Category Archives: Sports

Remembering Joe Folino

Joe Folino — the former Staples golf and ice hockey coach who is in the national High School Coaches Hall of Fame, and a star hockey player himself for Boston University — has died.

Folino suffered an aortic aneurysm. He was 89 years old, and lived in Boca Raton, Florida.

Joe Folino

His day job was teaching typing and business at Staples. But he was best known as a 2-sport coach. He stressed fundamentals, and produced winners.

Folino came to Staples not long after earning All-East hockey honors at BU in 1950. He played semi-pro hockey, then helped start the Wreckers’ program and coached them when they played at the Post Road rink (near what is now Lansdowne condominiums).

Among his Staples golfers was former PGA tour member Brian Claar.

Folino was inducted in the High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2004. His record at Staples in both sports was 535-86-6. His teams won 6 state golf championships.

After retiring, Folino founded Golf Haus International, an instructional company. He also advised a high school golf team in Florida.

His survivors include his wife, Lorraine, and a daughter and son. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

(Hat tip: Wally Meyer)

The Real Super Bowl Has Already Been Played

Touch football this morning at Compo:

(Photo/Anne Hardy)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Anne Hardy)

3:58.74!

When Henry Wynne ran for Staples, everyone knew he was destined for stardom. The question was not if he would break a 4-minute mile — but when.

The answer is: yesterday.

Henry Wynne, after yesterday's race.

Henry Wynne, after yesterday’s race.

Running for the University of Virginia at Boston University’s John Thomas Terrier Invitational, the 2013 Staples grad — and Connecticut high school state mile record holder — roared to a 3:58.74 finish.

Even more remarkable: He was tripped, and had to hurdle another racer en route to his mark.

On hand for the performance — the 2nd-fastest in UVa history — were Wynne’s father Craig, sister Grace (a Staples junior), former Staples runners Luis Cruz and Erica Hefnawy, and former Staples track coach Malcolm Watson.

One of the first people Henry called after the race? Longtime Staples track legend Laddie Lawrence.

Bonus fun fact: The very 1st Connecticut runner to run a sub-4-minute mile was another Staples grad: Steve Wheeler. He ran a 3:59.4 in 1974 for Duke University — an ACC rival of Virginia. 

Kyle Martino: Lessons And Love Learned From A Miscarriage

Kyle Martino may be the best player in Staples soccer history. As a Wrecker senior in 1999, he was named Gatorade National Player of the Year. He went on to star at the University of Virginia; was named 2002 MLS Rookie of the Year with the Columbus Crew; played 8 times for the US national team, and is now a noted Premier League analyst on NBC Sports.

But this post has nothing to do with soccer. Recently, Martino and his wife — actress Eva Amurri — lost their 2nd child in a miscarriage.

Eva — the daughter of Susan Sarandon — blogs regularly about her active, intriguing and holistic life. She has been very public about her miscarriage, hoping to raise awareness about that often-taboo topic. Last week, she asked Kyle to contribute his own insights.

Here are his sometimes painful, always loving thoughts:

“I lost the baby…”

Kyle Martino and Eva Amurri

Kyle Martino and Eva Amurri

There’s no way to prepare for those words. I was standing in line to check in to my hotel – the same mindless task I sleepwalk through every weekend – when my phone rang.

Hearing those words from Eva’s mouth, I sprung awake from my traveler’s daze.

The first emotion I felt was guilt. Of course this happened while I was away – every time Eva needs me most I seem to be on a plane or in a different time zone.

Almost instantly came anger. Her phrase repeated in my head, over and over, in my ears and my soul.

Years of shielding myself from emotional discomfort has trained me to move immediately to logic. So I began the calming method of systematically breaking down the sentence I kept hearing over and over. “Baby…The Baby…lost the baby…I lost the baby…”

It was her fault. I was overcome with a quick wave of judgment and blame. Why did she let this happen? What did she do wrong? Why did she let me get on that plane?

Anger – that hollow, pointless emotion was the shield I held so not to feel what I knew I couldn’t handle.

Holding on to that anger distracted me from the actual emotion I was feeling: sadness. I wasn’t mad at Eva at all. I was mad that I wasn’t there in the moment she needed me more than ever.

I walked over to a couch in the lobby and let this sink in. I cried for the first time in my adult life. (Don’t worry, my therapist is all over that one.) I cried because Eva said “I.” “I lost the baby.”

When Eva Amurri was pregnant with their 1st child, her husband Kyle tweeted, "#babygirl Martino's 1st red carpet."

When Eva Amurri was pregnant with their 1st child, her husband Kyle tweeted, “#babygirl Martino’s 1st red carpet.”

Of course she didn’t lose the baby. This wasn’t her fault. There was nothing she could do. In fact, she couldn’t have done more to make sure her body was the healthiest it could be to nurture life. It broke my heart that she felt responsible in that very first moment of grief. And I didn’t understand why she couldn’t see what I did: that having a healthy baby is a miracle, and we can’t choose when and where that miracle happens.

Those feelings continued through the immediate aftermath of the miscarriage. While she rewound the tape on her pregnancy and looked for errors, I appreciated her body for doing the right thing by closing the book on a miracle not meant to be.

We were on totally different pages – which drove a wedge between us. It’s the same difference that existed when Eva was pregnant with our daughter.

Eva made a connection with Marlowe well before I did. A tangible bond that only those 2 people can understand. Eva and Marlowe were soul mates the second she heard that heart beat (Eva would probably say even before that).

Being honest, I never really accepted that we were having a child until a 3rd trimester ultrasound showed Marlowe waving at the camera. It hit me in that moment that I would be a father. But Eva had long been a mother already.

Kyle Martino and Marlowe.

Kyle Martino and Marlowe.

When she called me with the shattering news of this pregnancy, she already knew her baby and had been taking care of it. In Eva’s mind she was already the mother of 2. That connection, the bond, was broken that day – and Eva was devastated.

I know that losing our child was not Eva’s fault, but I understand now why she felt it was. Miscarriage is a very isolating experience. Eva withdrew for a while after it happened. I tried to be there for her, but I wasn’t able to relate to her specific pain. My heart was broken in a different way– and nothing I could do or say helped. It was only when Eva decided to do something very brave, in her saddest moment, that the cloud over us lifted. Eva decided she needed to talk about it…with everyone.

Eva told our story on her blog. She put our heartache out there for all to read.

At first I thought it was a bad idea. I thought miscarriage was a rare misfortune, and the few who experienced it suffered privately with curtains drawn. As far as I knew, miscarriage wasn’t something you talked about.

No one had ever mentioned to me that they had been through it. I had never read of someone’s personal experience. Was it really safe and smart to tell so many people such intimate truths about your pain?

I didn’t voice my concerns about sharing because I had been so inept at providing support in those crucial moments so far. I knew I needed to support whatever desire she had. The decision had been made.

Kyle Martino is one of NBC's top analysts on English Premier League broadcasts.

Kyle Martino is one of NBC’s top analysts on English Premier League broadcasts.

Eva’s post went live, and we sat there silently. I could sense there was a weight lifted off her, but I feared the response could reverse the initially positive effects.

Immediately, support poured in. I’m not talking about the “I’m sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine how hard that is” support (although that was very much appreciated).

I’m talking about the “we’ve been there ourselves, we are here for you if you need us” support. I was blown away by how many readers wrote back with their own deeply sad stories of pregnancy loss.

Then the phone started ringing. Some of my closest friends revealed to me, one by one, their own experiences with miscarriage. These were people I speak to every day, but I never had a clue.

It felt so good to talk about what we were going through. The fact that others not only knew what we were going through, but had found a way past it, was uplifting. What had felt like an action that would add shame to our heartbreak turned out to be the most cathartic experience imaginable.

I could be honest and talk with friends about the guilt I still carried for my earlier feelings of blame; the insecurity I felt about not hurting the same way as Eva did; the worry I still shoulder that it could happen to us again.

A community began, a conduit through which sadness, regret, hope, gratitude and love flowed freely.

At our wedding, Eva’s mom said something that really struck me at the time. She told us, “We are your tribe. Use us.” In the aftermath of our loss, we established a new community – a reformulation of our relationships with those already a part of it, and the addition of people met through our shared experiences.

At his wedding, Kyle Martino's new mother-in-law Susan Sarandon gave advice he's never forgotten.

At his wedding, Kyle Martino’s new mother-in-law Susan Sarandon gave advice he’s never forgotten.

We used this community to get through the hardest moment of our marriage. I accessed a lot of understanding through my discussions with other dads, and Eva gained a lot of strength from the strength of the women who came before her in their own grieving processes.

The encouragement, compassion and love we received from important people around us gave us the courage to turn back to each other for support, and heal the disconnect that was weakening our marriage.

As with many of our struggles, we came out the other side stronger together in our loss than we could ever be apart.

I will never feel the same way as Eva about losing our baby. I have my experience, and she has hers. I have my process, and she has hers.

I don’t think about it often – but Eva does. She thinks about the baby we lost every day. And so we move forward, 2 broken hearts on the mend– with a beautiful miracle of a child by our side, and one other just out of our reach.

(To read more of Eva Amurri’s blog, click here.)

Jesse Nusbaum Sculpts His Own Path

The University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball trophy rooms are filled with awards. National champions amass plenty of hardware.

But the most intriguing items may be a pair of Husky heads. The eye-catching sculptures are the work of Jesse Nusbaum.

The Weston native presented them to UConn coaches Geno Auriemma and Kevin Ollie recently, in honor of the Huskies’ twin national championships in 2014.

University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, with Jesse Nusbaum and his Husky sculpture.

University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, with Jesse Nusbaum and his Husky sculpture.

The sculptures are worth quite a bit. One day — perhaps soon — when Nusbaum becomes nationally known, they’ll be worth even more.

The 25-year-old is already gaining a reputation. A little over a year into his career, he earned an invitation to last month’s prestigious Art Basel Miami show. He’s on the fast track — though his favored artistic medium requires patience and time.

Growing up, Nusbaum says he was “a jock.” A black belt by age 7, and youth soccer and basketball player, he was an All-State baseball player at Weston High. Except for an injury, he might have done the same in wrestling.

But he also worked with rock, soapstone, metal and pewter in the school’s art classes. “It felt so natural to me,” he says.

Horse, by Jesse Nusbaum.

Horse, by Jesse Nusbaum.

Nusbaum’s father is a noted lawyer, and Jesse grew up with the expectation of law school. He graduated from Muhlenberg College in 2013 not with the political science degree he had started, but as a studio art major.

After studying a year for the LSAT, he entered Charleston School of Law. “The dean loved that art degree,” Nusbaum says proudly. “He thought it was great I was using my brain in a different way. He saw me as very creative.”

It did not take long, though, for Nusbaum to realize a legal career was not for him. “I had no passion for it,” he says. “My mentors from Muhlenberg knew I was miserable. ‘You have a gift for art,’ they said. ‘Don’t waste it.'”

Without telling his parents — “it would crush them,” Nusbaum says — he requested a leave of absence. The dean supported him. “Follow your heart,” he told the aspiring artist.

Nusbaum went to work in his Weston studio. His specialty is animals. His style is hyper-realism. Each piece is intricately, intensely detailed — sometimes including actual animal parts, like bull horns and teeth.

Jesse Nusbaum at work in his Weston studio.

Jesse Nusbaum at work in his Weston studio.

“Although my hands are the tools to make a sculpture, 90 percent of the work comes from  my mind,” Nusbaum explains. “I constantly change the shape as the work progresses.”

Bronze gives his work an ageless, timeless, weathered finish — rugged, polished and clean.

It takes Nusbaum 2 to 3 months to sculpt one piece. The finishing process takes another 2 to 4 months.

Bull, by Jesse Nusbaum.

Bull, by Jesse Nusbaum.

But the results are worth it. Nusbaum was particularly proud to present the Husky heads to the UConn coaches. After Auriemma asked a lot of questions about how Nusbaum worked, the young sculptor realized there could be a market for animal heads for many more sports teams. “Just think of all the Yale alums…” he says, envisioning a vast bulldog market.

The sculptor works on marketing too. Instagram is key. In just a few months, he’s amassed 75,000 followers.

The Art Basel invitation capped off a fantastic year. Nusbaum attracted plenty of notice at last month’s prestigious show.

Jesse Nusbaum with 2 of his sculptures at Art Basel Miami last month.

Jesse Nusbaum with 2 of his sculptures at Art Basel Miami last month.

As much as Nusbaum loves his current life, he does not regret his brief stint at law school.

“If I hadn’t gone, I always would have wondered ‘what if…’,” he says. “Now I’ve got perspective on both sides: law and art.”

Over the past year, he adds, “I’ve met so many great people in the art world. They’re selfless and happy. You don’t always see that around here.”

He’s picking up new fans — and patrons — every day.

Mersene — whose Indulge by Mersene shop on Railroad Place specialize in unique, funky and very cool items — saw some of his small rhino sculptures. She offered him a showing in her store. A  great mix of people showed up just before Christmas.

Alligator, by Jesse Nusbaum.

Alligator, by Jesse Nusbaum.

In the months to come Nusbaum will seek out art shows and galleries, to show his work here and in places like Manhattan and Brooklyn.

And he’ll keep sculpting — patiently, realistically, and very, very happily.

PS: Last spring, Nusbaum told the Charleston law school dean to forget that leave of absence. He won’t be returning.

(For more information, including samples of Nusbaum’s work, click on www.jessenusbaum.com)

Phil Walklet: Everyone In The Pool!

We all remember influential teachers: The English instructor who convinced us we could write. The biology teacher who pointed us to a career in medicine. The middle school staff member who helped us get through a difficult time in life.

But who remembers the person who taught us to swim?

Phil Walklet has done that for thousands of Westporters, of all ages. At Staples — where he runs the Parks and Recreation Department’s program (and manages the lifeguards) — Walklet works with 3-year-olds. And 80-year-olds.

They love him. Walklet is a natural teacher.

He’s a lifelong swimmer too. Growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia, he and his 7 siblings were always on swim teams.

In 1969 — the summer after he graduated from high school — Walklet’s father got a job in New York. The family moved to Weston. He moved on to Clemson University.

The swim program was insignificant — the team used a 20-yard YMCA pool — and after a while Walklet transferred. He worked at several different jobs, including teaching small kids at the Staples pool.

Phil Walklet

Phil Walklet

A year later Walklet became assistant director of the Longshore pool. He’s now the director — a job whose timing works well with his school-year job (security supervisor at Greenwich High).

At Staples, Walklet works with his brother Colin and daughter Courtney. “She’s amazing,” he says proudly. “She’s so good with kids with autism and other challenges. She’s like a horse whisperer.”

He’s no slouch himself.

Walklet loves teaching. “It’s in our blood,” he says. “Back in Virginia, there was very little instruction. Now we break everything down.”

He laughs. “We didn’t even wear goggles.”

With 3-year-olds, Walklet says, “I put myself at their level. You can’t push them too hard. To trust the water, they have to trust you.”

Once they do, it’s a simple process: “Put your face in the water. Glide. Kick. Breathe.” Walklet goes at whatever pace is right, for each individual child.

“I’ve taught kids who were found at the bottom of a pool,” he says. “That’s so challenging. I just circle around, try different things, then come back so they’re not thinking about that anymore.”

Teaching continuing education swimming to adults on Wednesday evenings, Walklet sees a wide range of abilities.

Westport continuing education

One 80-year-old man — you thought I was kidding? — was traumatized as a child. All his life, he feared the water.

“I got him to move, with a kickboard,” Walklet recalls. “He didn’t learn to swim, but he was so grateful that he could be independent in the water.”

The key, Walklet says, is for a swimmer to feel comfortable and relaxed. “The rest is easy.”

Now in his mid-60s, Walklet has no plans to retire. Swimming has been part of his life forever. At Staples and Longshore, the pools still beckon.

 

Holy Rod Gilbert!

Yesterday, in a post about 2 New York Rangers’ visit to Chase Bank in Westport, I casually mentioned that it was too bad Rod Gilbert didn’t come.

I could have picked maybe 500 famous players from the team’s past. I chose him.

Voila! 

Turns out Rod was here too.

Rod Gilbert

Yes, it’s really him.

And I’m told he thought my mention of him was pretty funny.

Now, let’s see if my magic touch works for someone else.

Too bad President Obama wasn’t here yesterday…

Let’s Go, Rangers!

Fairfield County is not exactly pro sports territory. Our biggest teams are the decidedly minor league Bridgeport Bluefish and Sound Tigers.*

But for 2 hours this afternoon, Westport welcomed the New York Rangers.

Well, 2 Rangers anyway: Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan. They’re captain and alternate captain of our closest professional ice hockey team.

The players are at the Chase Bank branch on Main Street, as part of a Rangers program to increase opportunities and accessibility to youth hockey. They’re collecting donated equipment, to outfit local skaters in need.

They’re also signing autographs, and distributing tickets for a Rangers alumni game in Norwalk.

Okay, McDonagh and Stepan are not exactly Wayne Gretzky. Or even Rod Gilbert.

But for a couple of hours today, downtown Westport looks a little bit like Madison Square Garden.

A very little bit.

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

*If you know what a “Sound Tiger” is, please tell us.

AEDs Are Already Ready

Less than 3 months ago, a Staples High School student suffered cardiac arrest while watching a soccer game.

Quick action by trainers and bystanders — including CPR, and the use of an AED by the father of a player — saved the teenager’s life.

An equally speedy response has brought dozens of AEDs — portable defibrillators —  to every school in Westport.

The Adam Greenlee Foundation — named for another student brought back to life a year earlier — partnered with the school district and Westport PAL. Within weeks, they’d raised over $85,000.

Last week, 26 AEDs were installed in school gyms and other important locations. The one below was mounted near the Staples cafeteria.

AED

Another 22 AEDs, with travel cases, were given to schools for use on field trips and sports events outside of Westport.

This spring, 17 more will be installed in outdoor cases, for athletic fields and recess areas. Ten others have been given to PAL, for use at sports events outside town.

It was an amazingly rapid — and crucial life-saving — community effort.

Just imagine: If the state Department of Transportation worked at this pace, the Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge would already be repaired. The North Compo/Main Street/Clinton Avenue realignment would be finished. And the Bridge Street bridge renovation would be over and done, somehow pleasing every single Westporter.

Gone Fishin’

You don’t always see a kid — or anyone, for that matter — fishing in the Compo Beach boat basin.

Nor do you usually see — these days — a kid fishing anywhere.

But alert “06880” reader Steve Axthelm saw this scene earlier today:

Compo Beach boat basin - January 2, 2016 - Steve Axthelm

Maybe someone’s New Year’s resolution was to put down electronic devices, and get outside more.

Or maybe the fish were just biting.