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Russ uses games to execute a grand plan

May 07, 2010|BOB PARASILITI
  • Teresa Russ, right, has used athletics to create a special bond and strong hold on her son, Reggie.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT-When it comes to athletics, Teresa Russ doesn't pay much attention to the Xs and Os, terminology or technical aspects of the game.

To her, sports are all about the game plan. Not the one on game day, but the one that points out the path to the future and life in general.

For Russ, a 1986 North Hagerstown High School graduate, participating in sports opened up an avenue of realization that she avoided for a good part of her childhood. And now, sports is the road she hopes will help the last two of her four children to achieve bigger and better things.

"Being able to see my kids succeed. ...That's a wonderful feeling," said Russ as she sat outside of Williamsport High School waiting to watch her son Reggie at track practice. "I don't want them to have to go through the things I did. Playing sports will make them better. Sports are a key stepping stone. Without sports, I don't know where they would be right now."

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Russ is an ardent caretaker when it comes to those beliefs. She attends every one of Reggie's events that she can and becomes a vocal, positive cheerleader for her son and every one of the Wildcats on the field. She makes sure that her pride for her son and his school is heard by all.

Along the way, she became the ultimate sports mom. Russ not only makes sure her son attends practices, she has even participated in the Wildcats' drills.

"Reggie just loves being in the group," Russ said. "It's like having an extra family. They are all like brothers. He loves the bond. I love the bond, too, because I love being with the kids." Russ readily accepts the role she has in life. She is a single mother of four who grew up in a single-parent family herself. Although she says she had all the love, care and spoiling her mother could give while working to provide for the family, something was missing.

"I had a lot of issues. I got in a lot of trouble," Russ said. "I was angry and I don't know why. When I was in school, I wanted to play football and wrestle, but they wouldn't let me back then. So I went out for track. I found that it kept me out of trouble. When you are out there running, you are free with nothing to worry about." Free...That's a feeling that Russ wants 16-year-old Reggie to feel as he competes in football, wrestling and track for the Wildcats. Later, it will be the same path she will try to help 10-year-old Elijah follow. They will have the chance to use sports to the fullest extent.

Russ' other children followed their own paths. Her daughter Curretta, 21, chose to be more scholarly in school while her other son, Michael, 18, played some football.

For Reggie, he has the experience of his elders and the enthusiasm of sports to help him walk the fine line of balance. That is to stay out of trouble, compete and get the good grades needed to stay on the playing field. Russ makes sure that Reggie's grades-which are strong-are what they need to be so her son can continue to participate.

It's all part of the game plan for Reggie to follow.

"I want them to be better than me. I don't want him to be on welfare. I don't want him going from job to job," Russ said. "I tell him he needs the grades to make sure he can go on-hopefully to college because he wants to play football-and have something to fall back on. ... Being in school keeps him on the right track." Russ' love for sports, her son and his teammates grew into "Survivor" dimensions. Before the 2009 football season, she jumped into a little reality show of her own and battled to stay on the island.

Football coach Randy Longnecker began summer weightlifting training for the team and invited the parents to come out for the sessions. Russ took him up on the offer.

"I wanted to lose weight and didn't have the money to join a gym," she said.

"So, I went with Reggie and started working out with the team. Other parents could have done it, but I was the only one who did. I lost 50 pounds." She trained with the team and walked while the players ran. Reggie didn't mind his mother joining "the team." In fact, he sort of enjoyed having his mother around. He was more concerned about her health more than anything.

"I have two bad knees," Russ said. "When they would be running, he kept coming by and saying, 'Mom, you don't have to do this.' I said 'I can walk.' It was for both of us." The whole process gave Russ a part of the bond that Reggie was enjoying.

When she started working with the team, the players all thought Russ was Reggie's sister.

"They'd cuss and I'd tell them to watch their language," she said. "Now if it happens, they catch themselves and say 'Sorry, Mrs. Russ.'" Now Russ is better than the Wildcat mascot or a lucky charm for Williamsport teams. The players expect her to be at all their events and they miss her when she isn't there.

"They all ask me if I'm going to be there and, if I'm not, they ask me where I was," she said. "I tell them I will be there if I can get off of work.

Right now, I need all the hours I can get." The whole process is part of a great game plan in Teresa Russ' eyes. High school athletics have set up the groundwork for so much in her family.

"I don't care if Reggie wins or loses, I just want him to go out and give it his all," Russ said. "I want to be there to help him get back and understand that. This is my chance to be with the kids. There is nothing better than sitting and watching your kids."

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