Jul 01 2015

Exciting Spring Sports News

We’re now into summer, but before we travel too far into these crazy, hazy and lazy days, I wanted to share with you some exciting news that occurred during May that involved me and benefitted the high school student-athletes of Long Island.

On May 28, I was honored to receive “personal naming rights” to the new stadium that will be constructed for St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. While I didn’t play for St. Anthony’s, I was raised nearby and frequently played various sports in the parks and fields located in the shadows of the school. I always admired the education and athletic tradition that St. Anthony’s offered to its students, and it is this commitment that convinced me to contribute the lead gift for the construction of the new sports facility.

I also do have connections to the school through family and friends. My niece, Genevieve Pannell, and my nephew, Paul Dowd, are graduates. Another niece of mine, Julia Dowd, has just completed her first year at the school. As for friends, when I played basketball and tennis in nearby Wolf Hill Park my frequent companions were Kevin Hahn and John Hahn, Sr., the father and grandfather of Matt Hahn, a former St. Anthony’s football superstar. It was the Hahn family that introduced me to the insurance industry. These many years later, based on the success of The Whitmore Group, I now have traveled full circle and can lend my support to this great school.

Just two days earlier, at the Section VIII Nassau County high school boys’ lacrosse championship matches held at Hofstra University, I presented to Nassau’s leading players the second annual Leadership Awards named in my honor.

I was proud to meet and acknowledge the following outstanding athletes:

  • Cold Spring Harbor High School senior goalie Will Doyle, who maintained his starting position despite competition from three other capable goalies during the preseason.
  • Lynbrook High School senior defender Eddie Bouhall, who has committed to Lehigh University.
  • Manhasset High School senior midfielder James Thomas, who also received a school scholarship as the most dedicated player on the boy’s lacrosse team.
  • Massapequa High School senior defender Griffin Barnathan, who was expected to have an impact season (and did) after serving as a role player last year.
    Mineola High School senior midfielder James Gerstner, who recently signed a letter of intent to play lacrosse at SUNY Stony Brook.
  • Syosset High School senior defender Richard Prestegaard, who separately received a $200,000 scholarship from the U.S. Army ROTC for his attendance at Boston College this fall.

Each student reflected the tenacity, honesty, commitment and positive attitude required in Nassau lacrosse. Each player also possessed the ability to inspire others on and off the field.


May 02 2015

Together At Hofstra’s HOF

On a wonderful Sunday last month, family, friends and business colleagues shared with me one of the most gratifying recognitions as an athlete, an executive and as a sports benefactor. I was honored to be inducted into the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame.

My inclusion was for my on-field contributions to the Hofstra lacrosse team during 1979 and 1980. The honor also recognized my reconnection with the sport and with the school that I love as an ardent supporter of Hofstra’s education and athletics programs.

But enough about me, as you know who I am and what I have accomplished as an athlete and in business. I want to share with you a few details about several men and women who entered the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame with me. This is not so much about their sports accomplishments but about their life accomplishments.

Linda Brymer was a four-year and three-sport—basketball, volleyball, softball—athlete (1974-1978). Linda then joined the Nassau County Police Department and became a physical training and defensive tactic instructor at the academy for more than 3,000 officers. During all this time, athletics continued to be a huge part of her life’s challenges and successes. Now she is pursuing her latest passion of surfing.

Ian “Rocky” Butler played football (1997-2001). He enjoyed a professional career in the Canadian Football League. After leaving pro sports, he returned to Hofstra to earn his master’s degree in physical education. Today, he is a physical education teacher and multi-sport coach at Long Beach.

Robin Kammerer Conversano played field hockey and lacrosse (1989-1993). She attended Weill Cornell Medical College to pursue a physician’s assistant degree. For the last 15 years, Robin has been practicing at an orthopedic surgery office that specializes in sports medicine.

Eric Schmiesing wrestled for Hofstra (1996-2001). Since then, he has been dedicated to fostering, promoting and encouraging the sport. His other passion is the finance industry. After graduation, he became a local crude oil trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Now, he works in private equity.

These four colleagues of mine in the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame, along with the other new inductees and those who played on the two teams (1968 men’s soccer and 1995 women’s volleyball) now enshrined in the hall, invested hard work, commitment and passion into their sports. After graduation, each of them continued to harness these same attributes as they journeyed on various paths to find additional success in their careers and in life.

Linda, Rocky, Robin, Eric and the others all excelled at Hofstra in the classroom and in their chosen sports. They learned from their teachers, coaches and teammates, and they have become fabulous contributors to our society. We have sports and Hofstra in common, and I am proud to enter the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame with them.


Nov 03 2014

Let’s Celebrate Youthful Achievements

Before we get too deep into the academic athletic season, I wish to take this opportunity to shine the spotlight on a number of Long Island students who excelled in lacrosse during the previous school year. The players include gifted athletes on the high school level who will play in solid collegiate programs and grade school students who face daily challenges but have come together to learn and enjoy the game.

On the higher level, I created the James C. Metzger Leadership Award for Nassau County high school lacrosse. An award was presented to a player on each of the six teams that competed in the finals of the 2014 Section VIII Nassau County high school boys’ lacrosse championship held last May at Hofstra University. Each student reflected the tenacity, honesty, commitment and positive attitude required in Nassau lacrosse. Each player also possessed the ability to inspire others on and off the field.

The recipients were:
Syosset High School senior defender Liam Blohm always received the team assignment to defend the opponent’s top scorer. He’s now at Ohio State.
Massapequa High School Senior Midfielder Craig Berge. He’s at Georgetown University.
Lynbrook High School Senior Attacker Joe Grossi. He’s playing at SUNY Binghamton.
Manhasset High School Senior Defender Austin Orlando committed to Boston University.
Cold Spring Harbor High School Senior Midfielder Owen Love.
Locust Valley High School Defender Senior Sam Farren, who was a member of the varsity lacrosse team since freshman year.

For our younger athletes, I have been an avid supporter of the Hempstead PAL lacrosse team for several years. The team consists of African-American and Hispanic players from the fifth and sixth grades, and many of them are from single-parent households. This past season, only four of the 23 players previously had played lacrosse, yet they enjoyed an undefeated season by winning all nine games.

Coach Alan Hodish has been coaching youth sports on Long Island for many years and Hempstead PAL lacrosse for several seasons. At the season-ending awards presentation, he told the players, and their parents and guardians, that above all “we always are looking for good students and good citizens.”

Here is the roster of the 2014 undefeated Hempstead PAL team:

Sixth Graders: Mekhi Affrainy, Tyrek Benjamin, Nasir Bishop, Josue Canales, Lassaun Corely,
Daniel Dobson, Righteous Holden, John Jackson-Tinch, Dahmire Johnson, Jamell Jones, Kalyl Richardson, Jeffrey Rodriguez, Johnathon Rogers, Jordan Satchell, Khalil Young

Fifth Graders: Destin Arms, Najze Berkeley, Jordon Evelyn , Marcus Jackson, Jaden Johnson,
Aazayah Ross, Lewis Webb, Aaron Williams

Among the many individual award winners, I was proud to present The James C. Metzger Award to Jordan Satchell for his “strong work ethic and improvement made throughout the lacrosse season.”

Whether they are the student athletes I have introduced to you, or young adults who have entered the workforce after high school or college, the contributions and successes of our young people always should be recognized and embraced. Their achievements, celebrated by those of us who have achieved success after working through the growing pains, will help them build personal character, self-esteem, teamwork and sportsmanship.


Jun 02 2014

Unorthodox Style Can Be Effective

Not much about Abby Squirrell’s game stands out to a spectator. A six-foot one-inch junior forward for Ossining High School’s basketball team in Westchester County, she is a solid rebounder and puts points on the board.

But, when Abby stands at the free-throw line, everyone in the stands notices her. She uses only one hand for her routine—bouncing the ball, putting it in position and then taking the shot. She certainly has one of the most unorthodox foul shooting techniques anywhere in the game. She also is second on the team in free-throw percentage, making seven out of 10 shots.

Abby’s coach explains that the basketball is supposed to be shot with one hand. The other hand serves as the guide. She just took it one step farther. It works for her and as they say, “no harm, no foul.”

But, what would happen, if during a huge regular season or playoff game, the margin of victory came down to an Abby Squirrell foul shot? A lot of people—teammates, the coach, the fans—would cringe, right?

The coach does not give it any thought. She is the team’s second-best foul shooter. They want her at the line.

Just as with sports, a person always can try something a little different, or unorthodox, in business. Others first may look on with puzzlement. But if successful, they will soon mimic or adapt it.

Do you have an idea or tactic that is a little unorthodox? Give it a try. You never know where it may lead.

Oh, and one more thing—I knew I liked Abby when I first heard about her foul shooting. She also happens to be one of her school’s best lacrosse players!


Sep 20 2011

The Circle of (Lacrosse) Life

I graduated from Half Hollow Hills High School East in Dix Hills during 1977. My only thoughts at that time probably were about playing lacrosse in college, having the grades and talent to receive a scholarship, and yes, girls. It was the simple life of a teenager on Long Island!

I returned to Half Hollow Hills a few months ago. Older, wiser and now able to share my success with today’s local teens, I was honored to present the inaugural James C. Metzger Outstanding Player Award.

The first recipient, Matt Graziano, is exceptional. Matt is a six-foot-three-inch midfielder from Melville who now will play lacrosse at SUNY Albany. At Half Hallow Hills, he competed in lacrosse, soccer and basketball.

Matt played varsity lacrosse for three years. As a junior and senior he ran first midfield. During his senior season, he was team captain and scored 39 points, including 16 assists that tied him for second highest on the team. Considered by his coach to be a “human clearing machine,” once he had the ball on a clear he often would run out of the defensive end or make the critical pass to the open player up field.

Matt is the perfect recipient for this first award. In many ways, he reminds me of myself on the lacrosse field at that age — a workhorse during games to succeed offensively when matched against excellent opposing players. Matt has the athletic ability to excel at the Division I level at Albany. To grasp the next rung, he must apply himself and push himself.

The school’s coaches, especially lacrosse Varsity Head Coach Gordon Hodgson, have been outstanding when communicating to players and parents about the benefits of playing high school athletics. They explain to them that hard work and dedication is required to be successful on and off the field.

Much of my success in business is attributable to the lessons I learned on the sports field. In recent years, I’ve been able to give back to the college where I was an All-American lacrosse player by establishing programs that support Hofstra University students and student athletes. Now, I am grateful that I can do the same at my former high school.

The opportunity at Half Hollow Hills to support my school, my sport and Long Island teen athletes was made possible by school trustee Eric Geringswald, the administration, the coaches and the parents. It is good to be back in the game, especially where it all started for me.


Jul 19 2011

Once Competitors And Now Collaborators

I hadn’t seen Tom Rotanz for more than 30 years. We used to glare at each other through the cages on our lacrosse helmets as we faced off against each other in high school and then in college.

Tom was an All-American player at Ward Melville High School in Setauket. His team was 1976 Long Island Champions and 1977 New York State runners-up. He also played at Suffolk County Community College and then Adelphi University. He was an All-American defenseman during his entire college career.

When I played against Tom, the competition always was fierce. But we always had respect and admiration for each other on and off the field. That combination of fierce competition along with the respect and admiration for a player on the other team lasts a lifetime and carries over to other aspects of life long after we leave the field.

Even though Long Island isn’t that huge, in all these years our paths did not cross. We travelled in different circles – Tom became a fabulous teacher and lacrosse coach while I concentrated on growing The Whitmore Group.

That changed a few years ago, when I attended my nephew’s high school lacrosse game. Tom was scouting my nephew’s team.

After renewing our friendship and reliving some of our head-to-head battles from the field, I learned more about Tom’s passion for coaching young lacrosse players. He learned about my business success and my continued interest to help today’s high school and college athletes. Now, through a new training product – The Power Shaft™ – that he designed, we finally have the opportunity to play on the same team.

The Power Shaft (www.ThePowerShaft.com) allows lacrosse players to train and perfect their game any time of the day and any time of the year in the yard, in the park, or on the practice field. With my connections on the marketing side, more of you soon will learn about this product and how it will help your budding athletes improve their game.

There is a time for everything. This, I strongly believe, was the time for Tom and me to reconnect. Finally, after 30 years, we are wearing the same jersey, and it is today’s young lacrosse players who will have opportunities that we never had or never thought were possible.