A Big Splash At 60
Mar 15, 2015Posted by james

Pool water is in his blood and soul. It has been since he was a kid on Long Island.

Roger Kahn was an all-state swimmer for Hewlett High School and he broke records at Penn State. From there, he has never stopped swimming. When he turned 45, he won a Masters national championship in the 50-meter freestyle.

During 2013, Roger was named an All-American in the 200 medley relay for his age group. The relay team was ranked number one in the U.S. and number three in the world. Roger’s part in the relay also was ranked one and three, respectively.

Just last year, as he moved closer to 60, he competed in the 50-meter freestyle and the 50-meter butterfly, along with a couple of relays, during the U.S. Masters Swimming Summer National Championship. Now, as he prepares for this year’s event, he has graduated from the 55-59 age group to join the 60-64 class.

He considers the change as just one advantage to getting a little older. He feels that the younger a swimmer is in an age group, the better the chance of winning a medal. He said the faster guys are the younger guys.

Roger, who owns a business in Garden City, is married with two children. Yet, with all the work and family issues to manage, he still adheres to his training schedule. He takes a training dip for an hour four times each week. He does a half-hour of dry-land exercises three days each week. Years of dedication helps him compete successfully against swimmers who can afford to spend more time in the pool.

One of the best tributes of Roger came from a friend who is the director at the pool where the swimmer trains: “Not only does he maintain a level of excellence…he’s been a great model for other people to stay dedicated.”

According to Roger, the focus required first to achieve success as a young student-athlete and then as a business executive helps provide balance in life. He said it all helps a person learn how to juggle responsibilities, balance priorities and concentrate on the most important things.


A Running Example For His Students
Mar 03, 2015Posted by james

He was all over the news last fall. New York City media covered his 100-mile run and the story even made headlines along with TV, radio and social media conversation across the country.

Dan O’Keefe is the principal of Cardinal Spellman High School in The Bronx. Before cheering students, parents, faculty, coaches, alumni and neighbors, he accomplished his goal of running 100 miles to raise funds for the school’s student sports and activities programs. He finished with time to spare, crossing the tape at 5:49 a.m. on a Saturday to complete the run in less than 24 hours.

The support was amazing. Dan raised a minimum $120,000. Post-run money continues to arrive. Some people brought food and drink to the run to provide Dan with the fuel and hydration he needed, and to feed the hundreds of fans surrounding the school’s athletic field. Some people even joined Dan, taking laps with him around the track.

As he prepared for the run, Dan challenged the students to bring in 10 sponsors at $10 each for a total of $100 per student. Their involvement was voluntary as the school never initiates mandatory fund-raising among the students. As is common at Catholic schools, fundraisers usually remain among family and close friends. But the media coverage before and during Dan’s run created a significant increase in support among the greater Spellman community and many others outside of the school.

When he first proposed the challenge, Dan admitted that the endurance run received some raised eyebrows from faculty and students. But, he knew that he was in his comfort zone. He ran cross-country for his Queens high school. He ran marathons during college and he has completed the New York City marathon. He also has finished the Vermont 100 and the New Jersey 100, battling rugged terrain in those runs compared to the modern flat track on Cardinal Spellman’ athletic field.

“I constantly challenge the students at Spellman to achieve their limits and beyond,” Dan told one newspaper. “I tell them to never let anyone say something is impossible.”

What an accomplishment. But even more, Dan is a wonderful role model for all his students.

- Jim

Trying To Become One Of The World’s Best
Feb 16, 2015Posted by james

Joshua Colas is a neatly dressed skinny kid with glasses. Nothing flashy–he’s just a regular 16-year-old high school junior.

The family home, an apartment, is filled with scores of trophies of various shapes and sizes. Space is limited. Room now must be found as more trophies may be on the horizon since Joshua may be close to stardom. He doesn’t play sports nor does he have a singing, music, or acting talent. Joshua’s talent is found at the table with a board game.

Joshua is a chess whiz. No, he’s a chess champion. No, check that, he’s a prodigy whose ambition is to become one of the world’s best players.

Joshua learned to play from his father. It began when the boy was just seven years of age. In a few months, son was beating dad. He has a photographic memory and he memorizes the board.

Joshua compares his skill to finding his way home. Do it enough times and the route becomes second nature. No wonder his career highlights are longer than five pages. His chess rating has risen each year. At 10, he was third best in the nation in that age group. At 12, Joshua was the youngest African-American Chess Master (his family is from Haiti). At 13, he topped all players in that group.

Now, Joshua is ranked 231 out of more than 52,000 chess players of all ages who are registered with the United States Chess Federation. He has been selected to the 2015 All-American Chess Team.

For intense chess players, or should I say chess masters, the four-hour matches can become tiresome. Joshua, though, never gets too high or too low. He relaxes his brain before each match so as not to place too much pressure on himself.

Joshua’s goal is to become the first American-born black Grandmaster. To do this, he first must become an International Master. He will face that challenge during a European tour this coming summer. That goal is not cheap. Joshua is raising about $24,000 for travel, hotels and tournament entry fees.

With the help of family and friends, Joshua will be on that tour. Then, he just needs his second nature to kick in.



Friendships Trumped His Football Legacy
Feb 02, 2015Posted by james

Though Glenn “Dean” Loucks was born without the use of his right arm, he still led a storied life that centered on athletics. Through it all, he willed his way to success.

As a youngster, Dean had begged his father not to let others know about his arm. While he favored his left arm, which grew strong, with the help of doctors and specialists he eventually obtained the use of his right one. Years later, he became a quarterback who had the ability to throw accurately with both arms.

Dean was an All-American high school player who led his team to three consecutive undefeated seasons during the early 1950s. He went on to play at Yale University, where he earned All-Ivy League and All-East honors.

After graduation, Dean returned to his high school as a social studies teacher. He also coached his old football team from 1960 to 1968. He then coached at Fordham University and Iona College.

Many people who saw Dean on the football field claim that he was an innovator. That came from his ability to throw with both arms and his knack to understand the mental part of the game. Some have said he was way ahead of his time in quarterback intelligence, calling a lot of his plays at the line of scrimmage after looking over the defense.

At age 79, Dean passed away last October. Only then did many people learn that, with all his success, Dean most treasured all the friendships he had made along the way.

Innovation, the will to succeed and simply cherishing the people befriended during the journey is a wonderful philosophy to follow for a successful and happy life.


When You Add It Up, She’s The Whole Package
Jan 16, 2015Posted by james

High school junior Hannon Eberts has drive, heart, speed, love for the game and talent. Hannon plays soccer. She started in kindergarten.

Unlike many serious soccer players, Hannon also plays another sport. She runs track. The fact that she holds the record for her school’s 400 probably wouldn’t surprise many of her soccer opponents. Hannon is known for her speed along with an uncanny ability to score with headers and kicks while airborne.

Following her freshman year, soccer success became more important to Hannon. She didn’t like the sectional finals that year—a loss on post-overtime penalty kicks. When her team met that same opponent this past postseason, Hannon said the girls had just one goal—to win.

The underdog status through much of the postseason became fuel for Hannon and her teammates. She said they needed to step up as a team for every game. They did and won the championship.

“We put so much hard work into winning,” said Hannon when it was over. “When you get the reward of winning, it’s incredible.”

That winning attitude also goes beyond the field. Hannon’s classroom IQ mirrors her game intelligence. A math lover, she wants to study either engineering or physical therapy in college. Of course, she also wants to continue to play the game she loves.


Twin Success In Sports, Music, Education – And Parental Control
Jan 05, 2015Posted by james

Karen and Ellie Seid always are busy. The twin sisters are high school A-students already set to attend Ivy League schools. They also are high-level musicians. Ellie is a violinist and Karen plays the flute.

They also happen to be two of the best field hockey players in New York. They help each other all the time on the field and support each other with such off-the-field matters as homework, music, boys and every day teenage life.

Ellie had 34 goals and 31 assist as a center-forward this season. Karen scored 29 goals and had 20 assists playing left-forward and center midfield. They ended their high school sports careers first and second, respectively, in total points for the program. Ellie had 141 and Karen totaled 109.

This past season, the twins had a number of highlight games. Possibly the most memorable, aside from capturing the state title, was Karen’s six-goal game that set a team record and tied the state record. In the same game, Ellie had a goal and five assists.

Also in that game, Karen won a scholar-athlete of the week award for excellence on the field and in the classroom. Ellie had won the same award a year earlier.

Originally soccer players, the girls tried field hockey during seventh grade. They then took a risk, leaving a familiar sport for another game that required a steep learning curve. It was a decision they made together. Since then, they repeatedly have said it was the best decision.

By the end of sophomore year, the sisters started to hear from college programs. Ivy League schools (Karen committed to the University of Pennsylvania and Ellie committed to Brown University) seem to be a natural fit for both of them. Ivy League schools are the dream schools, according to the girls, who set the bar high and made sure that they achieved their scholastic and athletic goals.

As the transition began for their next chapter in life, Ellie and Karen also had to agree on another important matter—their parents’ loyalty when the girls play against each other in college later this year. Karen and Ellie revealed that mom will wear a Brown hat and a Penn sweatshirt and dad will wear a Penn hat and a Brown sweatshirt. No doubt the twins are convinced that this was the best decision.


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.


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.


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.