The Bernardo Boys Look Beyond X’s and O’s
Mar 15, 2019Posted by james

Rasmus Dahlin, a defenseman, was the first overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft. At that point, he had played defense full-time for just one year.

Rasmus’ rise to become the top pick at the age of 17 at a position that still was new to him placed the spotlight on the importance of long-term athletic development—develop the athlete first and then allow the player to focus on specialization.

To accomplish this in hockey and for any sport, parents should allow their children to experience a variety of athletic programs. When the player decides to concentrate on a specific game, then a coach should allow the young athlete to experience all angles of that game. The best way to learn is for an athlete to play multiple positions.

So, how can coaches and parents support our young athletes? Here are some thoughts, with a couple of examples from brothers Anthony and Nick Bernardo. A while ago, Anthony (who also participated in lacrosse and track) and Nick (who enjoys and still plays baseball) decided to concentrate on hockey. Their subsequent success on the Long Island ice hockey scene has been showcased for a number of years with the PAL Junior Islanders.

  • Encourage young athletes to try multiple positions. Learning, understanding and then executing the responsibilities of each position helps build game knowledge and player confidence. Anthony has played left and right wing on his hockey teams. As a right-handed shooter, he has learned that he can create more plays in the offensive zone from the left side than from the right side.

  • Let players “feel” the game from different positions. Players develop empathy and understanding for the challenges faced by teammates when they personally obtain a different perspective.

  • Each position is responsible for specific assignments within a game. The opportunity to adjust to different roles improves a player’s awareness as the game unfolds. As a forward, Nick realized that his team’s defensemen were not rushing the puck up ice to help generate offense. Now, as a defenseman for eight years, Nick concentrates on moving the puck quickly to the offensive zone after taking care of his responsibilities in the defensive end. Today’s hockey is more dynamic than ever and a defenseman such as Nick knows that the position spends less time skating backward and more time joining the rush.

  • Encourage each player to contribute to the team concept. While some young players will be adamant that they only want to play one position, teach them the benefits of adapting their abilities to different positions. They will broaden their game knowledge, improve technical skills, build confidence and raise their compete level. This opportunity also allows players to begin to think about the team and it provides a coach with game day flexibility to cover for injured, ill, or otherwise unavailable players.

From Polo To The Happiest Place On Earth
Mar 01, 2019Posted by james

The brothers played polo regularly. Sometimes they played “hooky” from work to get involved in a game at the Riviera Country Club.

Enjoying the elite sport of polo at the California country club with some of Hollywood’s biggest movers and shakers seemed a bit out of sorts for these two down-to-earth Missouri farm boys. But they enjoyed the comradery and the competition with Spencer Tracy, Leslie Howard and Will Rogers.

The younger of the two started riding horses as part of a health regimen after a breakdown. Someone placed a polo mallet in his hand and he just plowed forward, as he did with everything in life and in business. To get up to speed, he invited several of his employees to a conference room to listen to an expert lecture them about the elements of polo. Then, the brothers and any employees who remained interested practiced regularly at a nearby riding academy. They also housed a horse and a net at the offices so they could practice scoring goals during lunch hour.

According to several employees, the younger brother possessed the most drive. He had the ambition to play well. This was no different than his drive and ambition to be successful in business. After learning that the quality of the horses contributed to a high percentage of success in the game, he convinced his older sibling to purchase four expensive horses.

The brothers played for several years until the older and more prudent of the two advised his kid brother, who had played in matches that resulted in several fatalities, to sell the horses and give up the game. The older brother, Roy, maintained that the company’s primary asset should not be playing such a dangerous sport. The end for polo did not come until the younger brother, Walt, took a spill and crushed four cervical vertebrae.

At that point, the Disney brothers concentrated solely on cartoons and feature films. Eventually, they added a theme park that they dubbed the happiest place on earth.

Huntington Honors Hall of Fame Inductees
Feb 15, 2019Posted by james

During early February, I was honored to participate in the dedication of the third satellite exhibit created by the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame. The first two offsite exhibits are located at Long Island MacArthur Airport and at Bethpage Ballpark. This new exhibit is in the west wing at Huntington Town Hall.

The exhibit pays tribute to the inductees of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame who have a connection to the Town of Huntington as players, coaches, or residents. The photo of each inductee appears in the exhibit.

The celebrated professional athletes who are town representatives in the Hall of Fame are football’s Emerson Boozer and Wesley Walker, boxing’s Gerry Cooney, hockey’s Clark Gillies, basketball’s Tom Gugliotta and soccer’s Sara Whalen.

Other Town of Huntington honorees in the Hall of Fame are Stephen Bowen, Charles Boccia, Don Buckley, Jill Byers, Fred Cambria, Rich Castellano, Tony Cerullo, Bob Chipman, Tom Combs, Bill Edwards, Ray Enners, Melvin Fowler, Fred Fusaro, Lou Giani, Frank Gugliotta, Tom Gugliotta, Kim Gwydir, Bob Herzog, Bill Ketcham, John Nitti, Ed Norton, Carol Rose, Cathy Vayianos and Ann Marie Wyckoff-Bagshaw.

As a 2014 inductee, I am very appreciative and excited to be included in this wonderful new exhibit and I extend my thanks to the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame and its director Chris Vaccaro and to Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci and the Town of Huntington. I am appreciative for the recognition of my high school and college athletic career along with my business and philanthropic contributions to Long Island.

It is a wonderful honor to be featured in an exhibit that places the spotlight on so many talented local people, including American hero and fellow Half Hollow Hills alumnus Lt. Raymond J. Enners, who are connected to amateur and professional athletics.

Football Player Of Year Is A Lacrosse Kid
Feb 02, 2019Posted by james

As the football season neared its conclusion, a pep talk was delivered to Bryce Ford and his teammates. For the seniors, this was their last chance to create something special, something memorable.

Midway through the fourth quarter of the Section 1 Class A championship game, Bryce was presented with his moment for John Jay-Cross River High School. The team led Rye High School by only a touchdown. Bryce then sprawled for an interception near midfield. He later learned that this play separated his throwing shoulder. That was critical, because he also was the team’s quarterback.

When an official checked on him, Bryce said he was just enjoying the turf as he caught his breath. He finished the game and logged more than 60 touches in the 21-14 win. He secured the first Section 1 championship for the school with an interception at the goal line on the game’s next-to-last play.

It was the signature moment during a record-setting season for Bryce, who is a three-sport athlete. Though the school lost the next game to the eventual state champ, Bryce did throw his only pass of that game with his other arm. The shoulder did heal in time so he could begin his senior basketball season.

Bryce is the first-ever Player of the Year selected by Section 1’s coaches. His credentials included rewriting the John Jay school record book by shattering single-game, single-season and career marks. Bryce broke or tied school records for single-game passing yards and touchdowns, single-season completions, passing yards and touchdowns, single-game rushing attempts and touchdowns, and single-season rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns. With all this comes a new Section 1 record for total yards of offense—for passing, rushing and receiving combined.

Even after such a successful season, football takes a back seat to lacrosse. Bryce said he threw on the pads every fall and gave his best effort, but that lacrosse is his passion. He plans to stick with lacrosse. He is a middie and committed to Fairfield University.

A Hockey Setback Takes Flight
Jan 15, 2019Posted by james

Wilbur was a three-sport athlete. He enjoyed football, skating and gymnastics. He also was a very good student and had his sights on attending Yale.

One day, while playing hockey on a lake in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, the 18-year-old was struck in the mouth with a stick wielded by another boy several years younger but much larger. It may have been an accident, but the boy was known as a bully. Years later, that same boy was executed for the murders of his mother, father and brother.

The hockey injury caused weeks of excruciating mouth and jaw pain for Wilbur. Several front teeth were lost and replaced by the crude dentistry of the day. This led to digestive complications, heart palpitations and depression. Wilbur remained a recluse for three years, ending his pursuit of a Yale education. During that time, though, he initiated what became a passion for reading and learning. He read about everything and had a specific fascination for history.

Wilbur was close to his younger brother, who had started a print shop that issued a town newspaper and then began publishing a variety of reading material. They worked together in the printing business and then they became involved in the growing bicycle craze that had swept the nation. Since they both enjoyed mechanics, the brothers opened a shop that sold and repaired bicycles.

When the younger brother was diagnosed with typhoid, he spent more than a month in bed. As he recovered, Wilbur read to him. Together, they became fascinated about the discoveries of Otto Lilienthal, a German glider enthusiast who had studied the flight motions of birds.

The brothers were excited about Lilienthal’s experiments and they never stopped learning. After several years of planning, they decided to use their mechanics ingenuity and their interest in the flight of birds to build several flying machines. They tested their creations at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, changed history. The setback for Wilbur while playing hockey was just one of many catalysts in their lives that led to the collaboration that taught the world how to fly.

Fighting Irish Help Bronx Residents For The Holidays
Jan 02, 2019Posted by james

A few weeks ago, Notre Dame football played in the Shamrock Series against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium. It was a time for the Fighting Irish to shine on the field but also an opportunity to be of service to the community.

About 100 alumni and friends participated in the alumni association’s project at a Manhattan hotel, packing more than 400 Thanksgiving meal boxes for families and wrapping more than 100 gifts for children supported by Part of the Solution (POTS), a multiservice agency for the poor in The Bronx.

Besides football, Notre Dame always supports a community it visits. Since the game was in The Bronx, the alumni identified POTS as an organization to support. POTS is a one-step shop, offering services for people moving from crises to stability to self-sufficiency.

Each meal box was packed with potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, apples, corn, green beans, cranberries and a store voucher for a turkey. Whenever Notre Dame plays in a special event or bowl game, it supports the local community. Service is a large component of the university culture. In this instance, the football games is the centerpiece of the school’s visit to New York City but the community support is the crowning jewel of what Notre Dame is all about.

The New York alumni group includes The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Westchester and Rockland counties. The alumni reflect on their time at the university and reflect the values of giving back to the community that they learned during those days.

Notre Dame did win the football game, but that takes a backseat to the smiles they brought to needy families during the holidays.

Meet The Bocklets – Lacrosse Powerhouse Family From Katonah
Dec 16, 2018Posted by james

Brothers Mike, Matt and Chris spent countless hours in their Katonah backyard in Westchester County hitting baseballs, kicking soccer balls, shooting basketballs and throwing footballs. A little sister, Casey, tried to keep up with the boys.

Lacrosse was the last game introduced to Team Bocklet, and that sport has remained the game of choice for each of the siblings. All the boys won All-American honors at John Jay-Cross River High School, and then each of them played lacrosse in college. Casey played lacrosse, too. She and Chris remain the all-time leading scorers at their high school.

This past summer, all four siblings were on professional rosters. Mike was with the New York Lizards, Matt played with the Denver Outlaws, Chris was with the Dallas Rattlers – and each has played in an MLL All-Star game – and Casey was part of the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League’s inaugural season when she was drafted by the Philadelphia Fire. She also coached high school lacrosse in Texas during the last two years.

The three brothers and sis are products of a sports family. Father Barry and Mother Terry both were three-sport athletes in high school. They met while playing broomball at SUNY Cortlandt. When the kids came along, a batting cage became the first major purchase for the backyard. Eventually, it was replaced solely with lacrosse gear.

All four siblings pushed each other to excel. Along the way, they were treated for bloody noses, scraps, cuts and bruises. The competition, though, always remained friendly (and brotherly/sisterly). Each memory has been catalogued by mom and dad. Scrapbooks are filled with newspaper clippings, photos and recruiting letters.

Though often separated by their personal commitments, the siblings remain close. All four are involved in the family business, X10 Lacrosse, that offers sleepover camps in the Adirondacks and Colorado along with day camps across the country.

The Bocklets, I guess, are that fine example of a close knit lacrosse family dynasty.

Let’s Go Mets! - An All-Star Hospital Visit
Dec 02, 2018Posted by james

Michael Conforto, the young Mets all-star outfielder, always prefers to lead by example. He does this on and off the field.

Michael completed the first from the time he started to play baseball. His leadership has continued during his first several years in the major leagues. Now, he is expanding the second by extending his relationship with the Mets community.

This past season, Michael visited The Cancer Center for Kids at NYU Winthrop Hospital and its Children’s Medical Center in Mineola. “Conforto Cares” is Michael’s program that raises awareness about pediatric cancer and the challenges faced by its young patients.

For a while, “Conforto Cares” regularly had hosted young patients and their families at the Mets Citi Field home. Michael, however, decided that he also wanted to visit the youngsters at their temporary home where they receive their daily treatments. This past summer, during the first of many visits, Michael distributed Mets t-shirts to the patients and family members. He also provided pop-up replicas of the Mets home-run apple. Autographs and photos, of course, were a popular feature with the kids.

Back at the ballpark, whenever the children and their families visit, Michael and the Mets string together a series of hits for a memorable day. Their guests receive a tour of the stadium and the Mets clubhouse. They learn about scoreboard operations, and this includes seeing the magic button that raises the authentic home-run apple in centerfield. The children also practice their swings in the batting practice cages. Then, it is time for lunch with Michael.

Michael’s goal is to help these children forget about the rigors of their treatments and just enjoy themselves as kids. “Conforto Cares” is a grand slam!

A Family Dedicated To Badminton
Nov 15, 2018Posted by james

Many children enjoy the same sports and other activities as their parents. A few even become as successful at it as a mom or dad.

Ethan Wu is a senior at Great Neck South High School. He excels at first singles badminton. His dad, Chibing, also was a champion player.

Chibing won the bronze medal in mixed doubles as a member of the Chinese national team during the 1989 World Badminton championships. He then coached the Spanish national team at the 1992 Olympics before moving to New York. He founded the New York City Badminton Club.

His son is just over six feet, which gives Ethan an advantage on the court. While some players may take two or three lunge steps before a hit, Ethan needs only one. But, his game is more than genetics.

Many players at this age do not put in the “thinking” about their game. They give in to the excitement of the competition and the adrenaline rush after a good shot. Many of them just want to smash the birdie each time.

Ethan is different. He remains calm. He uses his head and does not rush his game. As a freshman, he won the individual Nassau County title at second singles. Since then, he has placed second twice to the overall county champion.

There is more to the story. Another Wu, Ryan, also plays badminton. He is a couple of years behind his brother, playing second singles at the same school. Could he be better than Ethan? Time will tell. No doubt both boys bring joy to Chibing.

Keeping An Eye On What Is Important
Nov 01, 2018Posted by james

Cazenovia High School sophomore Jake Tobin was in the lead at the boys’ junior varsity cross-country race during the Auburn Invitational in upstate New York. He had about 200 meters to cover when another runner passed him.

Luke Fortner, a Fairport High School senior, is legally blind. He passed Jake as they were running up the final steep hill. The crowd was cheering for Luke when he slipped in the mud and fell.

Without hesitation, Jake, who also had been supportive of Luke’s competitive spirit, helped lift his fellow runner with the assistance of Luke’s aide. The three then crossed the finish line.

“Jake got down and lifted him up with his guide, and then helped push him up the hill,” Cazenovia cross-country coach Jason Hyatt told the local newspaper. “It was touching to see, and it will be a memory I’ll carry with me for a long time. A great example of true sportsmanship.”

Luke’s coach applauded Jake in an email to Cazenovia High School. “It was an awesome display of sportsmanship and kindness,” he wrote. “Jake deserves to be commended!!!!”

Other coaches and parents recounted that Jake spontaneously aided Luke and helped push him up the hill. “It was one of those moments that kind of makes your day,” said one parent. “Jake is a really good kid, and I’m not surprised he did it.”

Another email was sent to Cazenovia:

“Wanted to write your school to tell you how impressed I was by your XC team member today at the Auburn Invitational. He was running towards the finish when a Fairport team member passed him. The crowd was cheering for the Fairport team member due to his vision impairment. Your XC team member did not only cheer and clap for him as the student tried to run up the hill in front of him, but stopped and helped him to his feet when he slipped…wanted to commend him and his great sportsmanship he showed to his fellow competitor.”

Soon after, the story went viral and it ran around the world. Well done, Jake!