By Jordan J. Michael
GUILDERLAND –– Rebecca Golderman has been competing in the National Football League’s Punt, Pass, and Kick program for years to add some extra fun to her life, but, after qualifying for the National Finals, she might have to do a little more practicing.
Golderman, 15, of Guilderland, says she just competes for enjoyment. She plays three sports –– soccer, lacrosse, and cross-country skiing. However, she’s gotten really good at punting, passing, and kicking a football. Her older brother, Eric, used to do this, and now her younger sister, Jamie, is following along.
She is the first Golderman to reach the National Finals of PPK. Her fun just got a little more serious.
“The neighbors always ask what’s going on,” said Golderman this week. “I think this has become a family tradition, and it’s always cool to go to professional football games.”
A few weeks ago at Giants Stadium, Golderman had a total distance of 301 feet, 6 inches to advance to the National Finals in her division of 14- and 15-year-old girls. She punted the ball 110 feet, 5 inches; passed the ball 62 feet, 3 inches; and kicked the ball 128 feet, 10 inches off of a tee.
“My throw is the worst of the three, but I can throw it 30 yards if I really tried,” Golderman said. As a varsity soccer player, her kicks are never in question; some of them helped Guilderland get to the state semifinals this year. “My passes aren’t as consistent as my kicks,” she said, “but I can throw a spiral.”
Golderman is awaiting a call from the NFL so that she and her father, Phil, can be flown out to one of the AFC or NFC divisional playoff games on Jan. 12 or 13. It is there that she’ll put her skills to the test, but the competition won’t be in front of thousands of people or aired on live television.
“Sure, why not,” said Golderman when asked if she could punt, pass, and kick in front of thousands of watching eyes. “I guess it would be a little weird though.”
Established in 1961, the NFL PPK program is a national skills competition for boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 15; the genders compete separately against their peers. There are five different age divisions (6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15) and the program is free. More than three million boys and girls compete around the country.
Golderman is one of 40 finalists. She said that the girls have an easier trek to the National Finals because not as many girls compete.
“There’s less of an interest for the girls,” said Golderman. “Way more boys are doing this, so it’s harder for them to advance. Some girls don’t think it’s ‘right’ to play football, but, I mean, this isn’t really ‘playing’ football.”
The NFL PPK starts at a local level, then the top finisher in each age group advances to the sectional round. The top four finishers from each division at the sectional level go to the team championship. All 32 NFL teams host a PPK team championship and the top four in each division advance to the national finals.
During each competition, each participant is allowed only one punt, one pass, and one kick. Scores are based on both distance and precision. For example, if a participant passes the ball 80 feet, but the ball lands 20 feet to the right of the measuring tape, the final score is calculated by deducting 20 from 80, for a final score of 60.
A participant’s final score is his or her collective total for the three individual events. For example, if the contestant scores 30 for punting, 70 for passing, and 32 for kicking, the participant’s final score would be 132.
Golderman likes watching the game of football, but soccer is her fall sport.
“I play Thanksgiving football with the family, not tackle, but a little competitive,” Golderman said. “It’s a whole bunch of guys, and then me.”
Sports help Golderman “stay on track,” she said. “It’s fun to be on a team and make new friends. Winning is always good, too.”
Golderman finished first at the team championship at Giants Stadium when she was 9, but didn’t rank high enough to advance. She remembers watching her brother, Eric, punt, pass, and kick when she was little. She ended up following her brother’s lead.
“Eric and his friend didn’t do too well on the first try,” said Mr. Golderman. “Eric’s friend threw his certificate in the garbage on the way out, but my son liked it and kept coming back every year.”
Golderman never would have done PPK without watching her older brother do it first. But, she’s far surpassed her elder.
“Everyone’s excited for me because they know that this make me happy,” Golderman said. “I’m just here to have fun and watch some football.”