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11/7/17

Jack Del Rio faced a difficult early matchup in his foundation’s inaugural bocce-ball tournament Tuesday. It was Del Rio’s team of Raiders coaches against the squad from Hayward High, where Del Rio played three sports.

 

“Yeah, that was tough,” Del Rio said. “I mean, we got beat by Hayward.”

 

Del Rio’s team bowed out early. But his event, held at Campo di Bocce in Fremont, was a win, attracting 32 teams and raising funds for several East Bay causes, including the athletic programs of Hayward, Mount Eden and Tennyson high schools, NorCal Special Olympics and the Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Athletic League.

 

The Raiders’ bye week allowed Del Rio to host the tournament during the season. He said part of the funds raised would go toward new pads, helmets and other equipment for the three Hayward-based public schools’ football teams.

 

“Football’s been good to us, and we — just as a family, my wife and I — want to give back to the community,” Del Rio said. “So it’s awesome to be able to do this, have fun for a great cause and be able to do something specifically for the people here.”

 

Among the Raiders’ coaches competing Tuesday were Todd Downing, John Pagano, Sal Sunseri and Mike Tice. Former 49ers and Cal head coach Steve Mariucci helmed a team that included celebrity chef and Raiders fan Guy Fieri. The event also included a silent auction — a dinner with Del Rio and his wife, Linda, went for $10,000.

 

Mariucci, along with John Madden, has hosted a bocce tournament for charities in the Bay Area since 1999. The NFL Network analyst gave a candid assessment of Del Rio’s bocce technique.

“For a defensive player, linebacker kind of guy, it’s pretty decent form,” Mariucci said. “Bocce is a touch sport, a finesse sport. Defensive guys have trouble usually. But Jack’s got a little finesse to him.”

 

Defensive end Khalil Mack also showed some finesse in a brief on-court cameo. Derek Carr, Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph, Giorgio Tavecchio and most Raiders rookies were spectators. General manager Reggie McKenzie made an appearance.

 

In the wake of a 27-24 win at Miami on Sunday, it made for a lax afternoon for the Raiders — mostly.

 

“You’re gonna compete,” Del Rio said.

 

Added Linda Del Rio: “I have the coaches’ wives on my team. Talk about competitive.”

 

Mariucci could attest. Two years ago, at Raiders training camp in Napa, Mariucci challenged Del Rio to an on-air bocce match during an NFL Network segment.

 

“It was an upset,” Mariucci said. “He beat me.”

 

Matt Kawahara is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: mkawahara@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @matthewkawahara

 

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10/20/17

HAYWARD — At 9 years old, Dania Silva is near the top of her game.

 

Last year, the Southgate Elementary fourth-grader was ranked as the top Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter in the world for her age group after beating out competitors from as far away as the United Kingdom. This year, Dania is ranked No. 4 among other 10-year-old fighters in her age division worldwide and competing against those who are up to two years older in close to half of her competitions.

 

“Sometimes I think about it, but sometimes I leave it alone and be humble,” Dania said Monday in an interview at Z Martial Arts Training Academy in Castro Valley, where she trains four to five days a week for two or three hours a day.

 

“We don’t really focus on that; it does drive you, though, when you see your name up there and lets you know that you can do it,” Dania’s father, Sergio Silva, said.

 

“I like to show them that all of this hard effort is paying off, and I think that’s what motivates us to keep on practicing jiu-jitsu. There’s a lot of kids who do the sport for one or two years and then disappear because it gets very hard. If you do it for self-defense, a lot of kids will last a long time, but when you start getting into the competitions, you’re going against super athletes and competing to win stuff, so it gets very demanding,” he said.

 

The journey to the top actually began when Dania began practicing taekwondo, another martial arts sport, at age 3 while her family was still living in Tijuana, Mexico. She and her older brother Leo, now 14, were introduced to Brazilian jiu-jitsu by a cousin shortly after they immigrated to Hayward in 2013.

 

While taekwondo focuses on kicking and jumping techniques, jiu-jitsu is a combat sport that concentrates primarily on grappling and ground-fighting techniques.

 

“I liked (taekowndo) and it was fun, but I thought jiu-jitsu was more fun and better because I could defend myself,” Dania said.

“In taekwondo, we only did kicks and punches, but here, there’s more moves and cooler stuff to do,” she said.

 

But working her way up the ranks wasn’t easy, and at times resulted in a few bloody lips and bruises since she started competing in jiu-jitsu tournaments about three years ago, Sergio Silva said. For nearly a year and a half, he recalled that Dania would cry before she entered tournaments.

 

“I didn’t want to compete because I didn’t think I was ready. I thought I would have done something like karate and stuff, and would get out of the tournament,” Dania said.

 

“She would say, ‘I’m just going to tap the other girl out and get it over with,’ and I think that’s how she got her finesse,” said her father, who began his jiu-jitsu training two years ago.

 

“She was just so scared but she just wanted to enter, compete and be like, ‘You know what, I’m just going to get it over with,’ ” he said.

But the thought of competing against other fighters doesn’t phase her as much anymore. She now holds a yellow belt after working her way up from the white and gray belts. The remaining belts, symbolizing skill levels, for youth fighters up to 15 years old, are orange and green.

These days, her mindset is focused on her other things, such as the banner hanging above the training area at Z Martial Arts Training Academy; it’s a maxim, attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius, that reads: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

 

“I keep it in my mind, and every time I step on the mat, I read it to know to never cry and stand up for yourself,” Dania said.

 

In more recent years, Dania and her brother Leo have competed in top U.S. tournaments for kids, including the Kids World Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championships in Long Beach and American National Kids International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Jiu-Jitsu Championships, along with stops at other local bouts in San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.

 

“I know it’s going to get tougher, and they’re going to try and get me, so I’m going to have to train harder,” Dania said.

 

Still, the jiu-jitsu community has proven to be a supportive and tightly knit for the Silvas, who have started to compete in the same tournaments together, albeit in different age groups. The youngest Silva sibling, Julyana, 6, is still training and holding back from competing, at least for now.

 

Apart from her rigorous training routine, some of Dania’s success can be attributed to the family’s schedule at home, which includes only about 30 or 40 minutes set aside for watching television during the week, Silva said.

 

“It becomes natural over time because we know we have jiu-jitsu for two or three hours a day and we always have to do homework no matter what, so they (the kids) feed off of each other: The big brother helps the middle sister, and she will help the youngest one,” he said.

 

“I’m pretty much the enforcer, which means making sure everything gets done before the night ends, making sure they have their dinner and all of that, but I kind of let them help each other out and play their role,” he said.

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dramos@husd.us

 

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