The Essex Chargers youth football team held a joint practice with the combined Burlington-Winooski team last week just days before taking the field against each other.

The mutual practice was to introduce players from different backgrounds to each other, according to Chargers coach Tony Arcovitch.

“We’re becoming a more diverse area, and … Burlington and Winooski have many different nationalities on the team,” Arcovitch said. “It’s a good way for kids to learn and see from each other.”

The teams practiced together last Thursday before sharing dinner — pizzas from JR’s Pizza, whose owner helps coach the Chargers. The teams also swapped helmet decals — lightning bolts for the Chargers, onions for the Burlington-Winooski squad — that they plan to wear for the rest of the season. The Chargers also wore purple tape on their helmets in support of a player on the opposing squad who has cystic fibrosis.

Arcovitch said last week’s gathering was the first time he’s held a joint practice with another team. And though Essex won both games, Arcovitch, a coach of more than 30 years, said he has always approached the task with a goal of teaching kids “life lessons [beyond] the game of football.”

“If it wasn’t for coaches, I probably would have ended up in a bad situation,” he said, recalling how his father died when he was young. “Somebody was there for me when I needed it so I wanted to be there for someone else.”

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