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JCC’s Bridge ventures to Africa to teach basketball

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Charlie Bridge III stepped down as the Jefferson Community College men’s basketball and softball coach to pursue an opportunity he has been researching for years.

In about a month, Bridge will venture to Ghana, Africa, to work with the youth developmental program “DUNK Grassroots,” which is designed for deprived neighborhoods in Accra, the capital city of Ghana.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve thought about it for five or six years, but coaching basketball and softball, I just haven’t had the time to do it,” Bridge said. “So I just figured, before I get too old, I might as well go do it.”

Bridge’s assignment runs from Oct. 1 to March 31. He will be stationed in an area with English as the primary language, working with boys and girls from ages 6-to-13 on the fundamentals of basketball.

“It’s an exciting opportunity. It will be something different and definitely be a life-changing experience,” Bridge said.

Bridge informed his players on both teams of his decision to step down after softball season concluded in May, in an effort to tell each player in person before they left for the summer.

He coached men’s basketball for seven years, after one year as an assistant. He was the head softball coach for five seasons.

Among his accomplishments, Bridge led the Cannoneers to the Mid-State Athletic Conference men’s basketball regular season and tournament titles in 2009. Each program made several appearances in the Region 3 playoffs during his tenure.

“I think we did a lot of great things there,” said Bridge, son of Charlie Bridge Jr., the Sackets Harbor boys basketball coach of 26 years.

“The most rewarding thing for me was seeing kids go on and succeed at the four-year colleges at that level. We sent numerous kids on and it’s always great when they send me a text message (saying) ‘It’s my last semester at school, thanks for everything.’ That’s kind of what it’s all about.”

Bridge said that, if his upcoming experience pans out, he plans to go back to school for a degree in international relations or human services upon his return.

According worldbank.org, Ghana’s poverty headcount ratio was 28.5 percent in 2006, the latest available information on the site.

“One of the things that I’ve always wanted, and that’s kind of why I recruit a lot out of New York City, is helping some less fortunate people that weren’t brought up in as good of a situation as I was in,” Bridge said. “When you go over there, that’s kind of the extreme of what you’re working with and that’s always something I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of.”

JCC CHOOSES REPLACEMENTS

Following Bridge’s departure, JCC Director of Athletics Jeff Wiley hired Joe Vaadi to take over the men’s basketball program, and Lyndsay Rowell as head softball coach.

Vaadi is a self-described coaching lifer. He was the head men’s soccer coach at Division III SUNY Potsdam for 13 years, leaving in 2010.

He previously coached the SUNY Potsdam women’s basketball team and was an assistant for the men’s program for about 10 years.

Vaadi said he helped out with the JCC men’s team sporadically for the last few years. He was the head baseball coach at South Jefferson last year.

He officially accepted the position with JCC last month.

“I love coaching. It’s always been a part of my life and this is an opportunity to get back and I really appreciate Jeff Wiley giving me the opportunity to get back into the game of basketball,” Vaadi said. “I look forward to it this year and I think we’re going to put a pretty good product on the floor.”

Vaadi said that Matt Gorman, who played for Watertown High School and won an NCAA Division I men’s basketball national title with Syracuse University in 2003, will work with the team as an assistant coach.

n Rowell is a 2008 Sandy Creek graduate and played on Bill Fowler’s 2007 team that advanced to the state final. She was named to the all-state second team as a senior.

Rowell went on to play four years at Division III SUNY Cortland, pitching the Red Dragons to two World Series appearances, three SUNYAC titles and two regional championships. As a senior in 2012, Rowell was a third-team All American as well as the SUNYAC and ECAC Pitcher of the Year.

Since then, Rowell has given hitting and pitching instructions at Hazen’s Athletics, coached Hazen’s 16-and-under travel team and coached the junior varsity team at Oswego High School.

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