NBA Player Returns With Lessons For LI Youth
Oct 03, 2015Posted by james

Tobias Harris plays for the NBA Orlando Magic. Last season he averaged 17 points per game. Tobias plays with the world’s elite professional basketball players, but he has not forgotten his Long Island roots.

Tobias played for Half Hollow Hills High School West, joining the team as an eighth grade student. He then transferred to Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School in Brookville before returning to the Dix Hills school for his senior year. Tobias then played one season for the University of Tennessee before declaring for the 2011 NBA draft.

Back on the Island this past summer, he hosted the Tobias Harris Basketball and Life Skills Workshop. The clinic taught young athletes about basketball while also providing invaluable life skills.

Though only 23, Tobias already is looking ahead and he is concerned about the future for the next generation of boys and girls. He indicated that these kids are ready to be molded to take advantage of opportunities and to plan for their journey to success. Too many kids, according to Tobias, are not fulfilling their potential. His clinic helped point them in the right direction.

The boys and girls came from Westbury, New Cassel, Jericho and Freeport. The middle and high school athletes spent their time at the five-day clinic running basketball drills to improve their skills, experiencing the excitement of competition and learning more about game strategy.

But, the clinic offered much more than basketball. Tobias said that every kid has a gift just to be able to play and that he wants to show all kids that they can achieve anything they really want in school and in life. He gave the boys and girls some straight talk that success is more than becoming a professional athlete, since the percentage of that occurring is super low. He told the kids that they have a huge variety of life options in and out of sports.

The clinic required mandatory attendance at sessions about career assessment, good health and nutrition, and character development. In these sessions, Tobias stressed that the primary goals for the kids were to be good students and good people, to be respectful and to hang with the right crowd.

A Luge Step For One Athlete
Sep 16, 2015Posted by james

The sign appears at the driveway—TEAM SICHLER / ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Inside the house, a flag comforter and matching pillowcase are found in one of the bedrooms. A Team USA flag hangs on a wall, painted by the parents and two children who reside in the home. On another wall is a huge cutout photo of a boy sliding down a track. That boy is Jeffrey Sichler, the U.S. Junior National Team luger. He’s 10 years old.

Jeffrey’s parents were dedicated skiers and triathletes. Mom just missed making the national team. Their training has been placed on hold for their son, who has become obsessed with luge, that ultra-fast sledding on an ice track that seems to garner widespread interest only during the Winter Olympics.

The U.S. has only two luge training tracks. One track is in Utah. The other is in Lake Placid. After working on his skills at lake Placid by sliding on multiple weekends every month last winter, Jeffrey’s talent eventually caught the eye of USA Luge during the spring 2014 national dry land Slider Search in Queens. That event is conducted on wheeled sleds on a concrete course.

More than 730 teens and pre-teens participated in the Slider Search, but only 124, including Jeffrey, were chosen to attend screening camps. Jeffrey then became one of 40 kids to be added to the U.S. team. A total of 95 boys and girls are in the junior program. Jeffrey is slotted at the beginner “D” level. By the time he is 15 or 16, he should be elevated to the “B” level. Winning in international competition warrants promotion to the “A” level.

Jeffrey is attaining 50 miles per hour on his runs that begin partway up the track. That’s more than half the speed of athletes who start at the top. The family is “all in” for this new luger who already has a nickname (“The Jeffinator”) for his go-for-broke style.

The ride won’t come cheap to the Sichler family. The first year will cost about $10,000 and the expense for training and competition will rise annually.

The parents will find the money. They just want Jeffrey to have fun and continue to succeed. They believe that it is healthy to dream, to dream big and to pursue goals while enjoying the ride—even if it is downhill all the way.

- Jim

Lessons From A Storyteller
Sep 02, 2015Posted by james

Fans of Seinfeld are familiar with the show’s J. Peterman character. He certainly liked to tell long-winded stories during a show about nothing.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the art of storytelling is an actual attribute of the actor who portrayed Peterman. John O’Hurley’s real stories, however, are based on a successful business career and each one offers a significant lesson about the pursuit of personal goals.

After graduating college with a degree in acting, John was unable to find relevant work. His first job was wrapping boxes for the in-house public relations and advertising agency of a machine tools company in Hartford, Connecticut. He arrived every day with a suit and tie. At the plant, he would remove the tie and roll up his sleeves to wrap the boxes, but he never allowed himself to think for one moment that success was not within his grasp. He used his lunch hour wisely, talking to everyone and learning about their jobs. He spoke with the art director, the typesetter, the person responsible for paste-ups and those involved with graphics. He learned about printing and copywriting.

Within two years, John had moved on to the position of public relations director for one of the teaching affiliates at Yale School of Medicine. From there, he became director of public relations for the Connecticut Red Cross.

John certainly did not fail in business, but he knew at the time that he was not satisfied in his career choice. He had defined himself as an actor since he was three years old. It was about time that he pursued his passion.

John relied on everything that he had learned in business as he toiled in a variety of acting roles. Eventually, he ended up on Seinfeld as, in his words, a “mock Shakespearean legend in his own mind with no particular point when he gets to the end [of one of his stories].” John’s success in television continued to other shows, and he also became part owner of the real J. Peterman Company (“I liked the role so much that I bought the company,” he says often).

Along the way, John also became a pretty good golfer. He says there are a lot of parallels between hitting that little ball and taking personal responsibility to reach the top. He says that if the ball is not moving, then it also is possible that one’s career is not moving. There is only person, he says, who can be responsible for moving that ball and moving a career to achieve personal goals.

As for storytelling, John has a definitive take on it that he readily shares with anyone who will take a moment to listen: “If you’re going to tell a story, tell it from an interesting perspective. Attack your listener, your audience, so that they listen to you.”

- Jim

Height Doesn’t Matter…..Size Of Heart Does
Aug 17, 2015Posted by james

Some athletes just never measured up by height standards. But short players still have achieved considerable success in Major League Baseball and other professional sports.

While the shortest player in baseball history was a publicity stunt (43-inch Eddie Gaedel batted once and walked for the St. Louis Browns), many other players who were taller than Eddie but shorter than most other big leaguers have appeared since 1900. Five players were just 5-foot-3. One inch taller was Hall of Fame outfielder Wee Willie Keeler. At 5-foot-5, Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville and three-time All-Star Freddie Patek made headlines. Then, just an inch taller were Hall of Famers Phil Rizzuto, Miller Huggins and Hack Wilson, and just one up from that were HOFs Yogi Berra and Joe Morgan.

Presently, 5-foot-5 Jose Altuve, the shortest player in the major leagues in more than 30 years, is an All-Star with the Houston Astros. Dustin Pedroia at 5-foot-9 and Jimmy Rollins at 5-foot-7 have had exceptional long careers in the game.

In hockey, a couple of height challenged players, Martin St. Louis and Mats Zuccarello, made a huge impact for the New York Rangers during the last couple of seasons. The recently retired St. Louis is on his way to the Hockey Hall of Fame while Zucc certainly will continue to improve his game and perform at the highest level that is the NHL.

At 5-foot-3, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues holds the record as the shortest player in NBA history. In the NFL, 5-foot-7 Maurice Jones-Drew led the league in rushing with 1,606 yards during the 2011 season while Brandon Banks, also 5-foot-7, lead the NFL in kick returns and kick return yards that same season with 1,174 yards on 52 returns.

So, as you can see, the height of an athlete sometimes has nothing to do with his or her personal achievements, the role the athlete will play on a team, or the impact each will have for a team. For each of the players mentioned here, and for the many more not mentioned or still working their way up, we must remember always to look first at the size of their hearts. That is the true measure of success.

- Jim

The Success Of “Super Sam”
Aug 02, 2015Posted by james

Sam Fuld’s family had no illusion that he would become a big league baseball player. Sam was a chubby kid. His parents called him “Sumo Sam.” When he grew out of what his dad called a husky phase, Sam didn’t get much taller. But, he dreamed about playing professional baseball. He was realistic, though, as he also knew the odds were against him.

Sam doesn’t fit the mold of a major league baseball player. He is listed at 5-foot-10, but he is closer to 5-foot-9. He hails from chilly New Hampshire, where baseball gets a late start each year. Sam also is a type 1 diabetic and he must monitor his blood sugar between innings.

Sam was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 10. At first, he was puzzled by the constant testing and the related factors that affected his health. But, the medical issue became a family matter. Everyone focused on eating healthy food and they all got involved in the hourly obsession with blood sugar.

Through all this, Sam never gave up playing baseball. He finally made it to the majors with the Chicago Cubs during 2007. He then moved on to the Tampa Bay Rays, where he made some outstanding plays that frustrated New York Yankees fans. His defense became popular YouTube viewing and teammates started to wear “Super Sam” capes.

While in Tampa, Sam jumped at the chance to oversee sports camps for children with type 1 diabetes. He collaborated with the University of South Florida Diabetes Center. More than 100 boys and girls from all over the country have attended the camps during the past four years.

Back on the field, Sam today is playing for the Oakland Athletics. Jim “Catfish” Hunter once pitched for the A’s. He also was a diabetic. So was Ron Santo, who played third base with Sam’s first MLB team, the Chicago Cubs. Among his contemporaries who also have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are pitchers Brandon Morrow of the San Diego Padres and Dustin McGowan in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

From “Sumo Sam” to “Super Sam,” Sam Fuld has realized a dream despite the obstacle of diabetes. He said the journey has been a huge rollercoaster ride, but that he has enjoyed every bump and turn. Most of all, he doesn’t have any regrets.

- Jim

Local Track Star Challenges The World
Jul 16, 2015Posted by james

One fan calls him “The Flash.” It is easy to understand the nickname.

Rai Benjamin attended Mount Vernon High School. This past school year, he recorded the top times in the country for 300-meter and 400-meter sprints. He also was a top 55-meter sprinter.

With this success, Rai was coveted by such schools as Michigan. He settled on a full track scholarship from UCLA. Rai indicated that his choice had a bit to do with turning his back on living, and running, in the cold. Rai prefers the warm weather. His parents are from Antiqua. His mother has a couple of master’s degrees and holds a passion for books. His father played professional cricket for the West Indies.

When he was a high school freshman, Rai was a wide receiver and free safety on the school’s junior varsity football team. He joined track after the football season to help him improve his football speed. He became such a successful sprinter that he never returned to the football field.

Rai realized that track offered him more opportunities than football. During that same freshman year, he competed for the school in a California meet. He also ran for Antiqua at the World Youth Championships in the Ukraine and then he competed in an Antiqua national meet.

These trips motivated him. He saw beyond Mount Vernon and realized that track could open doors for him around the world. He does, however, pay homage to his school.

“If I’d been at some other school, I don’t know I’d have been as successful,” he said when he was named the Westchester/Putnam indoor track athlete of the year. He acknowledged that he joined a team that consisted of talented athletes and smart coaches.

One of those coaches indicated that Rai has a lot of natural talent but also cited the young man’s “great work habit” and ability to set and reach goals as the main reasons for his success. So, keep your eyes open for Rai Benjamin at upcoming college track meets and possibly the Olympic Games. If you don’t, he likely will pass by you in a flash.

- Jim

Exciting Spring Sports News
Jul 01, 2015Posted by james

We’re now into summer, but before we travel too far into these crazy, hazy and lazy days, I wanted to share with you some exciting news that occurred during May that involved me and benefitted the high school student-athletes of Long Island.

On May 28, I was honored to receive “personal naming rights” to the new stadium that will be constructed for St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. While I didn’t play for St. Anthony’s, I was raised nearby and frequently played various sports in the parks and fields located in the shadows of the school. I always admired the education and athletic tradition that St. Anthony’s offered to its students, and it is this commitment that convinced me to contribute the lead gift for the construction of the new sports facility.

I also do have connections to the school through family and friends. My niece, Genevieve Pannell, and my nephew, Paul Dowd, are graduates. Another niece of mine, Julia Dowd, has just completed her first year at the school. As for friends, when I played basketball and tennis in nearby Wolf Hill Park my frequent companions were Kevin Hahn and John Hahn, Sr., the father and grandfather of Matt Hahn, a former St. Anthony’s football superstar. It was the Hahn family that introduced me to the insurance industry. These many years later, based on the success of The Whitmore Group, I now have traveled full circle and can lend my support to this great school.

Just two days earlier, at the Section VIII Nassau County high school boys’ lacrosse championship matches held at Hofstra University, I presented to Nassau’s leading players the second annual Leadership Awards named in my honor.

I was proud to meet and acknowledge the following outstanding athletes:

  • Cold Spring Harbor High School senior goalie Will Doyle, who maintained his starting position despite competition from three other capable goalies during the preseason.
  • Lynbrook High School senior defender Eddie Bouhall, who has committed to Lehigh University.
  • Manhasset High School senior midfielder James Thomas, who also received a school scholarship as the most dedicated player on the boy’s lacrosse team.
  • Massapequa High School senior defender Griffin Barnathan, who was expected to have an impact season (and did) after serving as a role player last year.
    Mineola High School senior midfielder James Gerstner, who recently signed a letter of intent to play lacrosse at SUNY Stony Brook.
  • Syosset High School senior defender Richard Prestegaard, who separately received a $200,000 scholarship from the U.S. Army ROTC for his attendance at Boston College this fall.

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.


Legacies Easily Can Take A Huge Hit
Jun 16, 2015Posted by james

Tom Brady is a four-time Super Bowl champion. He is a three-time Super Bowl MVP. He is a two-time NFL MVP. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. He also is a liar and a cheat.

That’s what will be written about him and said about him until the end of time. Similar references permanently have attached themselves to Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Alex Rodriguez and others. They all have denied wrongdoing. They all have agents, supporters and fans who back them. None of it will matter.

In our age of the internet, blogs, YouTube, Twitter and more, the liar and cheater tags already are synonymous with their names. The stigma never will be removed.

When I hear about the large number of recent sports scandals, I often think about poor Shoeless Joe Jackson. He stands pretty much alone among athletes involved in any of the older scandals, remaining infamously connected with and the prominent face of baseball’s 1919 Black Sox Scandal. Though the evidence against Jackson is slim at best, his association with the tainted World Series has, for almost 100 years, outweighed his record as an excellent ballplayer.

During his playing days, Jackson only had to deal with the articles about the scandal that appeared in newspapers, and he still found it difficult to restore his reputation during his lifetime. Athletes involved with the dark side of today’s games face daily viral bombardment. They never will clear their names. Their legacies are beyond recovery.

When we were kids, many of us played fantasy games in the backyard. We created our own rules and we changed them at will so we could dream about hitting that World Series home run or scoring the winning goal. That was okay. What isn’t acceptable is “Deflategate,” the use of performance enhancement drugs and the skirting of the rules that has infiltrated some of our youth leagues across the country.

For the rest of us, we easily can find ways to lie and cheat in our jobs and in the companies we manage. If we choose that path, our integrities and our legacies certainly will suffer at some unforeseen time. Whether we are involved with sports or business, we all have choices to make, and I’ll leave you with one piece of advice to ponder—think seriously before you decide upon any course of action and make sure the result will not inflict damage to your reputation and legacy. It is not worth embarrassing yourself, your colleagues and, most important, your family until the end of time.

- Jim

Diving His Way To The Top
Jun 01, 2015Posted by james

High school senior Evan Moretti saw his diving career come full circle this year. Two days before last February’s Section 1 championships, he won a dive meet and set a new record to break Donnie Callera’s mark that had stood for 11 years. It took Moretti just two more days to break his own record.

Besides the record, we found a deeper connection between Moretti and Callera. Both divers set their personal records while attending and competing for Scarsdale High School. Digging deeper, we found that if it wasn’t for Callera, Moretti may not have become such an accomplished diver.

Callera was Moretti’s first diving coach. At the age of 10, Moretti attended a clinic coached by Callera. The coach invited the student to join the local municipal pool team and Moretti continued to dive “for the fun of it.”

As he entered high school, Moretti was curious to see where better competition and a greater focus on training would lead him. With the encouragement of Coach Callera, Moretti began a fantastic voyage.

Moretti competed with the varsity team during each year of high school, leading the team to four undefeated seasons. This past season, the team won the Conference 2 League 1 championship and a first-ever Section 1 title.

Moretti’s personal bests included the record and second-place finishes at both the state and federation championships. He also was named the Westchester/Putnam boys swimming/diving athlete of the season.

Much more still is to be recorded in the diving career of Evan Moretti. That will continue this September when he competes at Duke University.


It Was A Three-Peat Season For Ossining
May 16, 2015Posted by james

At the completion of the current high school basketball season, the Ossining High School girls team in northern Westchester County stood tall by winning the state championship. Again!

This season was the culmination of a three-peat performance, with state championships for 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and now 2014-2015. Ossining is just the second Class AA team in New York to win three consecutive state titles.

Various players (and even the coach) set some fantastic personal records and won great individual awards during this last season. A junior scored her 1,000th high school point during the final state championship game. A teammate became one of the tournament’s all-time single game scorers and received the tournament MVP award. During the season, the coach recorded his 400th win.

While all these individual accomplishments were noted, the group actually prefers to talk about the success of the entire team.

Ossining maintained a deep bench. Contributions came from the highly skilled starting five and all the substitutes. Each bench player easily stepped in for a starting player in foul trouble or when a player had to leave a game with an injury. Last year’s state title, the second one, was won without any seniors on the squad.

Off the court, these girls also are winners. The team’s players maintained higher than a 90 grade point average for the entire season.

Will Ossining girls basketball break the state record and grab a fourth title next year? We will just have to keep a close eye on them when they start up again in the fall.