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Last week when I was speaking with all of you, the future of Next Level, I mentioned quite a few times about opportunities.  The dictionary says opportunity is, “an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done.”  At this point of your life you have so many opportunities that are right there for you to take advantage of. Your “baseball opportunities are not the only ones that I am referring to. I stated, and will clearly state again, that one of the first questions a coach asks when he sees a player he likes is, “Does he have grades?” 

 Here’s what you now have to do as a student athlete.   First you have to decide how bad you want “it.”  Whatever “it” may be.  Then you have to come up with a plan.  You’re plan has to have steps, or short term goals.  If you’re an average student right now and just skating by, ask yourself, “Is this going to help to get me to where I want to go?”  You all have the ability now, to make a decision for yourself, that will greatly affect what you will do decades down the road.  You want to start to set yourself up now for later on in your life.   And believe me, later on in life is not that far away.

 Here’s a reality.  College is expensive.  I have friends that are still paying back loans and they’re in their forties.  Right now you can work your tails off in the classroom and on the field to set yourself up with a scholarship that could save you from the loans that many kids need to complete college.  THE OPPORTUNITY IS HERE NOW TO  GET THE GRADES NEEDED TO SECURE  ACADEMIC SCHOLARSHIP MONEY.  Don’t make the mistake that so many others do and just bank on your athletic talent that you all have. 

 The real message I want you to take away from this is to work your hardest and give “it” everything you’ve got.  If you want something bad enough and work hard to get it, opportunities of a lifetime will be there for you.


 Five Things You Should Always Remember 


I was reading an article the other day titled, Things I wish I knew before I left high school, and I thought that it would be interesting to share with you.  Whether you like it or not, people that are older aren’t necessarily smarter than you, but with age comes experience, and you can’t argue that.  Here are a couple of things that you may want to keep in mind as you start to make decisions that will have some effect on your life. 


Here are a couple of things you should all try to remember:

1. In most cases your parents really do know best.  Here’s the thing- you mean everything to your parents.  They don’t just drive you around and work extra hours just for the sake of doing it.  They do it because they want what is best for you and they are trying to help you create opportunities for yourself. 

2. As far as opportunities go- it’s up to you about what you do with the opportunities.  Trust me on this one, make the best of the opportunities afforded to you now.  Before you know it, the “real world” will be staring you in the face.
3. Relationships are extremely important.  And I am not talking about your boyfriend or girlfriend here.  I’m talking about the relationships you are developing now with your coaches, teachers, friends and so on.  This is a tough world we live in and everyone needs a helping hand every once in a while.  One day when you need a “connection” to help you get your resume on someone’s desk or a phone call to be made on your behalf, you’ll have a lot of people to turn to.
4. Be a good listener.  Whether you’re on the field, in a classroom or working, I promise you, you don’t know everything.  And nobody likes the person that thinks they do. 
5. Be a team player.  No matter where you are or what you do, it’s important to work as a team.  If someone needs a pick me up or pat on the back, be there for that person, and hopefully one day they’ll be there for you.  Everyone notices the person who is not only out there working hard for themselves, but for the betterment of  the organization. 
None of the above should be shocking to anyone reading this, but it’s always good to be reminded of them.  Keep working hard and working toward your goals.
What's Happening Today

I was always taught as a young kid that it’s important to be able to go out to dinner with a group of friends and be able to hold my own in a conversation.  With that being said, I’ve also always been taught that I don’t have to know (and won’t know) everything, but that I have to keep myself educated about what’s going on in the world.  Everyone has topics that interest them more than others, but it’s important to stay up to date and aware of happenings around the world.  When you start interviewing for colleges and jobs, questions like this are asked.  I strongly suggest to not just check your friends status updates on twitter and facebook.  It’s important to be knowledgable about what’s happening in world.  The least you should do is follow CNN on twitter to be aware of world happenings.    
Right now in the state of New York, some you may or may not know, that there is an uproar in the educational system. This is not just a problem in NY, but the parents here have decided they are going to be an example for the rest of the country. While some of you may not find this important because you are close to graduating, I urge to rethink  that.  This conversation piece will take place at many dinner tables in homes and restaurants throughout the country for a long time.  It may not be your education, but it’s your younger siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews and possibly your own future children who will actually be affected.  There are some names that you should know so that you can hold your own when the topic comes up.
Who is Commissioner John King?  John King is the Commissioner of Education of the State of New York.  He was appointed in May 2011 at 34 years old.  Many parents would call him one of their worst enemies at this time.  Parents across the state are calling for him to resign from his position because of the implementation of the Common Core Standards and the over abuse of standardized testing in the school system.Who is Senator John Flanagan? Senator Flanagan represents the Town of Smithtown and parts of Town of Brookhaven and Huntington.  Currently he serves as the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education. He too is being asked to resign.  He was elected in by the voters of the district, and they now want him gone.


In the simplest way possible to explain the issue- parents are done with the state demanding the non-stop testing of children in schools.  The parents are fed up with kids coming home feeling like they can’t succeed and aren’t properly prepared for the next step in their lives- in your case it’s most probably college.  As juniors and seniors you will not feel the effect the same as the younger students (or your younger siblings) because you’re coming to the end of your k-12 career. This does not mean it’s not important.  Parents have formed groups that have thousands of members; Lace to the Top and Long Island-Opt-Out are two groups that were formed here right on Long Island. 


Some (or all of you of you) reading this may say, “why am I telling you this” , or “what does it matter”?.  It matters because you shouldn’t be just educated just by books. This movement, being led by the parents is not going to stop.  It’s a battle that is being fought because the educational leaders in this country, who many have never stepped inside a classroom, are leading us down a path that is destructive to the students in school today.   For those of you who are not sure about what you may want your professions to be, this is always an option.  Looks like there are going to be a lot of job openings soon in Educational Leadership throughout the country.


Hopefully you read to the end of this entry.  Whether you realize it or not, one day, sooner than later, this topic is going to come up and you’re going to think to yourself- oh, I heard about that:-)
Independent Thinkers 


I think that because this is a baseball website and baseball organization I always tend to believe that the subject of these logs has to be about baseball.  The other day I came across an article and I realized that this part of the website doesn’t have to always be about baseball.  Hopefully all of you realize that Next Level wants to get you prepared for the next part of your life and help you become a successful “player” no matter where your life takes you.




The topic of choice for the week is why it is so important for the younger generations to be independent thinkers. The New York Times recently printed an article Robots or Aliens as Parents? Colleges Gauge Applicants’ Creativity by Richard Perez-Pena.  He states in the article that, “some elite colleges worry that high school students are more likely to be high achievers than independent thinkers, oddball essay questions offer a way to determine which of the A-student, high test score, multi-extracurricular applicants can show a spark of originality.”

I heard about this a couple of years ago when an admission counselor I knew at an Ivy League school was saying that he had limited spots left for admission and that every applicant had over 100 average, very high SATS and unbelievable letters of reference.  As he filtered through the applications he could justify why each one of the kids would be a great fit at the prestigious university.  As he looked carefully at each students “resume” he saw that one student excelled at playing the violin.  He had traveled to all different parts of the world performing with different orchestras.  This set him apart from the rest.  This gave him experiences that the other applicants didn’t have.  What you all should realize is that baseball has given you opportunities that may seem ordinary to you, but it is a tool that helps to set you apart from the thousands of other applicants that are hoping for the same acceptance letter as you. Colleges are looking for diversity, creativity and a sense of your own voice. 

As some of you think about your college essays and or interviews, remember what makes you an individual and what makes you stand apart from the person standing next to you. 

Next Level has had students admitted to top universities all of the country.  Tufts University, one of the colleges that Next Level players are attending is one of the many schools looking for students who think outside the box.  The essay question this year has been discussed at great length.  It asked about the meaning of “YOLO,” an acronym for “you only live once,” which musician Drake made popular.  This isn’t your standard “What are your goals after college?” or “Who is the biggest influence in you life?” Other universities have asked some of the following questions:

“If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs or aliens, who would you pick?” (Brandeis)

“What does Play-Doh have to do with Plato?” (Chicago)

“You are required to spend the next year of your life in either the past or the future. What year would you choose and why?” (Chicago)

Right now we are living in an age where standardized testing doesn’t seem to ever end.  Don’t get me wrong, colleges want students to have good grades, but colleges also want to have students with their own sense of individuality; a student with their own thoughts and voice. Baseball is one of the things that set you apart, but you all have other characteristics and qualities that make you unique.  Take some time to reflect on what makes you the best candidate for your school of choice and use your individual strengths to set you apart from the rest.

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