This is the 69th in a series of postings. It is designed to keep you informed about improvements we are making with Island Garden, Lightning and NY Metropolitan AAU.

  • We have made significant improvements to the Island Garden over the past four weeks. The floor has been refinished and we have installed volleyball nets to host practices and matches. Basketball remains our primary sport and always will. This adjustment allows us to expand to the tremendously popular sport of volleyball. We are already hosting the Northwell Wellness Program two nights each week. Our other venues allow us to move Super League games to outside locations. We are now offering multiple sports each night. On any given night, we are hosting either basketball or volleyball at Island Garden, LIU Post, JMF Sports Center, Long Island Sports Hub, Next Level and other sites throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.
  • Super League registration has again exceeded over 325 teams. We are so proud of this sustained growth and participation. We are most appreciative of the continued support of all of our teams and organizations.
  •  Lightning is also preparing for the best AAU season ever. Our tryouts have resulted in the addition of 10 new teams in Grades 2 through 8 with more to be added after we complete our high school tryouts later this month. While we always strive to have winning teams, it is most important to us to offer opportunities to play for as many motivated players as possible. Yes, there are many Lightning teams (we are the largest AAU program in the country) and that means we are offering opportunities to some 3,000 players to be part of the AAU experience. Youth sports is so much more than just winning. We are very proud of that!
  • This coming AAU season will have the largest offering of tournaments at Island Garden and our partner facilities than ever before. In addition to AAU District Championships, we are now offering an AAU Regional Championship in June, multiple Zero Gravity tournaments and then two jointly run events with Game 7 and Level Up. This will all be capped off with two weekends when we host the very Strong New York Jay Hawks at our facilities. There will be 14 weekends of quality events from the last weekend in March through the month of June. We will not stop even for one day!
  • I recently had the pleasure of hearing Jeff Flug speak at a conference sponsored by the NBA. Jeff is one of the founders of Shack Shack which grew into a $4 Billion venture. Among the many inspiring things Jeff said that day, I particularly was impacted by his statement in regard to growth, “you have to act small” and ” the bigger you get, the smaller we have to act”. My team and I now focus on this every day. We are so grateful for our success that now extends over 27 years but that also means we have to work so hard every day to never lose sight that our customers which are our teams, players, parents and referees must be taken care of every day and that each time we interact we aim to “wow” them. We do make mistakes but even then we try to use those mistakes as opportunities to show our customers we care that they are having a great experience in our leagues, tournaments, camps and organizations. As the Disney people say, “we want to earn raves in every encounter”. I am so blessed to have a team that believes in this approach each and every day they come to work.
  • One of our most successful initiatives that addresses our goal of “acting small” has been our referee evaluation and development program under the direction of the highly respected referee Ernie Rudloff. Ernie attends multiple games every week when he sends me evaluations but also works with the referees to improve their skills. I also send Ernie out to observe a referee if  receive a complaint about lack of hustle or bad attitude. I do not hesitate to tell referees that this is our business and how they perform reflects on my team and I. We work too hard to allow a poor attitude to detract from what we are doing.
  • Lightning’s partnership with 3 Step Sports continues to exceed expectations and even our wildest hopes. This large multi-sport organization with tremendous resources continues to make us better every single day. There are plans being worked on right now that will lead us to tremendous expansion at an incredibly high qualitative level.  We are now approaching other high quality organizations to join us in the 3 Step family.  Watch for more announcements on this front in the near future.
  • As we have announced previously, we are adding top level professional trainers to work with Lightning players. Specifically, Jim Fox, Jr. will be working with both Lightning coaches and players on a regular basis to improve their respective skills. Jim has 18 years of professional experience at the College Division l Level. His resume includes five years as a Head Coach and 13 years as an Assistant Coach. He has been part of teams that were to the NCAA Tournament four times including an Elite 8 appearance in 2008 with Steph Curry and Davidson.  In addition to Jim, our training initiatives continue to rely on Crown Basketball and the highly successful Chris Diasparra, whose record speaks for itself.  Lightning is deeply committed to making every one of our players a more skilled and team oriented athlete. This training extends to all players who wish to attend clinics at Island Garden. We are also finalizing plans to add clinics on the North Shire of Nassau County and Western Suffolk.
  • During the past few weeks, we were very fortunate to have the NBA send us a former referee, Gary Zelinski, to work with our refs in a  three hour clinic setting. Gary worked over 1000 NBA games before he was forced to retire early due to an injury. He now works full time with the NBA in developing their referees. That same night, we were so happy to host a highly effective speaker from the Professional Coaches Alliance to address Lightning coaches about the important role coaches play in children’s’ lives. It was a great night all around and certainly was in keeping with our goal of always getting better.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and being a supporter of Island Garden, Lightning, NY Metro AAU,  JMF Sports Center and our new JMF Sports Consultants.

Jim Fox

“The most important lesson in youth sports is being a good teammate” Jeff Flug

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