Jan 01 2018

Leading By Example On And Off The Field

Last year’s lacrosse season at Long Island’s Harborfields High School was a good one. The team had talent, but senior Falyn Dwyer said she wanted the team to work harder in practice to polish its skills. She personally was committed to the same goal.

The drive paid off when the team made it into the playoffs and to the Suffolk County Division II semi-finals. The ladies showcased that success could be achieved through dedication and commitment.

Falyn led by example. As a four-year varsity midfielder, she always delivered maximum effort on the field. Her coach referred to her as a fierce competitor who is self-motivated. Falyn contributed during key opportunities on both offense and defense. Opposing players often were baffled, because they could not prevent Falyn from getting the ball.

Falyn’s tenacity went beyond the lacrosse field. She also was a midfielder on the soccer team and a shooting guard and two-way player on the basketball team. Falyn played all three sports throughout her high school career, earning many accolades and several awards for her success. Her coaches agreed that Falyn was one of the most coachable high school athletes.

Record setting achievements and commitment for Falyn, however, were not solely reserved for the field or court. She achieved a 108 grade point average for her studies and ranked near the top of her class of 300 students. She also was active in a number of non-sports activities and clubs during her high school days.

Falyn received All-Conference and All-County Academic honors for both soccer and basketball, and she was named All-County for lacrosse. She now attends Fordham University. Her interests include sports but also environmental studies, teaching and law. I suspect that many more accolades and awards are in her future.

Dec 01 2017

A Great Running (Swimming, Cycling) Start For This Student Athlete

She finished ninth twice in the national ironman triathlon. Then, Olivia Curran surpassed her previous successes in a sport that is pursued by few 17-year-olds. She finished sixth out of 50 competitors in the 16-19-year-old girls division at the World Triathlon Grand Final in the Netherlands.

Olivia’s father got her involved in the sport. He, too, has completed multiple ironman triathlons, including the most famous World Championship in Hawaii. In the Netherlands, Olivia’s sprint race included a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer cycling race and a 5K run.

For her school, Olivia runs cross-country and outdoor track. She also swims for the school during the winter and competes with a swimming club during the summer. During July and August, Olivia has trained seven days a week and has incorporated track workouts into the program. She completes one long (seven to eight miles) run a week and bikes from 45 minutes to two hours each day.

Olivia is a strong runner and a very good open-water swimmer. She admits that her cycling is the weakest part of her game.

Her finish slot in the Netherlands, which was Olivia’s first international competition, was recognized by USA Triathlon, the sport’s governing body in the U.S. The organization ranked Olivia as the country’s top 16-17-year female athlete.

In her future, Olivia sees tackling the Olympic distances—1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run. That is about five years away. She also would like to follow her dad and participate in the ultimate triathlon ironman that incorporates the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.22-mile run. First, though, Olivia remains focused on graduating from high school.

Nov 16 2017

Young Ladies Turn Lemons Into Lemonade

A huge season—their senior season—was planned by Jenna Rogers and Jackie McDonnell. Both young ladies play field hockey for a Rockland County high school, and they were tapped as the new leaders following the graduation of 10 seniors.

Then, everything changed. Jackie, a goalie, hurt her knee last season but resumed play. She re-injured her knee, tearing the ACL and PCL along with a meniscus. Jenna also suffered a knee injury. She thought it was a bone bruise, but she soon learned that she tore her ACL and meniscus.

Injuries that are this serious depress the best professional athletes as they go through months of rehabilitation. Imagine how these two young ladies felt so early in their athletics careers. Jenna and Jackie had been in the field hockey program since seventh grade and they now knew that their respective senior seasons would determine if they could play in college.

Their coach realized that the players were carrying heavy burdens on their shoulders. The players felt that they had let him down along with their teammates. The coach’s solution was to have them attend practices while they continued physical therapy. Perhaps they could find a way to help the team.

Then, the coach came up with another idea. He asked the players to attend the practices of the middle school team whose first-year coach actually is a lacrosse coach. Now, unless there is a varsity game, Jenna and Jackie spend about 30 minutes supporting the high school varsity and junior varsity practices and then they support the middle school team practice.

The coaches and the players see the seniors as assistant coaches. The players also consider them as big sisters. With the coaches’ support, Jenna and Jackie have turned a season of lemons into one of lemonade. They are helping the teams but they also are helping themselves as they recover from their injuries.

Jenna and Jackie are adapting to the unfortunate athletic setbacks that have placed them on the sidelines. That’s a good lesson for their future field hockey careers. It also is a good life lesson.

Oct 15 2017

More Than Just Kicking It Around

At many colleges, the words “one and done” is the magic term in the athletic deparment. The phrase means that an athlete will play one year and then embrace the fame and possibly the fortune of a professional career.

For Colton Wigsten, the “one and done” phrase was bad news. As a freshman player at Ithaca College, and arriving as a highly touted recruit with high school scoring records, his first game became his last. A defender hit his knee the moment he planted his foot. The knee buckled, wrecking the ACL, MCL and meniscus.

After eight months of physical therapy, Colton left Ithaca before his junior year. He worked in the real world while remaining in shape. He earned credentials as an LPN and relocated to Georgia to obtain valuable experience before enrolling in the nursing program at Tompkins-Cortland Community College in upstate New York. He’s also on the school’s soccer team.

Colton is 26 now. The next oldest on the team is 21. He realizes that he is not the same player, but he now plays a smarter game. He recognizes situations quickly and clearly sees the game unfold before him. He says that he now is capable of controlling the pace to set up plays.

After his injury, Colton was depressed. Soccer was his life. The injury destroyed his collegiate experience. Finally processing that there was more to life than soccer, he has matured, will play to the best of his ability and will be thankful for the opportunities on and off the soccer field.

May 16 2016

Come Right Up And Meet The Matz

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.

Mar 16 2016

A Focus And Worth Ethic On The Field And Off

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

Nov 16 2015

A Difference Maker Who Was A Trailblazer

Last month, we lost Sue Petersen Lubow at the young age of 61.

Sue was the first woman head coach and the first woman athletic director at a United States military service academy. When she joined the Merchant Marine Academy right here on Long Island, she was appointed the head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams. Her teams produced two NCAA Division III national championships.

As athletic director for 25 years, Sue expanded the number of competitive sports at the academy. During 2014, when she was inducted into the academy’s athletic hall of fame, Sue said that she had not become an athletic director to break barriers.

“I chose my profession because I wanted to make a difference,” she stated that day, “not because I wanted to be a trailblazer, but in reflection—whether I like it or not—I guess I was.”

Sue grew up on Long Island. She was an All-American and swim team captain at Springfield College in Massachusetts. She earned her master’s degree in health education at Hofstra University.

Sue was a difference maker. She also was a trailblazer. Her successor as the academy’s athletic director is the only woman currently in that position at a service academy.

In paying tribute to Sue, each of us must continue to strive to make a difference in our work, in our communities and with our families. Each of us possesses that opportunity to blaze a unique trail.

Jim

Nov 02 2015

Marketing And Communicating In Baseball

Few boys who dream of playing professional baseball actually end up competing in the country’s big ball yards. Millions of other boys must follow another path so they can touch all the bases.

Tim Mead’s passion for baseball landed him an internship more than 30 years ago with the Los Angeles Angels. Today, he is the team’s vice president of communications. He is the team’s spokesman and he oversees media relations, publicity and broadcast operations. Mead and his staff also provide beat writers and media with game notes and media guides, handle media requests and arrange interviews with players and team executives.

Mead realized early on that he did not have the talent to make a living at hitting a ball with a bat. So, during college, he looked for other opportunities to stay in the game that he loved. He focused on sports writing. He soon realized, though, that he could not write about failings and shortcomings of people who worked hard in an area where he did not achieve success. So, Mead slid into public relations.

The job is all about promoting and protecting the Angels brand. While some tasks are easy for Mead, he faces many challenges similar to a hitter figuring the best way to hit a knuckleball.

One example has involved social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This medium does not allow PR people to control the flow of information. With the growth of instantaneous postings, the Angels communications team decided to employ a defensive shift. It increased online monitoring. The strategy has allowed the staff to respond quickly to address fan issues while it continues to proactively promote, publicize and reach out to media and fans with the many positive stories that occur within the organization.

As for advice about achieving success in sports communications or any business profession, Mead provided the following guidelines: prove yourself every day, be true to your personal brand, stay away from discussing politics, work hard and be ready for the ball to be hit to you when you least expect it.

- Jim


Sep 16 2015

A Luge Step For One Athlete

The sign appears at the driveway—TEAM SICHLER / ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Inside the house, a flag comforter and matching pillowcase are found in one of the bedrooms. A Team USA flag hangs on a wall, painted by the parents and two children who reside in the home. On another wall is a huge cutout photo of a boy sliding down a track. That boy is Jeffrey Sichler, the U.S. Junior National Team luger. He’s 10 years old.

Jeffrey’s parents were dedicated skiers and triathletes. Mom just missed making the national team. Their training has been placed on hold for their son, who has become obsessed with luge, that ultra-fast sledding on an ice track that seems to garner widespread interest only during the Winter Olympics.

The U.S. has only two luge training tracks. One track is in Utah. The other is in Lake Placid. After working on his skills at lake Placid by sliding on multiple weekends every month last winter, Jeffrey’s talent eventually caught the eye of USA Luge during the spring 2014 national dry land Slider Search in Queens. That event is conducted on wheeled sleds on a concrete course.

More than 730 teens and pre-teens participated in the Slider Search, but only 124, including Jeffrey, were chosen to attend screening camps. Jeffrey then became one of 40 kids to be added to the U.S. team. A total of 95 boys and girls are in the junior program. Jeffrey is slotted at the beginner “D” level. By the time he is 15 or 16, he should be elevated to the “B” level. Winning in international competition warrants promotion to the “A” level.

Jeffrey is attaining 50 miles per hour on his runs that begin partway up the track. That’s more than half the speed of athletes who start at the top. The family is “all in” for this new luger who already has a nickname (“The Jeffinator”) for his go-for-broke style.

The ride won’t come cheap to the Sichler family. The first year will cost about $10,000 and the expense for training and competition will rise annually.

The parents will find the money. They just want Jeffrey to have fun and continue to succeed. They believe that it is healthy to dream, to dream big and to pursue goals while enjoying the ride—even if it is downhill all the way.

- Jim

Sep 02 2015

Lessons From A Storyteller

Fans of Seinfeld are familiar with the show’s J. Peterman character. He certainly liked to tell long-winded stories during a show about nothing.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the art of storytelling is an actual attribute of the actor who portrayed Peterman. John O’Hurley’s real stories, however, are based on a successful business career and each one offers a significant lesson about the pursuit of personal goals.

After graduating college with a degree in acting, John was unable to find relevant work. His first job was wrapping boxes for the in-house public relations and advertising agency of a machine tools company in Hartford, Connecticut. He arrived every day with a suit and tie. At the plant, he would remove the tie and roll up his sleeves to wrap the boxes, but he never allowed himself to think for one moment that success was not within his grasp. He used his lunch hour wisely, talking to everyone and learning about their jobs. He spoke with the art director, the typesetter, the person responsible for paste-ups and those involved with graphics. He learned about printing and copywriting.

Within two years, John had moved on to the position of public relations director for one of the teaching affiliates at Yale School of Medicine. From there, he became director of public relations for the Connecticut Red Cross.

John certainly did not fail in business, but he knew at the time that he was not satisfied in his career choice. He had defined himself as an actor since he was three years old. It was about time that he pursued his passion.

John relied on everything that he had learned in business as he toiled in a variety of acting roles. Eventually, he ended up on Seinfeld as, in his words, a “mock Shakespearean legend in his own mind with no particular point when he gets to the end [of one of his stories].” John’s success in television continued to other shows, and he also became part owner of the real J. Peterman Company (“I liked the role so much that I bought the company,” he says often).

Along the way, John also became a pretty good golfer. He says there are a lot of parallels between hitting that little ball and taking personal responsibility to reach the top. He says that if the ball is not moving, then it also is possible that one’s career is not moving. There is only person, he says, who can be responsible for moving that ball and moving a career to achieve personal goals.

As for storytelling, John has a definitive take on it that he readily shares with anyone who will take a moment to listen: “If you’re going to tell a story, tell it from an interesting perspective. Attack your listener, your audience, so that they listen to you.”

- Jim