. What happened next was madness, 5,000 of our new best friends all piled out of just two doors as they ran into the streets. Running with them we saw one girl far away get trampled with no remorse from her peers. We approached the first cluster, which soon cleared up when a student ripped a street sign out of the ground and started to swing it around not minding who was in his way. Near the edge of campus, we found the next group of students who were drinking and smoking right in front of police as people behind them climbed up light poles for a better view. We ran away from the group when we saw the line of what seemed to be 40 cops in riot gear approaching.

Finding ourselves at the center of campus, two students turned towards Zack and I to ask us if we wanted to start a fire with them in the middle of the crowd. Turning to Zack I said, “This could be our only chance to be a part of something here tonight.” Taking off my tee I threw it on top of the other two shirts that were burning which eventually turned into the biggest fire on campus that night. Our night came to an end when the Clydesdale horses came through and the policeman perched on their backs threw tear gas in the mix of students to clear it out.

With tears rolling down my face I found Zack and Andrew and we all decided it was time to go back home. It was right around four in the morning but we made it back and could go to our morning classes that began at 8:00. Andrew’s dad was right, it was the best night of our lives and it will be hard to top but the memories from that night will last a lifetime.

Elizabethtown Bears Vs Solanco Golden Mules

ELIZABETHTOWN, PA – The Elizabethtown Bears now 6-1 for the season were victorious in high school boys soccer winning, 11-1, against the Solanco Golden Mules at their home field in Elizabethtown. During the second half, Giani Leppler went down clutching his ankle after a bad collision near the offensive 18-yard line and was carried by his coaches off the field.

Coach Sostack felt confident going into the game saying, “I mean it should be a ‘W’ but you know, we never underestimate anybody that comes here and plays against us since we’re state-ranked,” Sostack said. “But tactically you know I’m confident that we should be able to move the ball. So it’s all about finishing. And let’s hope that we can finish early and tuck them away.”

Both teams began warmups before the game at a leisurely pace to not overheat themselves under the scorching sun before the game commenced. Solanco seemed to be affected by the heat early in the first half as they slowed down their passing and moved sluggishly around the field.

Adan Cabrera-Perez (senior) led in goals scoring three in the first half for the Bears helping them push their lead to 4-1 at the end of the half. The Golden Mules only goal scorer of the day was Jeremiah Stanton (sophomore).

“If we can build momentum I’m hoping to use this game as an opportunity for younger players to gain some varsity time,” “Sostack said before the game. Leading the game by three goals into the second half along with the temperature being in the high 80’s it gave coach Sostack a good chance to alternate some starters with JV players for some character building with his younger athletes.

Coach Sostack and his team did what it had to do to outsmart their opponents to win today. “It’s more psychology than soccer sometimes.”, says Sostack.

With eight returning starters from last year’s state final game, standing out amongst the senior lineup is David Shank. Shank starts in the varsity lineup as a striking midfielder. He can be found on the soccer field after school for practice or a game Monday through Thursday. However, on Friday nights he can be found underneath the Friday night lights on the football field as the team’s kicker. “Actually, I do it all. Kick, punt, and kickoffs,” says Shank.

His love of the sport will go on forever but he is trying to play collegiate football after he graduates.  Although Shank hasn’t committed to a school yet Shank says, “I’ve gone to camps all summer, I have a top ten list. My top three I would say are UConn, Delaware, and Towson.”

Both teams leisurely jogged off the field today physically exhausted and dripping with sweat from the intense heat.

Memories made with Soccer

Today I went to a men’s soccer varsity game at Elizabethtown High School. It was the first high school men’s game I’ve been to since the fall after graduation. Watching the seniors’ take the field under the scorching hot sun, I couldn’t help but feel sentimental. The blistering mid-day sun and the smell of the fresh cut grass on the pitch were where I spent most of my fall season senior year. For my friends and I, soccer was what we looked forward to at the end of every day in season or out. All the hard practice we put into it wasn’t something we dreaded, it was a challenge to see how much progress was made on a day to day basis leading up to game days.

Being a part of my high school’s soccer team gave me some of my best memories growing up. During the season, the best part of game day was being able to get out of class early to go prepare for the game. Every time we had an away game Coach would always give us the same speech as if we had forgotten from the previous time. While he would explain that we play for the love of the game, Coach would also warn us that if we lost a game we should have won we would be doing sprints as soon as we got back. Although he was stern and uptight most of the time, he was a very sympathetic man. If anyone looked down or upset he would always pull them aside to have a one on one with them to brighten them up. During the offseason, he would regularly check in to make sure we were all playing soccer year-round to prepare for the next season.

Countless times after the soccer season was over, my friends and I would go to our soccer fields to play pickup games when school let out. These games were the best, most of us enjoyed playing these fun games more than we enjoyed playing for our school during the soccer season.  Sometimes it was as if we played with more intensity and emotion during pickup because it felt natural. No one was watching us or critiquing how we were playing which made it a blast. However, we were always careful to do our best to not hurt each other while playing.  We could just play the game and not keep score because we were just having a friendly competition.

Playing soccer is one of my favorite pastimes and in a way kind of made me into who I am today. Growing up, soccer is one of the sports I played every year. It was where I made lifelong friendships and learned the values of teamwork and discipline. I miss the game a lot but am content with the spectator relationship I have with it now. Hopefully, someday I’ll be blessed with children of my own who want to get involved with sports to have similar experiences of mine.