Jan 15 2020

Christopher Daleo: Suffolk County’s Top High School Football Player

The best way to describe the first few days of 2020 is to use a football term – the new year began with a fantastic “super bowl” event.

I was invited to become involved with the Suffolk County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. The chapter has been celebrating local high school and college players for many years. Now named in my honor, the chapter invited me to speak with the students, their families and their coaches, and to present its prestigious Top Scholar Athlete Award for 2019.

Though I am more known for my career as a lacrosse player and as a supporter of Long Island youth and college lacrosse programs, I did play football and set a few records at Half Hollow Hills High School East in Dix Hills during the 1970s. For the last several years for the National Football Foundation, I have sponsored the Mr. Football New York City Player of the Year Award presented by the New York City Chapter.

At the Suffolk chapter awards program on January 5, more than 50 high school and several college scholar athletes were celebrated for their outstanding achievements in the classroom, on the gridiron and in their communities. The Top Scholar Athlete Award, which also has been named in my honor, was presented to Christopher Daleo of Westhampton Beach High School. Here is a summary of Christopher’s incredible high school achievements.

Academics:

  • Carries a 96 unweighted average and scored 1360 on the SAT and 34 on the ACT.
  • Enrolled in 10 Advanced Placement courses during high school. Recipient of the AP Capstone Diploma. Received designation of AP Scholar with Distinction.
  • Member of the National Honor Society, Science Honor Society, World Language Honor Society and Math Honor Society.
  • Recipient of the Journalism Award presented to the top journalism student in the school district.
  • Elected senior class president.

Football:

  • First Team All-Division, First Team All-County.
  • Team captain.
  • Two-way starter. Two-year varsity record, including playoffs, was 18-3.

Community:

  • Founder, Church Youth Leadership Ministry, expanding the group to more than 30 students.
  • Volunteer for the “Adopt-A-Family” program that provides local families with a helping hand.
  • Contributes his time to the Westhampton Beach Oyster Festival and the Westhampton Beach Talent Show.
  • A peer tutor for younger students.

Wow!

Christopher is going places in school, in sports and in life. I am glad that we met, and I wish him all the best!

Jan 01 2020

Changing Lives Through Rugby

England rugby star Kyle Sinckler was hailed throughout the country for his performance against Australia in the recent World Cup quarter-final. But, he already was a hero at his old grade school, Graveney School in Tooting. He changed lives there after setting up a rugby team when he was just 13 years old.

Kyle had assured a teacher that he would pick the players and help train the team. The hodgepodge group of students gradually grew, year after year, into a dominant team. All of the success, including an appearance eight years later in league finals, came from the foundation created by Kyle.

Following graduation, Kyle continued to build his personal foundation. He earned a scholarship to Epsom College. Then, he was spotted by the Harlequins Rugby Union, which enjoys a 150-year lineage in the sport. Through his personal success and the school rugby program that he created 13 years ago, the prop forward has inspired scores of children to play the game.

Many of the players who followed in Kyle’s footsteps are the first in their families to attend college. Rugby has led them to success through quality education. According to a former grade school teacher, Kyle “has changed lives.”

At the quarter-final game with Australia, Kyle’s outstanding performance was capped with an emotional tribute to his mother, Donna, who works at a police call center. She raised him and she ferried him to training when he was a schoolboy.

The current demographics of rugby indicates that many potential players are similar to Kyle –mixed race, from single parent households and attending grade schools without rugby teams. Today, at Graveney School in Tooting and at many other schools, Kyle’s original determination, along with his current fame, support the rallying cry that is helping many young school boys build solid lifelong foundations.

Dec 17 2019

He Gave His All On The Football Field And On Battlefields

Thomas E. Clifford, Jr., was known as “Jock” to his friends. A natural athlete from Covington, Virginia, he earned the nickname “Jocko the Monkey” after a popular children’s character of the early 1900s.

Jock graduated from Greenbrier Military School in West Virginia and he received the school’s single appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was a star football player at West Point, leading Army to victory against the University of Norte Dame and the U.S. Naval Academy during the 1935 season.

Everything changed for Jock, and for everyone in the country, on December 7, 1941. By 1944, he was fighting in the Philippines. During the battle for the Ormoc Corridor, Jock’s battalion received a flanking mission to cut off the lead Japanese elements from its rear echelon. With only the ammunition and food that they could carry on their backs, his battalion infiltrated the enemy lines and climbed 900 feet to the crest of Kilay Ridge. They dug in for a long stay.

For three weeks, in torrential rain, Jock’s battalion repulsed daily attacks. Rifles became caked with mud. The weapons were more useful as clubs. Many hand-to-hand engagements resulted, and Jock’s men beat the Japanese with entrenching tools, bayonets and the butts of their rifles.

Food and ammo became scarce. Supplies from air drops often fell outside their perimeter and into enemy hands. Near the end of the battle, Jock received a radio message from the commanding general of the 32nd Infantry Division: “You are the talk of the island, and perhaps the United States. Oh, and Jock, Army beat Notre Dame 56 to 0, the worst defeat on record.”

When the battalion was relived, fresh troops who moved into the muddy foxholes of the ridge were shocked to see 1,000 dead Japanese soldiers. The successful mission earned Jock the rank of colonel and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Colonel Thomas E. Clifford, Jr., exuded the qualities of an effective and beloved leader. He commanded from the front and never asked his men to do anything that he was not willing to complete himself. Just days before the end of the campaign during 1945, Jock dashed into a barrage to rescue a wounded man. He was killed by a mortar shell.

The message announcing Jock’s death was distributed to the entire division. The words summed up Jock’s character: “No finer soldier ever wore the uniform of our army. No braver commander ever led his unit in battle. He was not only a skillful and gifted soldier, but the kind of military man we would all like to be.”

Oct 01 2019

Where Young Patients Can “Just Be Kids Again”

Tim Tebow made a splash on the college football field but he has not enjoyed the same success on the professional football and baseball levels. His good and open heart continues to beat strong, however, and this includes his work with ill children.

Earlier this year, the Tim Tebow Foundation opened its 10th Timmy’s Playroom. This new playroom is located at AdventHealth Daytona Beach, a children’s hospital in Florida. The space allows kids to escape from their medical conditions and enjoy life. Tim gives children in hospitals a chance to “just be kids again.”

“Hopefully, it can bring a brighter day for so many in their darkest hour of need,” Tim said in a video posted by AdventHealth. “That is our goal, to encourage and uplift people, especially when they’re going through such a tough time…”

The playrooms include a football field floor, specialized lockers for seating, tables for arts and crafts, flat-screen televisions, video games, toys, interactive games and other activities. The playrooms also display Tim’s favorite Bible verse: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

The foundation’s mission delivers faith, hope and love to pediatric patients and their families. The playrooms are “creating a space where children can heal in a very unique way,” according to the foundation. Timmy’s Playrooms can be found at other hospitals in Florida and at hospitals in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and the Philippines.

Each playroom has been recorded as a huge touchdown in all the scorebooks. Tim Tebow certainly is a star off the field!

Jun 02 2019

Country Over Sports — Marines Before College Lacrosse

Catrina Babnick is a Carmel (Putnam County) High School girls’ lacrosse goalie who has opted, temporarily, to forego college for a different opportunity.

Cat could have pursued a successful collegiate sports career. She set a school record with 25 saves in one game. Then, she set a school all-time girls’ lacrosse record when she recorded her 489th save. But, while the other local girls committed to play college lacrosse this fall or next year, Cat decided to follow a path that led her to the United States Marines. She was sworn in on February 8. Following graduation, she will attend boot camp on Paris Island in South Carolina.

It’s a rare choice among promising high school athletes, but Cat firmly and succinctly stated her preference — “I want to serve my country.”

A high score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Batter test allowed Cat to choose her Marine Corps career path. She considered joining the military police to follow her father’s footsteps. He is a retired New York City police detective. Her recruiter, though, reviewed her score and encouraged her to pursue a better opportunity.

Initially, Cat considered becoming a pilot, but this would require many more years of service than the four of active duty and four additional years of reserve service. So, she decided on diesel mechanics that will allow for maintenance assignments with planes and tanks. Cat will enroll in Marine-funded college classes, hoping to complete two years during her enlistment. She plans to secure her degree post-service and become a history teacher.

Cat has played lacrosse since fifth grade, becoming a full-time goalie as a high school freshman. She loves the game and will miss it. Playing college lacrosse after her service is possible, but not a guarantee.

For the moment, Cat has promised to commit herself 100 percent to the Marines. She summed up the challenge with just a few words — “It’s like the ultimate team.”

Jan 15 2019

A Hockey Setback Takes Flight

Wilbur was a three-sport athlete. He enjoyed football, skating and gymnastics. He also was a very good student and had his sights on attending Yale.

One day, while playing hockey on a lake in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, the 18-year-old was struck in the mouth with a stick wielded by another boy several years younger but much larger. It may have been an accident, but the boy was known as a bully. Years later, that same boy was executed for the murders of his mother, father and brother.

The hockey injury caused weeks of excruciating mouth and jaw pain for Wilbur. Several front teeth were lost and replaced by the crude dentistry of the day. This led to digestive complications, heart palpitations and depression. Wilbur remained a recluse for three years, ending his pursuit of a Yale education. During that time, though, he initiated what became a passion for reading and learning. He read about everything and had a specific fascination for history.

Wilbur was close to his younger brother, who had started a print shop that issued a town newspaper and then began publishing a variety of reading material. They worked together in the printing business and then they became involved in the growing bicycle craze that had swept the nation. Since they both enjoyed mechanics, the brothers opened a shop that sold and repaired bicycles.

When the younger brother was diagnosed with typhoid, he spent more than a month in bed. As he recovered, Wilbur read to him. Together, they became fascinated about the discoveries of Otto Lilienthal, a German glider enthusiast who had studied the flight motions of birds.

The brothers were excited about Lilienthal’s experiments and they never stopped learning. After several years of planning, they decided to use their mechanics ingenuity and their interest in the flight of birds to build several flying machines. They tested their creations at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, changed history. The setback for Wilbur while playing hockey was just one of many catalysts in their lives that led to the collaboration that taught the world how to fly.

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!