SUBMITTED PHOTOKaren Jean-Paul and her daughter Genevieve sit at the stands of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. on Sunday.

SUBMITTED PHOTOKaren Jean-Paul and her daughter Genevieve sit at the stands of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. on Sunday.

BIDDEFORD — At Gillette stadium on Sunday, 9-year-old Genevieve Jean- Paul, of Biddeford, competed against other young athletes in her age group and won first place. The competition – known as the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition – aims to educate families and their children on staying healthy and active while having fun.

The competition is for boys and girls between ages 6 and 15. Each age group competes separately against their equal peers, resulting in five separate divisions (6- 7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15) competing in their ability to accurately and successfully punt, pass and kick a football.

“When we found out she qualified for sectionals, we were ecstatic,” said Genevieve’s mother, Karen Jean-Paul. “She took first place at our Maine sectionals and then we had to wait to see if her score was high enough to qualify for the regional competition at Gillette stadium. Out of the six sectional scores, they pick the top four, which included her.”

With more than three million boys and girls from across the country taking part in the PPK competition each year, it is one of the oldest and largest competitions for youth sports participation. For Genevieve, the news was something out of a fairy tale.

“When I found out, I was so excited,” exclaimed Genevieve, who tossed around her winning football in proud accomplishment. “I practiced a lot for it. My dad taught me footwork and my mom taught me how to hold my hands further on the ball to get a better grip.”

Karen Jean-Paul explained that her daughter’s love for sports started at a young age. When Genevieve was just 3 years old she was already kicking around a soccer ball in the yard and practicing often to increase her skills.

“She is driven and determined. She often comes up to me and says, ‘Hey mom, we need to practice,’ and we’ll spend hours kicking around a ball under the street lights,” said Karen Jean-Paul. “It’s great to reflect on those moments because that’s what the competition is all about: getting kids to exercise while still actively having fun.”

Karen Jean-Paul explained that sports have some young athletes under a lot of pressure to win, but believes it is important for her daughter, and other young children her age, to understand that it’s okay to win or lose because the experience should run much deeper than that.

“As a young athlete, you have both good times and bad times. What matters is that you’re a good sport in the end,” she said. “We also try not to push her. If she wants to take part in sports in the future, she definitely can – but we’re here to support her regardless.”

The family awaits news in late December as to whether or not young Genevieve has made it to finals. The New England Patriots Team Championship winners’ score will be compared to the winners from 31 other team champions to determine who qualifies for national competition, which will be held in January during an NFC playoff game.

“The hardest part is waiting until later this month to see if she qualifies,” said Karen Jean-Paul, as her daughter danced in excitement by her side. “She loved everything about that experience: the fireworks, the cheering fans and, most importantly, playing on the field. Regardless, we’re just happy to have had that true New England experience and we’re so proud of everything she has accomplished.”

— Krysteana Scribner can be contacted at 282-1535.

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