BOYS BASKETBALL

Portage hoopster Jordan Collazo adjusts to life as a teen parent

2014-01-30T22:00:00Z 2014-01-31T23:17:16Z Portage hoopster Jordan Collazo adjusts to life as a teen parentJim Peters and Hillary Smith Times Sports Writers nwitimes.com
January 30, 2014 10:00 pm  • 

It was a typical Sunday for Jordan Collazo, hanging out at home, watching the NBA All-Star Game.

Then the phone rang. It was his girlfriend, Julian Stodola, calling with news that would make their lives anything but typical.

She was pregnant.

"I remember there was 7:41 left (in the game)," Collazo said.

Close to two years later, the Portage High School junior recalls more than the numbers on the game clock about the day he was thrust into adulthood at the age of 15.

"A lot went through my mind," he said. "I knew I was going to stay with her. How is it going to change me? How is it going to affect basketball? School? I was scared, real scared."

His father Nelson's advice was simple in word if not in deed.

"Man up. Be a man," Collazo said.

Jordan Colton Collazo was born Nov. 3, 2012, a few weeks before the start of basketball practice. Hoops remains a big piece of the puzzle for Collazo, but his priorities are dramatically different. His 14-month old toddling bundle of energy is now the center of his world.

"Before I found out, I wasn't really caring," Collazo said. "Everything was basketball. I woke up to how important school is. (Jordan) means everything to me. I need to set an example. I try to be more responsible, more organized. They've made me a better person, all around. Both of them have. Night and day."

No one sees it more than Stodola.

"It was a big change," she said. "When he was born, I think that's when he realized it was all real. Guys usually leave. I thought he would break up with me. Any girl would think that. He really did take a lot of responsibility. He's been really supporting the whole time. He's really good at helping, changing diapers. He didn't care about school (before). Now he gets all As and Bs."

Collazo’s change for the better isn’t what researchers typically find under the circumstances, according to Dr. Jonathon Beckmeyer, an associate professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at Indiana University.

“When young people have children, it tends to be a very stressful experience, because it’s happening out of sequence with how we develop and with the more normative patterns of the family formation,"  Beckmeyer said. "Most people, when you’re a young person, you don’t have a lot of peers and friends who have the same experience and that adds more stress than an on-time child birth.”

A volleyball player as a freshman, Stodola gave up sports to focus on school, caring for Jordan and work.

"Sometimes, I miss being with my friends," she said. "He gets ear infections a lot. He'll be screaming and I'll think, 'I'm done. I'm taking the easy way out,' then he smiles and it warms my heart. It's hard. There are nights I get two hours sleep. But I realize it will benefit him in the long run."

Collazo and Stodola share joint custody of Jordan and both see him every day. Soon to be 17, Collazo is maturing into fatherhood as he watches his son grow, already developing an affinity for basketball. The boy attends almost every Portage game.

"It's crazy to think about sometimes," Collazo said. "One time, we were all at her house, he grabs the keys, takes them to the door and tries to open it. I see how smart he's getting. I think about being a dad. I don't take basketball nearly as hard. I think about my times with him and it helps me get through. Losing hurts, but he takes the pain away. I see him, I'm fine."

Rick Snodgrass is in his 30th year as a head coach. The experience with Collazo is a first, though he's not unfamiliar with the circumstances. His sophomore year at Benton Central in 1971, the girlfriend of his senior teammate, the star of the team, became pregnant. The senior was kicked off the team.

"That's how far we've come in society," Snodgrass said. "I'm old fashioned. The kids still have to wear a coat and tie. They have to get haircuts. But this is a different scenario. We want to make sure they succeed not only as basketball players. You say it's never going to happen to your child, but it can."

Data suggests students who are involved in sports and other activities are less inclined to become teen parents, but like every tendency, there are exceptions.

“Research, even more contemporary, shows that when youth are involved with positive after-school activities, like athletics, the boys and girls club or 4H, they have a better adjustment,” Beckmeyer said. “They have better physical health behavioral health and mental health. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to see some anomalies in those factors.”

While the circumstances aren't ideal, Snodgrass and his coaches are willing to accommodate Collazo when conflicts between practice and caring for Jordan occur.

"We understand there are going to be some situations that aren't normal, but we're all behind Jordan," Snodgrass said. "He's got good support from his family and the administration here has given him good guidance."

More than anything Collazo has done as a player, Snodgrass is proud of his academic strides and the leader he has become on and off the court.

"His whole focus is on doing the right things," Snodgrass said. "He's on the right track to be successful now. In any sport, the goal is obviously to win, but you don't see the backgrounds, what kids go through in life, building relationships. Those things don't equate to wins and losses."

Collazo hopes to play basketball in college. Stodola would like to go into medicine, possibly pediatrics or nursing. They plan to move in together after graduation and their personal opportunities will take each other and their son into account.

"Communication, teamwork," Collazo said. "You have to talk with the other person, see what they want to do. It's kind of like basketball. You just take it day to day."

While they're not painting a picture of teen parenthood through rose-colored glasses, Colazzo and Stodola believe it doesn't have to come at a cost of personal hopes and dreams. It just means taking a different, albeit more challenging, path.

“Overall, we’re not encouraging teens to get pregnant and have children,” Beckmeyer said. “When that’s happened, it’s then: what reaction are you going to have to it? If you provide the teen parents with support, because you have to parent, then let’s figure out ways in which you can do it for the best way for you, and you as a parent. Becoming a good parent, that’s something that the community can get behind.”

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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