Oct 15 2017

More Than Just Kicking It Around

At many colleges, the words “one and done” is the magic term in the athletic deparment. The phrase means that an athlete will play one year and then embrace the fame and possibly the fortune of a professional career.

For Colton Wigsten, the “one and done” phrase was bad news. As a freshman player at Ithaca College, and arriving as a highly touted recruit with high school scoring records, his first game became his last. A defender hit his knee the moment he planted his foot. The knee buckled, wrecking the ACL, MCL and meniscus.

After eight months of physical therapy, Colton left Ithaca before his junior year. He worked in the real world while remaining in shape. He earned credentials as an LPN and relocated to Georgia to obtain valuable experience before enrolling in the nursing program at Tompkins-Cortland Community College in upstate New York. He’s also on the school’s soccer team.

Colton is 26 now. The next oldest on the team is 21. He realizes that he is not the same player, but he now plays a smarter game. He recognizes situations quickly and clearly sees the game unfold before him. He says that he now is capable of controlling the pace to set up plays.

After his injury, Colton was depressed. Soccer was his life. The injury destroyed his collegiate experience. Finally processing that there was more to life than soccer, he has matured, will play to the best of his ability and will be thankful for the opportunities on and off the soccer field.

Sep 02 2017

Reinventing Yourself – He’s A Pitcher Now

Remember Ike Davis? He was a slugging first baseman with the Mets from 2010 to 2014. During that time, he was diagnosed with valley fever. The disease significantly affected his ability to hit home runs, to swing the bat and to lead a normal life.

While he successfully recovered, Ike’s baseball life became a series of hits and misses. After the Mets, he played briefly with the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers and Athletics organizations. In the middle of the current season in the minor leagues, Ike decided to leave the batter’s box for the pitcher’s mound.

Maybe Ike found his baseball mojo. During his pitching debut for the Arizona League Dodgers, he threw a scoreless inning while striking out all three batters. His fastball reached 92 mph.

This was not Ike’s first time on the mound. He was in the bullpen during his college days at Arizona State and then he had two scoreless relief appearances for the A’s a couple of years ago. He is a lefty, and teams always are looking for a dominant southpaw to come out of the bullpen. He also has a father who can give him a few pointers. Ron Davis pitched 11 years in the major leagues with several teams, including the Yankees.

Ike has proven that it never is too late to reinvent yourself. This works for sports, in business and in life. Today’s ideas and tactics may not be suitable several years from now. So, always be open to new challenges and new opportunities. Part of the excitement of mastering that new game plan is the surprises and unique experiences that occur along the way.

Feb 02 2016

Rebuilding A College Program — Twice

Four years ago, Denise Bierly had her most trying season as the coach of the Eastern Connecticut State women’s basketball team. The university dismissed five players for team rules violations, including four players who contributed 80 percent of the offense.

That season, the team consisted of only eight players, with one pulled from the softball team. Some of the ladies played every second of every game as the team won just eight games. Two wins came against much stronger schools. Coach Bierly felt that those victories were the most satisfying wins for the devastated team and that it opened the doors to future success.

Last season, the players who were holding the team together just a few years earlier as freshmen advanced to the Division III Sweet 16. The coach even recorded her 400th career win.

Bierly had arrived at the school about 17 years earlier. She never had been a head coach. She took over a program that had been highly successful for 20 years until it stumbled badly under an interim coach. But, slowly, she pulled the team from its lows, eventually getting the squad to the Final Four before losing an emotional game by a basket.

Even more difficult than that loss was the subsequent decision to dismiss the five key players. Bierly was as transparent as possible about the matter with recruits and their families. She told them the program had recovered once and that it would do so again with everyone’s support.

Through all this, Coach Bierly feels she has grown immensely in her role as a coach, mentor and friend. She said her fuse was short earlier in her career. Now, she has learned to handle her players with kid gloves. One current player admits that Coach Bierly is tough, but that she is fair. The ultimate tribute – “She’s made me a better leader.”

Dec 16 2013

This Soldier’s Life Is A Good One

When Dominic Larocque was growing up in Canada, he was about as active as any young man. He played hockey up to the Junior A level, top-tier football for his school and competitive soccer for his city.

So when Larocque turned 18 during 2005, he decided he would use all his energy to serve his country. He enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces. Within two years, he would be deployed to Afghanistan.

About four months into his tour, on November 27, 2007, Larocque’s life took a drastic turn. A light armored vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device (IED). He and two colleagues were taken by helicopter to a hospital.

Three days later, Larocque woke to a shock. He was missing his left leg, amputated above the knee. Eventually, he was fitted with a prosthesis. He had to learn how to live again, not an easy task when just standing was difficult.

After about three years, Larocque adapted to his new limb. He entered the work force. Then, he realized that a void existed from his pre-military life. He needed to find a sport that he could play.

Of the sports he had played as a youth, football and soccer were out of the question. But hockey presented an interesting option. “Soldier On,” a program that helps former military personnel become involved in sports, arranged to have a Montreal sledge hockey team run a clinic. Larocque was there, and the clinic scored with him.

He began playing for the Montreal Transats sledge hockey team every other weekend. Soon after, he was a member of Canada’s national team and then part of the 2012 World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Calgary. Besides filling his competitive void, Larocque said his experience with sledge hockey has given him some additional perspective on how his life turned one fateful day in Afghanistan.

“It’s helped me so much meeting people from across Canada who have had various accidents or were maybe born with defects,” he said. “It’s made me realize that I don’t have it so bad.”

That’s certainly putting life into perspective, and we can learn a lot from Dominic. For me, the next time something just doesn’t work out with a client, or when one of my proposals doesn’t win the bid, I will recall Dominic’s story and realize that I really don’t have it so bad.


Nov 01 2013

The New Game Of Speed

If you were in Newport, Rhode Island, about 30 years ago, you would have witnessed a wonderful tradition of the bygone years of sailing.

For every America’s Cup competition, teams departed the harbor, passed impressive Fort Adams and then sailed out to the open sea. They would be followed by hundreds of vessels, large and small from yachts to dinghies, traversing the surf to the designated area of challenge and defense.

The America’s Cup is one of the oldest major trophy competitions in sports, dating from 1851. This year, a new “wave” was added to the race, and, at first, it faced considerable resistance from traditionalists. Eventually, though, the change triumphed and the America’s Cup entered a post-modern era in which speed and thrills were added to conventional sailing tactics.

Despite an 8-1 lead and a wealth of talent, Team New Zealand could not win the 34th America’s Cup. The victor in an astonishing comeback was Oracle Team USA. With millions upon millions of people watching on television and the internet, including many who had never stepped onto a sail boat, the outstanding outcome delivered the competition to a point of no return. This year’s regatta forever changed sailing.

A new class of boat, a wing-sailed catamaran, had been introduced to showcase the sport more attractively to television audiences. Though the sailing elite were critical of catamarans, the new boat class successfully created a lasting buzz for the competition across all kinds of media.

Expected to sail faster than the wind, the boats actually were faster than anticipated, leading to many exciting moments on the water and for a worldwide audience. Soon after the unbelievable win by Oracle Team USA, Australia’s Hamilton Island Yacht Club became the “Challenger of Record” for the 35th America’s Cup. New thrills certainly await us on the horizon.

Similar to this year’s regatta, a radical new idea, concept, or technology often will alter a business game plan. Selling change is not easy, and overcoming skepticism definitely will become part of the challenge. However, with planning, commitment and the promise (and delivery) of significant results, even you might win over some of the traditionalists in your line of work.

The teams competing in this year’s America’s Cup did it. Now, it is time for you to challenge your competition and hoist the cup!


May 16 2013

Will You Forgive, Or Be Forgiven?

There seems to be plenty of mea culpa along with requests for forgiveness these days in the sports world.

First, it was Tiger Woods.  Then, Michael Vick and this was followed by the Penn State matter. More recently, it has been Lance Armstrong and Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice. Between each of these incidents, there have been countless other athletes and coaches with far less star power but with the same need to request forgiveness for actions on and off the field.

These acts of contrition seem much more prominent than ever before. Could it be that instant and constant news coverage is pushing more of these episodes into the public eye?

Armstrong’s redemption might be elusive. He may have waited too long to reveal the truth. He cheated for years. He denied using performing enhancing drugs. He was adamant about his innocence, and he damaged the reputations of others who challenged him.

Working in his favor to reduce his public exile are his work to fight cancer, that he was just one of many elite cyclists who concealed doping and that he didn’t physically or financially injure another person (though he did take money for charity under false pretenses). Also working to his advantage are the many Americans who are involved in the drug culture and will not be critical of him. They include casual users, body builders on steroids, truckers on uppers and club hoppers on cocaine.

None of us are immune to personal or business embarrassments that we either create or have thrust upon us through our associations with family, employees, business partners, or clients. Luckily, for most of us, these failings will not make the news cycle. But, whether or not a personal or professional blunder grabs headlines, all of us must be prepared with a plan to address any slip-up with co-workers, business associates, clients, family and the community in which we live and work.

My recommendation is to own up quickly to any mistake. Be sincere with an apology. Engage in conversation with everyone who was affected or disappointed by your action. Show them that you have learned the error of your ways, and vow not to walk this same path again. Finally, do your penance and make the self-imposed punishment fit the crime.

If handled correctly, eventually you will redeem yourself. If you were a victim of another person’s poor judgment, only you can decide if the response was sincere. If it is, extend your hand in friendship and to show support.


Feb 01 2013

Be Truthful To Yourself

It’s not easy to be a fan of the New York Mets.  R.A. Dickey understands this, and he wrote about his appreciation for the fans in a column for the New York Daily News soon after he received the National League Cy Young Award.

“It’s not always easy being a loyal supporter when a team is going through a rough stretch,” he wrote. “But to all of you Mets fans, to be a recipient of your support and passion has been one of the greatest thrills of my baseball life.”

A lot of comments that are said or written by or about pro athletes usually are not genuine. But the words from Dickey always are straight forward and honest. He is a truth-teller about his team, his performance and his life. He also is committed to helping others and he is devoted to his Christian faith.

Dickey climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise money and awareness for the Bombay Teen Challenge, which rescues young girls in Mumbai, India, from abuse and sexual exploitation. In his recent book, he revealed that he was sexually abused as a child and he explained his feelings of despair, loneliness and isolation. He also mentioned his mistakes, but he also wrote about redemption and hope, and his love for his mother, his wife (who stuck by him through a sputtering baseball career) and his God.

“I was tired of hiding,” he wrote in his book. “I needed for the public person and the private person to be the same. I needed to be authentic—to be completely honest before God.”

While it may not be easy to be a fan of the New York Mets right now, it is easy to understand why so many of them are personal fans of R.A. Dickey. He appreciates everything and everyone, and he repays the success he has enjoyed by supporting others.

This season, R.A. Dickey will not play for the Mets, having been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. We all wish him continued success and we thank him for sharing himself with New York.

We all know the line uttered by Hamlet, as written by William Shakespeare—“This above all: to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” More of our athletes need to follow in the steps of Hamlet and Dickey. So do more of our politicians and business leaders.


Oct 01 2012

Never Too Old To Be In The Game

Roger Clemens has put together quite the resume over his 24-year Major League Baseball career.  A two time world champion, he received seven Cy Young awards and he currently ranks third on MLB’s all-time strikeout list.  After the 2007 season, the then 45-year-old Clemens finally decided to hang up his uniform to spend more time with his family.

But he couldn’t remain idle.  As with many athletes, Clemens is “married” to the game.  It is who he is as a person.  No matter the level of competition, professional or a pick-up league, athletes such as Clemens just have the game in their blood.

Clemens now is 50 years old, and he decided that he had enough of “retirement.” Agreeing to a one-year contract with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, the “Rocket” recently made a comeback.  In his first start during August, Clemens didn’t allow a run while pitching three and one-third innings.  The most impressive stat was, at Clemens’ age,that he was able to reach 87 MPH on the radar gun.

It is clear Clemens did not come back to the game for the money or the publicity. Neither is found in an independent league. Clemens decided to come back for the passion of the game.  This is his “profession.”  It is what he loves to do.  He felt that he could still compete, and he wanted to try at least one more time.

It never is too late for anyone to get back into his or her game. Whether your career path was sports or business, if the work always had been enjoyable to you, then, with a few adjustments, you can make a comeback and again find satisfaction and success.

You are never too old to compete, even when your skills are out-of-date or a bit rusty. You just may need to reinvent yourself. That is what I did with my passion for lacrosse. While I have been very successful in business for more than 30 years after playing lacrosse in high school and college, a few years ago I decided that I missed the game of my youth. Since then, I have worked with and supported today’s athletes through programs at my alma maters of Hofstra and Half Hollow Hills High School East in Dix Hills.

If you have retained the passion for what you once did, and if the flame of desire keeps burning inside you, there always is the opportunity for you to find a way to remain in the game.