When That Door Of Opportunity Opened
Apr 15, 2021Posted by james

Colin Blackwell consistently has talked about believing in himself. He always has remained confident in his abilities from the day he set his sights on the NHL. Colin also has remained patient and optimistic that good things will occur for him on the ice. He knew that when the opportunity door fully opened, he would be ready to step over the threshold and succeed in the best hockey league in the world.

Colin has done just that this season with the New York Rangers. He had previous NHL experience with the Nashville Predators after playing in the minors with the San Jose and Buffalo organizations. However, the door never completely opened for him during those earlier stops on the circuit. Now, with the Rangers, he plays on all four lines and creates scoring chances from just about anywhere inside the opposition’s blue line. Colin has scored 12 goals in 32 games (as of April 14) this season after scoring only three in 33 previous games in the league.

This kind of open-door opportunity usually does not occur with the Rangers, a team with a heralded history and many big-name big-ticket players. Before this season’s training camp, the Rangers did not sign Colin, a labeled journeyman, to a huge contract or provide him with a bonus. In this league, at age 27, he already is considered a middle-aged player. Yet, the team pursued the free agent. They saw potential in him on the NHL level to blend nicely with the youth and the top line star players.

Colin quickly jumped into the flow, scoring goals and setting up goals for others. He knew the opportunities to produce in the NHL were few and none provided a guarantee that he would be in the league a day later. It just all came together at this time, with this team and with this coach. Colin felt engaged from the first day he joined the Rangers. He felt the support from teammates, the coaching staff and management.

“When the opportunity comes,” said Colin, “you have to make the most of it. I try to do that every single day.”

Loading His Bodybuilding Guns For Competition
Apr 01, 2021Posted by james

Joe Tolve always is chasing his next meal. Food is fuel according to this Ossining (Westchester County) police sergeant who is a firearms instructor and SWAT team member.

Joe has been an amateur bodybuilder since his teens. As with all his achievements, bodybuilding has required full-time discipline. Training is five days a week at 90-minute intervals.

As for food, Joe gobbles 2,200-3,200 calories daily. He said the science of bodybuilding is 70 percent diet. That might mean 40 ounces of chicken each day along with whey protein, avocados, peanut butter, oatmeal, walnuts and sweet potatoes. Proper diet is crucial, according to Joe. He said at least 10 friends have tried bodybuilding. The diet not the workout was their downfall.

Joe indicated that a bodybuilder cannot find a shortcut to success. There isn’t any negotiation with the body. Positive results push a person to the next level.

As a teen, Joe competed in local shows in the Hudson Valley. Then, he won the Mr. Teen Long Island competition. From 1991 to 2014, however, a period that included four years in the Air Force, Joe did not step onto a bodybuilding stage. A few years ago, determined to return to competition, he focused on a regimen for seven weeks. When the National Physique Committee (NPC), the largest amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States, introduced its Classic Bodybuilding division, Joe’s dimensions were perfect and he returned to the stage.

Joe won the Men’s Masters Classic Physique overall at the NPC Powerhouse Classic in Connecticut a few years ago. He then rolled right into the Team Universe competition and placed second among the over-40 men, third in the over-35s, and eighth overall in the open class of 26 competitors. His goal is to become a professional bodybuilder.

Joe is a wonderful story about discipline, focus and hard work. What I like most, though, is that the sport that is the foundation for Joe’s success is lacrosse.

In looking back at how he got to this point in his life, Joe said he had been a “scrawny” 15-year-old Ossining High School lacrosse player. His stepfather decided that lifting weights would help Joe bulk up. That led to the competitions mentioned above and many others since, his honorable military service and his success on the Ossining Police Department.

Lacrosse sure does wonders for a young man!

Empowering The Girls Of Long Island
Mar 15, 2021Posted by james

The girls of Long Island have great friends at Girls on the Run. The local council of Girls on the Run International is providing our young ladies with virtual and in-person programs during these unusual times.

Girls on the Run delivers a physical, activity-based, positive youth development program for girls from third to eighth grades. The girls who participate in the programs develop and improve competence, become more confident in themselves, develop strength of character, respond to others and themselves with care, create positive connections with peers and adults, and positively contribute to their community and society.

More than 100 girls in Nassau and Suffolk counties participated in last fall’s programs. All sessions are led by trained volunteer coaches.

Practices during the eight-week program are held outdoors. Participants and coaches maintain social distance and employ proper sanitary/protection materials that adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines. When weather isn’t favorable, rain dates or virtual lessons mirror in-person lessons.

Girls on the Run also offers financial assistance for families on a tight budget to ensure that no girl is unable to participate in the program.

Parents have been positive about the Girls on the Run programs. A mom of a fourth-grade student noticed “a very positive change in her overall attitude and behavior.” Another parent of a fifth-grade student indicated that her daughter “really enjoyed it and looked forward to going to practice very Wednesday and Friday.

Learn more about Girls on the Run Long Island at www.gotrlongisland.org . Besides girls for the programs, the organization seeks women and men as volunteers for a number of opportunities, including team coaches.

Congratulations to everyone who supports this wonderful program for the girls of Long Island.

Having Fun Asserts Leadership
Mar 01, 2021Posted by james

UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi became an internet sensation following her January 2019 floor routine. The online video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ic7RNS4Dfo) of that fabulous performance has captured almost 150 million views.

Katelyn is so athletic with energetic flips, splits and other moves. The judges awarded her a perfect 10. If you watch the two-minute clip, you also will notice so much more about her.

Katelyn is having fun. She “radiates warmth and glee,” wrote a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. “I think Ohashi’s routine is a radiant expression of what it means for a human being to be very, very good at something—and to want to share that with everyone.”

As you watch her routine, note the reaction of Katelyn’s teammates. They’re enthusiastically cheering for her. But, more than clapping and fist pumping, they’re synchronizing elements of the routine with her.

What we see, and what people who were in the arena that day personally witnessed, is not simply the athletics of an individual but the definition of teamwork. Research by psychologist Peter Totterdell (professor in the Psychology Department at Sheffield University, United Kingdom, and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society) indicated that a team’s collective mood often is in sync with the mood of the leader. When a leader is upbeat, the positive energy is transferred to individuals. Energy radiates from the top.

Happiness and positive attitude captivate others. In sports, in business and elsewhere in life, expressing joy and passion encourages other people to react positively, and this, in turn, provides an incentive for individual and group success. If you identify with Katelyn, then you, too, are inspiring the people around you.

Following the floor routine, Katelyn’s beaming statement circulated in the media: “At the end of the day, I just go out there and do my best and have as much fun as I can.”

That’s a leader!

Marty Lyons Grants 8,000 Wishes For Ill Children
Nov 15, 2020Posted by james

On March 4, 1982, Rocky was born to New York Jets defensive tackle Marty Lyons and his wife. Marty recalls that the moment was a tremendous joy.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck the Lyons family during the following days. His father died from a heart attack at the age of 58. Two days later, a boy of five who Marty served as a Big Brother, died from leukemia.

What should have been a happy time for Marty instead left him shaken. Known for his toughness on the field, he now was searching for answers.

Eventually, Marty realized that highs and lows are part of life. Then, he said, it dawned on him that “this was the platform God gave me, to play in the NFL, and use that platform to help terminally ill children.”

The pain now made sense to Marty and it gave him a purpose beyond professional football.

The Marty Lyons Foundation began later that year. The organization’s mission is to grant wishes to children between three and 17 years old who have a terminal or life-threatening illness. Wishes can be a trip to Disney World or a laptop for schoolwork from the hospital.

Marty clearly remembers the first wish that came to the foundation. The young man, Steven, hoped to attend the Super Bowl in Tampa when the Oakland Raiders played the Washington Redskins.  Marty asked the Jets organization for guidance. The Jets organized a press conference to announce that they would be granting the wish and raised awareness for the new foundation. Unfortunately, Steven passed away before the foundation granted his wish. Despite only briefly knowing each other, Steven impacted Marty’s life.

Steven was proud to be the first wish for the new foundation. The boy’s father, shortly after his son died, gave Marty some insight on how to proceed — “Just remember one thing: do it because you want to do it. Don’t do it because you want to read about it.”

Close to 40 years later, Marty’s foundation now has operations in 13 states. Almost 8,000 children have received their wishes. Hundreds of wishes await funds to be granted.

The foundation actively is fundraising and seeking donations as the number of wishes far exceeds the financial resources provided by donations. Ninety percent of all donations are dedicated to the wish program.

Marty accomplished much on the field, placing him in the Jets Ring of Honor. His legacy, though, will be his work with the foundation, though he insists his contributions are nothing compared to the young people who are fighting life-altering diseases. He always states that the boys and girls who pass away are teachers and that the rest of us need to take the time to develop relationships with them and listen to their messages.

Bronx Student Reports To West Point
Nov 01, 2020Posted by james

Jayden Jenkins fell in love with football at an early age. But the young man always has been realistic, knowing that sports can only get a kid so far in life. Jayden quickly learned that education is key for career and life advancement.

As classes ended this past June at Stepinac High School in White Plains, Jayden announced that he planned to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point to play football and build a career in the military.

“I’m ready to leave,” Jayden announced at the time.

Jayden was raised in the South Bronx. He wanted to play basketball to follow in the footsteps of his father. But, when he was introduced to football by older cousins, he became hooked on the game by the age of six.

Through middle school, Jayden played for the Harlem Jets, the oldest and largest of the Jet’s community programs with more than 250 boys between the ages of five and 18. He was a running back and a scoring machine. He enjoyed the contact.

When it came time to explore high schools, Jayden noticed that many kids who played football at that level were built much larger than his slim frame. So, when he got to Stepinac, he hit the weight room, bulked up and practiced. He helped his school win two state championships.

Football has allowed Jayden to mature and become a leader, and he repeatedly has acknowledged the significant support he has received from coaches along the way. He also praises his parents, Ronald and Lanel, who kept him focused on education.

Jayden learned that many kids, especially in his Bronx neighborhood, aren’t as fortunate to have his drive, coaches who care and two involved loving parents. He credits football and basketball for keeping him off the streets and out of trouble. He credits his parents for helping him strive for success in the classroom.

As his high school play improved, Columbia, Sacred Heart, Army and Navy watched him. Nothing, though, felt right until he visited West Point. The size of the school and its atmosphere made him feel welcome.

“I was shocked,” he said when he learned that he had been accepted at the U.S. Military Academy. “My parents told me my time is going to come.”

Lacrosse Offers Hope, Sense Of Family In Film
Oct 15, 2020Posted by james

“The Grizzlies” is a recent film that tells the inspiring true story about a town that suffered the highest suicide rate in North America. The residents found hope through the introduction of a lacrosse program for their teens.

Back during 1998, a recent college graduate (the film character Russ Sheppard) takes a job as a history teacher at Kugluktuk High School in the Canadian Arctic territory of Nunavut. Russ, a Caucasian, found that many of the Native students didn’t attend classes. They drank or took drugs, and the suicide rate was high. Crosses in the cemetery multiplied at an alarming rate.

Russ played lacrosse in college. He wondered if the game would give the kids a focus in life. He started a hard sell to spark interest, first speaking with the school’s principal and then promoting the program among the students with a flyer.

Russ was naïve about the culture. One girl helped him. She said that if he convinced two specific students to try lacrosse, the others would follow their lead. She told Russ to approach the students personally to show respect, rather than just hand them a flyer.

Russ learned that the problems faced by the teens extended into the home. Poverty, hunger, domestic violence and homelessness were part of the equation. One parent was drunk on the couch, forcing a student to forage for food for himself and a little brother. The girl helping Russ was abused at home. Another boy witnessed his father’s abuse of his mother.

These troubled teens, each suffering with his or her own problems, eventually found lacrosse as a new kind a family. Russ learned as much from his students as they from him. It’s the teens who build the team and keep it together.

“The Grizzlies” tells an interesting tale that brings a teacher and teens together through the sport of lacrosse. I would be interested in learning more about the actual teacher and his students who are the subject of this film, and where they are today.

The Sports Legacy Of Mary Pratt
Oct 01, 2020Posted by james

Mary Pratt passed away earlier this year at the age of 101. She had been identified as the last surviving member of the 1943 Rockford (Illinois) Peaches. Mary was a left-handed pitcher and hitter who also played for the Kenosha (Wisconsin) Comets.

The teams were part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that existed from 1943 until 1954. The league was immortalized in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own.”

Mary was born on November 30, 1918, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts. She attended Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. During her college years, Mary participated in numerous sports — basketball, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, field hockey, tennis, archery and sailing. She earned a degree in physical education and began her career as an instructor in Quincy.

Mary joined the Peaches at the start of the league’s inaugural season, playing in 24 games with a 5–11 win-loss record on the mound and a .235 batting average. She played five years in the league, which had a unique competitive rule. To maintain a high level of competition, players were shifted or traded at the discretion of league officials. After one year with the Peaches, Mary played for Kenosha.

During her first year with the Comets, Mary won 21 games and pitched a no-hitter. She led Kenosha to the league championship series. According to an article for the Society of American Baseball Research, Mary “was very effective using a controlled slingshot or windmill windup to get hitters out.” Unfortunately, her subsequent years with Kenosha were not as successful as the 1944 season. Mary won just one game during the final two years she played in the league.

Back home, Mary continued to teach physical education classes until 1986. She coached the school softball, basketball, soccer and tennis teams, and her softball teams won 10 state championships. Mary also officiated basketball, softball, field hockey and lacrosse games.

Mary Pratt enjoyed a stellar athletic career. She was a trailblazer for the many women who have enjoyed athletic competition over the last eight decades. Her legacy is secured with induction into the New England Sports Museum, Boston University Hall of Fame and the Boston Garden Hall of Fame.

Babe Ruth Always Drew Crowds…Even During A Health Crisis
Sep 15, 2020Posted by james

Baseball has been here before – playing its games during a national health crisis.

It was 1918. The nation was at war. The people of Hartford, Connecticut, decided to raise money for sports equipment they would send to France, hoping the local boys in the U.S. Army could occupy their idle time with baseball and football.

James Clarkin owned the Eastern League’s Hartford Senators. On September 9, he traveled to Boston to see the Red Sox and Chicago Cubs finish the World Series at Fenway Park. The series was played early that year, following the regular season that had been reduced to 130 games due to The Great War. The Hartford owner pitched an idea to the players, offering each team $1,000 and a share of the gate, for a quick post-series trip to Hartford for a game or two to raise money for Hartford’s Doughboys.

The proposal struck out. Many players were going into the service, or fulfilling “work or fight” orders in factories. Others just wanted to return home. Babe Ruth, however, liked the idea. So, with Babe in his pocket, James Clarkin created a weeklong barnstorming trip through New England, with stops in Hartford at the beginning and again at the end of the series.

Babe already was a huge attraction for the game. He would fill the stands. Never mind that the pandemic – the Spanish Flu – was spreading through New England at the time. “The grip” had caused panic during the spring and now it had returned in a more deadly second wave.

Warnings from health officials in Connecticut attempted to separate Ruth from his fans. However, his personality was not compatible with “social distancing.” While we know a lot about Ruth’s life, many people are not aware that earlier that year he was hospitalized with a rough case of the Spanish Flu. He suffered with a 104-degree fever and a swelled larynx. He nearly died but enjoyed a successful season with 13 wins and 11 home runs (tying the league record) following his recovery.

The first game in Hartford was scheduled for 4 p.m. Trolleys were added to the schedule to get about 5,000 people to the ballpark. As fans flocked to the game, doctors made house calls (remember these?) and the city’s hospitals were crowded with victims of the flu. When the players returned to Hartford a week later, Ruth again packed fans into the park. Local newspapers pleaded with the public to avoid crowds but also tempted them to see Babe play in a doubleheader.

About 3,000 fans were in the park for the twin bill while 500 convalesced in hospitals and others remained in bed at home. An unknown number of fans who attended the Hartford games were infected with the flu, but they just didn’t understand that avoiding crowds would suppress the spread of the disease. Most of them, luckily, recovered from the illness and bragged for years that they saw 23-year-old Babe Ruth storm through Hartford to raise funds for the local boys “over there.”

A Season To Bond For Hempstead PAL Lacrosse
Sep 01, 2020Posted by james

Hempstead PAL Lacrosse, as with all sports at all levels, was required to cancel its spring practices and games this year due to the COVID-19 virus. This came as a huge disappointment for the team’s fourth, fifth and sixth graders. The 22 kids on the roster were excited and ready to learn the game and, for some,play it competitively for the first time.

The Tigers are part of the Nassau-Suffolk County Police Athletic Lacrosse League. The nine-year Hempstead program, led by Coach Alan Hodish, has introduced the game to more than 100 African-American and Hispanic youngsters, several of whom are from single-parent homes.

Alan is a longtime friend of mine. He is a Garden City attorneyand a revered former lacrosse and football coach at Hempstead High School. He has cherished every opportunity to coach and teach lacrosse on Long Island. Recently, with his induction into the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Alan has been recognized for his decades of dedication to our student-athletes.

Hempstead PAL Lacrosse also has the commitment of Coach Bernard Williams and former high school players and other Long Island lacrosse standouts who serve as assistant coaches, role models, communicators and friends for the kids in the program. The team enjoyed several practices during the early spring before the crises paused the program. Only last month, once approved by the village, was the team allowed to gather for a handful of practices and learning sessions.

I have been involved with the program since its inception, providing the support required for these great kids to learn and enjoy a fantastic game. While the on-field activities stopped for a while, I did not pause my commitment to support Alan and the others as they continue to strengthen the program to welcomemore young players.

In honor of Alan’s ongoing devotion to the game and this specific program, an additional $10,000 has been donated to Hempstead PAL Lacrosse. My gift guarantees continued support of team operations, equipment, uniforms, expenses for officials and league registration, and an awards presentation at the end of each season. Even if these youngsters do not pursue lacrosse in high school, college, or professionally, the lessons, teamwork and camaraderie surelywill be a positive experience that the players will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

It has been a tough handful of months for these kids, and for all of us. I want the 2020 Hempstead PAL team to know that Alanand the other coaches will ensure that this season’s disappointment will be converted into a valuable lifetime lessonfor each of them.

2020 Hempstead PAL Roster

The 2020 Hempstead PAL Lacrosse Tigers roster consists of 22 players from fourth to sixth grades.

KayJay Benjamin – sixth grade

Jaden Bolling – fifth grade

Bentley Cannon – fourth grade

Amare Collins – sixth grade

Jonathan Davis – sixth grade

Keon Grier – sixth grade

Josh Hagler – sixth grade

Blake Harris – fourth grade

Jeremy Henderson – fifth grade

Tristan Herron – fourth grade

Jordan Hines – sixth grade

Steph Love – fifth grade

Julius McCloud – fifth grade

Zayden Mendez – fifth grade

Seth Montgomery – fourth grade

Aaden Sarduy – sixth grade

Riley Sarduy – fifth grade

Zyaire Thompson – sixth grade

Michael Toney – fourth grade

Morrell Toney – fifth grade

Ramon Washington – sixth grade

Jalil Watts – sixth grade