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Article updated: 5/15/2013 8:47 PM
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A clinic with an eye on Rwanda
 

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A clinic with an eye on Rwanda
 

This is a football clinic with reach.

The second annual Youth Football Clinic for Africa New Life, June 8 at Wheaton Warrenville South, will provide instruction by a crack coaching staff with all proceeds assisting a settlement in Rwanda.

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Last year's inaugural clinic, presented by former WW South quarterback and 2000 graduate Matt Alley, drew 67 elementary and middle school players and nearly 20 instructors such as local stars Matt Sinclair, Jon Beutjer and Bryan Ittersagen.

Through entry fees and donations the clinic raised $6,500 to provide water to a boys dormitory built by Africa New Life in Kayonza, Rwanda. One family who attended the clinic committed to spending a monthly $39 to sponsor a Rwandan child.

The Darien church Alley attends has partnered with Africa New Life, based in Portland, Ore., whose mission is to counter poverty in Rwanda. Founded by a Rwanda native and pastor, the charity has sponsored more than 2,300 children and has built three schools and churches.

Alley's fundraising goal this year is $10,000, but whatever comes in will go to providing water to a building in the village of Kageyo. The buildings themselves are out of his price range, but Alley said, "For us to come in and help provide the water is a way for us to make a tangible difference."

His clinic can make a difference for football players entering second through ninth grade. Parents provided good feedback after last year's camp.

Along with Beutjer and Alley, a four-year quarterback at Washington University in St. Louis, current Illinois quarterback Reilly O'Toole will be on hand as will record-setting Elmhurst College quarterback Joe Furco, provided he can coordinate it with his college graduation ceremony. Alley won't have the full coaching lineup settled until the week before the clinic, but last year's player-coach ratio was about 4-1.

The clinic is for all positions, not just quarterback. Linebackers coach Sinclair, defensive backs coach Ittersagen, receivers coach Joe Kish, running backs coach Joe Ulrich, line coaches Terry Ekl and Will Kadera and Downers Grove North defensive coordinator Keith Lichtenberg are enlisted.

That's a heavy Wheaton influence, but Alley seeks inclusion.

"We want it to be more of a DuPage County-type of thing rather than a Wheaton-type of thing," he said.

The schedule, from 8:30-11:30 a.m. June 8, offers position drills, group instruction, 7-on-7 and linemen drills, speed and agility training and a scrimmage. Registration starts at 8 a.m. at Wheaton Warrenville South, with a walk-up fee of $50. Cost is $40 with a completed application submitted by May 18; coaches and parents without attending players are welcome for a $30 donation. Sponsorships also are available; contact Alley at alley_matthew@hotmail.com.

"I think it provides a really good start to the summer for lot of these kids that aren't going to get a lot of other work on their football in the summer," he said. "I realize it's a very busy time with baseball, lacrosse and other sports, but to come on out and get basically high school-level coaching and expertise for a pretty small $40 admission is pretty special, especially given the fact that every dollar of that is going to Africa New Life."

Looking out for No. 1

Little did we know one of the world's top professional racquetball players is in our midst.

Well, not right now. Naperville resident Cheryl Gudinas is getting set to compete Thursday at USA Racquetball's Ektelon National Singles Championships at the Meridian Sports Club in Fullerton, Calif., through Sunday.

Depending on which rankings system one checks, Gudinas is second in the country, fifth among world professionals, third in the world based on her bronze-medal finish at the 2012 world championship or 12th in the most recent USA Racquetball rankings.

Bottom line, she's among the sport's all-timers, the No. 1 female from 2000-04 and in the top five players a record 19 years from 1993-94 through 2010-11 before knee surgery dropped her to No. 10. Her eight U.S. National singles titles ties her with the retired Michelle Gould.

Complicating things is she's competing in two divisions. She's seeded fifth in the women's professional division and said she'd be seeded either first or second in the U.S. Team qualifying division.

"I would expect that in the pro division I should win," said Gudinas, who practices mainly at the Glass Court in Lombard. "My goal really is to make the (semifinals) in pro, which is very doable. And I never expect to win, but I think I can do very well in the team qualifying."

Team status is important for reasons such as Pan Am Games appearances -- of which she's taken gold twice -- and increased sponsorship possibilities. Gudinas has been sponsored by the E-Force racquetball equipment company for a dozen years; Rollout Racquetball attire and 10K Health Products also sponsor her.

And, practically speaking, USA Racquetball covers her insurance. Gudinas would like to keep it that way and said coverage could depend "on how I do at this tournament, so it's pretty stressful."

Admittedly not the quickest or hardest-hitting player, she trained incredibly hard as a younger woman (hence the knee problem) on her own and with strength coach Tim Lang. Much of her success, she said, came from "my mind."

"My thing is mental toughness and being able to concentrate, that's the thing for me -- not being flustered, and being able to focus, being able to outsmart my opponents and remain calm," she said.

However, as The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde once wrote, time is the avenger.

"I'm 45," Gudinas said, "so it keeps getting harder and harder to beat these young kids."

She works part-time as a fitness trainer at HealthTrack in Glen Ellyn and partners with a friend in San Francisco in Serious Player Consulting, a training and wellness company. Gudinas helps coach the USA Junior Racquetball Team in preparation for the junior championships.

After this week's National Singles Championships, Gudinas will compete at the World Games single-elimination tournament in Colombia. Her last time at Worlds, 2009, she finished third.

How long will she compete? Time and winnings will tell.

"Originally, I said I'd stop at 35," she said, "so I'm 10 years beyond that."

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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