A Second Chance To Change A Life
Feb 15, 2017Posted by james

He wasn’t quick. He was fast. He flew down the ice. Dan Brady played recreational hockey at the C level, but he played the game hard and he used his speed.

When Dan was a teenager, he would not take a soda or a beer at the rink bar after a game. Pure water was his preference as he was training.

Dan’s training focused on his passion for the fire department. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and he also was on his town’s team in the national Firefighter Combat Challenge. Fast, disciplined and fully committed. Then something changed.

Dan moved across the state border. He left the fire department for a technician job but continued to play hockey. He then joined a motorcycle club, left it and joined another club.

Training no longer was a priority in Dan’s life. He started drinking and using drugs. Then, he was in an accident.

Dan doesn’t remember the day and he doesn’t remember the crash. He was told that he slammed into a tree after a night of drinking at a motorcycle clubhouse. He broke several vertebrae, lapsed into a coma and now doesn’t remember the several months preceding the accident.

At 29 years of age, Dan has taken full responsibility for his failure. He also has refocused his life. Dan is involved with sports again by using an adaptive wheelchair. He participates in kayaking, waterskiing, golf, softball, rugby, sled hockey and hand-cycling. He also drives a specially-equipped van and is learning to move unassisted from his bed and into a wheelchair.

Dan admits he is no longer that person on the motorcycle. He never wants to see that guy again. He now wants to talk to youth about his life.

Dan feels the young people need to hear his story so they can meet the guy before the accident and learn how he shoulders the blame for the way his life changed. He will be happy if he could change just one person’s life for the better before it is too late.

Putting In The Physical And Mental Work
Feb 02, 2017Posted by james

Brendan Steele is on the PGA Tour. During late 2016, while playing in the Safeway Open in California, he became concerned about his putts under the stress of competition. He wanted to correct the previous year’s failure that occurred during the same tournament.

Brendan had just three-putted the 12th hole, the same hole that started his collapse a year earlier. He immediately thought “let’s not go through this again.”

This time, Brendan experienced a different result. He made a clutch par on the 13th and then recorded birdies on his final three holes to win the open by one shot.

How did this occur? While on the course, Brendan addressed each question in his mind with a positive response. He became aggressive instead of conservative with his game. Confidence returned, eliminating any remaining doubts about his putting stroke.

Following that 2015 disappointment, the golfer had worked diligently with his putting coach and then he worked with a swing coach. With their support, Brendan also developed a plan that guided him through the 2016 Safeway Open.

During his reassessment a year earlier, Brendan realized that anger and frustration often took over his thoughts when things did not flow well on the tour. Now, he felt stronger physically and mentally to handle tournament situations. Rather than think that he was not in control on the course, Brendan learned to concentrate on the few things that he easily could correct.

When bad thoughts pop up, Brandan has learned to return to the blueprint. His philosophy: challenges must now be faced during equally good and bad days, so just stick with the plan to handle all situations.

Pat LaFontaine Leads Companions In Courage
Jan 16, 2017Posted by james

Hockey fans know Pat LaFontaine. He scored 468 goals during 15 seasons for three (Islanders, Rangers and Sabres) New York hockey teams. He has said that his Hall of Fame career prepared him for life after hockey.

That path has pointed him in many different directions, including working with youth hockey players on Long Island. It also took him this past October to the Vatican in Rome, where he participated in a conference on faith and sports.

At the gathering, Pat was joined by New York Giants co-owner John Mara, soccer legend Pele and tennis star Roger Federer. The conference united sports people from all faiths, nationalities and cultures to arrive at a common goal – help people in need, especially the marginalized and the disadvantaged, and to encourage everyone to develop life skills, character, values and enjoyment of life through sports.

Back home, Pat has been helping others for 20 years. During 1997, Pat and his wife started The Companions in Courage Foundation. The foundation brings Xbox Kiosks and playrooms, known as the Lion’s Den, to children in hospitals across North America. Pat figures that the foundation has distributed more than 400 kiosks to more than 100 hospitals. Earlier this month, the foundation partnered with the NHL to deliver its 20th Lion’s Den, placing it at St. Louis Children’s Hospital during the NHL’s celebration of its Winter Classic outdoor game.

The Companions in Courage Foundation serves more than 50,000 patients each year. It is active with 15 hospitals in New York, including Westchester Medical Center’s Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. This facility was the home of the first Lion’s Den that continues to provide children with the opportunity to leave their rooms and participate in the excitement enjoyed by so many other children who use computers, play Xbox, watch television and enjoy movies. A frequent visitor to the hospital, Pat connects with the patients and the families as he talks and plays games with the children.

Grateful and thankful for everything he has in life, Pat is excited about the future for his foundation. New paths certainly will open for him as he continues on the road to help others.

A Horse Is A Horse, Of Course…But Similar To A Human Athlete
Jan 02, 2017Posted by james

When someone mentions horses on Long Island, most of us think about Belmont Park and that final race for the triple crown. But, Long Island’s relationship with horses actually reaches back to our early days of agriculture and as our first mode of transportation from the shores of Montauk to the then city limits of Brooklyn.

Within Long Island’s communities, we are seeing a growing interest in show jumping, polo and casual rides along the trails. All this “horsing around” is overseen by dedicated people who are keenly connected with these fine animals.

When you talk with the people who raise and care for horses, you learn that the animals are no different than us. Trainers actually compare horses to human athletes.

The animals require constant training and attention to allow for safe competition and to reduce the chances of injury. The process involves regular exercise, grooming, feeding and then the training. Horses, similar to athletes, work on a variety of skills. These include gaits, response to commands and jumps. Horses also require rest and the opportunity to leisurely expend energy.

Horses can’t be pushed or pressured, also similar to some of our young athletes. Trainers allow a horse to communicate through the nudge of a head or a flicker of a tail, and they ensure that a horse’s mind always is given time to refresh. Top trainers are as in-tune with a horse as top coaches are with young players.

Horse care is not a casual job. Horses require constant oversight and it takes a very intuitive person to bond with the animal. Besides races, shows and the personal pleasures that horses provide, the animals also are known for nurturing personalities that support therapeutic care for children and adults with disabilities. Programs with veterans and prisoners have been successful in helping people build personal confidence through teamwork.

So, how many horses are in Nassau and Suffolk counties? Would you believe about 38,000? Some communities have opposed the presence of horses. However, the work of the Nassau-Suffolk Horseman’s Association has dispelled myths about noise and other issues associated with the animals, allowing these beautiful creatures to become more welcomed and admired.

Let’s not forget the words of General Sherman Potter in the television program M*A*S*H – the horse is a noble animal.

Amateur Lacrosse Player Becomes Respected Professional Hockey Coach
Dec 16, 2016Posted by james

He was studious in college and he covered his long hair with a San Francisco Giants cap that he wore backward. He loved hockey and he frequently attended games at the nearby NHL arena when his friends from Canada came into town to play the local team. He even played on his university’s club hockey team.

After college, he went to law school in Michigan. Soon after, he began coaching hockey at Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids as a favor to a judge whose son played on the team. The team won a regional title and the lawyer turned coach was hooked.

The coach continued to rise within the amateur hockey ranks. Then he moved on to the professional minor leagues. For the last few years, Jon Cooper has been coaching a very successful NHL team – the Tampa Bay Lighting.

This young fellow (he’s only 49) already has accomplished a lot. All of it just seemed to happen. Actually, Jon made it happen. He is bright, charismatic and has this certain smile. People want to be around him.

When he fields questions about his coaching profession, Jon regularly responds that he’s a people manager. He also feels that he brings the philosophy of life to coaching. Early on, he considered himself more of a life coach than a tactical coach.

Jon’s athletic roots travel back to his teenage years as an indoor lacrosse star in British Columbia. The rest started to fall into place when he attended Hofstra University and played lacrosse for Harry Royle.

A love for hockey, an education and lacrosse career at Hofstra, law school and now Jon is coaching in the best hockey league in the world. There are many reasons to applaud Jon’s success. Glad to know that lacrosse and Hofstra made significant contributions.

Coaches Who Helped Pave the Way
Dec 01, 2016Posted by james

Two innovative coaches left us this year. Each leaves behind a wonderful legacy and valuable life lessons for all of us.

Forbes Carlile was from Australia. His innovative ideas about sports physiology made him one of the world’s best-known swimming coaches. Dating back to the 1940s, his career is credited with producing many Australian Olympians. He coaching methods, believing that swimmers should start high-level competition at a young age, sent shock waves through swimming traditionalists.

Carlile decided that two leg kicks for two arm strokes (verses the conventional six kicks) saved energy. He also believed, again unconventional, that hot baths or showers before a race improved finish times by 1.5 percent, shaving almost a second in a 100-meter race (the difference between first and second place). He introduced interval training (alternating between activities that required different rates of speed and various levels of exertion) and advocated for year-round training that emphasized long-distance workouts.

Carlile originally planned to become a doctor. He changed his mind when he became ill while watching a film about an operation. He then studied human physiology and became dedicated to the science of swimming.

Closer to home, Ed Temple produced 40 Olympians for women’s track and field at Tennessee State. His athletes won 13 gold medals, six silver medals and four bronze medals. His teams won 34 national titles.

In his first year as coach, with a budget of $300, Temple’s team participated in one meet. A few years later, to get his runners to a competition in New York, the coach piled the team into his old DeSoto station wagon.

Temple was the team coach, trainer, counselor and parent. “I was everything,” he said a few years ago, “but you had to be, because there was no other person there.”

Temple’s teams were composed of more than just athletes. He always told the girls that they were young ladies and should carry themselves properly. He always reminded them that they were ladies first and runners second.

Temple also told the ladies on each of his teams that they should use track as an exchange for an education. Track, according to the coach, was the means to walk across the stage to receive a degree.

“Athletics opens up doors for you,” said the coach, “but education keeps them open.”

Heart Of Gray – The Story Of Lt. Raymond Enners
Nov 17, 2016Posted by james

During early October, a number of us gathered at the Garden City Hotel to meet Richard Enners. Richard is the younger brother of Raymond Enners, a West Point graduate who was among the fallen in Vietnam.

Richard recently published Heart of Gray, a book about selflessness and sacrifice. The story takes us on a journey that reveals how West Point and its values of “Duty, Honor, Country” influenced Ray Enners. The book places a spotlight on the rigorous training that provided Ray with the confidence and courage to face life-threatening situations.

Ray Enners played lacrosse at Half Hollow Hills High School in Dix Hills before the district and the high school were divided into east and west sections. He continued to excel at the game at the United States Military Academy. During his senior year, Ray was named an NCAA All-American. Slightly more than a year later, Ray was killed in action in Vietnam. On September 18, 1968, demonstrating selflessness and leadership, Ray rescued a wounded soldier and then led an assault on an enemy position that cost him his life.

As many of you know, I received the 1977 Lt. Ray Enners Award as a lacrosse player at Half Hollow Hills. Presented by the Suffolk County Lacrosse Coaches Association, the award is presented to an outstanding county high school player who best exemplifies courage, teamwork, skill and leadership. While I remember the moment when I learned that I would receive this award in memory of Lt. Raymond Enners, I am unable even today to completely explain the honor that I felt then and feel now for the opportunity to follow in Ray’s footsteps.

Another honor named for Ray, the Lt. Raymond Enners Award, is provided annually on the college level to the NCAA’s most outstanding player in men’s college lacrosse. My nephew, Rob Pannell, won the award twice when he played at Cornell University. Our family is blessed to have such a strong connection to an American hero.

By now, you might be wondering about the word “gray” that appears in the title of Richard’s book. At West Point, the color gray is a symbol of pride and honor that dates back to the Battle of Chippewa during 1814 when a small American army defeated the British in Canada. It was from that battle that the secretary of war approved the color gray for the cadet uniforms at West Point. Ray Enners embraced this tradition during his time at the academy and during his brief service to our country.

Richard Enners followed his brother at West Point. He knows personally about the tradition cherished by the Long Gray Line and he, more than anyone, best knows the heart and spirit of Ray Enners. Richard’s book was written to honor his brother and to inspire others to live their lives with a purpose similar to that of Ray, and to make a difference in the lives of others.

To help Richard ensure that his brother’s contributions will continue to inspire others, I am providing a copy of Heart of Gray to all the public high school lacrosse coaches in Suffolk and Nassau counties. Copies of the book also will be provided to school administrators. The book also will be sent to the coaches and administrators in the Catholic High School Lacrosse League.

My hope is that everyone who reads Heart of Gray will share with others the ideals cherished by Lt. Raymond Enners.

Tremendous Honors From Hofstra And Adelphi
Nov 02, 2016Posted by james

September was a tremendous month for me – but, more important, it was a tremendous month for the many local programs supported by me, my company and my clients.

Two fabulous universities celebrated my high school and college sports career along with all the sports, education and other philanthropic initiatives with which I am involved to support communities on Long Island and the greater New York City area.

My alma mater designated me as Hofstra Alumnus of the Year. After finding my way back to the campus after an absence of 25-plus years, the Hofstra University Alumni Organization decided to acknowledge not only my lacrosse career at the school but also my recent contributions to the athletic and education programs. For this, I am very thankful.

I am proud of all that we have been able to accomplish together in just a handful of years. This includes construction of the Royle-Sombrotto Locker Room that provides a state-of-the-art facility for the men’s lacrosse program, support for the women’s lacrosse program and also The Hallways Traditions Project at Hofstra’s Margiotta Hall that showcases the history of both lacrosse programs and the university’s football program. In the classroom, I am grateful to provide support for the summer internship program for the Center of Civic Engagement that honors Michael D’Innocenzo, my former Hofstra professor.

A few days after the Hofsta celebration, I became the 25th recipient of the Woodruff Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Adelphi University Athletic Hall of Fame. The honor cited my commitment to local programs in Nassau and Suffolk counties and throughout the greater New York area that focus on youth, athletics, education and communities.

Adelphi is a local lacrosse rival of Hofstra, and it is nice to know that my philanthropic efforts also are appreciated by this fabulous school. The award recognizes “excellence in coaching, teaching and educating young adults while saluting an ambassador of sportsmanship and goodwill and stressing that the athletic experience enhances the educational experience and quality of life.”

These awards are prominently displayed in the offices of The Whitmore Group. Even more rewarding is that additional attention has been generated for local youth, high school and college athletics and education, along with the many other local programs that we support.

Young Ladies Who Possess That Goalie “Stuff”
Oct 17, 2016Posted by james

She wears kickers to cover her shoes. They are clunky. So are the leg pads. Then there are the padded pants, chest protector and helmet.

Soccer, cross country and volleyball attract the majority of the lady athletes at local high schools. But Cassie Halpin chose field hockey and all the equipment that comes with the position of goalie. Besides all that equipment, Cassie plays a position that is very noticeable, especially when a mistake by her net changes the numbers on the scoreboard.

Cassie plays for Lakeland High School in Westchester County. The team has won the state championship the last seven consecutive years. Her sister once was a Lakeland goalie and now she plays for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Surely, big pads to fill for Cassie.

But, Cassie enjoys it. She gets a rush when an opposing player comes right at her. She equates it to riding a roller coaster as it takes that initial drop.

Another lady goalie in the area is Alyssa Sanchez of Suffern High School in Rockland County. She also plays lacrosse and next year she is committed to SUNY-Binghamton to play defense. She was a street hockey goalie before playing field hockey. Both positions can be mentally taxing, but Alyssa has her priorities in order. She has short-term memory after a goal is scored on her.

Both these girls have the “stuff’ that coaches seek in goalies. The Lakeland coach values players who have the athletic ability along with intelligence, competitiveness, dedication and mental toughness. The coach believes that goalies must know that they are one of the best athletes on the team and that they possess leadership qualities to influence a positive outcome for any single game.

The Suffern coach, for her goalies, sites courage, desire, poise, thick-skinned leadership, the ability to communicate with teammates and the ability to shake off mistakes.

A goalie in any sport is a unique individual. We often have heard that a catcher in baseball, similar to a goalie in other sports, wears the tools of ignorance. But, we have come to learn that the catcher often is the most knowledgeable player on the field. The entire game is in front of the catcher, who must concentrate simultaneously on so many elements of the game.

The same can be said of goalies. The same can be said of Cassie and Alyssa.

Billiards Are A Bridge To Success For High School Students
Oct 02, 2016Posted by james

Cathedral High School in Manhattan has a billiards club. With the new school year under way, the club is banking on improving upon last year, its best year, when it chalked-up 15 members and qualified for the Billiard Education Foundation’s 28th annual Junior National 9-Ball Championships.

The club began during 2002. It was started by Mike Muldoon, a religion teacher. He enjoyed playing pool but he did not think that the principal would approve his idea to bring the game into the school. But she approved his proposal and the program has continued to grow each year.

This year, two additional billiard tables (bringing the total to three) will be added at the school, which received its first table just a year earlier. Until that first table arrived, the students practiced at local billiards clubs.

Mike is ready for another great year. His club members enjoy the practices and the spirit of competition, and everyone has fun.

Mike is hopeful that he will have about 20 members during the current school year.  With three club members at last season’s nationals outside of Chicago, the club has placed a significant challenge on the table for this year’s members to repeat and expand upon the success. The two additional tables, along with the added coaching assistance of a professional player/tutor, already have created a buzz among students.

All the students in the club learn that the game of pool is challenging, but that the creation of a strategy to plan the shots helps boost confidence and success. As the new season begins, the club is focused on competing at the state qualifier during May, with hopes that players again will qualify for the junior nationals.

Oh, I forgot to mention that all the students in the club are girls. Cathedral is an all-girls school overseen by the New York Archdiocese.