“I was such a shy little boy,” Lou Ciampi Jr. said, “afraid of my own shadow,” and I thought, “no one who knows him is going to believe that.”
Then he added something that made more sense.
“But I didn’t stay that way,” he said. “I always tease my dad and Coach Marranca that I’m their Frankenstein. Their worst nightmare.”
He was talking about his self confidence, of which he says, and many others might agree, he has way too much. He credits Lou Ciampi Sr. and former Wyoming Area football coach Paul Marranca.
This was not where I expected our conversation to go.
Lou Jr. and I were talking over coffee late Monday afternoon, a get-together I had requested. Like mayflies to a street light, I am hopelessly attracted to passion and positive thinking and Lou Ciampi Jr. has an abundance of both. It was something I’ve wanted get closer to for years and with a pet project of Lou’s about to be on display at the Pittston Area-Wyoming Area football game Friday night, I decided now was the time.
That Lou also has more confidence that any ten people I know put together was beside the point, but the first thing he brought up.
The event coming up is the annual induction of former Wyoming Area football players into the Warrior Ring of Pride, a hall of fame begun by Lou in 1998 and spearheaded by him ever since. You’ll find more on that in a story by Jack Smiles elsewhere in today’s Greater Pittston Progress, so let’s get back to Lou.
Known to “at least half” of the people in his life by his nickname “Bikes” (“my wife calls me Lou but my brother calls me Bikes”), Lou points to playing football at Wyoming Area, and specifically playing football under Coach Marranca as preparing him for life.
“Look at football,” he says. “You prepare as best you can for a Friday night game. Win or lose, you take the next day off. After that you look at film and analyze what you did right and what you did wrong. From what you learn, you prepare again. And then it’s another Friday night.”
The key, Lou says, is the preparation. “That takes discipline,” he adds. “And that’s what football teaches you.”
At Wyoming Area, where he played for the last time in 1980, Lou learned how to win. That was not the case at Dickinson University where he continued his football career. “We won four games in four years, but those lessons were just as important,” he says. “In life you don’t win every day.”
Being able to bounce back after a loss was something Lou, along with his brother Jim and their dad had to face after their business, the printing firm Independent Graphics, was wiped out by a flood in 2011. “We lost everything,” Lou said, “but we came back and in 2014 we had our best year ever.”
Lou, who has worked for his dad for the last 32 years, says he owes his father much, including his unusual nickname. Lou Sr. ran a bicycle shop before he went into the printing business.
The healthy measure of confidence that Lou Jr. almost apologizes for, is also a gift from his dad, as well as Coach Marranca, he says. The two of them taught him he can do anything and at 54 years old he still believes he can. He just completed an Olympic distance triathlon. And while he can no longer jump rope for nearly four straight hours as he once did to raise money for the American Heart Association, he eats right, trains every day, and is always planning his next competition. “I know Father Time is undefeated,” he says, “but I’m gonna keep trying as long as I can.”
Lou calls himself a “very happy” man. “Especially when I remember to get off the merry-go-round.”
That means making sure his family -- wife Lisa and children Louis, 12, Nicholas, 9, and Mia, 7 -- get their share of his time. “My daughter is the love of my life,” he says. “I’m always jokingly saying to my sons, ‘Leave me alone, I’m with your sister.’”
It also means setting aside time for his dad, which he does daily. “I call him The Boss,” Lou said. “Like Steinbrenner and Springsteen. He’s both in my eyes.”
And as for that “Frankenstein” of confidence he was so quick to tell me about?
“Sometimes I think I have too much confidence,” Lou says, “but I would tell young people it is better to have too much confidence than not enough. Too much confidence can always be adjusted. For me that usually happens while I am dusting off the seat of my pants.”
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week for Greater Pittston Progress. Look for his blogs during the week at pittstonprogress.com