FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Three men who worked together for 13 years in the Fairfield Giants Pop Warner program coached their final games on Sunday.
Head coach Mark Innaimo and assistant coaches Lee Battista and Ronnie Ciccia have been serving the youth of Fairfield and Fairfield Pop Warner since 2003.
The coaches touched the lives of more than 400 players, including five children of their own between Innaimo and Battista. Ciccia, who put in 15 total years in the program, coached even though he had no children in the program.
In their 13-year run, the trio has coached at all levels of Pop Warner, beginning with the 7-year-old Mitey Mites and through the Junior Varsity and Varsity levels for players ages 13 and 14. They amassed a 96-27 record, a .789 winning percentage.
The coaches led their teams to:
- 10 Southern Connecticut Pop Warner (SCPW) divisional championship games, winning seven
- Six Connecticut State championship games, winning four
- Two New England championships, claiming two titles
- Two National Pop Warner championships in Florida, placing second in the nation in 2007 and third in the nation in 2009.
“While the titles and trophies are great, what is most important is that, long after the scoreboard lights fade, you have created great memories and life lessons for your players,'' Battista said.
“The trio has created a legacy for certain, and memories for a lifetime for themselves, their players and for Fairfield Pop Warner,'' Innaimo said. "It is great to see grown men in their 20s still calling you ‘Coach’ when they see you in town.”
The three have seen many of their players head off to successful high school football careers at Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde, Fairfield Prep and St. Joseph. More importantly, as Ciccia noted, “Almost all of them have headed off to college as successful young men.”
In addition to their thousands of logged coaching hours, Innaimo and Battista also served on the Executive Board of Directors for Fairfield Pop Warner since 2006. Their administrative service included every Executive Board title from Secretary to President. They oversaw the program as it instituted mandatory concussion and safety training for all of its coaches -- the first youth football league in the nation to do so.
The program was so cutting-edge that it was recognized by the NFL for its safety protocols and included two visits from NFL Commissioner Goodell. The two coaches secured multiple grants for the NFL and witnessed a flag football program that has grown by more than 600 percent in the last five years.
Fairfield Pop Warner itself is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary of service to the Fairfield Community. Since 1966, Fairfield Pop Warner has been based at Sullivan Field—named after John J. Sullivan, Fairfield’s first selectman for a record 12 terms, from 1959 to 1983. Sullivan was instrumental in establishing the league and finding a home for Fairfield Pop Warner half a century ago.
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