Commitment And Desire Lead To Success
Jun 16, 2016Posted by james

I’m in insurance, but I came from sports. Many of the men and women who work with me experienced their first competition, their first challenges, and their first successes and failures in life through sports.

While many of us decided to turn our team uniforms into business suits, times have changed. Now, more than at any other time, many more opportunities are available for former high school and college athletes who want to remain in the game. Here are just a few examples.

  • Athletic trainers – For teams and individual athletes, this profession includes preventing, diagnosing and treating muscle, bone and other injuries. Some trainers choose to go the route of building stamina and maintaining a healthy diet. Others focus on body massage and yoga.
  • Coaches, scouts and front office positions – These opportunities don’t need to be on the professional level or even at the top college level to provide rewards. There are plenty of levels in athletics on which to participate if you have the knowledge, talent and desire. These include youth leagues, senior leagues, various divisions in the college ranks and semi-pro leagues. Remember, too, that there are many other sports besides baseball, basketball, hockey and football. Don’t forget lacrosse!
  • Media outlets – Not everyone can handle play-by-play in New York, deliver the sports highlights on the evening newscast or talk about sports on WFAN. But, teams and sports stations and networks do rely on websites and social media that demand constant updates to remain competitive. If you are handy with cameras and have a good eye, sports photography is required by just about every team and media outlet. Shooting and editing skills for video also are in high demand. Every coach wants his team to view “the films” from last week’s game or to analyze an upcoming opponent. Video talent also is needed for the growing online marketing and public relations work that engages fans.
  • Umpires, referees and other sports officials – While a few at every game are visible (many wear the striped shirts), games at many levels also require secondary officials who manage the clocks, keep tabs on scoring plays, record the playing time for each player and maintain the statistics.

As you can see, there are many ways to remain in the game if you still retain a high level of passion for your sport. But, if you feel the time has come to shed the uniform for the business suit, the transition will not be difficult. So many of us have done it and we can guide you along the way. All you need to do is maintain that same commitment and desire to succeed that helped you through those tough games as a player.

She Hated Sports, But Look At Her Now
Jun 01, 2016Posted by james

Monae Cooper hated sports – with a capital “H.” She was the most un-athletic kid (her words) but then she ventured into modified volleyball on a whim during seventh grade.

The experience opened her eyes. Not just to volleyball but to all sports. That first season of volleyball also was her last season of volleyball. A senior at New Rochelle High School, she now is the proud owner of pounds of track and field medals.

Monae is a thrower of the shot and hammer. She is the most dominant high school girl thrower in Section 1 and one of the best in New York State. Hard work was required to reach the top. She made the commitment. She didn’t want any regrets or leave anything undone.

A significant portion of Monae’s success comes from her family. Her mother and father have instilled values and discipline, showing her how to remain dedicated and committed to her sports activities and her classwork. Monae’s achievements in both has led to a scholarship at Northeastern University, where she will study health sciences. Northeastern was just one of several schools that pursued her.

Cooper is leaving New Rochelle with more than medals. The positives are too many to mention. She does believe that the most important take-away is to maintain the determination to be successful.

Track has taught Monae to keep an open mind for all possibilities that come her way. She said that she is ready to face anything that life throws at her.

Jim

Come Right Up And Meet The Matz
May 16, 2016Posted by james

You can learn a lot from a high school coach. The coach will tell you about a player’s work ethic, dedication and outlook on life.

Lou Petrucci has coached baseball at Long Island’s Ward Melville High School in East Setauket for 10 years. He’s been around baseball for more than 25 years. Besides coaching, he has been an umpire and a sports writer.

When a corporate buyout released Lou from Newsday, he returned to college and earned a master’s in education from Hofstra University. He became a sixth-grade teacher and then he was offered the coaching position.

Lou knows a lot about a former player for Ward Melville — New York Mets pitcher Steven Matz. Here are just a few of Lou’s insights about the young man:

When he tore a pitching arm ligament that resulted in surgery, Steven was very young and he faced some difficult decisions. According to Lou, he worked through the disappointment and became more determined to pitch in the big leagues. Future success, said Lou, now is all up to him.

Steven also has a commitment to community. According to his former coach, Steven always gives back to his community and his team. Every winter and fall, Steven works with the current kids on his old high school team. He also has traveled to Honduras to help distribute supplies and to interact with children. At the year-end holidays, he visits the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital just to talk with the kids and sign autographs.

Lou indicated that Steven’s ability to give of himself to others at this young age while he still is reaching for his professional success can be attributed to many personal traits and the support of family. Mostly, though, the coach believes he is reciprocating for all the times he was on the receiving end of other people’s generosity — high school teammates who turned into his role models, former major leaguers who provided countless pitching lessons and an entire town that adorned street signs and lampposts with blue and orange ribbons when he pitched during the World Series. Steven has taken to heart the generosity of others. Now, he wants to do the same for others.

Lou said that the many people in Steven’s camp always have had his back. His high school coach attributes this to one thing – Steven is a fabulous person.

A strong arm and a good upbringing will take you far in major league baseball and in life.

Helping Our Students Strive For Success
May 02, 2016Posted by james

April was a very rewarding sports month for me.

It began with a ribbon cutting along with the dedication and blessing of the new stadium sports complex at Saint Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. The scoreboard now bears my name, and when you see it your eyes also capture the prestigious name of Saint Anthony’s.

If you are in the area of the intersection of Pigeon Hill, Wolf Hill and Old Country roads, take a moment to see what we have been able to accomplish together for youth athletics. The field will be used for practices by school teams along with day games by both Saint Anthony’s teams and community teams.

I did not attend Saint Anthony’s, but I was raised nearby and frequently played various sports in the parks and fields located in the shadows of the school. I’ve always admired the education and athletic tradition that Saint Anthony’s offered to its students. It is the Notre Dame of high schools on Long Island.

Everything at Saint Anthony’s is based on the desire to be the best – academically, religiously, socially and athletically. They just do things the right way and that’s exactly how I run my company. The school and my philosophy are a perfect match.

Soon after the first game was played on that new field, I had the privilege, through Marc Hudak, to meet 11 all-star high school football players from New York City. Marc is a managing director at my company and he dedicates his personal time to the New York City chapter of the National Football Foundation.

Marc and the chapter provided me with the opportunity to serve as the lead-sponsor for this year’s “Elite Eleven” Scholar-Athlete Award Banquet. Young athletes who also excel in academics at the city’s public and private schools were recognized for their performances on the field, in the classroom and as leaders in the community.

So, as you can see, all we need to do is to provide our young men and women with the resources that will allow them to step up and excel in academics, in sports and in life. With supportive parenting, academic mentoring and motivational coaching, they will accept the challenges, they will learn from the setbacks and, as I see every day at my company, they will become leaders on and off the field.

- Jim

PR Lessons From A Tennis Star
Apr 15, 2016Posted by james

The sports world was shocked and saddened when popular tennis star Maria Sharapova announced that she had been suspended following a positive drug test. The public fallout easily could have vilified her as a drug cheat similar to Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and many other disgraced athletes. However, unlike the others, Maria immediately owned and faced the challenge to her reputation, her tennis career and her public legacy.

No denials came from Maria. She didn’t blame the sport’s federation, or her doctors, or the tests, or her coaches and staff. She handled the news of the failed test with skill and grace.

We all know the story. A drug she had taken for 10 years suddenly was unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration. The tennis governing board placed this drug on the list of banned substances as of January 1. Maria failed to reacquaint herself with the list.

Maria’s response should be viewed as a public relations lesson for other athletes and for any of us who might need to manage an internal or public crises for our business. Rather than deny or stonewall, we should seriously consider the identical pro-active steps taken by Maria–she got out in front of the story, she blamed only herself for the mistake and she openly addressed questions.

Maria’s reputation was bruised but not permanently damaged. The outcome was far less harmful than if she had waited for the news to leak and then responded with a terse statement issued through her representatives.

At her news conference, Maria took full responsibility for the mistake and for her choice of the medications that enter her body. She apologized for disappointing her fans and the sport.

Coming out of this possible career-ending circumstance, Maria’s return to the court remains in jeopardy. She did loose several major sponsorships. But, her personal reputation, based on her immediate action, remained solid. She stated that she felt her decision to speak publically and quickly was the correct response, “because throughout my long career I’ve been honest about many things.”

Maria handled this crises moment perfectly, really as best as it could be handled considering the circumstances. We all need to learn a lesson from Maria—get out in front of any crisis and handle each one with integrity.

-Jim

Good Education Leads To Super Bowl Ring
Apr 02, 2016Posted by james

Two days. That’s how long it took for Samson Brown to fully comprehend that he was part of the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos. He realized the accomplishment during the celebratory parade.

Samson just completed his first season with the Broncos. As the assistant defensive backs coach, it was his defense that held the NFL’s top scoring offense and league Most Valuable Player Cam Newton to just one touchdown.

The coach, now 36, got his start as a player in The Bronx. He played football all four years at Cardinal Spellman High School. He then led UAlbany, where he was a four-time All-Northeast Conference free safety, to the 2002 conference championship.

When his playing days were done, Samson became a coach. He began as a defensive backs coach at Siena College. He then coached defensive backs and wide receivers for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He spent the 2006 season working with tight ends at Hofstra University before returning to UAlbany for three seasons to coach outside linebackers, tight ends and corners.

The next Xs and Os move for Samson was to the NFL. He interned with the Green Bay Packers. Before joining Denver, he coached a couple of seasons with the New York Jets and a couple more with the Buffalo Bills.

Samson is not just about football. He was an honor student in high school. The importance of academics was instilled in him at an early age by his mother, who is a retired professor. She taught him that education is the first key to success, that it opened doors and provide him with the opportunity to attend a good college.

Since his teenage days, that education foundation has opened many doors for Samson. Besides his football success, he also has married well. His wife is a doctor.

His wife and mom experienced the Super Bowl with Samson. When it was done, mom made sure that everyone knew that her son truly earned everything that he has received on and off the field. He soon will have a Super Bowl ring to show to everyone.

- Jim

A Focus And Worth Ethic On The Field And Off
Mar 16, 2016Posted by james

Taylor Washington has a poem that was given to him when he was four years old. It was written by his pre-school teachers. A few lines in the poem were devoted to each student.

Taylor, who now is 22, proudly claims he can play every sport. The lines from his personal part of the poem read: “Agile, strong and, boy, can he throw. He’ll play in the majors and earn some big dough.”

It is not known if the teachers actually believed in his future sports success, or if they were just including the boy’s interests at the time. While the lines indicate a career in baseball, Taylor has made it big in soccer.

After he was selected by the Philadelphia Union in the second round of the Major League Soccer draft in January, Taylor has become focused on earning a roster spot. Since those pre-school days, he was a kid who had everything line up for him. He was boy who everyone cheered on to success.

Taylor was a star high school player. More than 80 Division I colleges recruited him and he attended Boston University. But, there is more to the story.

While successful on the field, this happy kid who always raised his hand to answer questions in class and who spent a lot of time hitting the books also always struggled with written tests. Yet, he sometimes won academic awards despite teacher evaluations to the contrary. One teacher even wrote that he was a kid without an “academic bone in his body.”

After his freshman year at BU, some extensive testing revealed a learning issue. Taylor has dyslexia. Quickly, he took his work ethic from the soccer field and applied it to his lessons. He left Boston to attend George Mason University, a school that had recruited him and also had many more academic programs to help students overcome learning issues.

On the field, Taylor earned Atlantic-10, ECAC and NCSAA All-Midwest honors. With all his academic and sports work, Taylor still found time to help people he did not know, working with kids and organizing projects such as cleaning a school that serves disadvantaged children.

His coaches since high school say that he is an overachiever in every aspect of life. One coach even stated that Taylor is “one of the best human beings I’ve ever worked with.”

So, what does the future hold for Taylor? Well, about a month ago, the Philadelphia Union announced that Taylor was added to the roster at the position of left back. The team announcement included this statement from the Union’s sporting director: “It was evident from day one that Taylor entered preseason camp with a focused mentality and committed work ethic in hopes of making our roster. He’s earned his place on the team and he exemplifies the type of professionalism we want at our club. He has a bright future and the ability to immediately contribute at such an important position.”

-Jim

An Amazing World Champion
Mar 02, 2016Posted by james

Lani DeMello decided to dedicate some extra time to perfect a new rope routine at a Georgia gymnastics school. With prior ballet training, her footwork already is graceful. Now, she was working on the required elements of the routine.

Lani was focused on this routine after she earned the title of 2015 World Champion in Rhythmic Gymnastics. She competed against more than 20 athletes and won gold medals for some routines and silver medals for others. Her overall score earned her the world champion title. A few years earlier, Lani also won a gold medal at the event.

Now 30, Lani continues to compete at state and regional competitions. She has served as an intern for her coach, and now she also coaches other athletes.

What I haven’t mentioned is that Lani has Down syndrome. She competes in the Down Syndrome International Gymnastics Organization but she also enters non-special needs competitions. Her coaching includes special needs and non-special needs athletes.

When she was only four, Lani began to take dance lessons. A family friend suggested that she participate in the Special Olympics and, specifically, rhythmic gymnastics that is a combination of dance, gymnastics and manipulation of various apparatus. Lani started competing when she was 13 years old.

Besides Down syndrome, Lani also was born with a heart defect and poor muscle tone, both issues often associated with the medical condition. With all these challenges, just look at the progress she has made!

Her coach calls her “an ambassador to the world…showing what people with disabilities can do.” I call her “simply amazing!”

- Jim

Get In There 28 And Give It The Old College Try
Feb 18, 2016Posted by james

An 89-year-old veteran of World War II ran for a touchdown last April during a Kansas University alumni flag football game. About 40 alumni were on the field. While most participants weren’t too far removed from their glory days on the gridiron, it was the Kansas standout from 1946-1948 who stole the show.

Bryan Sperry was a three-year letterman whose career highlights included a clutch bowl game catch. During 1948, he snagged a long pass to set up a KU touchdown in the Orange Bowl. As was common back then, Bryan played on both sides of the ball.

He was clutch at the alumni game, too. He managed to evade tackles after his number — 28 — was called for the last play. He caught the shuffle pass around midfield and then let his guards do their job. The play was slow to unfold but Bryan — and his blockers — could not help but smile as he weaved in and out of players pretending to be crashing and falling into each other. The players were close to Bryan during the entire run and seemed intent on making the run as realistic as possible. When he crossed the end zone, he was embraced by both sides.

More than 60 years ago, Bryan had enrolled at Kansas after serving in the U.S. Army. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Much time had passed since he ran as far as he did during that alumni game, but he had promised himself not to miss out on the action.

While disappointed that none of his old remaining teammates could attend the game, he did give a wink to a reporter when he said that he enjoyed every moment once he convinced everyone that he still could play.

I love these stories about the members of our greatest generation who continue to maintain the passion and drive to score one more touchdown in life.

- Jim

Rebuilding A College Program — Twice
Feb 02, 2016Posted by james

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

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

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

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

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

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