Dec 02 2018

Let’s Go Mets! - An All-Star Hospital Visit

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!

Jan 15 2018

Primary Care Assist For Amateur Hockey Community

A wife of a college hockey coach is not only married to the man. She is married to the game.

Mary Gosek long ago embraced her role in upstate Oswego and throughout the larger hockey community. According to her husband, Mary knew everyone. Ed Gosek is in his 15th year as the head coach at the State University of New York Oswego.

Mary was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few years ago. The community she knew so well rallied to support her. Hockey Coaches Care is just one group that skated to center ice for Mary. The program provided a grant that helped her receive tests that were not covered by her health insurance.

Last year, a healthy Mary attended the Hockey Coaches Care banquet to thank everyone who had supported her and her family. She also championed the many others who have been helped over the past 15 years by the program.

Anyone who has played the game here on Long Island knows that the hockey world is a tight community. We see this regularly on the National Hockey League level as the league, teams and players frequently support a variety of causes. The same occurs in the game’s amateur and youth ranks, and many of us have seen the outpouring of love right here in the rinks of Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Since its founding, Hockey Coaches Care has awarded more than $100,000 in grants for coaches, their family members and amateur players. The Goseks will ensure that the program continues to grow to help other families.

At the banquet, Mary stated that the amount of a grant is not the most important aspect of the program. The emotional connection to the hockey community, she said, is the key component that helps people in their time of need.

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.

Jul 02 2017

Celebrating Local Lacrosse

The end of May and early June was an exciting time for me and for local lacrosse players from grade school to high school.

The Section VIII Nassau County high school boys’ lacrosse championships were held at Hofstra University again this year. Following each of the three matches, I presented my Leadership Award to six young men who have been identified as leaders on and off the field.

Each award recipient reflects the tenacity, honesty, commitment and positive attitude required in Nassau lacrosse. Each player also possesses the ability to inspire teammates and others in the classroom and their communities.

I was proud to present the 2017 James C. Metzger Leadership Award to the following student-athletes:

· Cold Spring Harbor High School junior defender Aidan Hinphy.

· Garden City High School senior attacker Sean Couglin.

· Farmingdale High School senior attacker Kyle Tucker.

· Lynbrook High School senior goalie Ian Proefriedt

· Manhasset High School senior goalie Brendan Haggerty.

· Massaspequa High School senior attacker/midfielder Brendan Nichtern.

These young men are on their way to bigger and better successes in lacrosse, in school and in life.

Soon after these games concluded, my alma mater, Half Hollows High School East, announced that senior attacker Sean Lulley was honored with the school’s seventh annual Outstanding Player Award named in my honor for a boys’ lacrosse player. During his high school lacrosse career, Lulley netted 50 goals and gathered 41 assists as a four-year varsity starter. He served as team captain and was named most valuable player during his senior year. Lulley was named All-County during his sophomore year.

Finally, during mid-June, awards were presented to the Hempstead PAL team that I have supported as a leading benefactor for a number of years. Congratulations for a fun season go out to Coach Alan Hodish, his assistant coaches and the PAL folks, and to the 26 kids on the team. My special congratulations go to Ja’mir Andrews, who received the team award named in my honor for “his strong work ethic and improvement made throughout the lacrosse season.”

Another great lacrosse season on Long Island is in the books!

Jan 16 2017

Pat LaFontaine Leads Companions In Courage

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.

Nov 02 2016

Tremendous Honors From Hofstra And Adelphi

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.

Jun 16 2016

Commitment And Desire Lead To Success

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.

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.

May 02 2016

Helping Our Students Strive For Success

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

Jan 18 2016

Coaches Steer Teen Athletes In The Right Direction

A new initiative in New York is aimed at educating teens about safe driving. The tie-in to athletics is that the program encourages coaches to discuss proper driving habits with their student athletes.

“Coaches Care” is a partnership with the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and schools across the state. As many of us know, coaches can have a significant and lasting impact on student athletes. We also know that first-time drivers require as much proper adult engagement that reaches beyond parents.

As part of the program, informational posters have been placed throughout the state’s schools. Coaches also received talking points to help generate the conversations that can dovetail with discussions about underage drinking and driving. These talks will lead to additional discussions about texting while driving and all the other distractions that can occur in a car driven by a teenager.

As another extension of the program, frank talk also will lead to discussions about a proper healthy diet to support athletic performance and open up dialogue about the substances – drugs, alcohol and steroids – that harm the body.

I know what it was like to be a student athlete with a driver’s license. I was on top of the world. I turned out okay and so did my teammates, but I am glad to learn that coaches now can be more engaged to provide our children with additional guidance as they get behind the wheel of a car.

Here are a few “Coaches Care” tips. I hope these are useful to those of you who coach our young athletes.

· Include every member of your team – players, coaches, managers, parents and fans – in the discussion to ensure not only a winning season but a safe one.

· Include information about adhering to highway safety laws in your team’s code of conduct. Explain the penalties for non-compliance. Secure buy-in and support from the school administration.

· Meet with team captains and assistant coaches to review the basics of driving safety and the text in the team’s code of conduct. Make it clear that coaches and captains will be expected to serve as role models.

· Attend a parent or booster club meeting prior to the start of the season to review the basics of driving safety. Stress that their sons’ and daughters’ safety, both on and off the field, is a priority.

· Regularly remind players and parents to make provisions for transportation if games or practices require driving between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.