Feb 01 2020

Women’s Panel Provides Insights For Student-Athletes

The growing influence of women in athletics over the last handful of decades has provided significant benefits for women, for men and for our younger athletes who participate in sports programs at all levels. Professional athletes, college and high school scholar-athletes, weekend warriors and millions of boys and girls who are enrolled in grade school and private programs all are becoming better athletes from the improved training, conditioning, dieting and sports IQ insights offered by their men and women coaches and trainers.

An outstanding illustration of the increasing influence and impact of women in athletics is the Class of 2020 induction of four sports pioneers — Dr. H. Jean Berger, Ruth Gracey, Jeannette Rogers and Annamae McKeever-Kress — in the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame. Another example of the significant advancement by women is the inaugural women’s athletics panel that was offered by Fordham University just a few months ago.

Five outstanding womenFordham Women’s Head Basketball Coach Stephanie Gaitley, Fordham basketball player Danielle Padovano (now business operations manager at Home Team Sports), financial consultant and decorated marathon swimmer Elizabeth Fry, former Dartmouth University director of athletics Josie Harper and Fordham’s Graduate School of Education clinical assistant profession Shannon Waite – dialogued with the university’s student-athletes last November. The panel was formed by the Fordham Women’s Philanthropy Summit, an annual community–building and networking event at the Lincoln Center campus.

Stephanie participated in the 2018 summit and she was inspired to coordinate a similar event specifically for student–athletes. The goal of the gathering was to provide women with the opportunity to meet and learn from athletes who created successful careers in various fields.

Shannon’s path to a rewarding profession in education was not a straight line. Her plans changed dramatically after she tore her ACL one week before she was to finalize plans to play volleyball at the collegiate level. She now is training principals and other aspiring school leaders.

Josie spoke about her experience as the first woman in her position at Dartmouth and in the Ivy League. She acknowledged that more doors are opening for women and she urged students to learn key skills, including humor, to address challenges.

Elizabeth said swimming continues to influence many areas of her life, including her volunteer commitments. For more than five years, she has been the marathon director for Swim Across the Sound, an annual fundraiser for St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The event raises funds to offer cancer prevention education and screenings to the community, and to provide financial support for people affected by the disease.

The event that brought together these athletic-minded and successful women resonated positively with the student athletes. An outfielder on Fordham’s women’s softball team plans to major in Italian Studies and now has decided to seek a mentor. Her teammate, who is majoring in digital technologies and emerging media, realized the importance of surrounding herself with positive influences offered by both women and men.

Dec 02 2014

A Firing That Turned Into Success

We are in the midst of another competitive hockey season in this area so soon after the New York Rangers played an exciting 2013-2014 season that fell just a few games short of a championship. Leading the team is Coach Alain Vigneault.

Alain spent 36 years living, playing and coaching hockey before he accepted, during 1997, the most demanding position in the NHL. He became the second-youngest coach of the Montreal Canadians.

The Montreal position was his first head coaching job in the league. In three seasons, he reached the playoffs one time. Where Stanley Cup championships are measured not by the season but by the week, he was replaced quickly.

The experience validated his approach as a tactician and communicator behind the bench. The position reinforced his core beliefs that led to seven winning years in Vancouver and his successful debut season with the Rangers. The short time in Montreal, according to one player, put Alain through more than some coaches will see in an entire career.

Confident in his ability when he accepted the Montreal job, Alain also was smart to surround himself with established assistant coaches. With them, he planned practices that were weighted with instruction. The sessions were timed to the second. Hours were spent discussing tactics and devising game plans. He clarified every detail so his players clearly understood their responsibilities.

Alain always has employed a direct approach with his players—candid and respectful in closed-door meetings. He speaks in black and white, and players always know what he is thinking. During the game, no matter the situation, he breathes a calming influence on the bench.

Alain was fired from Montreal for what the team president said was an unacceptable performance. His boss did not take into account that Alain fought through three years of injuries that forced him to integrate minor leaguers who may not have been ready to play in the NHL. More likely, his boss understood the situation, but the pressure in Montreal to win is a daily event. Alain, as the coach, was on the hot seat and he was fired to release some steam.

Ever the diplomat, when he heard the news that he was out as coach, Alain said that Montreal was a great place to coach and that the place brought out the best in him. He took that experience first to Vancouver and then to New York, leading each team to a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Alain’s philosophy is simple: “Everybody says to be yourself and to stick with what you believe in. If at one point you’re shown the door, at least you did it your way.”

Good advice for coaches and for those of us in business.

Jim


Apr 15 2014

Reputation Remains When Playing Days Are Over

It was the spring of 1993 when Cal Ripken Jr. was introduced to a skinny 17-year-old kid. The teen would become the overall top pick in that summer’s draft and he had asked to meet with his boyhood idol. They had a brief and cordial meeting. They stayed in touch through the years.

Much has happened since.

Ripken continued to redefine the position of shortstop, proving that big guys could handle it defensively and also hit home runs. He became a celebrated baseball icon and a first ballot Hall of Famer. His dedication to preparation and a vigilant work ethic still are referenced more than 10 years after he retired.

Ripken took pride in representing the Orioles. He stressed that the focus always should be on his team. The many programs and charities that he supported as a young player remain important to the Ripken family legacy.

As predicted, that teenager who idolized Ripken did make it to the big leagues. He became a tremendous player with natural talent, but he also became alienated from many fans and fellow players.

Plenty of scouts said that he was the best young player they ever saw. But, maybe the budding star thought otherwise. Maybe he lacked confidence. Or, maybe he wanted to be greater than great, the greatest of all time, and he thought the only way to accomplish this was to use performance-enhancing drugs.

Alex Rodriguez had the right idea when he idolized Cal Ripken, but his train derailed badly along the way. Rather than following Ripken on the right track to success, A-Rod attempted to cheat the game for his personal gain. He also hurt future players, sending a message to athletes with considerably less natural talent in the minor leagues, on college and high school teams, and playing for fun in little league somewhere that they could grab an advantage by cheating.

A-Rod may still be a productive player when he returns, if he returns, for the 2015 season. He also will collect more money than just about any other ballplayer ever will see. But there is nothing he can do that will repair the self-inflicted damage to his reputation. Maybe he doesn’t care now, but in sports as in business reputation stays with you and your family long after your playing days are over.

Jim

Sep 01 2013

Learning From The Great Mariano

During my childhood, baseball relief pitchers didn’t dramatically thrust their uniform shirts from their pants after nailing down a save. They didn’t let out wild yells, or show-up the other team by symbolically shooting an arrow into the air.

One of the few acts of emotion that I recall involved the late Steve Hamilton. This Yankees reliever would come in around the seventh or eighth inning. When he succeeded, he just “pulled the chain.” As he walked from the mound, Hamilton extended his pitching arm in front of him, made a fist and yanked his arm back to his body as he turned over his forearm. Practically unnoticeable to fans, this gesture never caused embarrassment to his opponents.

For another Yankee relief pitcher, we now are seeing the last few days of a Hall of Fame career. For 19 years, Mariano Rivera has been a classy teammate, soft spoken and humble. He let his work ethic, and his cutter, do all the talking. Antics on the mound never have been part of his game.

With rare exceptions, Mo performed his job perfectly during exhibition games, the season, the playoffs and the World Series. With pressure high, he remained cool on the mound. He rarely showed emotion. If he failed, he accepted it and vowed to do better the next day. When a teammate failed, he was the first to provide encouragement.

This final year has been a celebration for Mo as he appears with the Yankees in ballparks around the country. He has been honored by the opposing teams, and he meets with their fans and long-time employees. He even is cheered and applauded by opposing fans as he enters games to shut down the home team.

All baseball fans appreciate a winner and this year they have celebrated the respect Mo has for his craft, for the game, for other players, for them, and for his God and his family. It is the rare athlete who can take a bow at center stage and receive good wishes from everyone.

We all can learn from the great Mariano!

Jim