Nov 01 2018

Keeping An Eye On What Is Important

Cazenovia High School sophomore Jake Tobin was in the lead at the boys’ junior varsity cross-country race during the Auburn Invitational in upstate New York. He had about 200 meters to cover when another runner passed him.

Luke Fortner, a Fairport High School senior, is legally blind. He passed Jake as they were running up the final steep hill. The crowd was cheering for Luke when he slipped in the mud and fell.

Without hesitation, Jake, who also had been supportive of Luke’s competitive spirit, helped lift his fellow runner with the assistance of Luke’s aide. The three then crossed the finish line.

“Jake got down and lifted him up with his guide, and then helped push him up the hill,” Cazenovia cross-country coach Jason Hyatt told the local newspaper. “It was touching to see, and it will be a memory I’ll carry with me for a long time. A great example of true sportsmanship.”

Luke’s coach applauded Jake in an email to Cazenovia High School. “It was an awesome display of sportsmanship and kindness,” he wrote. “Jake deserves to be commended!!!!”

Other coaches and parents recounted that Jake spontaneously aided Luke and helped push him up the hill. “It was one of those moments that kind of makes your day,” said one parent. “Jake is a really good kid, and I’m not surprised he did it.”

Another email was sent to Cazenovia:

“Wanted to write your school to tell you how impressed I was by your XC team member today at the Auburn Invitational. He was running towards the finish when a Fairport team member passed him. The crowd was cheering for the Fairport team member due to his vision impairment. Your XC team member did not only cheer and clap for him as the student tried to run up the hill in front of him, but stopped and helped him to his feet when he slipped…wanted to commend him and his great sportsmanship he showed to his fellow competitor.”

Soon after, the story went viral and it ran around the world. Well done, Jake!

Sep 02 2018

Slugger Finds His Fields Of Dreams

Carlos Cruz was the leading slugger on his Queens College baseball team. He then played professional ball in England. Though he never made the leap to the major leagues, Carlos found a way to remain involved in the game.

When Carlos was at college, he sold one of his gloves to a teammate for $100. With that money, he purchased additional gloves. He customized the gloves by adding extra padding and other features, and then he sold these gloves to friends. Carlos landed a human resources position at a large Long Island company when he returned from England. At the same time, he built his small baseball glove business through word of mouth. He created his own brand and sold uniforms along with the gloves. Soon after, he added wooden bats.

Carlos is from Panama City. When he arrived in Queens at 13, he was a good player and starred as a catcher for Newtown High School in Elmhurst. Now, he is starring in his business that is located in a Bronx industrial building.

From the start, Carlos understood that he could not compete with the marketing and production of larger companies. His plan was to make inroads locally through solid customer service. To accomplish this, he has relied on family. His sister helps with the bats. His wife designs uniforms. His nephews help with deliveries.

The seed for this success and for family support was planted years ago. Carlos’ mother struggled financially but she found $39.99 to purchase a glove for him at a Caldor store so he could play the game he loved. Back then as a player and now as a business owner, Carlos found his two fields of dreams.

Aug 17 2018

With Vision, Football Is Just His Latest Triumph

Jake Olson was born with retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer of the retina. It destroyed his sight. It took his left eye at 10 months. At age 12, he lost sight in his right eye.

While he slowly lost his sight, Jake realized that his battle actually had “vision.” Jake had a choice. The cancer could have changed him, or he could attack life and live it on his terms. He chose the latter.

Jake became a scratch golfer. He traveled the country as a motivational speaker, delivering his first speech to Wells Fargo employees when he was 12 years old. Jake then opened a business with his college roommate, receiving special NCAA dispensation that allowed him to make money as a motivational speaker and also play college football.

Yes! That’s right! Jake played college football.

At an early age, Jack learned to confront adversity and fight. He always explains that a person must seize control and not allow life to dictate the terms. It becomes second nature. The bonus clause is that this outlook is therapeutic for Jack and for those who are close to him and the many others who hear his story.

So, do you really think snapping a football during a college game was difficult for Jake?

He began long-snapping while playing high school football in Los Angeles. His accomplishment at USC last season, when he became the first blind long snapper in college football history, captured the world through social media.

According to close acquaintances, Jake “sees” things differently than most people. For him, there is “vision” in blindness.

Jim


Jul 01 2018

Lacrosse Awards All Around Long Island

May and June are the months of final exams as students (and teachers) count the days until school is out for the summer. It is also the time for spring sports championship games, athletic and academic award celebrations and that step toward the next challenge.

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

I was proud to present the awards to the following scholar-athletes:

·         Cold Spring Harbor High School senior defender Nolan Hinphy.

· Garden City High School senior midfielder Matt Granville.

· Manhasset High School senior defender James Amorosana.

· Massapequa High School senior defender Brian Lenaghan.

· Syosset High School senior defender Thomas Markou.

· Wantagh High School senior attacker Thomas Rohan.

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. 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 defender Mike Gomez was honored with the school’s annual Outstanding Player Award named in my honor for a boys’ lacrosse player. Mike played varsity lacrosse for five years. His defensive efforts set the tone for the team. He rarely made a mistake and always covered the leading players on opposing teams. During his senior season, Mike scored 11 goals and nine assists and recovered 80 ground balls. He was an Under-Armour Top 44 Senior Game Selection and a Suffolk County Honorable Mention All-American. Mike will play lacrosse at Johns Hopkins University.

Finally, at the end of 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 for these fourth, fifth and sixth grade players who recorded a 7-1 record. Until March, more than half the players never had picked up a lacrosse stick. Congratulations also go out to Coach Alan Hodish, his assistant coaches and the PAL personnel and the police department. My special congratulations salute Josh Garrett, 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 has been recorded on Long Island!

Apr 15 2018

Hall Of Famer Cheers On Vets

Entering a hall of fame is a wonderful achievement and honor. I have had the pleasure on several occasions. The honor—for sports, for business, for community service, or for other achievements—is the acknowledgement from peers that your preparation, your training, your work ethic and your commitment will remain in the spotlight for others to emulate.

The Westchester Sports Hall of Fame inducted a new class of athletes, coaches, officials and broadcasters late last year. One of the inductees was recognized for his sports career and also for his commitment to help others.

Paul Natale coached baseball, football and soccer at Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose. His baseball teams won Section 1 titles during 1976 and 2000 and he recorded 500 wins. His soccer team reached the state final for the 1988 season. The football program’s success peaked during 1999 but lost to the eventual state champion that season. During a 42-year career as a coach and teacher at Hen Hud, Paul achieved a lot on the field. He accomplished a lot more for the many students who passed through his classroom.

Paul has been retired for several years. His sports and teaching assets presently cheer for handicapped veterans and former soldiers battling post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. Paul is a volunteer adaptive physical education coach at several Veterans Affairs hospitals. Coaching veterans in anything from softball to basketball to touch football has allowed Paul the opportunity to take a different view of his life.

Before Paul’s coaching and teaching days, he was a Vietnam War draftee. He served two years but was never in a fight. Paul often recalls his college fraternity brothers who never came home. He believes that his commitment to today’s soldiers is a proper salute to his college friends.

This is a life that others surely will want to emulate.

Dec 16 2017

The Sports Connection To History And War

Those of us who participate in competitive sports sometimes equate the battles on the field with the battles fought by an army. Both involve training, discipline, commitment and critical thinking.

With this in mind, it should not come as a surprise that a number of highly successful players and coaches have maintained a keen interest in history and especially in the tactics related to the Civil War. Several of these history buffs include New York Mets first baseman and broadcaster Keith Hernandez, National Hockey League coach Ken Hitchcock and legendary Georgia football coach Vince Dooley.

Keith and Ken read a lot and visit the battlefields. Ken even meets with a past-president of The Civil War Round Table of New York history group to talk a little blue and gray when his teams are in town. Vince, though, has taken his interest to another level. He has written a book about a Georgia colonel.

After serving as a U.S. Marine, Vince became one of the most successful college coaches. He won 201 games in 25 seasons at the University of Georgia. The successes included a national championship and six Southeastern Conference Championships. He later served as the university athletic director and he has written several books about the school’s sports history.

Now, he has added a Civil War story to the bookshelf—The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog: The Civil War Correspondence of William Gaston Delony, Colonel of Cobb’s Georgia Legion Cavalry.

The subject of the book was an attorney when the first shots of the war were fired. Vince decided to pursue this story when he learned that Delony’s letters to his wife, Rosa, chronicled his experiences in combat. Delony writes as a loving husband worried about his pregnant wife. He also provides details about his daily routine as a soldier. The colonel participated in the complicated tasks of leading a legion, a single command with elements from artillery, cavalry and infantry. He was mortally wounded at a battle at Brandy Station, Virginia.

To add an amazing coincidence to the story, a Delony great granddaughter married a student who played for Vince before the young man pursued military service. The soldier was part of the unit in Somalia during 1993 that inspired the book Black Hawk Down.

During his coaching years, Vince met many six-foot, three-hundred-pound men who could run the 40-yard dash in less than five seconds. But, while writing this book, he learned about the toughness of some of the smallest and slimmest Civil War soldiers. Pound for pound, these boys became the toughest of men, and they did it under the most trying of times.

Nov 01 2017

Sports Radio Host To The Rescue

He was maneuvering a boat into the front yard of a house owned by a middle-aged couple. The couple had never met John Lopez, but they were happy to see him. Houston had been hit hard by Hurricane Harvey.

John tossed life vests to the couple and helped them board the 16-foot fishing boat. They never exchanged names. The couple was delivered to safety and then John planned to be on his way to help others. A moment later, the couple heard and recognized his hearty and distinctive laugh. They looked at him. John now knew that they realized that the man with the boat was the popular sports radio personality they listen to on Houston’s KILT SportsRadio 610.

John loves fishing. His home was not flooded from the storm but his boat was in dry dock. He sent out a tweet searching for a boat to use to help stranded residents. He received about 12 replies and located two fishing boats.

Once he was rolling, John sent out another tweet accompanied by a video of his view of the flooded city streets. His message: “@ me if you need help.” For more than 10 hours, John rescued about 20 people. Some just had a trash bag of clothes and lost everything else, but everyone was very appreciative that John helped them.

John’s work that day wasn’t focused just on the people of Houston. He rescued a couple of dogs, too. Then, he came upon a barn, where he helped a woman move her two horses to safety. He took a long stick and poked it in the water to locate the shallowest passage for the horses to traverse to higher ground.

John did a lot that day, but he said many others were there with him. About 30 to 40 boats were helping the residents. Rescuers included firefighters and the Coast Guard.

According to John, the fisherman’s code is to stop all activities and help another boat in distress. John realized that Houston was in distress and he stopped his daily sports talk routine to help his neighbors.

Aug 02 2017

An Honest Lesson From The Broadcast Booth

A few weeks ago, we lost a sports broadcasting legend. Bob Wolff’s career spanned almost 80 years. He called Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game, the greatest football game ever played—the 1958 National Football League championship game—and the two titles for the New York Knicks.

Bob was cited by the Guinness World Records as having the longest career of any sports broadcaster. He started during 1939 while a student and former baseball player at Duke University. He continued until early this year with our News 12 Long Island. During this span of time, Bob preserved a large amount of tape—about 1,000 hours of video and audio recordings—that included interviews with Jim Thorpe, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Joe Louis. He donated the tapes to the Library of Congress.

Throughout Bob’s life both on and off the air, he touched and helped many people along the way. The tributes shared during his life and since his passing indicate that he always carried himself with class and honesty.

Bob once broadcast a professional basketball game when he was not even in the arena. Bad weather prevented him from flying to Cincinnati for a Knicks game that was to be telecast on Channel 9. So, he worked the game from a television monitor while sitting in the station’s studio on the 83rd floor in Manhattan. As he told the story years later, Bob said that he did not want to make a public confession that he was not at the game, but “journalistic honesty compelled me to make an acknowledgement that circumstances were different.” He told the television audience that while the game was coming from Cincinnati the audio was transmitted from the WOR-TV studios high up in the Empire State Building.

Striving for honesty and integrity is an important lesson that requires the full attention of today’s journalists and broadcasters. For those of us in business, we, too, regularly must remind ourselves about these attributes. Without honesty and integrity, who would want to work with and for any of us?

Apr 01 2017

A Team Chaplain Who Stands Tall With Everyone

She has been the men’s basketball team chaplain at Loyola University for almost 25 years. Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt now is the latest member of Loyola’s sports hall of fame.

Sister Jean is a campus celebrity. She keeps an office in the student center where her door always is open for students and faculty. She lives in a dorm with 400 under-graduate students. Sister Jean recently enjoyed her own bobblehead day, and she was honored for her contributions to the team and the school.

Sister Jean attends every home game for the men’s team. She dons the school gear and also wears the trademark Loyola colors on her feet—maroon Nike tennis shoes with gold laces. “Sister” is stitched onto the back of her left shoe and “Jean” is stitched on the back of the right shoe.

At the games, students and alumni always stop to say hello and chat. Referees come over and hug her. She cheers at the good moments during each game and winces noticeably at the bad plays.

From San Francisco, Sister Jean played six-on-six girls’ basketball in high school. She became a nun at age 18. She then taught elementary school and volunteered as a coach in Los Angeles public schools. She coached just about every girls team—basketball, volleyball, softball, ping-pong and the yo-yo. She also made sure that her teams played against the boys during practice to “toughen” her girls.

At Loyola, Sister Jean leads the men’s basketball team in a prayer before each home game. Actually, her contribution is a combination of prayer, scouting report and motivational speech. Sister Jean sums it up as simply talking about the game and then playing it. After games, she emails each player to point out the positives and the areas of the game that need more work.

The basketball nun also communicates regularly with the coach. When Coach Porter Moser (Sister Jean’s fifth Loyola coach) came on board during 2011, she provided him with a scouting report of all his players.

The Loyola basketball players—and everyone associated with the university—all look up to her, though she is just five feet tall. She also is 97 years young.

As Sister Jean has shown, you never are age or height challenged to run with the big dogs!

Mar 02 2017

Lessons Learned From Sports

The Olympics in Rio already are a distant memory, occurring more than six months ago. Many fabulous personal stories are connected to these summer games and, yet, the one that caught my attention involved a spectator and not an athlete.

Whether he is watching Olympics competition or cheering on the play of his own children, sports always has moved Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group. During Richard’s formative years, mastering grades in classwork was not a personal strength. But he did excel in sports, including rugby, cricket, and track and field. At the age of 12, a torn cartilage in his right knee resulted in surgery and a long time away from the competition he enjoyed.

When he returned to sports as an adult, Richard found a passion for tennis. He never possessed the talent to compete as a professional, but he has been a pretty good amateur player who enjoys the intensity, artistry, excitement and mental challenge of the game.

Richard often has talked about strategy and how the game of tennis can influence a person. He has said that when a tennis opponent is on the other side of the net, it is you who becomes the most challenging adversary on the court. Only you, according to Richard, can focus to perform at your best. Only you, he has repeated, can place setbacks behind you, and only you possess the ability to have this occur immediately.

In an article written by Richard after the Olympics, he stated that the required discipline and determination to compete as a professional or top amateur athlete is not unlike the ability to compete as an entrepreneur. He stressed that preparation, practice and confidence are the key elements of success in sports and business, and that the opportunity for redemption always is present.

As many of us well know, events often move quickly in the worlds of sports and business. To remain prepared, our personal game plans must ensure that we concentrate fully on each unique moment as it develops. Forget any recent success and quickly move away from any prior mistake. Never dwell on the good or bad of the past, because an opportunity that appears suddenly before you will require your complete attention. Should you fail to remain focused, or if you hesitate just for a moment, a fabulous opportunity may pass in a blink of the eye…and it could be lost forever.