Apr 15 2018

Hall Of Famer Cheers On Vets

Entering a hall of fame is a wonderful achievement and honor. I have had the pleasure on several occasions. The honor—for sports, for business, for community service, or for other achievements—is the acknowledgement from peers that your preparation, your training, your work ethic and your commitment will remain in the spotlight for others to emulate.

The Westchester Sports Hall of Fame inducted a new class of athletes, coaches, officials and broadcasters late last year. One of the inductees was recognized for his sports career and also for his commitment to help others.

Paul Natale coached baseball, football and soccer at Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose. His baseball teams won Section 1 titles during 1976 and 2000 and he recorded 500 wins. His soccer team reached the state final for the 1988 season. The football program’s success peaked during 1999 but lost to the eventual state champion that season. During a 42-year career as a coach and teacher at Hen Hud, Paul achieved a lot on the field. He accomplished a lot more for the many students who passed through his classroom.

Paul has been retired for several years. His sports and teaching assets presently cheer for handicapped veterans and former soldiers battling post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. Paul is a volunteer adaptive physical education coach at several Veterans Affairs hospitals. Coaching veterans in anything from softball to basketball to touch football has allowed Paul the opportunity to take a different view of his life.

Before Paul’s coaching and teaching days, he was a Vietnam War draftee. He served two years but was never in a fight. Paul often recalls his college fraternity brothers who never came home. He believes that his commitment to today’s soldiers is a proper salute to his college friends.

This is a life that others surely will want to emulate.

Oct 15 2017

More Than Just Kicking It Around

At many colleges, the words “one and done” is the magic term in the athletic deparment. The phrase means that an athlete will play one year and then embrace the fame and possibly the fortune of a professional career.

For Colton Wigsten, the “one and done” phrase was bad news. As a freshman player at Ithaca College, and arriving as a highly touted recruit with high school scoring records, his first game became his last. A defender hit his knee the moment he planted his foot. The knee buckled, wrecking the ACL, MCL and meniscus.

After eight months of physical therapy, Colton left Ithaca before his junior year. He worked in the real world while remaining in shape. He earned credentials as an LPN and relocated to Georgia to obtain valuable experience before enrolling in the nursing program at Tompkins-Cortland Community College in upstate New York. He’s also on the school’s soccer team.

Colton is 26 now. The next oldest on the team is 21. He realizes that he is not the same player, but he now plays a smarter game. He recognizes situations quickly and clearly sees the game unfold before him. He says that he now is capable of controlling the pace to set up plays.

After his injury, Colton was depressed. Soccer was his life. The injury destroyed his collegiate experience. Finally processing that there was more to life than soccer, he has matured, will play to the best of his ability and will be thankful for the opportunities on and off the soccer field.

Mar 16 2016

A Focus And Worth Ethic On The Field And Off

Taylor Washington has a poem that was given to him when he was four years old. It was written by his pre-school teachers. A few lines in the poem were devoted to each student.

Taylor, who now is 22, proudly claims he can play every sport. The lines from his personal part of the poem read: “Agile, strong and, boy, can he throw. He’ll play in the majors and earn some big dough.”

It is not known if the teachers actually believed in his future sports success, or if they were just including the boy’s interests at the time. While the lines indicate a career in baseball, Taylor has made it big in soccer.

After he was selected by the Philadelphia Union in the second round of the Major League Soccer draft in January, Taylor has become focused on earning a roster spot. Since those pre-school days, he was a kid who had everything line up for him. He was boy who everyone cheered on to success.

Taylor was a star high school player. More than 80 Division I colleges recruited him and he attended Boston University. But, there is more to the story.

While successful on the field, this happy kid who always raised his hand to answer questions in class and who spent a lot of time hitting the books also always struggled with written tests. Yet, he sometimes won academic awards despite teacher evaluations to the contrary. One teacher even wrote that he was a kid without an “academic bone in his body.”

After his freshman year at BU, some extensive testing revealed a learning issue. Taylor has dyslexia. Quickly, he took his work ethic from the soccer field and applied it to his lessons. He left Boston to attend George Mason University, a school that had recruited him and also had many more academic programs to help students overcome learning issues.

On the field, Taylor earned Atlantic-10, ECAC and NCSAA All-Midwest honors. With all his academic and sports work, Taylor still found time to help people he did not know, working with kids and organizing projects such as cleaning a school that serves disadvantaged children.

His coaches since high school say that he is an overachiever in every aspect of life. One coach even stated that Taylor is “one of the best human beings I’ve ever worked with.”

So, what does the future hold for Taylor? Well, about a month ago, the Philadelphia Union announced that Taylor was added to the roster at the position of left back. The team announcement included this statement from the Union’s sporting director: “It was evident from day one that Taylor entered preseason camp with a focused mentality and committed work ethic in hopes of making our roster. He’s earned his place on the team and he exemplifies the type of professionalism we want at our club. He has a bright future and the ability to immediately contribute at such an important position.”

-Jim

Jan 16 2015

When You Add It Up, She’s The Whole Package

High school junior Hannon Eberts has drive, heart, speed, love for the game and talent. Hannon plays soccer. She started in kindergarten.

Unlike many serious soccer players, Hannon also plays another sport. She runs track. The fact that she holds the record for her school’s 400 probably wouldn’t surprise many of her soccer opponents. Hannon is known for her speed along with an uncanny ability to score with headers and kicks while airborne.

Following her freshman year, soccer success became more important to Hannon. She didn’t like the sectional finals that year—a loss on post-overtime penalty kicks. When her team met that same opponent this past postseason, Hannon said the girls had just one goal—to win.

The underdog status through much of the postseason became fuel for Hannon and her teammates. She said they needed to step up as a team for every game. They did and won the championship.

“We put so much hard work into winning,” said Hannon when it was over. “When you get the reward of winning, it’s incredible.”

That winning attitude also goes beyond the field. Hannon’s classroom IQ mirrors her game intelligence. A math lover, she wants to study either engineering or physical therapy in college. Of course, she also wants to continue to play the game she loves.

Jim