Take A Sports “Step Back” With Rick Wolff
Nov 17, 2014Posted by james

With each year that passes, competitive athletics become more ingrained in our daily lives. Every television network seems to broadcast at least one of the traditional sports, the secondary sports, high school games, or even some of the events created specifically for television. Six different networks or channels handled the just completed baseball playoffs and World Series. In New York, we have two radio stations that just talk sports for 24 hours each day.

The increased coverage of sports hypes the excitement and engages the public in dialogue, but it also has opened the door to an ugly side of the games. We have learned about football players dealing with brain injuries later in life, athletes and coaches who administer mental and physical abuse, players caught with performance enhancement drugs, legal battles and lockouts, inappropriate behavior by fans and players, and too many athletes who create needless controversy on Twitter.

All of these issues have a trickle-down effect on our young athletes. Parents and coaches from grade school through college often wonder how they should explain these complex issues to their kids, and they also need advice to help them address the many problems that arise in their own world of youth athletics.

For years, WFAN has aired a great sports program—Rick Wolff’s The Sports Edge (Sunday, 8-9 a.m., WFAN)—that too frequently passes under the sports talk radar. Focused solely on youth athletics, the conversations debate the opportunities and obstacles facing student athletes, parents and coaches.

Recent topics have been plucked from the sports headlines: putting an end to hazing, concussion concerns that affect high school football programs, cutting players for controversial tweets, dealing with the lack of playing time and the proper reaction when a coach wants a player to change positions on the field in the best interests of the team.

That’s not all. Other topics have focused on the safety of aluminum baseball bats, high school codes of conduct, holding parents accountable for their obnoxious behavior at games, privacy issues regarding athletes and online networks, and if cheerleading should be sanctioned as an official high school sport.

Wow! Amateur athletics certainly have changed over our lifetimes. Remember when you would just run outside to get some fresh air and enjoyed a pick-up game of baseball or touch football with friends in the street or park? Today, however, on almost every level, the games have become too organized and highly competitive.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for the competition, for the rewards of success and for the learning curve that comes with failure. Sometimes, though, with all that is going on in the sports world, I think we need a reality check. We need to take a step back to allow us to recapture the fun of sports that we enjoyed when we were kids. We need to do this for today’s young athletes.

That’s where The Sports Edge comes in, and each conversation is a walk-off home run.


Let’s Celebrate Youthful Achievements
Nov 03, 2014Posted by james

Before we get too deep into the academic athletic season, I wish to take this opportunity to shine the spotlight on a number of Long Island students who excelled in lacrosse during the previous school year. The players include gifted athletes on the high school level who will play in solid collegiate programs and grade school students who face daily challenges but have come together to learn and enjoy the game.

On the higher level, I created the James C. Metzger Leadership Award for Nassau County high school lacrosse. An award was presented to a player on each of the six teams that competed in the finals of the 2014 Section VIII Nassau County high school boys’ lacrosse championship held last May at Hofstra University. Each student reflected the tenacity, honesty, commitment and positive attitude required in Nassau lacrosse. Each player also possessed the ability to inspire others on and off the field.

The recipients were:
Syosset High School senior defender Liam Blohm always received the team assignment to defend the opponent’s top scorer. He’s now at Ohio State.
Massapequa High School Senior Midfielder Craig Berge. He’s at Georgetown University.
Lynbrook High School Senior Attacker Joe Grossi. He’s playing at SUNY Binghamton.
Manhasset High School Senior Defender Austin Orlando committed to Boston University.
Cold Spring Harbor High School Senior Midfielder Owen Love.
Locust Valley High School Defender Senior Sam Farren, who was a member of the varsity lacrosse team since freshman year.

For our younger athletes, I have been an avid supporter of the Hempstead PAL lacrosse team for several years. The team consists of African-American and Hispanic players from the fifth and sixth grades, and many of them are from single-parent households. This past season, only four of the 23 players previously had played lacrosse, yet they enjoyed an undefeated season by winning all nine games.

Coach Alan Hodish has been coaching youth sports on Long Island for many years and Hempstead PAL lacrosse for several seasons. At the season-ending awards presentation, he told the players, and their parents and guardians, that above all “we always are looking for good students and good citizens.”

Here is the roster of the 2014 undefeated Hempstead PAL team:

Sixth Graders: Mekhi Affrainy, Tyrek Benjamin, Nasir Bishop, Josue Canales, Lassaun Corely,
Daniel Dobson, Righteous Holden, John Jackson-Tinch, Dahmire Johnson, Jamell Jones, Kalyl Richardson, Jeffrey Rodriguez, Johnathon Rogers, Jordan Satchell, Khalil Young

Fifth Graders: Destin Arms, Najze Berkeley, Jordon Evelyn , Marcus Jackson, Jaden Johnson,
Aazayah Ross, Lewis Webb, Aaron Williams

Among the many individual award winners, I was proud to present The James C. Metzger Award to Jordan Satchell for his “strong work ethic and improvement made throughout the lacrosse season.”

Whether they are the student athletes I have introduced to you, or young adults who have entered the workforce after high school or college, the contributions and successes of our young people always should be recognized and embraced. Their achievements, celebrated by those of us who have achieved success after working through the growing pains, will help them build personal character, self-esteem, teamwork and sportsmanship.