Mar 15 2019

The Bernardo Boys Look Beyond X’s and O’s

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.

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 17 2016

Young Ladies Who Possess That Goalie “Stuff”

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.

Jan 05 2015

Twin Success In Sports, Music, Education – And Parental Control

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.

Jim