Zoook Knows How To Come Up Really Big
Dec 15, 2014Posted by james

At Madison Square Garden, you can hear the crowd call out “Zoook” a number of times during each game. Forward Mats Zuccarello is one of the most popular New York Rangers. He has speed, good stick-handling skills and scoring ability. He also likes to check and scrum with the big boys.

Mats is just five feet and seven inches tall. Most players tower over him—up to a foot higher and 50-100 pounds heavier. Despite his size on the low end, Mats is easy to spot on the ice whether you are sitting in the nosebleed seats or watching the game on television. His long, shaggy hair flows from the helmet. He carries an extra-long left-handed stick. The puck seems to find him, or vice-versa.

Mats’ skating and passing are so quick that sometimes television cameras are a half-step behind him. You must rely on the video replay to fully grasp his unbelievable passing or how the puck got behind the goalie. One of his teammates said that Mats also is sometimes tough to find on the ice as he’s often hiding behind somebody else in the corner.

Though his stature doesn’t measure up to players on his team and on other rosters, Mats already has enjoyed significant success in the game. He was one of the Rangers best offensive and shoot-out players last season. He was the only NHL player on Norway’s roster for the Winter Olympic Games in Russia. Before coming to the NHL, he had starred for his team in the top-rated Swedish league.

Mats certainly is quick, but he also works hard on the other areas of his game while remaining calm on the ice. Practice is the one place where Mats displays a demonstrative side. He will compete fiercely with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and he celebrates scoring on his teammate with something described as a slow-motion dance, gliding with one skate off the ice and knee bent with arms and stick raised high.

The way Mats works and the way he plays has elevated him to Norwegian sports star status. In New York, the Ranger fans salute him by constantly calling his name and listening for the echo throughout MSG—“Zoook!”

Mats Zuccarello shows us that it doesn’t matter how tall you are, but it does matter how big you play the game. That can guarantee longevity in the NHL and for the rest of us in our careers.

Jim


A Firing That Turned Into Success
Dec 02, 2014Posted by james

We are in the midst of another competitive hockey season in this area so soon after the New York Rangers played an exciting 2013-2014 season that fell just a few games short of a championship. Leading the team is Coach Alain Vigneault.

Alain spent 36 years living, playing and coaching hockey before he accepted, during 1997, the most demanding position in the NHL. He became the second-youngest coach of the Montreal Canadians.

The Montreal position was his first head coaching job in the league. In three seasons, he reached the playoffs one time. Where Stanley Cup championships are measured not by the season but by the week, he was replaced quickly.

The experience validated his approach as a tactician and communicator behind the bench. The position reinforced his core beliefs that led to seven winning years in Vancouver and his successful debut season with the Rangers. The short time in Montreal, according to one player, put Alain through more than some coaches will see in an entire career.

Confident in his ability when he accepted the Montreal job, Alain also was smart to surround himself with established assistant coaches. With them, he planned practices that were weighted with instruction. The sessions were timed to the second. Hours were spent discussing tactics and devising game plans. He clarified every detail so his players clearly understood their responsibilities.

Alain always has employed a direct approach with his players—candid and respectful in closed-door meetings. He speaks in black and white, and players always know what he is thinking. During the game, no matter the situation, he breathes a calming influence on the bench.

Alain was fired from Montreal for what the team president said was an unacceptable performance. His boss did not take into account that Alain fought through three years of injuries that forced him to integrate minor leaguers who may not have been ready to play in the NHL. More likely, his boss understood the situation, but the pressure in Montreal to win is a daily event. Alain, as the coach, was on the hot seat and he was fired to release some steam.

Ever the diplomat, when he heard the news that he was out as coach, Alain said that Montreal was a great place to coach and that the place brought out the best in him. He took that experience first to Vancouver and then to New York, leading each team to a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Alain’s philosophy is simple: “Everybody says to be yourself and to stick with what you believe in. If at one point you’re shown the door, at least you did it your way.”

Good advice for coaches and for those of us in business.

Jim


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.

Jim


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.

Jim

A Friendly Rivalry Can Be Right Up Your Alley
Oct 18, 2014Posted by james

Not many people bowl anymore. If you haven’t noticed, bowling alleys have closed across the country. We’ve lost a number of them over the years on Long Island, including one of the oldest that was located in Plainview. It is now a clothing store.

Once hugely popular, bowling mostly has become an occasional fun night out with friends or family. But you still can find organized bowling leagues where teams covet a trophy along with rivalries among college and high school bowling teams.

For several years, a bowling sibling rivalry in Putnam County has framed rather than split the love between Jeanna Brown and her brother, Dominick. Since they were kids, the two regularly have competed against each other during practice, in high school matches and during tour events. It has been a constant battle of one-upmanship, with the older brother challenging the younger sister.

Dominick shot a perfect game before Jeanna. But Jeanna has been to the states competition four times while Dominick only went twice. While Dominick was all-in with bowling, Jeanna initially wasn’t a fan. She actually hated bowling, claiming that it disrupted her social life.

Now, Jeanna is a full-fledged bowling junkie. She just started her last year of high school where she can continue to dominate the area’s Section 1 bowling. Dominick, meanwhile, graduated last June. He now bowls for Dutchess Community College and then will move on to New York Institute of Technology. He plans to study architecture, and just maybe he will design some interesting new lanes that will help reinvent the game.

Rivalries can be good, whether they are between siblings, friends, or business colleagues. The competition challenges each player, raises the bar of success and often strengthens relationships.

In business, fostering employee teamwork and comradery contributes to the success of an organization. Everyone benefits when business is humming along. So, I urge all company owners and leaders to champion friendly rivalries. When implemented correctly, you will see improvement in the confidence and contribution of each employee. Then, all of you, as a team, will participate in many celebrations as you continue to beat the competition.

Jim

Twirl Your Way To Success
Oct 02, 2014Posted by james

The baton is in the air one, two, three, four and up to seven seconds. The work involves tricks, dance and gymnastics, with every move requiring concentration and precision. At least two hours of practice are required each day for this sport.

We are talking about twirling. Yes, it is considered a sport, and it’s just not for the ladies.

Richie Terwilliger of Rockland County is a twirler. He’s 22 and he has competed in six world championships. About 20 countries actively participate. But twirling as a sport is virtually unknown here. As Richie often says, people think of college twirlers, parades and girls whenever twirling is mentioned.

The female-to-male twirling ratio is 40-to-one here. In some other countries, it is 50-50. Richie started twirling at age 12, but he stopped several times. As a youngster, he wasn’t quite comfortable with the ratio. Since then, his love for the sport, and its unlimited tricks, flips and rolls, has convinced him to continue to compete.

Richie was introduced to twirling by his kid sister, a champion herself, and they have appeared in pairs competitions. The increasing roles for guys and the growing difficulty of competition that can include one to three batons prompted Richie to up his game. He has taken martial arts to help him focus. Gymnastics and dance classes have improved his balance.

Richie’s coach has complimented the young man on his blend of strength, flexibility and natural artistic ability. He has mastered rolling a baton over his body without the use of hands, and he is the only competitor to juggle a baton with his elbows before it is knocked behind him with a knee to allow him to catch it.

Though focused now on his college classes of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Richie has continued to compete in twirling “because it’s cool, it’s fascinating, it’s fun.”

Learning about Richie and his passion for twirling provides us with some great lessons that we can adapt for business. We can incorporate these lessons into our daily routine and we can introduce them to the people who work with and for us.

What have we learned? First, let’s pursue unconventional ideas. Second, we must remember to properly study and train for any task. Third, let’s find ways to ensure that we never lose the passion for what we do each day.

Let’s be just like Richie, because what we do every day is cool, is fascinating and it is fun!

Jim

Lessons Of Perseverance And Leadership
Sep 01, 2014Posted by james

All the players, along with the manager and coaches, were introduced to the fans at this year’s opening day at Yankee Stadium. Danilo Valiente received polite applause. But, for the many fans who were at the park or watched the ceremonies on television, Danilo Valiente was an unknown wearing a pinstripe uniform.

Was he a new player? A new coach?

“It was just like a dream,” he told reporters later. “I was standing there thinking: How could I be here? What am I doing in this place? I could feel the tears coming down my face. It was the biggest thing that ever happened to me.”

Here’s the story about how the 47-year-old Danilo got to that place, how he heard his name on the public address system at Yankee Stadium and how he found himself standing along the first base line with the manager, coaches and players.

Danilo played ball in Cuba until he was 25 years old, reaching the equivalent of that country’s Class AAA league. He was told that too many good players were ahead of him, so he decided to become a coach. He also managed, leading the Boyeros club to the 1996 championship. One of his pitchers on Boyeros would become a Yankee—Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. Danilo then coached for an even more prestigious club but had to supplement his meager earnings by working at a hospital. During all this time, he learned the art of throwing batting practice.

He married an American woman and moved to Tampa. Soon after, his wife died and Danilo needed to become more immersed in baseball to address his grief. He even found the nerve to approach Mark Newman, a senior Yankees official, during one of Newman’s morning walks around the Yankees spring training and minor league complex in Tampa. He requested a position with the Yankees organization. It took a while, but Danilo eventually was hired. He worked in Tampa and with three of the Yankees minor league teams. The players raved about his ability to throw batting practice, which has become a highly-prized specialty, and he was promoted to the big league team last September.

So, you ask, how was a batting practice pitcher selected to be introduced at Yankee Stadium prior to the home opener?

A day earlier, the Yankees were flying to New York when one of the players called Danilo to the back of the airplane for a brief discussion. The player told Danilo that not only did he deserve the promotion but that he also deserved to be acknowledged. The player said that he had informed management that Danilo should be introduced at Yankee Stadium. Danilo was told to be ready for the opening day ceremonies.

Derek Jeter was that Yankees player who made it happen for Danilo to be introduced before 48,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. Upon hearing the story, one longtime baseball fan repeated what many people have said about the Yankees shortstop for 20 years: “He gets it!”

Perseverance by Danilo and leadership by Derek led to an experience of a lifetime. These are two great lessons for you to follow each time you begin your workday.

- Jim

Diamond Shifts And Paradigm Shifts
Aug 16, 2014Posted by james

Watching a baseball game has become a bit confusing. With some exceptions, the game has not changed for more than 150 years. But, now, I can’t always find the third baseman!

If you are having the same trouble, then you will need to adjust how you watch the game. Sometimes I have found the third baseman in shallow right field. The second baseman has moved, too. He frequently appears on the left side of the infield, closer to the shortstop, whom, by the way, has moved deeper into the hole on some batters.

This new infield alignment developed gradually over the last few years but it has exploded across the diamond this season. The strategy is based on statistical analysis of where batted balls are put into play. Now, players often are repositioned far from familiar territory. Shifting also is a little psychological game that opposing teams impose on batters—that game within a game competition.

Last season in Major League Baseball, 8,134 shifts were recorded when balls were hit into play. Already through mid-May, teams had shifted 3,213 times. If this keeps up, MLB will implement about 14,000 shifts this season. Many batters will see their season averages plummet 30 or 40 points.

While everyone is chatting about the effects of the infield shift, the concept really is not new. When looking back at baseball’s infancy and then its dead ball era and its golden years, the game’s historians found evidence that extreme shifts, at times, had been used by teams. Baseball artwork from the 1880s indicates that basemen stood on top of their respective bases. During more modern times, but still before many of us were fans, teams shifted drastically for Ted Williams.

“Shifting” travels farther back in time for business, occurring long before it became fashionable for a baseball player from Cincinnati to wear a red stocking. More recently, though, we have become accustomed to hearing about the latest version of the business plan in the form of the “paradigm shift.” That phrase is just a contemporary term for looking at something from a different angle, or obtaining new information to create a successful strategy. Put simply, it is no different than “thinking outside the box” or implementing best practices.

At the end of each day, whether we are involved in business or baseball, results often get summarized in quick recaps. Diamond shifts, paradigm shifts and other plans and strategies are not included in the box scores reserved to report just the wins and losses. So, should you decide to implement a “shift” or another plan from your business strategy that cuts against conventional thinking, be sure that it is well researched and strategically managed. When it is, you will enjoy reading your business box scores again on the following morning.

- Jim

Ice Cream Rewards For A Job Well Done
Aug 04, 2014Posted by james

At the U.S. Women’s Open a little more than a month ago, the debut for one player was marred by a couple of double bogeys and a triple bogey. She failed to find the fairway on one shot. She hit another into a bunker. The shot out of the sand rolled past the flag and off the green. She hit her chip about 20 feet past the hole.

This new player on the circuit finished the day at eight-over-par 78. Despite the problems and probably some jitters, she remained upbeat. “It was a lot of fun,” said Lucy Li. “I kind of struggled today, but it was great.”

Then she took a bite from a pink ice cream bar. As she continued to talk with the media, she occasionally giggled and grinned, revealing a mouthful of braces.

Lucy Li is just 11 years old, and on this day she beat a few other players who posted first-round 79s. More than a dozen players did not break 80.

One player said that while Lucy may look 11, she doesn’t speak as most 11-year-olds and she certainly doesn’t hit a golf ball the way other children do at that age.

At such a tender age, Lucy already knows how to place her game in perspective. “I learned that you’ve got to be patient,” she said. “One shot at a time. Try to get rid of the big numbers.”

That’s much the same way we operate around the office. We remain patient. We address one issue at a time with our clients. We try not to overwhelm them and ourselves with big problems.

When a workday is over, whether it was spent on the golf course or in the office, we all must remember to reward ourselves for a job well done no matter the outcome. Lucy already knows what to do. When she was asked about her plans for the rest of the day after her debut, she grinned and said: “Eat some more ice cream.”

My favorite is chocolate. What’s yours?

- Jim

Overcoming A Past With Giant Obstacles
Jul 16, 2014Posted by james

He was abandoned in Jamaica, Queens. He was just three months old. Today, he responds with a “not really” when asked about any relationship with his biological parents.

Jason Craig Bromley, Jr.’s mother was a drug addict. He arrived as a crack baby. His father was in prison for manslaughter and unlawful imprisonment. Jason was rescued by his aunt, his father’s sister, who already had three young daughters and was in the midst of studies to become a nurse.

Though family came to his rescue, growing up, at times, was tough for Jason. He went through an angry stage and constantly got into fights. When he was a teenager, Jason’s aunt shipped him out of the neighborhood each day for his own good to ensure he received an education at Flushing High School. The aunt recalled that free time never was an option. It could only lead to trouble.

Football filled some of the time. His high school coach recently remembered Jason as a sloppy kid, chubby and with more fat than muscle, but that he had raw talent for such a big guy.

Jason found his niche and worked at it. He didn’t cause any further trouble and he didn’t drink. He concentrated on preparing properly to compete on the field and court (he played basketball in high school, too). He then played football as a star defensive tackle at Syracuse University.

All that work now has paid dividends. Jason, who is just 22, soon may become a household name in New York sports circles. He was chosen by the New York Giants as the 74th player selected in the most recent NFL draft.

From a doorstep and an uncertain future to one of the best franchises in the National Football League, Jason has found the strength to overcome obstacles. Jason is clear and honest with himself when he states that a person never forgets his background. These include all the experiences and what a person has seen while growing up. All of it, the good and bad, he said, helps shape the adult—the person Jason is today and the one he will be in the future.

Jim