Category Archives: Sports

Staples Soccer Players Offer Shoveling Help

The snow is light and fluffy. There’s less of it than everyone expected. But it’s still a lot to contend with — particularly if you’re elderly or disabled.

Members of the Staples High School boys soccer team have volunteered to help. With school canceled, they’re available to shovel out folks who can’t do it themselves (or have no able-bodied kids of their own).

Because many of them can’t drive — or their parents don’t want them to — the offer is limited to neighborhoods where players live. So there are no promises that a match can be made.

But if you’d like a soccer player to help, email dwoog@optonline.net. I’ll do the best I can to send a strong teenager.

NOTE: Any other Westport youngsters (or older!) willing to volunteer are welcome to join in this community effort too. Just email dwoog@optonline.net, and tell me where you live. I’ll add you to the list of volunteer shovelers!

After Hurricane Sandy, Staples soccer players helped clean up sand from front yards on Soundview Drive.

After Hurricane Sandy, Staples soccer players helped clean up sand from front yards on Soundview Drive.

Alan Jolley’s Ultimate Adventure

In his 49 years as a Staples math teacher, Alan Jolley has earned tremendous respect and admiration. Future engineers and mathphobes alike look forward to his “Jolley calls” — phone messages to parents saying their kids have done well.

At last, he’s been inducted into a Hall of Fame.

For Frisbee.

Ultimate Frisbee is Jolley’s 2nd love. He founded Staples’ team — the 2nd in the nation — and coached it to national renown. Now he, and 1974 graduates Ed Davis, Ron Kaufman and Dan Buckley, have been recognized for their contributions, as members of the Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame. They’re honored as “Johnny Appleseeds,” for helping grow the sport following its founding at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion several years ago.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion in 2009.

Columbia High was Jolley’s alma mater, in 1960. Six years later, he arrived at Staples. In 1970 his sister sent him rules for a new sport being played at Columbia.

Some of Jolley’s students — and other teenagers he knew from his work with Boy Scouts and a church youth group — loved tossing Frisbees. He told them about this new “Ultimate Frisbee.”

The group played on an unkempt field behind the old 9 Building, at the east end of Staples. (Field hockey players chased them away, with sticks.) With no other teams in the area, they scrimmaged themselves.

Back then, he was Jon Steinberg. Today this same guy is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.

Back then, he was Jon Steinberg. Today this same guy is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.

They created a “uniform” of blue jeans and a light blue turtleneck, with a Staples monogram on the front and “FriSbee” on the back (get it?). Many guys — and girls — wore red bandannas.

They encouraged Weston High to form a team, and played them on April 5, 1973. Staples won 24-9, in the 1st interscholastic Frisbee game in Connecticut. It was also the 1st known coed interscholastic sports event.

On April 14, Staples hosted Columbia High, in the 1st known interstate coed match. Staples beat the sport’s inventors, 18-8. (To be fair, the guests were missing several players.)

But Staples — in fun — declared themselves “National Champions.” The National Observer sent a reporter from Washington to write about the team. His article appeared on May 12, 1973.

Ron Kaufman today.

Ron Kaufman today.

After graduation, the 3 players inducted recently with Jolley continued to evangelize for the sport.

Kaufman has been particularly active. He founded the Ultimate team at Brown University, then sold “flying disc” equipment by mail, through a California store and online.

Kaufman organized a national series of Frisbee festivals (with Wham-O sponsorship), and created World Peace Tours to China and the Soviet Union featuring Frisbee demonstrations, festivals and tournaments.

He asked, “How can you drop a bomb on somebody you’ve played Frisbee with in Red Square?”

By that time, though, Staples’ Ultimate Frisbee team was just a memory. Jolley disbanded it in the late 1970s, after issues with school administrators over issues like insurance.

What a buzzkill.

1973 frisbee team

Staples’ 1973 Ultimate Frisbee team. Alan Jolley is at far left.

 

Coming In 2015: Outdoor Fitness Parks In Westport?

Four years ago in Tel Aviv, Vadim Mejerson looked out his hotel window. He saw what looked like a child’s playground — but it was filled with adults. They were all exercising, on equipment you’d find in a gym but adapted for outdoors.

You or I might think, “Hmmm … interesting.” Meyerson — a longtime Weston resident with a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, who helped Exxon and many other companies develop fitness centers for executives — thought: “Wow … opportunity!”

He and his son Adam — who’d seen the same sight, independently, on that trip to Israel — did some research. They learned the parks were open 24/7. Some were roofed. Some were linked by bike trails.

A fitlot park by the sea in Israel...

A Fitlot park by the sea in Israel…

Vadim and Adam found that outdoor fitness parks were exploding in popularity around the world. England, Switzerland, Australia, Canada — everywhere, it seemed, governments and private sources were developing 1,000-square-foot areas where people could work out, get fit and socialize.

Everywhere — except the U.S.

Believing that every individual should enjoy the health benefits of parks like these, they formed a 501(c)(3) organization called FitLot. Partnering with neighborhood associations, and with funding from corporations, foundations and governments, it’s developing outdoor fitness parks throughout New Orleans.

That’s a perfect place for them. The city is burdened with obesity, diabetes and other health-related problems — but it’s also rebuilding itself, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

...and one in Europe.

…and one in Europe.

Now Mejerson wants to build facilities closer to home.

The other day he and 2 fellow enthusiasts — Steven Lewine and Rick Jaffe — talked about their vision for Westport.

“It’s free. It’s easy to access. It’s not an intimidating ‘gym environment,’ so it appeals to everyone,” Lewine said.

They ticked off potential spots for outdoor fitness parks: Compo Beach. Luciano Park, near the train station. The Y. The library. The Senior Center. Winslow Park. Baron’s South. The front lawn of Town Hall. Mini-parks, like Grace Salmon on Imperial Avenue.

They also like Sherwood Island. Connected by bike trails, they say, the fitness parks would be a way of tying the town together with the state park in our midst.

A roof may be necessary for a Westport outdoor fitness park.

A roof may be necessary for a Westport outdoor fitness park.

They know there are obstacles. Compo Beach is in the early stages of a renovation project. Winslow Park has been deemed “open space.” Bike paths are tough to build and maintain.

Still, the 3 men have had preliminary discussions with town officials, including 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Parks and Recreation Department director Stuart McCarthy, and Parks and Rec Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh. The talks were “constructive and productive,” Lewine says.

The cost of an outdoor fitness center is no more than $100,000 — 10% of the cost of an indoor facility, Jaffe says.

“It’s inexpensive, it’s public, it’s a beautiful concept,” notes Mejerson. “There’s no downside.”

Westporters embrace physical fitness.

Westporters embrace physical fitness.

“We think the community would welcome this gift with open arms,” Lewine adds. (It would be a “gift” thanks to corporate or private sponsorship.) “Westport is an enlightened town that considers physical fitness to be an important value.”

The big problem, the outdoor parks advocates know, is finding the right space(s), then gaining public support.

In Israel, Mejerson says, outdoor fitness parks are everywhere: hospitals, schools, prisons, gas stations, eldercare facilities.

Will one or more rise in Westport? If so, where? Click “Comments” to weigh in.

 

 

 

Remembering Hezekiah Allen

Just over a year ago, a bunch of talented, gutsy youngsters thrilled their home town of Westport — and the world — as they battled to within 1 win of the Little League national championship.

MLB logoMany of those boys are now at Staples. They’re 9th graders, ready to try out for Wrecker baseball. Pro careers — an elusive dream even for Little League stars — are waaaaay in the future, in the improbable case they happen at all.

In fact, in the entire history of Westport, we’ve had exactly one major league baseball player.

And his entire career in the Bigs consisted of exactly one game.

In 1884.

Exceptionally alert “06880” reader Glenn Payne found him.

Hezekiah Allen — whose name sounds more like a long-ago preacher than a baseball player* — was born and died in Westport. Glenn is a baseball fan, and — reading a baseball reference book — he wondered how many Westporters are among the 18,408 men to have played played major league ball in the past 140 years.

Step up to the plate, Hezekiah!

The Philadelphia Quakers  in 1884. Hezekiah Allen is probably not in this photo.

The Philadelphia Quakers in 1884. Hezekiah Allen is probably not in this photo.

Born in 1863, his 1 game came in 1884. The 21-year-old was a catcher for the Philadelphia Quakers — now known as the Phillies.

He had 2 hits in 3 at-bats that May day, in a 9-0 loss to the Buffalo Bisons. He was part of a double play, and had no errors. So Hezekiah’s lifetime stats are a batting average of .667, and a fielding percentage of 1.000.

“It’s unclear why he never played again,” Glenn says.

The 1910 census lists him as a “watchman” at a butter factory. Six years later — age 53 — he was dead.

You can find Hezekiah Allen today in (besides a reference book) Willowbrook Cemetery.

“His plot is well tended,” says Glenn, who hunted it down. “Unfortunately, it’s not in the shape of a base!”

Hezekiah Allen

* I’m thinking of you, Pumpsie Green.

Dozens Of Staples Students Dodge Cops

Occasionally, Westport kids run from cops. Tonight, they ran toward them.

And threw dodgeballs at their heads.

The cops threw them right back.

In fact, cops and kids were on the same team. They played with and against each other, in the Westport Youth Commission’s annual “Dodge a Cop” event. Staples’ Teen Awareness Group co-sponsored the event.

Dodgeball kids 2

The dodgeball tournament — held in the Staples fieldhouse — drew over 100 students. They came from every social group: athletes, actors, robotics team members, you name it. The English department had a group of teachers.

Each of the 31 teams had at least 1 police officer. Talk about someone having your back!

Each player paid $5 to participate. The money goes to Homes With Hope.

That’s a big 10-4.

Basketball players...

Basketball players…

Staples Players (the actors) ...

… Staples Players (the actors) …

teachers...

… teachers…

... and police officers all had a great time tonight, at the Youth Commission's annual "Dodge a Cop" event.

… and police officers all had a great time tonight, at the Youth Commission’s annual “Dodge a Cop” event.

 

 

 

Compo Skate Park: The Sequel

While discussion about the Compo Beach renovation plan has died down recently — the calm before another storm, perhaps — a subset of users has been quietly at work, hoping to save their beloved section of sand.

Well, asphalt.

It’s not a group known for their political activism: skateboarders.

But there’s a grassroots effort in town to save the Compo skate park. On Saturday afternoon — the final weekend of the beach’s skateboard season — they sponsored a skating party, with pizza and a DJ. The weather was fantastic, drawing luminaries like 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and Compo Beach Improvement Committee member George Franciscovich.

A small part of the big crowd of Saturday's skaters.

A small part of the big crowd of Saturday’s skaters.

The skaters will be out in force this Thursday (October 30, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall) for the next Parks and Rec Commission/Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee meeting. It’s listen-only for the audience, but they want to hear what’s in the works.

Some teenage skaters have formed their own committee. They want to present their side to town groups like Parks & Rec, the Compo Beach committee and the Westport Youth Commission. (The skate park itself was an outgrowth of a Youth Commission objective, back in the day.)

They’re figuring out how Compo’s skate park can be brought up to date to enhance its appeal and safety, and lower maintenance costs.

They’re marshaling plenty of good arguments. They’re learning how to participate in town democracy.

They may wipe out once or twice. That’s part of the process.

If so, they’ll get right back up. They hope to be standing — and skating — at the end.

The scene last Saturday.

The scene last Saturday.

 

Drew Cohen Skates Through Life

Drew Cohen appreciated people who are unappreciated.

There are few folks less appreciated than ice hockey referees. For the past 6 years, he’s been one himself.

Remarkably, Drew is just a high school junior.

He plays alto sax in Staples’ jazz band, and gives music lessons to Bridgeport students. But it’s on the ice where his true passion lies. And that’s where he’s made his biggest mark so far.

From age 7 to 14 Drew played hockey in the Greater Bridgeport Junior Hockey League. But even as an 8-year-old he watched the officials. He saw how they skated, made calls and interacted with players and coaches.

“I wanted to get to know them, even if they didn’t want to know me,” Drew says.

USA Hockey logoAt 11, he earned his first certification from USA Hockey. The exam was online. He didn’t have to prove he could skate.

Now — several tests later — he’s a member of the Hockey Referees Association of Connecticut. Though USA Hockey recommends not officiating your own age or higher, he has whistled a collegiate women’s pre-season game.

“I always like things to be fair,” Drew says. “As a referee, you have to be fair. By being fair, you can make the game better.” He’s a strong advocate of mutual respect between players, coaches and officials, and tries to develop that without yelling.

Refereeing is a big responsibility. “You have to act like an adult, and be professional. A 16-year-old can be lazy in some parts of life. But you can’t do that on the ice. You have to make judgments, make calls, and sell them — whether you’re right or wrong.”

Drew Cohen

Drew Cohen

Among Drew’s challenges: explaining calls to coaches and players. Asserting himself when things get personal. Controlling a game when it threatens to get out of hand. Earning respect from colleagues who are 2 or 3 times his age.

It doesn’t always work. Drew shakes his head as he recalls a game in Shelton. A coach would not stop yelling at him.

“I froze,” Drew says. “My partner — across the rink — screamed at the coach. I didn’t have the courage to stand up to someone much older.” He pauses. “This season I will, though.”

He explains the key qualities of a good referee: consistency in calls, confidence and communication (verbal and non-verbal). Of course, a hockey official must also skate well. And he has to really, really know the rules.

Every year, Drew heads to Canada for a referee camp. A number of National Hockey League officials are there. He has gotten to know many of them. He emails them with questions, and after a recent preseason game in Bridgeport an NHL ref gave him a game puck.

The hockey referee fraternity is “like a family,” Drew says. “It goes from the NHL down to me. We all look out for each other. We know everyone puts up with a lot of stuff.”

Drew Cohen gets ready for action.

Drew Cohen gets ready for action.

When he calls a game well, Drew feels a sense of satisfaction. His confidence grows — and not just on the ice.

“Most of the times when you’re young, you’re not in a position of power. You can’t affect things,” he says. “Doing this makes the rest of life seem easy.”

Yet Drew knows that — even before a game begins — people have judged him by his age and size. “Sometimes I’ve been reffing longer than my 24-year-old partner. I just have to accept that I’ll be judged. If I get a complex about it, I’ll be refereeing for someone, and not for the game.”

The best compliment he gets is rare, but meaningful: “We didn’t even notice you out there.”

The money is good. Last season, Drew earned more than $2,000. This year he’s aiming for $3,000.

His goal is to be an NCAA Division I official within 10 years. At one point, that seemed far off. Now — working at the highest level possible for his age — he thinks he can do it.

So what advice does he have for anyone else thinking of becoming a hockey referee?

“Don’t try to prove yourself,” he says. “Just be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Pete Aitkin Buys A New Black Duck

If you know the Black Duck — and who doesn’t? — you know the popular riverfront barge/bar/restaurant/hangout shares a name with the Black Duck racing boat.

Owner Pete Aitkin just received his latest toy: a custom-built 30-foot twin 300-horse Merc speedboat.

Last night, the Duck docked at the Duck.

This morning, Pete pulled it out of the water at Compo. He’ll store it till next year.

The Black Duck, with Pete Aitken at the helm.

The Black Duck, with Pete Aitkin at the helm.

The Black Duck — food version — put Westport on the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” map.

The maritime Black Duck did the same for offshore boat racing.

Tutti’s, Tarantino’s, Tarry Lodge: Top that!

(Hat tip: Randy Chiristophersen)

Arjun Dhindsa: Black Belt Busts Boards

Not long ago, while teaching materials study in his applied engineering class at Staples High School, instructor Humphrey Wong tried to break a board.

Arjun Dhindsa told Dr. Wong the board was curved the wrong way.

If students had been allowed to take a whack, Arjun would have stepped right up. He’d have given an impressive demonstration.

This summer, the Staples junior won a gold medal at the national tae kwan do black belt championship in San Jose. He shattered 30 boards in 2 minutes, earning the most points for style, accuracy and difficulty of breaks.

Arjun Dhindsa

Arjun Dhindsa

Arjun’s road to the board-breaking title began in 3rd grade, at Kings Highway Elementary School. A friend was taking classes at World Champion Tae Kwan Do, near the train station. Arjun thought that was pretty cool.

In the years since, he became a 2nd degree black belt (and is working on his 3rd).

Tae kwan do has changed his life, Arjun says. He’s learned to “respect everything,” which in turn has made him a better person.

“The core values are courtesy, respect, integrity, self-control and perseverance,” Arjun explains. “That drives me now.”

When he was younger, Arjun was targeted by bullies. Tae kwan do gave him confidence in who he was, and that he could stand up to anyone. However, that does not mean he busts up bullies as easily as he breaks boards.

His martial art should not be used against other people “unless absolutely necessary,” Arjun says. The point of the activity is “to make yourself better.”

Arjun Dhindsa shatters boards one way...

Arjun Dhindsa shatters boards one way…

Getting to nationals required 2 types of discipline: mental and physical. He trained constantly on technique, and developed his core, legs and arms. “If a normal, super-strong person tried this, it would be tough,” Arjun says in the same way you or I would talk about the ability to walk to the planet Zork.

The black belt competitor also prepared himself psychologically to break 4 boards — each an inch thick — at once.

“It’s important to visualize yourself doing it,” notes Arjun. “Otherwise it can be daunting and scary.”

In San Jose, Arjun broke boards with his palm, elbow, a punch and a triple front kick.

He knew if he “decimated” them, he’d have a good shot at the title.

...and another.

…and another.

The feeling after successfully breaking boards is “exhilarating.” The pain goes away soon. Arjun’s hand was swollen — he even went for X-rays — but it was fine.

Winning a gold medal at a national tae kwan do competition made Arjun proud. It also reinforced his desire to work even harder in the future. He wants to repeat as champion next year.

Not many Staples students know about Arjun’s U.S. title, though. “I’m not the type of person to talk about it,” he says.

Dr. Wong may not even know. After all, school rules did not allow his black belt pupil to show the class how to break boards like they were twigs.

Though that would have made for a very interesting science class demonstration indeed.

 

 

 

Shooting In The 80s

Every Tuesday morning, from April through October, members of the Longshore Women’s Golf Association play some very competitive rounds.

What makes this “06880”-worthy is this number: 80.

That’s not the average score. It’s the low end of the age range of several of the most ardent golfers.

Caryl Beatus shows up rain or shine. A founder of the LWGA in 1960, she’s been a stalwart player for the past 54 years.

She’s not the only octogenarian. At 89, Anne Krygier still pushes her cart nearly every Tuesday.

Anne Krygier (left) and Caryl Beatus, enjoying another day on the links.

Anne Krygier (left) and Caryl Beatus, enjoying another day on the links.

Dee Andrian — like Anne a lefty and push-cart devotee — is there too. So is Joan Moen, the 1st to volunteer for any task; Barbara Rose, the founder of the Sea Squirts summer program, and Dottie Myers.

They don’t shoot their age — but then again, who does?

The women enjoy the competition and camaraderie of the LWGA, They join younger members in weekly tournaments, and 4 major championships. They have particularly enjoyed this year, when the Longshore course has been rejuvenated under ValleyCrest Landscape and superintendent Ryan Segrue.

The LWGA ends its season with a banquet this month at the Red Barn. After which the 80-something golfers will immediately begin planning for next year.

(Hat tip to Topsy Siderowf, LWGA vice president.)