Mar 15 2019

The Bernardo Boys Look Beyond X’s and O’s

Rasmus Dahlin, a defenseman, was the first overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft. At that point, he had played defense full-time for just one year.

Rasmus’ rise to become the top pick at the age of 17 at a position that still was new to him placed the spotlight on the importance of long-term athletic development—develop the athlete first and then allow the player to focus on specialization.

To accomplish this in hockey and for any sport, parents should allow their children to experience a variety of athletic programs. When the player decides to concentrate on a specific game, then a coach should allow the young athlete to experience all angles of that game. The best way to learn is for an athlete to play multiple positions.

So, how can coaches and parents support our young athletes? Here are some thoughts, with a couple of examples from brothers Anthony and Nick Bernardo. A while ago, Anthony (who also participated in lacrosse and track) and Nick (who enjoys and still plays baseball) decided to concentrate on hockey. Their subsequent success on the Long Island ice hockey scene has been showcased for a number of years with the PAL Junior Islanders.

  • Encourage young athletes to try multiple positions. Learning, understanding and then executing the responsibilities of each position helps build game knowledge and player confidence. Anthony has played left and right wing on his hockey teams. As a right-handed shooter, he has learned that he can create more plays in the offensive zone from the left side than from the right side.

  • Let players “feel” the game from different positions. Players develop empathy and understanding for the challenges faced by teammates when they personally obtain a different perspective.

  • Each position is responsible for specific assignments within a game. The opportunity to adjust to different roles improves a player’s awareness as the game unfolds. As a forward, Nick realized that his team’s defensemen were not rushing the puck up ice to help generate offense. Now, as a defenseman for eight years, Nick concentrates on moving the puck quickly to the offensive zone after taking care of his responsibilities in the defensive end. Today’s hockey is more dynamic than ever and a defenseman such as Nick knows that the position spends less time skating backward and more time joining the rush.

  • Encourage each player to contribute to the team concept. While some young players will be adamant that they only want to play one position, teach them the benefits of adapting their abilities to different positions. They will broaden their game knowledge, improve technical skills, build confidence and raise their compete level. This opportunity also allows players to begin to think about the team and it provides a coach with game day flexibility to cover for injured, ill, or otherwise unavailable players.

Sep 01 2014

Lessons Of Perseverance And Leadership

All the players, along with the manager and coaches, were introduced to the fans at this year’s opening day at Yankee Stadium. Danilo Valiente received polite applause. But, for the many fans who were at the park or watched the ceremonies on television, Danilo Valiente was an unknown wearing a pinstripe uniform.

Was he a new player? A new coach?

“It was just like a dream,” he told reporters later. “I was standing there thinking: How could I be here? What am I doing in this place? I could feel the tears coming down my face. It was the biggest thing that ever happened to me.”

Here’s the story about how the 47-year-old Danilo got to that place, how he heard his name on the public address system at Yankee Stadium and how he found himself standing along the first base line with the manager, coaches and players.

Danilo played ball in Cuba until he was 25 years old, reaching the equivalent of that country’s Class AAA league. He was told that too many good players were ahead of him, so he decided to become a coach. He also managed, leading the Boyeros club to the 1996 championship. One of his pitchers on Boyeros would become a Yankee—Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. Danilo then coached for an even more prestigious club but had to supplement his meager earnings by working at a hospital. During all this time, he learned the art of throwing batting practice.

He married an American woman and moved to Tampa. Soon after, his wife died and Danilo needed to become more immersed in baseball to address his grief. He even found the nerve to approach Mark Newman, a senior Yankees official, during one of Newman’s morning walks around the Yankees spring training and minor league complex in Tampa. He requested a position with the Yankees organization. It took a while, but Danilo eventually was hired. He worked in Tampa and with three of the Yankees minor league teams. The players raved about his ability to throw batting practice, which has become a highly-prized specialty, and he was promoted to the big league team last September.

So, you ask, how was a batting practice pitcher selected to be introduced at Yankee Stadium prior to the home opener?

A day earlier, the Yankees were flying to New York when one of the players called Danilo to the back of the airplane for a brief discussion. The player told Danilo that not only did he deserve the promotion but that he also deserved to be acknowledged. The player said that he had informed management that Danilo should be introduced at Yankee Stadium. Danilo was told to be ready for the opening day ceremonies.

Derek Jeter was that Yankees player who made it happen for Danilo to be introduced before 48,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. Upon hearing the story, one longtime baseball fan repeated what many people have said about the Yankees shortstop for 20 years: “He gets it!”

Perseverance by Danilo and leadership by Derek led to an experience of a lifetime. These are two great lessons for you to follow each time you begin your workday.

- Jim

Aug 04 2014

Ice Cream Rewards For A Job Well Done

At the U.S. Women’s Open a little more than a month ago, the debut for one player was marred by a couple of double bogeys and a triple bogey. She failed to find the fairway on one shot. She hit another into a bunker. The shot out of the sand rolled past the flag and off the green. She hit her chip about 20 feet past the hole.

This new player on the circuit finished the day at eight-over-par 78. Despite the problems and probably some jitters, she remained upbeat. “It was a lot of fun,” said Lucy Li. “I kind of struggled today, but it was great.”

Then she took a bite from a pink ice cream bar. As she continued to talk with the media, she occasionally giggled and grinned, revealing a mouthful of braces.

Lucy Li is just 11 years old, and on this day she beat a few other players who posted first-round 79s. More than a dozen players did not break 80.

One player said that while Lucy may look 11, she doesn’t speak as most 11-year-olds and she certainly doesn’t hit a golf ball the way other children do at that age.

At such a tender age, Lucy already knows how to place her game in perspective. “I learned that you’ve got to be patient,” she said. “One shot at a time. Try to get rid of the big numbers.”

That’s much the same way we operate around the office. We remain patient. We address one issue at a time with our clients. We try not to overwhelm them and ourselves with big problems.

When a workday is over, whether it was spent on the golf course or in the office, we all must remember to reward ourselves for a job well done no matter the outcome. Lucy already knows what to do. When she was asked about her plans for the rest of the day after her debut, she grinned and said: “Eat some more ice cream.”

My favorite is chocolate. What’s yours?

- Jim

Aug 01 2013

Take Advantage Of The Opportunity

After baseball’s spring training, David Adams, a second baseman, was released by the Yankees. Then came a roster of injuries, and Adams was resigned by the team as infield insurance. He played in the minor leagues until he was eligible for promotion to the big team during mid-May.

A chain of unusual events put Adams in the Yankee lineup at third base. Alex Rodriquez had off-season hip surgery. His replacement, Kevin Youkilis, was injured and eventually required back surgery that has disabled him for about four months. Other utility players were moved around the infield due to a disabling injury to the shortstop, Eduardo Nunez, who was keeping the position warm until the injured Derek Jeter could return from a twice broken bone.

Eventually the task at third was thrust upon Adams. His fielding was good, and his hitting started well—a .323 batting average with a couple of home runs and a handful of RBI in his first eight games. Then, things changed on the offensive side. His average plummeted to .191 and he still had two home runs and only a few more RBI after 26 games.

According to his manager, opposing teams studied him. Pitchers made adjustments on how they threw to him. Fielders were positioned to catch any ball he put in play. Adams never made the counter-adjustment, and he eventually realized the problem.

He put pressure on himself. He tried to accomplish too much and he shifted away from his strengths and what he could execute well. He realized he needed to simplify his approach to the game and again trust his plan.

The Yankees continued to juggle players as a few returned from their injuries. Adams was sent back to the minor leagues to work through his struggles.

Similar situations occur all the time in business. A company often must call upon an employee to fill a void. When that call comes, a worker must continue to make adjustments to a variety of unfamiliar conditions. A person who has confidence and can adapt well to new situations will, more often than not, remain with the top team.


Jul 16 2013

A Baseball Ruling Creates A New Opportunity

During a Little League playoff game last summer, a boy with the Brewster team of Putnam County had to leave the dugout. An opponent protested his presence since he was not a roster player, and because his wheelchair created a liability issue.

Evan Sussman has had cerebral palsy since infancy. While he and the team were disappointed by the ruling, matters have turned out just fine for him and other players.

Soon after, Evan was allowed back in the dugout. He threw out the first pitch for the team’s next game. He and his teammates, and their families, received 20 tickets to a Yankees game from the local Stop & Shop supermarket, and then they received a matching donation of tickets from the Yankees.

Before the game, Evan was on the field during batting practice. He met the players and he fired strategic questions at manager Joe Girardi. “Can you tell me why,” asked Evan about a previous game, “you decided to switch the pitcher?”

The surprises didn’t end there. Rawlings heard about the story and sent Evan a personalized glove. Some things, though, had to wait for this season.

Evan’s mom, Karen Kushnir, is a special education advisor. When this all began, she was saddened by the circumstances. Then she spoke with officials of the Brewster Little League. The conversations led to the creation of the Brewster Challenger League for special-needs players. Many parents and students who wanted to help Evan and others like him in the community contributed their time to create two Challenger League teams.

Evan, his mom and others did not become discouraged on that day when Evan had to leave the dugout. Instead, they turned a disappointing situation into a new opportunity. Now baseball is providing more children in Brewster with the opportunity to have fun.


May 01 2013

Patience In Sports, Patience In Business

It took five months, but the New York Rangers finally got their man.

The team originally tried to pry Rick Nash away from the Columbus Blue Jackets at last season’s trade deadline so he could help with a playoff run. They didn’t succeed with either.

Not until last summer was this talented young scorer dealt to New York, and the deal was a steal. The Rangers did not give up any core young talent, nor did the acquisition affect the team’s salary structure.

During his first season with the Rangers, Nash has delivered with goals, assists, crisp passing, defense and with some nifty moves with the puck. Unfortunately, other aspects of the team’s play were lacking as the team struggled to reclaim its dominant play of the previous season.

Looking back to when the Nash acquisition was first discussed between the Rangers and Blue Jackets, no one at the time was sure it would occur. The package of players offered by the Rangers had been rejected by Columbus. Neither side budged.

When Nash finally became a member of the Rangers during the off-season, the player package going in the other direction involved the same names that had been discussed earlier. The Rangers refused to sweeten the offer. Columbus relented when it realized that the Rangers’ offer for Nash could not be matched by any other team.

Frequently, sports teams and businesses will jump too quickly at an opportunity for fear of losing leverage or anticipating that a deal may collapse. When this occurs, the payment, in hindsight, often is found to be too expensive. Resources may become depleted, or the return on the investment may be diminished.

In this case with the Rangers, and in all matters involving business and personal decisions, patience is the key to turning a successful deal.