Many 15-year-old boys are focused on video games, friends and girls. J.D. Finkel is like any other teenager, with an exception that he is also a mentor and an assistant coach on the Desert Rats flag football team.
“I wanted to do this to have fun, see what coaching is like and give back,” J.D. said.
When J.D. was 8, he started playing Pop Warner football under coach Lloyd Martinson. When J.D. expressed interest in coaching, Martinson was there to help him out with his dream.
“Coach Lloyd was a great coach, and that’s why I wanted to team up with him,” J.D. said. “I liked his coaching style.”
J.D. currently attends Red Mountain High School. He was always a football fan, watching games with his dad at a young age. He played football his freshman year for the school, but this year he decided to give back to the community and see the other side of the game as an assistant with the first flag-football team in the Mesa Youth Football Association of the CAYFL.
“It’s so weird to hear them call me coach, cause I’ve always been on the other end of it and it was always, ‘Ok coach, if you say so,’ and now it’s reversed.” J.D. said. “I’m not used to it.”
Although he is not sure if he will play or continue coaching next year, he is taking it all in and enjoying learning new things about the sport and himself.
“He wants to get back to where people taught him, especially with coach Lloyd, and I think it is so cool, to give up playing, to come coach at his age,” said his mom, Debbie Finkel.
The kids that J.D. assists with are from 5- to 8-years-old.
“They are the size of his shoe,” Debbie Finkel said. “He always tells me how cute they are and always has new stories, so it’s fun.”
With three younger siblings ranging from 1- to- 5-years-old, J.D. has had experience dealing with kids. His 5-year-old sister has prepped him for this new challenge.
“I love seeing these kids happy, when they did something well and to see kid smile,” J.D. said.
His siblings taught him patience. When one player runs for the other team’s goal and almost scores for them, the only thing that can be done is to laugh and be proud, not get angry. His mom says that he is the most caring, kind gentleman she knows at his age.
“He is always thinking and is always considerate,” Debbie Finkel said. “He has a great sense of humor which he relates to kids and adults.”
The team practices every Tuesday and Thursday, and games are held every Saturday. With school and the team, J.D. is a busy sophomore. In his free time, he plays hockey.
“He’s a great coach,” 6-year-old Jayden Olague said. Jayden and his 5-year-old sister Breyanah are on the Desert Rats team.
“It’s special to be the first flag team this year,” coach Martinson said. “It’s also special because we have a girl. I have never coached a girl before and that makes it special. Then to have him with me makes it special. So that’s three very special things.”
J.D. hopes to continue coaching or playing football, but he would coach with someone else next season. Martinson is retiring at the end of this season.