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.

Dec 16 2017

The Sports Connection To History And War

Those of us who participate in competitive sports sometimes equate the battles on the field with the battles fought by an army. Both involve training, discipline, commitment and critical thinking.

With this in mind, it should not come as a surprise that a number of highly successful players and coaches have maintained a keen interest in history and especially in the tactics related to the Civil War. Several of these history buffs include New York Mets first baseman and broadcaster Keith Hernandez, National Hockey League coach Ken Hitchcock and legendary Georgia football coach Vince Dooley.

Keith and Ken read a lot and visit the battlefields. Ken even meets with a past-president of The Civil War Round Table of New York history group to talk a little blue and gray when his teams are in town. Vince, though, has taken his interest to another level. He has written a book about a Georgia colonel.

After serving as a U.S. Marine, Vince became one of the most successful college coaches. He won 201 games in 25 seasons at the University of Georgia. The successes included a national championship and six Southeastern Conference Championships. He later served as the university athletic director and he has written several books about the school’s sports history.

Now, he has added a Civil War story to the bookshelf—The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog: The Civil War Correspondence of William Gaston Delony, Colonel of Cobb’s Georgia Legion Cavalry.

The subject of the book was an attorney when the first shots of the war were fired. Vince decided to pursue this story when he learned that Delony’s letters to his wife, Rosa, chronicled his experiences in combat. Delony writes as a loving husband worried about his pregnant wife. He also provides details about his daily routine as a soldier. The colonel participated in the complicated tasks of leading a legion, a single command with elements from artillery, cavalry and infantry. He was mortally wounded at a battle at Brandy Station, Virginia.

To add an amazing coincidence to the story, a Delony great granddaughter married a student who played for Vince before the young man pursued military service. The soldier was part of the unit in Somalia during 1993 that inspired the book Black Hawk Down.

During his coaching years, Vince met many six-foot, three-hundred-pound men who could run the 40-yard dash in less than five seconds. But, while writing this book, he learned about the toughness of some of the smallest and slimmest Civil War soldiers. Pound for pound, these boys became the toughest of men, and they did it under the most trying of times.

Nov 01 2017

Sports Radio Host To The Rescue

He was maneuvering a boat into the front yard of a house owned by a middle-aged couple. The couple had never met John Lopez, but they were happy to see him. Houston had been hit hard by Hurricane Harvey.

John tossed life vests to the couple and helped them board the 16-foot fishing boat. They never exchanged names. The couple was delivered to safety and then John planned to be on his way to help others. A moment later, the couple heard and recognized his hearty and distinctive laugh. They looked at him. John now knew that they realized that the man with the boat was the popular sports radio personality they listen to on Houston’s KILT SportsRadio 610.

John loves fishing. His home was not flooded from the storm but his boat was in dry dock. He sent out a tweet searching for a boat to use to help stranded residents. He received about 12 replies and located two fishing boats.

Once he was rolling, John sent out another tweet accompanied by a video of his view of the flooded city streets. His message: “@ me if you need help.” For more than 10 hours, John rescued about 20 people. Some just had a trash bag of clothes and lost everything else, but everyone was very appreciative that John helped them.

John’s work that day wasn’t focused just on the people of Houston. He rescued a couple of dogs, too. Then, he came upon a barn, where he helped a woman move her two horses to safety. He took a long stick and poked it in the water to locate the shallowest passage for the horses to traverse to higher ground.

John did a lot that day, but he said many others were there with him. About 30 to 40 boats were helping the residents. Rescuers included firefighters and the Coast Guard.

According to John, the fisherman’s code is to stop all activities and help another boat in distress. John realized that Houston was in distress and he stopped his daily sports talk routine to help his neighbors.

Aug 02 2017

An Honest Lesson From The Broadcast Booth

A few weeks ago, we lost a sports broadcasting legend. Bob Wolff’s career spanned almost 80 years. He called Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game, the greatest football game ever played—the 1958 National Football League championship game—and the two titles for the New York Knicks.

Bob was cited by the Guinness World Records as having the longest career of any sports broadcaster. He started during 1939 while a student and former baseball player at Duke University. He continued until early this year with our News 12 Long Island. During this span of time, Bob preserved a large amount of tape—about 1,000 hours of video and audio recordings—that included interviews with Jim Thorpe, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Joe Louis. He donated the tapes to the Library of Congress.

Throughout Bob’s life both on and off the air, he touched and helped many people along the way. The tributes shared during his life and since his passing indicate that he always carried himself with class and honesty.

Bob once broadcast a professional basketball game when he was not even in the arena. Bad weather prevented him from flying to Cincinnati for a Knicks game that was to be telecast on Channel 9. So, he worked the game from a television monitor while sitting in the station’s studio on the 83rd floor in Manhattan. As he told the story years later, Bob said that he did not want to make a public confession that he was not at the game, but “journalistic honesty compelled me to make an acknowledgement that circumstances were different.” He told the television audience that while the game was coming from Cincinnati the audio was transmitted from the WOR-TV studios high up in the Empire State Building.

Striving for honesty and integrity is an important lesson that requires the full attention of today’s journalists and broadcasters. For those of us in business, we, too, regularly must remind ourselves about these attributes. Without honesty and integrity, who would want to work with and for any of us?

Apr 01 2017

A Team Chaplain Who Stands Tall With Everyone

She has been the men’s basketball team chaplain at Loyola University for almost 25 years. Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt now is the latest member of Loyola’s sports hall of fame.

Sister Jean is a campus celebrity. She keeps an office in the student center where her door always is open for students and faculty. She lives in a dorm with 400 under-graduate students. Sister Jean recently enjoyed her own bobblehead day, and she was honored for her contributions to the team and the school.

Sister Jean attends every home game for the men’s team. She dons the school gear and also wears the trademark Loyola colors on her feet—maroon Nike tennis shoes with gold laces. “Sister” is stitched onto the back of her left shoe and “Jean” is stitched on the back of the right shoe.

At the games, students and alumni always stop to say hello and chat. Referees come over and hug her. She cheers at the good moments during each game and winces noticeably at the bad plays.

From San Francisco, Sister Jean played six-on-six girls’ basketball in high school. She became a nun at age 18. She then taught elementary school and volunteered as a coach in Los Angeles public schools. She coached just about every girls team—basketball, volleyball, softball, ping-pong and the yo-yo. She also made sure that her teams played against the boys during practice to “toughen” her girls.

At Loyola, Sister Jean leads the men’s basketball team in a prayer before each home game. Actually, her contribution is a combination of prayer, scouting report and motivational speech. Sister Jean sums it up as simply talking about the game and then playing it. After games, she emails each player to point out the positives and the areas of the game that need more work.

The basketball nun also communicates regularly with the coach. When Coach Porter Moser (Sister Jean’s fifth Loyola coach) came on board during 2011, she provided him with a scouting report of all his players.

The Loyola basketball players—and everyone associated with the university—all look up to her, though she is just five feet tall. She also is 97 years young.

As Sister Jean has shown, you never are age or height challenged to run with the big dogs!

Mar 02 2017

Lessons Learned From Sports

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.

Feb 02 2017

Putting In The Physical And Mental Work

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.

Dec 01 2016

Coaches Who Helped Pave the Way

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.”

Nov 17 2016

Heart Of Gray – The Story Of Lt. Raymond Enners

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.

Nov 02 2016

Tremendous Honors From Hofstra And Adelphi

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.