Oct 15 2020

Lacrosse Offers Hope, Sense Of Family In Film

“The Grizzlies” is a recent film that tells the inspiring true story about a town that suffered the highest suicide rate in North America. The residents found hope through the introduction of a lacrosse program for their teens.

Back during 1998, a recent college graduate (the film character Russ Sheppard) takes a job as a history teacher at Kugluktuk High School in the Canadian Arctic territory of Nunavut. Russ, a Caucasian, found that many of the Native students didn’t attend classes. They drank or took drugs, and the suicide rate was high. Crosses in the cemetery multiplied at an alarming rate.

Russ played lacrosse in college. He wondered if the game would give the kids a focus in life. He started a hard sell to spark interest, first speaking with the school’s principal and then promoting the program among the students with a flyer.

Russ was naïve about the culture. One girl helped him. She said that if he convinced two specific students to try lacrosse, the others would follow their lead. She told Russ to approach the students personally to show respect, rather than just hand them a flyer.

Russ learned that the problems faced by the teens extended into the home. Poverty, hunger, domestic violence and homelessness were part of the equation. One parent was drunk on the couch, forcing a student to forage for food for himself and a little brother. The girl helping Russ was abused at home. Another boy witnessed his father’s abuse of his mother.

These troubled teens, each suffering with his or her own problems, eventually found lacrosse as a new kind a family. Russ learned as much from his students as they from him. It’s the teens who build the team and keep it together.

“The Grizzlies” tells an interesting tale that brings a teacher and teens together through the sport of lacrosse. I would be interested in learning more about the actual teacher and his students who are the subject of this film, and where they are today.

Sep 01 2020

A Season To Bond For Hempstead PAL Lacrosse

Hempstead PAL Lacrosse, as with all sports at all levels, was required to cancel its spring practices and games this year due to the COVID-19 virus. This came as a huge disappointment for the team’s fourth, fifth and sixth graders. The 22 kids on the roster were excited and ready to learn the game and, for some,play it competitively for the first time.

The Tigers are part of the Nassau-Suffolk County Police Athletic Lacrosse League. The nine-year Hempstead program, led by Coach Alan Hodish, has introduced the game to more than 100 African-American and Hispanic youngsters, several of whom are from single-parent homes.

Alan is a longtime friend of mine. He is a Garden City attorneyand a revered former lacrosse and football coach at Hempstead High School. He has cherished every opportunity to coach and teach lacrosse on Long Island. Recently, with his induction into the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Alan has been recognized for his decades of dedication to our student-athletes.

Hempstead PAL Lacrosse also has the commitment of Coach Bernard Williams and former high school players and other Long Island lacrosse standouts who serve as assistant coaches, role models, communicators and friends for the kids in the program. The team enjoyed several practices during the early spring before the crises paused the program. Only last month, once approved by the village, was the team allowed to gather for a handful of practices and learning sessions.

I have been involved with the program since its inception, providing the support required for these great kids to learn and enjoy a fantastic game. While the on-field activities stopped for a while, I did not pause my commitment to support Alan and the others as they continue to strengthen the program to welcomemore young players.

In honor of Alan’s ongoing devotion to the game and this specific program, an additional $10,000 has been donated to Hempstead PAL Lacrosse. My gift guarantees continued support of team operations, equipment, uniforms, expenses for officials and league registration, and an awards presentation at the end of each season. Even if these youngsters do not pursue lacrosse in high school, college, or professionally, the lessons, teamwork and camaraderie surelywill be a positive experience that the players will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

It has been a tough handful of months for these kids, and for all of us. I want the 2020 Hempstead PAL team to know that Alanand the other coaches will ensure that this season’s disappointment will be converted into a valuable lifetime lessonfor each of them.

2020 Hempstead PAL Roster

The 2020 Hempstead PAL Lacrosse Tigers roster consists of 22 players from fourth to sixth grades.

KayJay Benjamin – sixth grade

Jaden Bolling – fifth grade

Bentley Cannon – fourth grade

Amare Collins – sixth grade

Jonathan Davis – sixth grade

Keon Grier – sixth grade

Josh Hagler – sixth grade

Blake Harris – fourth grade

Jeremy Henderson – fifth grade

Tristan Herron – fourth grade

Jordan Hines – sixth grade

Steph Love – fifth grade

Julius McCloud – fifth grade

Zayden Mendez – fifth grade

Seth Montgomery – fourth grade

Aaden Sarduy – sixth grade

Riley Sarduy – fifth grade

Zyaire Thompson – sixth grade

Michael Toney – fourth grade

Morrell Toney – fifth grade

Ramon Washington – sixth grade

Jalil Watts – sixth grade

Feb 15 2020

Promising Lacrosse Program For Bronx Middle Schoolers

Many Bronxites have played football, baseball and soccer on the borough’s limited number of public and school fields. Kids across multiple generations also have enjoyed stickball on side streets, roller hockey in school yards, basketball in the asphalt parks, boxball on sidewalks, and many other sports and games against stoops and building walls.

Now, a sport long popular on green suburban fields, has moved into NYC’s concrete jungle. Dan Leventhal is the founder and president of Bronx Lacrosse. For the past two years, his program has been a success at two middle schools — Highbridge Green Middle School and Rafael Hernandez Dual Language Magnet School (P.S./I.S. 218).

Dan was inspired to start the program when he began teaching at Highbridge Green during 2015. He realized extracurricular activities were minimal for students. Dan had played lacrosse for 20 years and he was seeking an opportunity to connect with students outside the classroom.

Dan injected a lot of enthusiasm and compassion to “sell” lacrosse to the kids. During just one year, he gathered gear for 30 players and then officially started the lacrosse team at Highbridge Green during the spring of 2016. Bronx Lacrosse was founded the following year. The program at the magnet school began during the fall of 2018.

After a few months of practice, scrimmages and individual tutoring sessions with kids, the parents and teachers noticed the sport provided positive reinforcement among the students.

“I remember the principal calling me in to office and telling me how well the kids in the program were doing,” said Dan. “That’s when I realized we had a good recipe going there.”

Dan emphasized that the initiative is an academic program that uses lacrosse to build student confidence. Tutors assist students with their studies. Players record a 96 percent attendance record and a 100 percent graduation rating. The program also offers incentives for participating students through special outings, encouraging them to want more out of life.

“Lacrosse is so embedded into the school now,” said Dan about Highbridge Green, that “fifth graders coming into the school are excited about trying out.”

This past July, the boys and girls teams at Highbridge Green won the Middle School Athletic City Lacrosse Championships, the first time that a Bronx team won the title. Dan hopes the program will enjoy similar success at P.S./I.S. 218, and then he plans to introduce the game at area high schools.

Dec 02 2019

Alan Hodish Is A Long Island Lacrosse Legend!

I have known Alan Hodish for many years and was pleased about eight years ago when he asked me to join him to champion the Hempstead PAL lacrosse program. The program is such a rewarding experience for me, especially when I have the opportunity each season to speak with the young players who are learning this great game.

Before he became involved with this wonderful program for grade school youth, Alan was a successful assistant coach at Levittown Memorial High School and C.W. Post, and then he held the reins for many years as head coach for the Hempstead High School varsity lacrosse program. Alan turned around the Tigers boys’ program, creating one of the best high school boys’ lacrosse programs on Long Island.

After all these years, Alan, an attorney by day, still maintains his personal passion for lacrosse. The Hempstead PAL program is a natural fit for him. As he teaches youngsters about the game, Alan’s message to them is to remain “focused…I want the kids to be focused and I want them to take what they are doing seriously.”

Diversity in the game, whether today or during his earlier coaching assignments, always has been important to Alan.

“You have a lot of role models out there now…all the way back to Jim Brown,” said Alan. “Probably the greatest lacrosse player of all time right here from Manhasset High School. Not a better athlete than Jimmy Brown and he certainly is a role model to everybody, in particular the African-American community.”

Alan proclaims that lacrosse provides every athlete, no matter race, heritage, or family economic situation, with the opportunity to succeed, play at Division I universities and accomplish so much in school, in sports and in any chosen career. Featured as a Long Island Lacrosse Legend in this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKUXzTH86gI&feature=youtu.be), Alan embraces a positive forecast for boys and girls youth lacrosse on Long Island and for the college and professional game.

For the kid who never played the game but wants to give it a try, Alan’s advice is that he or she just needs “to buy a stick and get on the wall…you go up against a handball court and you practice your catching righty, lefty, over the shoulder.”

It’s all about the fundamentals, according to Alan, that will get anyone started in the game.

“Pick up the skills, join a team and have fun,” advised Alan.

Sep 15 2019

Emily Andriello Pursues Her Special Passion

Lacrosse players, according to Emily Andriello, require specific skillsets and mindsets to achieve success. The standout Pearl River (Rockland County) High School scholar-athlete, who now is beginning her studies at the University of South Carolina, immediately has applied her athletic skills and critical thinking from lacrosse (and soccer) to her new scholastic responsibilities. Emily also knows that she must acquire many new and diverse talents for her chosen career.

Emily ranked 14th in her high school class with a 96.4 weighted average. At college, she plans to study biology before attending medical school or physician’s assistant school. Emily hopes to pursue a career in neonatal intensive care. She found her passion when she first studied biology and anatomy a few years ago.

Emily’s world, however, is much more than science and sports. Last year, she helped a teacher with workshops held at Queens College and Hunter College, embracing the Italian language and poetry to demonstrate lesson plans for students who aspired to become teachers. Emily also is involved in her community. She has received many awards and citations for her commitments.

During her high school days, Emily learned a lot about herself. One lesson came about when she worked at the neighborhood ice cream store — with countless choices and combinations at her fingertips, Emily said that she just prefers good old chocolate with “no toppings, nothing special.”

It’s no frills for Emily as she pursues her goals. But, it’s no secret that she does leave room for a few “specials” in her life, including Gus, her bulldog.

I maintain a special interest in high school students who play lacrosse. Whether or not they continue with the game in college, lacrosse already has provided them with a solid foundation of teamwork, specific skillsets and separate mindsets that will become useful later in life. For Emily, the lessons learned on the lacrosse field will create many great opportunities for her in the health care field.

Aug 16 2019

“One Goal…One Dream” For Half Hollow Hills Vs. Autism

When he entered Half Hollow Hills High School East, Drew Quinto focused on his classes, new teachers, mingling with old friends, meeting new acquaintances and playing lacrosse. He also remained close to Corey, his older brother.

During April Autism Awareness Month of his freshman year, Drew started a nonprofit foundation – Hills Vs. Autism – to celebrate Corey. Drew looks up to Corey, who has exceeded every stereotype associated with autism, graduating SUNY Purchase with a 4.0 grade average, living on his own in Manhattan and taking care of his personal needs. Drew’s commitment to “One Goal…One Dream” to help make a difference for kids and young adults with autism immediately was embraced by his parents along with the Half Hollow Hills Central School District in Dix Hills.

One of the most successful fund-raising initiatives for the foundation is the annual Hills Vs. Autism lacrosse tournament. As many as 20 Long Island teams participate each July in the day-long event that is capped by the alumni game between the Half Hollow Hills East Thunderbirds and the Half Hollow Hills West Colts. The program has raised more than half a million dollars.

As a Hills East alumnus, I was invited to participate in this year’s program and present a new lacrosse award* that will be part of the event each year. I am honored to again acknowledge outstanding student-athletes who are successful on the lacrosse field, in the classroom and in the community. I’m even more honored to have this award associated with the cause to help our young people who face the challenges of autism. Drew Quinto, another outstanding student-athlete from Hills, and his family have moved mountains in only a few years. Learn more about the accomplishments of Hills Vs. Autism at http://www.hillsvsautism.org/

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*During halftime of this year’s game between Thunderbirds and Colts alumni, the Colts Christian Mulé received the first annual James C. Metzger Mark of Excellence Alumni Cup. The award was established to honor outstanding accomplishments on and off the lacrosse field by a Half Hollow Hills East or Half Hollow Hills West player. Future awards will be presented at the alumni game as part of the Hills Vs. Autism program.

Mulé scored 105 points as a junior, 103 points as a senior and 331 for his high school career. He set district records that included breaking Metzger’s scoring record for points in a season (102 in 1977) that had stood for more than 40 years. Mulé has committed to play lacrosse at Duke University.

Jul 01 2019

Congratulations To The Hempstead PAL Tigers

The Hempstead PAL lacrosse team of fifth and sixth grade players won the 2019 championship in the Nassau County PAL Lacrosse League. The Tigers’ 6-1 record included victories over Oyster Bay, Glen Cove, Hewlett, Hicksville, Freeport and New Hyde Park. The only loss was to Plainview and that was by a single goal. Hempstead outscored its opponents 45-21.

Congratulations to the players and Head Coach Alan Hodish, and to Coach John Tangel, Coach Bernard Williams, the families and Hempstead PAL.

Hempstead Tigers Championship Roster

Adrian Ayala

Roberto J. Barrera

Makai Bell

Amare Collins

Jonathan Davis

Kaeon Grier

Jhaheem Harvey

Jhalil Harvey

Jeremy Henderson

Xaviah Lewis

Jaden Locke

Jayden Polite

Derick Reynolds

Eric Rucker III

Aaden Sarduy

Adill Sesay-Conteh

Ramon Washington

Jalil Watts

All the players received awards for the championship season along with individual awards that recognized various skills and accomplishments. My award to a player for “his strong work ethic and improvement made throughout the lacrosse season” was presented to Adrian Ayala. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with him, all the players and their families about the fun of the game and the many opportunities lacrosse provides by opening doors in high school, college and later in life.

I have supported the Hempstead PAL lacrosse program since its inception eight years ago. Along with the coaches and other benefactors, I have enjoyed introducing this great game to children who may never have had the opportunity to pick up a lacrosse stick.

The chant for 2020 already has started — “Tigers Repeat!”

Jun 15 2019

Long Island Lacrosse Is Getting Better All The Time

Every high school student looks forward to the end of spring. Not the final exams part of it but the final few days that lead to summer vacation.

Lacrosse players look forward to the championship games, athletic and academic award celebrations, and the opportunity to take on the next challenge—summer practice to prepare for next season, or the leap into a college program.

At the Section VIII Nassau County high school boys’ lacrosse championships at Hofstra University, I presented my annual Leadership Award to six young men who are definitive leaders on and off the field. Vincent Sombrotto, Nassau lacrosse star and my Hofstra teammate from the 1970s, joined me in the presentations to the following scholar-athletes:

· Cold Spring Harbor High School senior midfielder Danny Striano.

· Garden City High School senior midfielder Joe Scattareggia.

· Locust Valley High School senior goalie Colton Teilelbaum.

· Manhasset High School senior attackman Louis Perfetto.

· Massapequa High School senior faceoff specialist Angelo Petrakis.

· Syosset High School senior midfielder Christian Lyons.

· 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.

Immediately following the Nassau games, Vincent and I voted on and presented my inaugural MVP awards for the Suffolk-Nassau Championships. The recipients:

· Manhasset High School senior midfielder and faceoff specialist Marc Psyllos.

· Mattituck/Southold High School senior midfielder Max Kruszeski.

· Massapequa High School senior midfielder Thomas Greenblatt.

· Shoreham-Wading River High School junior midfielder Gavin Gregorek.

A few days after the presentations to these outstanding scholar-athletes, I had the honor to speak with the lacrosse team, their parents and coaches at my alma mater, Half Hollow Hills High School East. I was honored to meet senior Sal Pascarella and present to him my annual Hills East Outstanding Player Award. He was team captain this season, a fabulous team leader and now he is headed to St. Joseph’s University.

Following the excitement of presenting all these awards, there still was more great news for Long Island. I was pleased to learn that, with my support, the New York State High School Boys’ Lacrosse Championships will be coming to Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Go Long Island Lacrosse! It is getting better all the time.

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.”

Feb 02 2019

Football Player Of Year Is A Lacrosse Kid

As the football season neared its conclusion, a pep talk was delivered to Bryce Ford and his teammates. For the seniors, this was their last chance to create something special, something memorable.

Midway through the fourth quarter of the Section 1 Class A championship game, Bryce was presented with his moment for John Jay-Cross River High School. The team led Rye High School by only a touchdown. Bryce then sprawled for an interception near midfield. He later learned that this play separated his throwing shoulder. That was critical, because he also was the team’s quarterback.

When an official checked on him, Bryce said he was just enjoying the turf as he caught his breath. He finished the game and logged more than 60 touches in the 21-14 win. He secured the first Section 1 championship for the school with an interception at the goal line on the game’s next-to-last play.

It was the signature moment during a record-setting season for Bryce, who is a three-sport athlete. Though the school lost the next game to the eventual state champ, Bryce did throw his only pass of that game with his other arm. The shoulder did heal in time so he could begin his senior basketball season.

Bryce is the first-ever Player of the Year selected by Section 1’s coaches. His credentials included rewriting the John Jay school record book by shattering single-game, single-season and career marks. Bryce broke or tied school records for single-game passing yards and touchdowns, single-season completions, passing yards and touchdowns, single-game rushing attempts and touchdowns, and single-season rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns. With all this comes a new Section 1 record for total yards of offense—for passing, rushing and receiving combined.

Even after such a successful season, football takes a back seat to lacrosse. Bryce said he threw on the pads every fall and gave his best effort, but that lacrosse is his passion. He plans to stick with lacrosse. He is a middie and committed to Fairfield University.