One Season Ends

I usually try to keep 2 important parts of my life — writing and soccer — separate.  “06880” readers don’t need to hear the details of every high school game I coach (though they’re available at!),  and when I’m out on the field, it’s the one time I don’t worry about which “06880” reader is going postal in the comments section.

But occasionally my soccer and writing worlds intersect.  Today’s post is about the 2011 Staples boys soccer team.

Ben Root (left) and Dylan Evans double-team a Norwalk player. (Photo by Carl McNair)

Our season ended Monday, with a 1-0 state tournament loss to Farmington.

If you’re any good at all, you end the season with a loss.  Only 1 team wins the championship; in Connecticut, 31 lose in the tournament.

That doesn’t make losing any easier to take.  For the 25 or so players on our squad — teenagers who have dedicated themselves, several hours a day since last August (and really, years ago) to the goal of winning the last game of the season — the end comes with stunning finality.

One day — day after day after day — you’re battling opponents, the weather, rival fans, even the referees, for every edge.  Then the whistle blows, and suddenly there’s no tomorrow.  Just a long bus ride home.

One player said, “Dan, this is so hard.  I have to do it once.  How do you do it year after year?”

Every team is special.  But the 2011 Staples boys soccer team was especially special.

Jake Malowitz moves upfield against Greenwich. The captain's leadership and passion played a great role in Staples' success. (Photo by Carl McNair)

Of our 21 matches, 16 were decided by 1-goal margins, or were ties.  That takes an incredible toll, emotionally as well as physically.

Early in the season, we gave up a couple of late goals.  We tied games we could have won.  Players could have pointed fingers at teammates, or doubted themselves.

They didn’t.  Instead, they resolved to do better.  By the end of the year — en route to the FCIAC (league) championship, in the league final, and throughout the state tournament — they battled right to the end.  They fought for themselves and their teammates, they gutted every game out, and they exited with their heads held high.

They were bound together by pasta dinners, singing on bus rides, weekends together.  And all along, they found time for others beyond their team.  They performed community service.  They served as role models for younger players.  They did themselves proud.

In a note to the parents of our players Monday night I said:

You may not always realize it – because you bear the brunt of their teenage-ness – but they are remarkable young men.  In addition to being talented, tough athletes, they are passionate, compassionate, hard-working, intelligent, lively, and very funny people.  As coaches, we get to see a side of them that you don’t always see.  I consider myself fortunate, and lucky, to have spent this season with them.

So, to the 2011 team, I say:  “I respect you and admire you.  Thanks for the privilege of sharing the 2011 year with you.”

And, to the 2012 team — whose members have not yet been chosen — I say:  “Let’s get to work.  The season is just 9 months away.”

The Wreckers celebrate against Fairfield Ludlowe -- one of many joyful moments this year. (Photo by Carl McNair)

18 responses to “One Season Ends

  1. Carissa Simon Keepin

    Ahhhh…Staples Wreckers Soccer….long been a joyful memory for me since my days as a fan back in 1970 and 1971. As always, well done young men!

  2. And, well done, Coach Woog. They’re lucky to have you.

  3. Kudos to the team and coach (and not to omit the great photos by Photographer/Proud Dad, Carl McNair.

  4. It’s been 49 years since I left the field feeling just like these guys did. That close … it’s tough … but they will never forget they were there that day. Thanks to them and to you for maintaining the tradition … a winning tradition!

  5. Great job Staples Soccer, you always make us proud! Great job to you too Dan, what a great team to watch!

  6. Albie would have shared your sentiments, Dan — and Bill D, too. Another excellent season in 50-plus-year tradition of excellence.

  7. My daughter’s high school soccer team just had their first ever winning season. It was so exciting to see them all revel in it — the team, the school, the families — and share in that exhilarating feeling of caring about something so much and working extra hard then achieving that level of success. We were so lucky to experience all that at Staples… we even expected it. You forget how much blood, sweat and tears it takes, plus excellent coaching, to get there. Thanks, Dan, for keeping it going.

  8. The Dude Abides

    The football team is undefeated.

  9. I had the good fortune of playing on championship teams at Staples over 40 years ago but I think a season such as the one Staples just had ultimately is much more telling about the character of the players. And I say this as someone who experienced a similarly challenging type of season in my final year of college play. So kudos to the players for hanging tough and keeping their poise, as reflected by their winning the 2011 FCIAC Sportsmanship Award. Best of luck to the seniors in their future endeavors. And kudos to the coaching staff for keeping the Staples soccer tradition alive and well.

  10. congrats to dan, the coaching staff and the players for carrying on the tradition in such splendid fashion. a truly great bunch of kids. same time next year!

  11. Also anonymous....

    I follow three sites on a daily basis, 06880, Staples Soccer and Staples Football. Great photos all year long. Judging from the photos from my seat here in Fort Lauderdale, appears the soccer team brought its’ “A” game week after week. Congratulations on another winning season. Appears the 2011 team has been well served by your dedication, inspiration and ability to motivate these young athletes.

  12. Great season, Dan. Congratulations to you and the team.

  13. And football coaches dish out porn to their players…classy.

  14. One coach. Singular, not plural. And he’ll be dealt with. He’ll lose both jobs that he has at Staples and likely won’t be able to get another job anywhere. His family will be ostricized. Was he a knucklehead? Absolutely. Should he, singular, pay a heavy price? Yes. His freshman football players would never have been able to access porn sites on their own. Now that he’s gone — or soon wil be — they’re pure again. I had several assistant football coaches at Staples and respected all of them. Maybe I was naive, though, or just lucky. Again, kudos to Dan and his guys, and to Coach P and his, and to the girls field hockey team as it advances to the state quarter finals. And to all the other coaches and athletes at Staples past and present, with the exception of one knucklehead who happened to coach freshman football.

  15. Taints the entire school athletic programs.

  16. It taints one coach. Singular. One. And he’s gone.

  17. Tell that to Penn State. Entire program.

  18. There is no correlation between the possible commission of up to 40 felony counts of the worst, most heinous kind of child abuse abetted by an institutionwide coverup over a period of at least 15 years and a coach — one — giving a porn site password to kids who already have access to many in the comfort of their own homes. There was no cover-up at Staples of that knucklehead’s indiscretion, nor would there have been even if WABC had not blown the whistle because a parent apparently chose to create a mini-sensation by handing the story to WABC rather than going to the Westport PD or the school administration. There is little doubt that the football program at PSU will be decimated for years to to come, regardless of whether the NCAA imposes sanctions. But what happens to the football program there over the next few years is less than insignificant when compared to what happened to those boys. Staples isn’t perfect, nor is any high school in any community. But what happened at Staples is nothing like the human horror that was perpetrated at Penn State.