It’s All In The Family – Well, Almost
Mar 16, 2017Posted by james

Colleen, Rieley and Kelsey play high school basketball and share a last name – Walsh. Since they bond so well on and off the court, you would think that they were sisters, or, at least related in some way. Instead, they are just three girls who happen to share a team, passion for life and a surname.

Colleen and Rieley are seniors with similar features. They are brunettes and soft-spoken. They like bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches (one goes for the sesame seed and the other likes plain) with hash browns. Kelsey, meanwhile, is a sophomore with a bubbly personality that accents her blond hair.  She prefers a toasted sesame seed bagel with butter.

Despite their culinary and other differences, the girls have formed a tight-knit relationship outside of basketball. They just happened to click.

Colleen and Rieley were CYO basketball teammates during third grade. They have been classmates since middle school. They added Kelsey to the “family” when she joined the varsity team last season.

When Colleen and Rieley were younger, people often would mistake them for sisters, or cousins. Sometimes, they played along for a bit of fun. Now, with Kelsey added to the mix, all three can play a few head games with people. Their coach loves them but warns others that the girls can be “nuts and psycho,” yet, down deep, she knows they are best friends and, yes, in a way, they also are “sisters.”

They are fun, fun to be around and they really connect with each other, which proves that you don’t have to be “blood” to be good teammates, good friends, or even family.

Lessons Learned From Sports
Mar 02, 2017Posted by james

The Olympics in Rio already are a distant memory, occurring more than six months ago. Many fabulous personal stories are connected to these summer games and, yet, the one that caught my attention involved a spectator and not an athlete.

Whether he is watching Olympics competition or cheering on the play of his own children, sports always has moved Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group. During Richard’s formative years, mastering grades in classwork was not a personal strength. But he did excel in sports, including rugby, cricket, and track and field. At the age of 12, a torn cartilage in his right knee resulted in surgery and a long time away from the competition he enjoyed.

When he returned to sports as an adult, Richard found a passion for tennis. He never possessed the talent to compete as a professional, but he has been a pretty good amateur player who enjoys the intensity, artistry, excitement and mental challenge of the game.

Richard often has talked about strategy and how the game of tennis can influence a person. He has said that when a tennis opponent is on the other side of the net, it is you who becomes the most challenging adversary on the court. Only you, according to Richard, can focus to perform at your best. Only you, he has repeated, can place setbacks behind you, and only you possess the ability to have this occur immediately.

In an article written by Richard after the Olympics, he stated that the required discipline and determination to compete as a professional or top amateur athlete is not unlike the ability to compete as an entrepreneur. He stressed that preparation, practice and confidence are the key elements of success in sports and business, and that the opportunity for redemption always is present.

As many of us well know, events often move quickly in the worlds of sports and business. To remain prepared, our personal game plans must ensure that we concentrate fully on each unique moment as it develops. Forget any recent success and quickly move away from any prior mistake. Never dwell on the good or bad of the past, because an opportunity that appears suddenly before you will require your complete attention. Should you fail to remain focused, or if you hesitate just for a moment, a fabulous opportunity may pass in a blink of the eye…and it could be lost forever.

A Second Chance To Change A Life
Feb 15, 2017Posted by james

He wasn’t quick. He was fast. He flew down the ice. Dan Brady played recreational hockey at the C level, but he played the game hard and he used his speed.

When Dan was a teenager, he would not take a soda or a beer at the rink bar after a game. Pure water was his preference as he was training.

Dan’s training focused on his passion for the fire department. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and he also was on his town’s team in the national Firefighter Combat Challenge. Fast, disciplined and fully committed. Then something changed.

Dan moved across the state border. He left the fire department for a technician job but continued to play hockey. He then joined a motorcycle club, left it and joined another club.

Training no longer was a priority in Dan’s life. He started drinking and using drugs. Then, he was in an accident.

Dan doesn’t remember the day and he doesn’t remember the crash. He was told that he slammed into a tree after a night of drinking at a motorcycle clubhouse. He broke several vertebrae, lapsed into a coma and now doesn’t remember the several months preceding the accident.

At 29 years of age, Dan has taken full responsibility for his failure. He also has refocused his life. Dan is involved with sports again by using an adaptive wheelchair. He participates in kayaking, waterskiing, golf, softball, rugby, sled hockey and hand-cycling. He also drives a specially-equipped van and is learning to move unassisted from his bed and into a wheelchair.

Dan admits he is no longer that person on the motorcycle. He never wants to see that guy again. He now wants to talk to youth about his life.

Dan feels the young people need to hear his story so they can meet the guy before the accident and learn how he shoulders the blame for the way his life changed. He will be happy if he could change just one person’s life for the better before it is too late.

Putting In The Physical And Mental Work
Feb 02, 2017Posted by james

Brendan Steele is on the PGA Tour. During late 2016, while playing in the Safeway Open in California, he became concerned about his putts under the stress of competition. He wanted to correct the previous year’s failure that occurred during the same tournament.

Brendan had just three-putted the 12th hole, the same hole that started his collapse a year earlier. He immediately thought “let’s not go through this again.”

This time, Brendan experienced a different result. He made a clutch par on the 13th and then recorded birdies on his final three holes to win the open by one shot.

How did this occur? While on the course, Brendan addressed each question in his mind with a positive response. He became aggressive instead of conservative with his game. Confidence returned, eliminating any remaining doubts about his putting stroke.

Following that 2015 disappointment, the golfer had worked diligently with his putting coach and then he worked with a swing coach. With their support, Brendan also developed a plan that guided him through the 2016 Safeway Open.

During his reassessment a year earlier, Brendan realized that anger and frustration often took over his thoughts when things did not flow well on the tour. Now, he felt stronger physically and mentally to handle tournament situations. Rather than think that he was not in control on the course, Brendan learned to concentrate on the few things that he easily could correct.

When bad thoughts pop up, Brandan has learned to return to the blueprint. His philosophy: challenges must now be faced during equally good and bad days, so just stick with the plan to handle all situations.

Pat LaFontaine Leads Companions In Courage
Jan 16, 2017Posted by james

Hockey fans know Pat LaFontaine. He scored 468 goals during 15 seasons for three (Islanders, Rangers and Sabres) New York hockey teams. He has said that his Hall of Fame career prepared him for life after hockey.

That path has pointed him in many different directions, including working with youth hockey players on Long Island. It also took him this past October to the Vatican in Rome, where he participated in a conference on faith and sports.

At the gathering, Pat was joined by New York Giants co-owner John Mara, soccer legend Pele and tennis star Roger Federer. The conference united sports people from all faiths, nationalities and cultures to arrive at a common goal – help people in need, especially the marginalized and the disadvantaged, and to encourage everyone to develop life skills, character, values and enjoyment of life through sports.

Back home, Pat has been helping others for 20 years. During 1997, Pat and his wife started The Companions in Courage Foundation. The foundation brings Xbox Kiosks and playrooms, known as the Lion’s Den, to children in hospitals across North America. Pat figures that the foundation has distributed more than 400 kiosks to more than 100 hospitals. Earlier this month, the foundation partnered with the NHL to deliver its 20th Lion’s Den, placing it at St. Louis Children’s Hospital during the NHL’s celebration of its Winter Classic outdoor game.

The Companions in Courage Foundation serves more than 50,000 patients each year. It is active with 15 hospitals in New York, including Westchester Medical Center’s Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. This facility was the home of the first Lion’s Den that continues to provide children with the opportunity to leave their rooms and participate in the excitement enjoyed by so many other children who use computers, play Xbox, watch television and enjoy movies. A frequent visitor to the hospital, Pat connects with the patients and the families as he talks and plays games with the children.

Grateful and thankful for everything he has in life, Pat is excited about the future for his foundation. New paths certainly will open for him as he continues on the road to help others.

A Horse Is A Horse, Of Course…But Similar To A Human Athlete
Jan 02, 2017Posted by james

When someone mentions horses on Long Island, most of us think about Belmont Park and that final race for the triple crown. But, Long Island’s relationship with horses actually reaches back to our early days of agriculture and as our first mode of transportation from the shores of Montauk to the then city limits of Brooklyn.

Within Long Island’s communities, we are seeing a growing interest in show jumping, polo and casual rides along the trails. All this “horsing around” is overseen by dedicated people who are keenly connected with these fine animals.

When you talk with the people who raise and care for horses, you learn that the animals are no different than us. Trainers actually compare horses to human athletes.

The animals require constant training and attention to allow for safe competition and to reduce the chances of injury. The process involves regular exercise, grooming, feeding and then the training. Horses, similar to athletes, work on a variety of skills. These include gaits, response to commands and jumps. Horses also require rest and the opportunity to leisurely expend energy.

Horses can’t be pushed or pressured, also similar to some of our young athletes. Trainers allow a horse to communicate through the nudge of a head or a flicker of a tail, and they ensure that a horse’s mind always is given time to refresh. Top trainers are as in-tune with a horse as top coaches are with young players.

Horse care is not a casual job. Horses require constant oversight and it takes a very intuitive person to bond with the animal. Besides races, shows and the personal pleasures that horses provide, the animals also are known for nurturing personalities that support therapeutic care for children and adults with disabilities. Programs with veterans and prisoners have been successful in helping people build personal confidence through teamwork.

So, how many horses are in Nassau and Suffolk counties? Would you believe about 38,000? Some communities have opposed the presence of horses. However, the work of the Nassau-Suffolk Horseman’s Association has dispelled myths about noise and other issues associated with the animals, allowing these beautiful creatures to become more welcomed and admired.

Let’s not forget the words of General Sherman Potter in the television program M*A*S*H – the horse is a noble animal.

Amateur Lacrosse Player Becomes Respected Professional Hockey Coach
Dec 16, 2016Posted by james

He was studious in college and he covered his long hair with a San Francisco Giants cap that he wore backward. He loved hockey and he frequently attended games at the nearby NHL arena when his friends from Canada came into town to play the local team. He even played on his university’s club hockey team.

After college, he went to law school in Michigan. Soon after, he began coaching hockey at Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids as a favor to a judge whose son played on the team. The team won a regional title and the lawyer turned coach was hooked.

The coach continued to rise within the amateur hockey ranks. Then he moved on to the professional minor leagues. For the last few years, Jon Cooper has been coaching a very successful NHL team – the Tampa Bay Lighting.

This young fellow (he’s only 49) already has accomplished a lot. All of it just seemed to happen. Actually, Jon made it happen. He is bright, charismatic and has this certain smile. People want to be around him.

When he fields questions about his coaching profession, Jon regularly responds that he’s a people manager. He also feels that he brings the philosophy of life to coaching. Early on, he considered himself more of a life coach than a tactical coach.

Jon’s athletic roots travel back to his teenage years as an indoor lacrosse star in British Columbia. The rest started to fall into place when he attended Hofstra University and played lacrosse for Harry Royle.

A love for hockey, an education and lacrosse career at Hofstra, law school and now Jon is coaching in the best hockey league in the world. There are many reasons to applaud Jon’s success. Glad to know that lacrosse and Hofstra made significant contributions.

Coaches Who Helped Pave the Way
Dec 01, 2016Posted by james

Two innovative coaches left us this year. Each leaves behind a wonderful legacy and valuable life lessons for all of us.

Forbes Carlile was from Australia. His innovative ideas about sports physiology made him one of the world’s best-known swimming coaches. Dating back to the 1940s, his career is credited with producing many Australian Olympians. He coaching methods, believing that swimmers should start high-level competition at a young age, sent shock waves through swimming traditionalists.

Carlile decided that two leg kicks for two arm strokes (verses the conventional six kicks) saved energy. He also believed, again unconventional, that hot baths or showers before a race improved finish times by 1.5 percent, shaving almost a second in a 100-meter race (the difference between first and second place). He introduced interval training (alternating between activities that required different rates of speed and various levels of exertion) and advocated for year-round training that emphasized long-distance workouts.

Carlile originally planned to become a doctor. He changed his mind when he became ill while watching a film about an operation. He then studied human physiology and became dedicated to the science of swimming.

Closer to home, Ed Temple produced 40 Olympians for women’s track and field at Tennessee State. His athletes won 13 gold medals, six silver medals and four bronze medals. His teams won 34 national titles.

In his first year as coach, with a budget of $300, Temple’s team participated in one meet. A few years later, to get his runners to a competition in New York, the coach piled the team into his old DeSoto station wagon.

Temple was the team coach, trainer, counselor and parent. “I was everything,” he said a few years ago, “but you had to be, because there was no other person there.”

Temple’s teams were composed of more than just athletes. He always told the girls that they were young ladies and should carry themselves properly. He always reminded them that they were ladies first and runners second.

Temple also told the ladies on each of his teams that they should use track as an exchange for an education. Track, according to the coach, was the means to walk across the stage to receive a degree.

“Athletics opens up doors for you,” said the coach, “but education keeps them open.”

Heart Of Gray – The Story Of Lt. Raymond Enners
Nov 17, 2016Posted by james

During early October, a number of us gathered at the Garden City Hotel to meet Richard Enners. Richard is the younger brother of Raymond Enners, a West Point graduate who was among the fallen in Vietnam.

Richard recently published Heart of Gray, a book about selflessness and sacrifice. The story takes us on a journey that reveals how West Point and its values of “Duty, Honor, Country” influenced Ray Enners. The book places a spotlight on the rigorous training that provided Ray with the confidence and courage to face life-threatening situations.

Ray Enners played lacrosse at Half Hollow Hills High School in Dix Hills before the district and the high school were divided into east and west sections. He continued to excel at the game at the United States Military Academy. During his senior year, Ray was named an NCAA All-American. Slightly more than a year later, Ray was killed in action in Vietnam. On September 18, 1968, demonstrating selflessness and leadership, Ray rescued a wounded soldier and then led an assault on an enemy position that cost him his life.

As many of you know, I received the 1977 Lt. Ray Enners Award as a lacrosse player at Half Hollow Hills. Presented by the Suffolk County Lacrosse Coaches Association, the award is presented to an outstanding county high school player who best exemplifies courage, teamwork, skill and leadership. While I remember the moment when I learned that I would receive this award in memory of Lt. Raymond Enners, I am unable even today to completely explain the honor that I felt then and feel now for the opportunity to follow in Ray’s footsteps.

Another honor named for Ray, the Lt. Raymond Enners Award, is provided annually on the college level to the NCAA’s most outstanding player in men’s college lacrosse. My nephew, Rob Pannell, won the award twice when he played at Cornell University. Our family is blessed to have such a strong connection to an American hero.

By now, you might be wondering about the word “gray” that appears in the title of Richard’s book. At West Point, the color gray is a symbol of pride and honor that dates back to the Battle of Chippewa during 1814 when a small American army defeated the British in Canada. It was from that battle that the secretary of war approved the color gray for the cadet uniforms at West Point. Ray Enners embraced this tradition during his time at the academy and during his brief service to our country.

Richard Enners followed his brother at West Point. He knows personally about the tradition cherished by the Long Gray Line and he, more than anyone, best knows the heart and spirit of Ray Enners. Richard’s book was written to honor his brother and to inspire others to live their lives with a purpose similar to that of Ray, and to make a difference in the lives of others.

To help Richard ensure that his brother’s contributions will continue to inspire others, I am providing a copy of Heart of Gray to all the public high school lacrosse coaches in Suffolk and Nassau counties. Copies of the book also will be provided to school administrators. The book also will be sent to the coaches and administrators in the Catholic High School Lacrosse League.

My hope is that everyone who reads Heart of Gray will share with others the ideals cherished by Lt. Raymond Enners.

Tremendous Honors From Hofstra And Adelphi
Nov 02, 2016Posted by james

September was a tremendous month for me – but, more important, it was a tremendous month for the many local programs supported by me, my company and my clients.

Two fabulous universities celebrated my high school and college sports career along with all the sports, education and other philanthropic initiatives with which I am involved to support communities on Long Island and the greater New York City area.

My alma mater designated me as Hofstra Alumnus of the Year. After finding my way back to the campus after an absence of 25-plus years, the Hofstra University Alumni Organization decided to acknowledge not only my lacrosse career at the school but also my recent contributions to the athletic and education programs. For this, I am very thankful.

I am proud of all that we have been able to accomplish together in just a handful of years. This includes construction of the Royle-Sombrotto Locker Room that provides a state-of-the-art facility for the men’s lacrosse program, support for the women’s lacrosse program and also The Hallways Traditions Project at Hofstra’s Margiotta Hall that showcases the history of both lacrosse programs and the university’s football program. In the classroom, I am grateful to provide support for the summer internship program for the Center of Civic Engagement that honors Michael D’Innocenzo, my former Hofstra professor.

A few days after the Hofsta celebration, I became the 25th recipient of the Woodruff Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Adelphi University Athletic Hall of Fame. The honor cited my commitment to local programs in Nassau and Suffolk counties and throughout the greater New York area that focus on youth, athletics, education and communities.

Adelphi is a local lacrosse rival of Hofstra, and it is nice to know that my philanthropic efforts also are appreciated by this fabulous school. The award recognizes “excellence in coaching, teaching and educating young adults while saluting an ambassador of sportsmanship and goodwill and stressing that the athletic experience enhances the educational experience and quality of life.”

These awards are prominently displayed in the offices of The Whitmore Group. Even more rewarding is that additional attention has been generated for local youth, high school and college athletics and education, along with the many other local programs that we support.