Jun 02 2018

Congratulations To NYC’s 2017 High School Football Standouts

The New York City high school football player of the year is….Matt Valecce!

Matt played for Fordham Preparatory High School in The Bronx. At six-feet, five-inches and 205 pounds, Fordham’s quarterback led New York State in passing this past season, collecting 3,333 yards on 226 completions and a 64 percent completion percentage. Matt recorded 41 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. A year earlier, Matt threw for 2,416 yards and 27 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He finished his high school career ranked second all-time in the state for passing yards (10,027) and third all-time in touchdown passes (112).

The Whitmore Group sponsors the New York City Player of the Year Award presented by the local chapter of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. I was honored to present this year’s award to a fine young man. Matt is more than just a football all-star. He finished high school with a 4.28 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) and he accepted a full athletic scholarship to play for Boston College. He is going places on and off the field.

Along with Matt, 10 other outstanding New York City high school football players were honored at the sixth annual “Elite Eleven” Scholar-Athlete Award Dinner hosted by the foundation. Each year, the event is managed by Marc T. Hudak, who is chairman of the local NFF chapter and a partner and member of Whitmore’s management committee. The awards recognize the players for their performance on the field, in the classroom and as leaders in their communities. The award criteria is 40 percent based on GPA and academic achievement, 40 percent based on football ability and achievement, and 20 percent based on leadership, school and community involvement.

I extend my congratulations to each of the “Elite Eleven” 2017 scholar-athletes:

BROOKLYN

Christian Minaya (committed to Southern Connecticut State) – New Utrecht High School, Coach Alan Balkan

QUEENS

Joseph Alvarado (school intentions undecided) – John Adams High School, Coach Seth Zuckerman

Michael Taylor (committed to Villanova University) – Holy Cross High School, Coach Tim Smith

STATEN ISLAND

Quincey Barnes (committed to Western Connecticut State) – Curtis High School, Coach Peter Gambardella

John Buscini (committed to College of Staten Island) – St. Joseph’s by the Sea High School, Coach Michael Corona

Shakim Douglas (committed to U.S. Naval Academy) – St. Peter’s Boys High School, Coach Mark DeCristoforo

Nicolas Macri (committed to Binghamton University) – McKee Staten Island Tech High School, Coach Anthony Ciadella

THE BRONX

Elijah Jones (committed to Boston College) – Cardinal Hayes High School, Coach CJ O’Neil

Danny Sanchez (committed to Stony Brook University) – Lehman Campus High School, Coach Chris DiTullio

Joseph Petti (committed to U.S. Naval Academy) – Fordham Preparatory High School, Coach Peter Gorynski

Matt Valecce (committed to Boston College) – Fordham Preparatory High School, Coach Peter Gorynski

Jan 01 2018

Leading By Example On And Off The Field

Last year’s lacrosse season at Long Island’s Harborfields High School was a good one. The team had talent, but senior Falyn Dwyer said she wanted the team to work harder in practice to polish its skills. She personally was committed to the same goal.

The drive paid off when the team made it into the playoffs and to the Suffolk County Division II semi-finals. The ladies showcased that success could be achieved through dedication and commitment.

Falyn led by example. As a four-year varsity midfielder, she always delivered maximum effort on the field. Her coach referred to her as a fierce competitor who is self-motivated. Falyn contributed during key opportunities on both offense and defense. Opposing players often were baffled, because they could not prevent Falyn from getting the ball.

Falyn’s tenacity went beyond the lacrosse field. She also was a midfielder on the soccer team and a shooting guard and two-way player on the basketball team. Falyn played all three sports throughout her high school career, earning many accolades and several awards for her success. Her coaches agreed that Falyn was one of the most coachable high school athletes.

Record setting achievements and commitment for Falyn, however, were not solely reserved for the field or court. She achieved a 108 grade point average for her studies and ranked near the top of her class of 300 students. She also was active in a number of non-sports activities and clubs during her high school days.

Falyn received All-Conference and All-County Academic honors for both soccer and basketball, and she was named All-County for lacrosse. She now attends Fordham University. Her interests include sports but also environmental studies, teaching and law. I suspect that many more accolades and awards are in her future.

Aug 01 2016

Good Luck To Nick DiPietro

The high school lacrosse awards continued to flow on Long Island during June and I did not want too much time to pass before I congratulate senior Half Hollow Hills High School East lacrosse defensemen Nick DiPietro.

That’s my alma mater, and Nick received the 2016 James C. Metzger Outstanding Player Award that is presented annually to the outstanding boys lacrosse player at the Suffolk County school. He also received the John Fernandez Courage Award presented by the Suffolk County Lacrosse Coaches Association. This award recognizes a player who has overcome difficult circumstances with the same spirit as U.S. Army Lieutenant John Fernandez. Nick was honored for his work ethic to overcome a major sports injury at such a young age to return to the game and to lead his team on an off the field.

Nick was a five-year varsity starter, a two-time Thunderbirds co-captain and a 2016 team co-most valuable player. His 2016 statistics were 71 ground balls, three goals, three assists and an average of three takeaways per game. His high school career statistics are 201 ground balls, 130 caused turnovers, six assists and seven goals.

Named to the Newsday Top 20 preseason players list for 2015 and 2016, Nick also was named to the 2015 and 2016 USA Today pre-season All-American team. He was a 2016 USA U19 (under age 19) invitee, 2016 Lacrosse Insider top two tristate defenseman and a Nike Lacrosse The Ride invitee (top 50 players in the country).

Nick also received 2016 first team All-American honors and was named to the 2016 Newsday All-Long Island boys lacrosse second team.

For a while, Nick’s lacrosse play was in jeopardy. His junior year season ended early when he tore an ACL and suffered additional knee damage. After surgery and during rehabilitation, Nick’s continued leadership, dedication and determination to recover helped guide the team to a league championship and playoff appearance that season and this past season.

Nick’s high school days now are behind him. He’s off to Syracuse University, where he had committed since his sophomore year. More awards should be on the horizon for Nick as long as he maintains his love and spirit for the game.

- Jim

Sep 02 2015

Lessons From A Storyteller

Fans of Seinfeld are familiar with the show’s J. Peterman character. He certainly liked to tell long-winded stories during a show about nothing.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the art of storytelling is an actual attribute of the actor who portrayed Peterman. John O’Hurley’s real stories, however, are based on a successful business career and each one offers a significant lesson about the pursuit of personal goals.

After graduating college with a degree in acting, John was unable to find relevant work. His first job was wrapping boxes for the in-house public relations and advertising agency of a machine tools company in Hartford, Connecticut. He arrived every day with a suit and tie. At the plant, he would remove the tie and roll up his sleeves to wrap the boxes, but he never allowed himself to think for one moment that success was not within his grasp. He used his lunch hour wisely, talking to everyone and learning about their jobs. He spoke with the art director, the typesetter, the person responsible for paste-ups and those involved with graphics. He learned about printing and copywriting.

Within two years, John had moved on to the position of public relations director for one of the teaching affiliates at Yale School of Medicine. From there, he became director of public relations for the Connecticut Red Cross.

John certainly did not fail in business, but he knew at the time that he was not satisfied in his career choice. He had defined himself as an actor since he was three years old. It was about time that he pursued his passion.

John relied on everything that he had learned in business as he toiled in a variety of acting roles. Eventually, he ended up on Seinfeld as, in his words, a “mock Shakespearean legend in his own mind with no particular point when he gets to the end [of one of his stories].” John’s success in television continued to other shows, and he also became part owner of the real J. Peterman Company (“I liked the role so much that I bought the company,” he says often).

Along the way, John also became a pretty good golfer. He says there are a lot of parallels between hitting that little ball and taking personal responsibility to reach the top. He says that if the ball is not moving, then it also is possible that one’s career is not moving. There is only person, he says, who can be responsible for moving that ball and moving a career to achieve personal goals.

As for storytelling, John has a definitive take on it that he readily shares with anyone who will take a moment to listen: “If you’re going to tell a story, tell it from an interesting perspective. Attack your listener, your audience, so that they listen to you.”

- Jim

Mar 15 2015

A Big Splash At 60

Pool water is in his blood and soul. It has been since he was a kid on Long Island.

Roger Kahn was an all-state swimmer for Hewlett High School and he broke records at Penn State. From there, he has never stopped swimming. When he turned 45, he won a Masters national championship in the 50-meter freestyle.

During 2013, Roger was named an All-American in the 200 medley relay for his age group. The relay team was ranked number one in the U.S. and number three in the world. Roger’s part in the relay also was ranked one and three, respectively.

Just last year, as he moved closer to 60, he competed in the 50-meter freestyle and the 50-meter butterfly, along with a couple of relays, during the U.S. Masters Swimming Summer National Championship. Now, as he prepares for this year’s event, he has graduated from the 55-59 age group to join the 60-64 class.

He considers the change as just one advantage to getting a little older. He feels that the younger a swimmer is in an age group, the better the chance of winning a medal. He said the faster guys are the younger guys.

Roger, who owns a business in Garden City, is married with two children. Yet, with all the work and family issues to manage, he still adheres to his training schedule. He takes a training dip for an hour four times each week. He does a half-hour of dry-land exercises three days each week. Years of dedication helps him compete successfully against swimmers who can afford to spend more time in the pool.

One of the best tributes of Roger came from a friend who is the director at the pool where the swimmer trains: “Not only does he maintain a level of excellence…he’s been a great model for other people to stay dedicated.”

According to Roger, the focus required first to achieve success as a young student-athlete and then as a business executive helps provide balance in life. He said it all helps a person learn how to juggle responsibilities, balance priorities and concentrate on the most important things.

Jim

Dec 15 2014

Zoook Knows How To Come Up Really Big

At Madison Square Garden, you can hear the crowd call out “Zoook” a number of times during each game. Forward Mats Zuccarello is one of the most popular New York Rangers. He has speed, good stick-handling skills and scoring ability. He also likes to check and scrum with the big boys.

Mats is just five feet and seven inches tall. Most players tower over him—up to a foot higher and 50-100 pounds heavier. Despite his size on the low end, Mats is easy to spot on the ice whether you are sitting in the nosebleed seats or watching the game on television. His long, shaggy hair flows from the helmet. He carries an extra-long left-handed stick. The puck seems to find him, or vice-versa.

Mats’ skating and passing are so quick that sometimes television cameras are a half-step behind him. You must rely on the video replay to fully grasp his unbelievable passing or how the puck got behind the goalie. One of his teammates said that Mats also is sometimes tough to find on the ice as he’s often hiding behind somebody else in the corner.

Though his stature doesn’t measure up to players on his team and on other rosters, Mats already has enjoyed significant success in the game. He was one of the Rangers best offensive and shoot-out players last season. He was the only NHL player on Norway’s roster for the Winter Olympic Games in Russia. Before coming to the NHL, he had starred for his team in the top-rated Swedish league.

Mats certainly is quick, but he also works hard on the other areas of his game while remaining calm on the ice. Practice is the one place where Mats displays a demonstrative side. He will compete fiercely with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and he celebrates scoring on his teammate with something described as a slow-motion dance, gliding with one skate off the ice and knee bent with arms and stick raised high.

The way Mats works and the way he plays has elevated him to Norwegian sports star status. In New York, the Ranger fans salute him by constantly calling his name and listening for the echo throughout MSG—“Zoook!”

Mats Zuccarello shows us that it doesn’t matter how tall you are, but it does matter how big you play the game. That can guarantee longevity in the NHL and for the rest of us in our careers.

Jim


Feb 14 2014

A Young Athlete Who Aims High

When Ming Davis was young, his parents placed him in a soccer program. He didn’t like it, but their reasoning made perfect sense. Their new son, adopted from China, was born with a birth defect. He didn’t have a left arm. Soccer, of course, did not require hands.

Ironically, as he began to play, Ming wanted to become a goalie. The goalie is the only player permitted to use hands to handle the ball. Ming was not going to be deterred. He became a goalie.

Now, at 14, Ming can do just about anything he chooses, and some things he does very well. He has medaled when he hurls the javelin and he also participates in the shot put and runs track.

His handicap is not the missing arm. The handicap was eight years in a Chinese orphanage along with emotional and physical neglect.

Ming was in the orphanage with two older brothers. They often escaped, with Ming living under a bridge. He learned to panhandle, drink, smoke, cheat at cards and steal. His early years taught him to fight for every advantage and to overcome every obstacle.

Today, Ming is the acknowledged leader of every youth team on which he participates. He competes hard, but he also works harder during practice than his teammates. He cheers his teammates’ successes with infectious enthusiasm. He also helps coach younger players.

“Sometimes I just think other kids are one step ahead of me,” Ming stated in a newspaper article, “so I have to work twice as hard. I just want to push myself to be the best I can be. I never knew I would be an athlete. I was always the smallest kid. One thing I don’t want to do is give up. I want to keep my grades up so I have a great future. Sports is secondary. Sports is something you do for fun.”

I am not surprised to hear about Ming’s many accomplishments and I know he will have many more in sports and in life. He just knows how to overcome any obstacle.

Jim