Category Archives: Sports

[OPINION] Filled With Gratitude

A Westporter woman who requests anonymity writes:

As I ran today past Longshore and Compo Beach, I was filled with gratitude. Not just for our town’s stunning beauty and incredible wealth of resources, but for the optimistically scrappy people who make a transformational difference one person at a time.

Staples High School coach Matty Jacowleff inspires the kind of compassionate trust that made our eldest son feel comfortable reaching out this winter when he was struggling to find academic motivation.

It was off season. But Coach Matty reached back immediately, normalized the anxiety, and with his signature contagious enthusiasm set up an accountability partnership where they’d check in with each other daily. Who does this? Coach Matty does.

Several years ago, our youngest son struggled with lacrosse. His skills were not up to those of his peers. He had trouble focusing, didn’t really get game IQ and felt poorly about himself. He decided lacrosse was not his sport.

Westport PAL Lacrosse board member Dan Clark told him he thought he should stick with it. He put him on his team – a team built around love of sport and camaraderie.

Dan champions the underdogs. He makes sure they aren’t overlooked. Three years later, our son is thriving. He has learned resilience without sacrificing self-worth. Working hard and having fun are not mutually exclusive, and compassion trumps winning hands down.

These are just 2 of the countless people who quietly make a ginormous difference in our children’s lives. They do it because it is what they believe – who they are. Lucky us.

Thank you,
One of the many grateful moms in our incredible town

Roundup: Yankee Doodle Fair, All-Americans, River Cleanup …

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Big news from the Westport Woman’s Club: They held their first monthly luncheon in over a year.

Bigger news: The Yankee Doodle Fair is back!

The century-old event — Westport’s traditional last week of school/beginning of summer carnival — was canceled last year and this, due to COVID.

But the WWC has arranged for all the rides, games and cotton candy vendors to come this fall. The 2021 Yankee Doodle Fair is set for September 23 to 26.

As usual, all profits go toward grants and scholarships. It’s a great fundraiser, by an amazing group.

This fall’s Yankee Doodle Fair will be a great way to ring in the new school year. To raise money for those in need. And of course, to try to win one of those very elusive stuffed animals.

The Yankee Doodle Fair takes over the Imperial Avenue parking lot. (Photo/Lee Scharfstein)

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Westport Paddle Club’s first-ever Saugatuck River cleanup yesterday was trashy.

The Riverside Avenue rental and lesson facility supplied dozens of people with kayaks. They headed upstream, collecting trash along the way.

A thunderstorm sent them back to shore before everyone was done. Still, they filled barrels with “stuff.” Some of it was brush; much of it was man-made (and man-tossed).

Jr’s Deli fed the crowd. Rain cut short the reggae band. But the most important work was done.

And next year, it will have to be done all over again.

A small sampling of the large amount of trash collected from the Saugatuck River.

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Most high school sports teams are lucky to have one All-American, every decade or so.

Before this year, Staples boys lacrosse had 5 since 2010.

This spring, they added 3 more.

Congratulations to the Wreckers’ newest All-American athletes: recent graduate JP Kosakowski, and rising seniors Henry Dodge and Charlie Howard!

 

(From left) Henry Dodge, Charlie Howard, JP Kosakowski (Photos/Shelley Burger)

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Summer is here! Well, it arrives at 11:32 p.m. tonight, anyway.

To celebrate, the Minute Man donned a beach-type necklace.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

PS: I’m sure that, as usual, a commenter will write in about this “desecration” of our town’s monument.

Ever since 1910, our Minute Man has been decorated. He’s worn Santa caps and Easter bunny years. He’s had flags draped over his shoulders, and flowers stuck in his musket.

Without going all First Amendment here, he fought for the right to be free. I think he would be pleased.

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Tomorrow is worldwide “Make Music Day.” There are more than 1,000 events, in over 120 countries.

Unfortunately, there is no specific Westport celebration. But residents Louis Fuertes and Pat Blaufuss — members of the 4-person band Picnic on the 4th of July — will perform at Old Post Tavern in Fairfield (7 to 8 p.m.).

The CUkes — a ukulele group that originated at the Westport Weston Family YMCA — entertain in the Nordstrom Courtyard of The SoNo Collection mall (Norwalk, 6 p.m.).

And Talking Heads members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth — who live just over the line in Fairfield — are part of an international “This Moment in Time” musical event. Click here for details.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature finds a pair of egrets enjoying Compo Beach.

(Photo/Stephen Raffel)

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And finally … in honor of international “Make Music Day”:

Westport Softball Honors “Ax”

Baseball is big in Westport. Our Little League team reached the national championship. Staples has won state titles. All around town, are diamonds are forever filled.

Fast-pitch softball may not get as much publicity. But it’s thriving too.

There is a dedicated softball community, and a decorated history as well.

Last, night, Steve Axthelm — one of its driving forces for more than 2 decades — was honored.

The site was appropriate: Meyer Field. It’s named for Bill Meyer — the father of Westport softball — and Axthelm has picked up where Meyer left off.

Axthelm — who is also a member of Westport’s Parks & Recreation Commission — has spent more than 20 years as head of Westport Softball. He was honored at a ceremony before the Little League Majors championship game, complete with a sign that will hang next to the many championship banners won under his leadership.

Steve Axthelm, at last night’s ceremony. He’s joined by Staples High School varsity softball players (from left) Sophia Alfero, Grace Alfero, Ally Schwartz and Ava Vincini.

Axthelm was introduced to competitive softball like many Westport dads: through his children. But unlike many parent volunteers, he did not stop when his kids’ playing days were over. He continued to lead the program, advocatint for funding and access on behalf of Westport’s youth softball players.

His efforts resulted in 7 district, 2 divisional, 4 sectional and 4 state championships.

Some of the players from those dominant youth teams led Staples to a successful season this year, advancing to the FCIAC semifinals and the state quarterfinals. They fell to archrivals Fairfield Ludlowe in both tournaments.

Axthelm says, “I’m proud to have run a program dedicated to 2 sometimes conflicting missions: give girls the skills to compete at a high level and prepare them to play at Staples (in a few cases, beyond), while also keep as many girls as possible, regardless of skill level, until they age out.

“Studies have shown that girls involved in youth sports are less likely to engage in risky behavior as they grow up. We designed the program to give every girl the confidence to play and enjoy it.”

“Ax” and his wife are headed south for a warm weather retirement. But every June — as Westport begins another softball title run — he’ll be thinking of the town where for so many years, he made his indelible mark.

(Hat tip: Rob Simmelkjaer)

Roundup: Henry Wynne, Pops Concert, Teacher Of The Year …

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Ever since he was a Staples High School track star, Henry Wynne has been called an “Olympic hopeful.”

Now that the Olympics are near — they’re supposed to begin next month in Tokyo — how hopeful is the Class of 2013 grad?

Very. And that’s despite a litany of issues that dogged him as a University of Virginia star, and beyond. Since 2016 Wynne has suffered a knee injury, pneumonia, and surgery on his small intestine.

But Brooks Running signed him to a pro contract. And now — with the Olympic trials underway now through June 27 in Eugene, Oregon — Wynne is giving it his best shot.

Yesterday, Runner’s World magazine profiles one of Westport’s top athletes ever. Click here for the full story.

Henry Wynne (Photo/Will Hoffman for Runner’s World)

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Did you miss the Staples High School Pops Concert earlier this month? (No, you didn’t overlook it. Tickets were limited, due to COVID.)

Here’s a highlight reel, courtesy of Jim Honeycutt. Strike up the band!

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Speaking of education: Sure, the Westport Public Schools select a Teacher of the Year. But there’s something special about earning that honor from a different source: the Staples High School football team.

This spring, the Wreckers — used to be cheered for — turned the tables. They gave shout-outs to their favorite educators in a homemade video. At the end, they announced the winner.

Who is this year’s football team Staples Teacher of the Year? Click below to see:

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Another Staples tidbit: The Westport Garden Club has earned raves for their #FridayFlowers arrangements. Each week, there’s a different one somewhere in town.

This week’s was unveiled a day earlier. On Thursday evening, Class of 2021 graduates and their families saw this as they drove into Staples from North Avenue:

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Two more sings that Westport is getting “back to business.”

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce held its first in-person gathering in 20 months yesterday, at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center. Over 60 people gathered in the garden, in beautiful weather. They shook hands, ate food catered by Calise’s Deli, and — as they did for years before the pandemic — exchanged business cards.

Sal Gilbertie spoke about the 100 years since his grandfather began as a flower grower, then turned to herbs. Today Gilbertie’s is a major micro green seller, in addition to their nursery’s plants and trees.

Sal Gilbertie addresses the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

But the Chamber wasn’t the only major Westport organization holding its first live-and-in-person meeting yesterday.

Sunrise Rotary also gathered together, for the first time in over a year. Attendance was solid. Handshakes and hugs were heartfelt.

And for those unable or not yet ready to attend, the event was livestreamed.

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Enrollment is open for MoCA Westport’s summer courses, for toddlers through adults. Among the choices:

  • Summer Sunset Painting Series (High school and adult)
  • The World of Digital Art Animation (High school and adult)
  • The Art of Cinematography (High xchool and adult)
  • Intro To Digital Photography (High school and adult)
  • Skateboard Design (Middle school through adult)
  • Summer Saturday Art Workshops for Kids (PreK to grade 3)
  • Learn How To Code (Middle school through Adult)
  • Robotics (Middle school through adult)
  • Expressive Art for Toddler

For more details and to register, click here.

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Westport Country Playhouse has 4 new trustees. Three are from Westport: Jessica Caldwell, Will Haskell and Margie Jacobson.

Haskell — a state senator whose district includes Westport — has a long theatrical history. As a member of Staples High School’s Class of 2014, he was elected of Players, the drama troupe.  One of his first memories of live theater was seeing “Curious George” as a child, at the Playhouse’s old barn.

Caldwell graduated from Columbia University’s MFA film program. She produced independent feature films, while her feature film productions have premiered at Berlinale, SXSW and Tribeca. Her short film work has premiered at Sundance, Telluride, and Tribeca. Caldwell was also the writers’ room assistant and showrunners’ assistant on “Billions.” She is also a Moth storytelling contest GrandSlampion.

Jacobson is a nonprofit leader and attorney with legal experience spanning a variety of diverse settings. She is currently of counsel to a boutique law firm advocating for students’ rights from birth through post-secondary education, and co-founder of Woman’s Compass Forum. Jacobson previously served on the Playhouse board, from 2010 to 2016. She also serves on the boards of the ADL and the Remarkable Theater.

The WCP board of trustees is chaired by Westporter Ania Czekaj-Farber.

The Westport Library has 2 new trustees too.

Anna Alemani is CFO of Pierrepont School. Previously she had a 15-year career in finance. She holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA in Business Administration from Bocconi University in Milan, where she focused her studies on management of museums and cultural institutions.

Dave Briggs spent his career in television, as a sports and news reporter/anchor. He has moved from South Dakota and Oklahoma to Boston, where he covered Red Sox World Series championships, Patriots Super Bowl titles and a Celtics NBA crown. He also hosted “Fox & Friends Weekend,” and (for NBC) NHL, NASCAR, NFL and Olympic tennis, before anchoring “Early Start” on CNN. He currently interviews important Connecticut residents for Moffly Media content.

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We see a lot of old things at the transfer station.

Yesterday morning, it was a Model A Ford. Fortunately, it was running fine. The driver was there just to drop off some newer trash.

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

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The VFW is not just for men!

The other day, Y’s Women’s Trivia group met for their monthly luncheon. The VFW’s great chef, Joe Gallo, fed them well.

Other Y’s Women groups include Tuesday morning Compo Beach walkers, and one that meets in the evening to watch spectacular sunsets.

To learn more about the Y’s Women, email dynamicr@icloud.com.

Joe Gallo hosts the Y’s Women.

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July 4 is the publication date for not one but two Carl Addison Swanson books. The Westporter’s latest works are written “Venezuela Vengeance” and “Brotherly Hate.”

He’s CEO of Bermuda’s CAS Publications, which publishes 14 other writers, and  is a contributing editor at HBO. Click here for details.

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Seen this morning at Compo Beach: either the remnant of a Friday celebration for Staples High School’s graduation, or “saving a spot” for today:

(Photo/Michael Calise)

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Lauri Weiser calls this “Westport … Naturally” photo “Lurking in the Grasses”:

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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And finally … Juneteenth has been celebrated — in one form or another — for 155 years.

Today, for the first time, we honor it as a national holiday.

Amen.

This week, immediately after the bill was signed in the House of Representatives and sent to President Biden, the Congressional Black Caucus sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

It’s been called the “Black National Anthem.” But it’s a fitting anthem today for every American, of every color and background.

 

 

 

 

Roundup: Senior Center, Morningside South, Joey’s Delivery …

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It’s the news seniors have been waiting for.

Starting July 1, the Senior Center will reopen. It’s limited, sure — but it will be wonderful for the thousands of Westporters who rely on our great center.

The phased reopening will include in-house, outdoor, hybrid, televised and Zoom classes all summer long.

Director Sue Pfister and her staff have meticulously established safety protocols. They includes enhanced air-handlers, sanitizers, and other CDC-guided precautions.

There’s also a canopy over part of the back patio, to extend outdoor space.

The congregate luncheon program will remain closed until September. In addition, summer plans will not include drop-in visits or congregating during the initial reopening phase. Water fountains will not be available, so participants are encouraged to bring a water bottle from home.

Senior Center participants must pre-register with the new registration system MyActiveCenter (https://myactivecenter.com/) to sign up for activities, classes, and programs.  For instructions and a list of upcoming courses, please visit www.westportct.gov/seniorcenter or call 203-341-5099.

Back in action soon!

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For months, Westporters have wondered about the fate of the Kowalsky property. The large tract of land on Morningside Drive South and Clapboard Hill Road is some of the last privately owned open space in town.

Part of it is now on the market. The real estate listing says:

Perc tests and a Conceptual Plan are now available outlining a proposed 8 Bedroom home, Infinity Edge Swimming Pool and Septic. Build your dream home on this prestigious 2.0 Acre property in a well established Greens Farms neighborhood.

This property is truly majestic with part ownership of a man made pond, and several character outbuildings. This sought after location is less than a mile to Metro North/Greens Farms train station and Burying Hill Beach. Two homes on Morningside Drive South (# 90 and # 88) have SOLD within the year, both currently in stages of being torn down for over a million dollars an acre. There is value here on this special piece of land.

This is a Land listing. The home on the property is ‘As Is’. As with any Land listing, buyers to perform their own due diligence.

117 Morningside Drive South.

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Plenty of people like Hook’d on the Sound, the new Compo Beach concessionaire.

Plenty do not like the fact that it closes at 6 p.m.

The previous snack bar tenant — Joey’s by the Shore — stayed open till dark. Two years ago, he relocated to the former Elvira’s, around the corner across from Old Mill Beach.

Now Joey’s has introduced a delivery service to Compo. It’s available Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You can order online. Enter “2 Soundview Drive” as the delivery address. Your food will be delivered — in a thermal bag, with no extra charge — at the pickup/ dropoff location next to the Compo volleyball courts.

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The undefeated, nationally ranked Staples High School rugby team kicked off its national tournament quest in Kansas City yesterday with a 26-22 win against St. Thomas Aquinas. The Wreckers are ranked #5; Aquinas was #4. The temperature at the start was 100.

Little Barn The Little Barn in Westport is the local site for viewing. The next match is tonight (6 p.m.), against #1 Herriman from Utah.

Watching yesterday’s game at Little Barn. (Photo/Terry Brannigan)

Previewing the tournament, a rugby publication described Staples as “the best-kept secret of the tournament. (They have) compiled one heck of a season up in Connecticut. Winners over big dogs Xavier, Greenwich, and Fairfield, these boys are battle-tested and battle-accomplished. Jot them down as your dark horse now.”

For more information on the national rugby tournament, click here.

Staples rugby in action, earlier this year.

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Wakeman Town Farm kicks off its farm stand season tomorrow (Saturday, June 19, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

Every Saturday, the Cross Highway stand features farm-grown veggies, baked goods, honeys, Shearwater coffee, Wave Hill breads, Kneads pastries, Pam’s Jams, Guardians farm goat soap & lotion, plus logowear.

Tomorrow’s fresh produce offerings include collard greens, lettuce, kale, peas, radishes, garlic scapes, Chinese green onions, strawberries (limited quantities!), and herbs.

This year, WTF expands its offerings with a rotating list of local guest vendors. This week they welcome Lorenza Arnal, creator of Alma de Mexico’s homemade salsas, and Sk*p, a sustainably packaged hair & body care line with local roots.

PS: Visitors can also say hi to the WTF animals.

Teagan Smith, at the WTF farm stand.

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Tomorrow is also the day for Westport Paddle Club’s great Saugatuck River cleanup. Everyone is welcome to jump in a kayak, then pick up debris.

It starts around 5 p.m. — an hour or so before high tide — so you can paddle up with the tide, then drift back with it too.

Everyone will be back before 8. It will still be light — and time to party. Jr’s Deli & Grille provides the grub. (Click here for details.)

To get in the mood, check out last night’s report on News12. Even if you can’t make it tomorrow, you’ll learn a lot about the river. And the drone views are outstanding!

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Looking for action, entertainment and laughs?

The Remarkable Theater’s upcoming shows include:

  • “Black Panther” (Monday, June 21)
  • “The Birdcage” (Wednesday, June 23)
  • “The Breakfast Club” (Monday, June 28)

All shows begin at 8:45 p.m. Gates open at the Imperial Avenue parking lot at 7:45, for tailgating. Click here for tickets.

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Westport’s own Dale Najarian is one of 5 features artists at George Billis Gallery‘s new pop-up exhibit, “Summer Escape.”

It opens today (Friday, June 18), with an open reception from 4 to 7 p.m. The exhibit runs through July 25.

“Summer Escape” includes oceans, beaches, pool scenes, waterscapes, and paintings inspired by travel in the US and Europe.

George Billis Gallery is at 166 Main Street. It’s open every day except Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

“Compo Beach,” oil on canvas (Dale Najarian)

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Staples High School’s Class of 1976 is planning their 45th reunion. And — in the spirit of ’76 — they’re doing more than their share.

The July 30-31 weekend includes parties at the Black Duck and Compo Beach. They’ve added a “Great Gatsby” town tour.

And — because several classmates volunteer with CLASP Homes, the supportive housing organization for people with developmental disabilities (and Tracy Flood works there), the reunion-goers will do yard projects at the site. (They might not even know that CLASP was founded in 1976!)

Class of ’76 members seeking more information can email staples76reunion@gmail.com.

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“Westport … Naturally” finds us today at Burying Hill Beach:

(Photo/Wendy Levy)

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And finally … in honor of Staples High School’s 450-plus graduates yesterday, here is Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.”

The whole thing. But if you want just the traditional processional march, it starts at 1:57.

 

Roundup: Masks, Music, Arts …

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Many “06880” readers have asked about funeral arrangements for Paul Lane. The famed Staples High School football coach died this week, at 93.

A private service will be held in Bethel, where many family members are buried. There will be no public service.

Paul Lane

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With more and more people wearing fewer and fewer masks, it may seem like that’s one part of the pandemic now in the rear view mirror.

But unvaccinated children still need them. And youngsters in Bridgeport summer camp programs don’t always have access to nice masks.

Since March 2020, Virginia Jaffe and her crew of volunteers has sewn over 8,500 masks. They gave them all away — and they’re still doing it.

Last month, they donated 200 masks to New Beginnings in Bridgeport. A thank-you note cited the “wonderful craftsmanship,” adding, “Their beauty will bring joy to our students. This donation has provided some of the most vulnerable children in the state with the resources they need to thrive.”

Virginia wants those youngsters to feel that brand new, unused masks show they feel cared for, and just a little bit safer.

To help in any way, email westportmaskgiving@icloud.com.

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Two of Westport’s most creative institutions are the Library and Artists Collective.

This summer, they’re collaborating on a very creative project.

“Piece by Piece” is a grid of 60 12-inch squares. Each of those 60 artists contributes one square. When assembled together, they form one image.

The work represents the artists’ response to the isolation they felt during the pandemic. E

Each square is available for sale. For $100, you can select one or more of the squares from a grid. Proceeds will be divided between the Library and the artist. The name of the artists, and the iconic masterpiece on which Piece by Piece is based, will be revealed on July 10th.

It, and more works by the Artists Collective, will be on display at the Library from July 10 through September 28.

For more details — including how to own a piece of “Piece” — click here.

Own a piece of “Piece by Piece.”

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Speaking of the Artists Collective: Their great live (!) exhibit ends this Saturday, with artist talks.

Works hang in the barn gallery at Westport Country Playhouse. Among the participants: Miggs Burroughs, Elizabeth DeVoll, Charles Douthat, Susan Fehlinger, Noah Fox, Toby Michaels, Nancy Moore, Melissa Newman, Diane Pollack and Ellen Schiffman.

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When PJ Pacifico plays the Levitt Pavilion June 25 (7 p.m.), the Westporter won’t have far to go. He lives right around the corner.

The singer/songwriter’s new single, “Every Little Heartbreak,” speaks to a world eager to embrace a fresh new day after a time of intense challenges. Sound familiar?

PJ’s perspective on the ups and downs of being an indie artist and songwriter are influenced by his experiences as a survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Beating cancer after undergoing months of chemo and radiation, and losing his spleen and part of his liver, made him feel like he had a second chance.

But he suffered with survivor’s guilt and “impostor syndrome.” He’s battled through all that — and is ready to rock the Levitt.

Just down the hill from his home.

The event is free, but tickets are required. Click here to register.

PJ Pacifico

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Monday — the first full day of summer — is the longest day of the year.

Recognizing that for those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, every day is “the longest” — but also, that art has the power to inspire and excite — RaRa (“Real Art. Real Artists.”) is partnering with the Residence at Westport to produce an art exhibit.

The show (June 21, 3 to 5 p.m., The Residence, 1141 Post Road East), is open to the public. There’s wine and cheese, plus  live entertainment. A portion of art sales will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Can’t get out (even on the longest day)? Click here for information on the virtual version of the exhibit.

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In this hybrid summer, the Westport Library offers 2 learning clubs. Both are “blended” — meaning in-person classes at the Library, and a remote option for distance education.

The program for grades 1 to 5 includes week-lonf literacy, math and STEAM sessions. Grades 6 to 8 enjoy  STEAM, book clubs, and other programs that encourage academic independence. They beginning June 29, and end August 19.

For more information and to register, click here.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo includes a Fresh Mark osprey update.

Carolyn Doan reports: “We checked on the nest Monday and Tuesday. The parents were doing such a great job at shielding the chicks from the rain that they were impossible to see. The next day was a different story. Making lots of noise and waiting for an incoming fish, these two were front and center — literally.”

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)

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And finally … on this day in 1972, 5 men were arrested for burling Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex. The crime drew little attention at the time. Of course …

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Paul Lane: “We Give You A Uniform To Look Uniform”

In 2005 I published a 400-page history of Staples High School. “120 Years of A+ Education” included interviews with many influential educators. 

One of the most interesting was Paul Lane. The legendary football, track and golf coach died Tuesday, at 93. Here’s my 2004 interview with him, conducted at his Soundview Drive home.

In 1954 I was working in my family’s leather tanning business. But as the business declined, I decided to go into coaching. It’s what I always wanted to do.

I took Bob Carmody’s place at Coleytown Elementary School. I met my wife Pat there.

In those days interscholastic athletics was hit or miss. In football you made up your own schedule. We’d play Darien and New Canaan twice in one year. We’d play Stonington – we went all over the state. And we hired our own officials – that did affect the game! We fired our officials too.

You didn’t get paid to coach in the ’50s. It was considered an honor, and we fought to coach. And Doc Beinfield, our team doctor from the ‘50s through the ‘80s – he did it for love, not money.

Paul Lane, 1957.

As a phys. ed. teacher, I took all the sophomores. I tested them in the quarter-mile one day, and the softball throw the next. Our program was geared to the philosophy that athletes should be discovered in gym class, so we trained in the fundamentals there – football, soccer, track, basketball, volleyball.

Albie Loeffler and I ran the intramural program at night. We refereed it too. Kids worked their way from gym to intramurals to interscholastic sports.

The girls had 6-person, half-court basketball, but it was definitely a boys’ world – a football and basketball world. Football had the edge, because it started off the year. We had pep rallies before games, and dances afterward. It really brought the kids together.

Cheerleading was a big deal too. The bleachers at Doubleday only held 200, so fans stood all around the field. We only had 18 or 22 kids in football, sometimes hardly enough to scrimmage. The kids went both ways.

The athletes were also in the choir and student government. A kid like Tommy Dublin – football, basketball, track, head of student government. No one told him he couldn’t do one thing because he was in the other. And the school was big then, too.

That was after we moved to North Avenue. We felt people cared about us; we were no longer in a dungeon. But that first year (1958-59), we still did sports at the old school on Riverside Avenue (now Saugatuck Elementary School). The football field on North Avenue had a huge drain in it – it was a mess – and the track was a big bucket that held water. It took 20 years to get it right.

At the same time, we changed from a single-wing football team to a T-Formation. The FCIAC (Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference) was being formed. Our schedules and officials were handed to us. And at that time, the school was growing by leaps and bounds.

At that time, I helped build the weightlifting program. Parents made the weight racks. They also built the press box, and donated the scoreboard and filming equipment. We formed a Gridiron Club, which met every Thursday night to look at film.

We had a great team in 1963. The number of transfers was phenomenal. It hit its peak in 1964. John Bolger went on to West Point, Buzz Leavitt to Wake Forest, and Bill During to Syracuse.

Steve Doig carries the football.

In the 1970s the phys. ed. department grew from Albie, me and Jinny Parker to 11 teachers. But in the ’60s gym was still a foundation for our sports program. We had boxing, wrestling, tumbling – to teach athletes how to fall – track and field, including high jump and pole vault, weightlifting – with demonstrations at halftime of basketball games, to “sell” it to parents – and a great touch football program.

But the high school just didn’t work. The environment was so disruptive. Still, we were always rated in the top 3 schools in the country. But from day one, the facility was horrible.

Stan (Lorenzen, the principal) had asked us about smoking. We had coaches smoking on the sideline. But we told Stan to start the new school clean. He said he’d try an experiment for a month. He created a smoking plaza, with a custodian to clean up after the kids. It took 30 years to get rid of that.

Paul Lane’s 1967 team won the FCIAC championship, in a memorable game. Stamford Catholic was riding high — and lost 8-0.

Before Staples was built on North Avenue, we put in for a fieldhouse. The only other one at the time was in Florida. But that one had a clay floor, and people were worried it would get tracked through the school, so they didn’t include it in the plans. The gym, the cafeteria and auditorium were all built for 1,200 kids. We blew past that number quickly, and it was not enlarged for years.

That was the era when we started recruiting coaches: George Wigton for basketball, Chuck Smith as a line coach from Ohio State – he started the wrestling program too – and Frank Henrick for baseball. They were good coaches, who could also teach.

During the drug era – the ’60s and ’70s – kids were told not to buy into “the system.” Well, to have a good team you have to buy into the Paul Lane, Albie Loeffler or Brian Kelley system. The kids with long hair were thumbing their noses at us. That was a horrible time to try to coach.

Some coaches just let them run wild. Some tried to oversell “values.” I said they could have their hair as long as they wanted, but it had to be in their helmet. It’s a team. We give you a uniform so you can look uniform. Some believed it, some didn’t.

We had kids pass out doing their physical fitness tests, from drugs. There were 2,000 kids in the school, and hundreds were on drugs. A certain number of adults liked that freedom of expression. We weren’t all on the same page at all times. The ability of teams went down, especially in the suburbs. City teams started beating us then. Bright suburban kids were reaching out for another world, but the city kids kept playing sports.

Paul Lane in 1969, with assistant coaches Saul Pollack and Dick Agness, and co-captains Dana Williams and Jono Walker.

Title IX – it was evident that girls were not being treated fairly in terms of the number of teams, things like that. By then Westport had come up with a complicated 10-point system for coaching pay. The girls’ coaches got less than the men – that was a time when all the athletic directors were men, many of them former football coaches.

Westport jumped on Title IX. They decided to equalize the numbers in gym classes, even though the law didn’t say they had to. We forced girls to play with boys, who didn’t want them and thought they weren’t capable. We cut out not only wrestling and boxing, but also Ann Rabesa’s, Judy Punshon’s and Jinny Parker’s fabulous tap dancing program. Boys’ and girls’ basketballs are different sizes, and the volleyball nets are different heights. So we started doing things in gym that had nothing to do with the sports we play. Boys used to run to phys. ed. class, because it was an outlet. Now they were going to play things like street hockey, but they couldn’t have physical contact.

The girls gained in basketball, but the boys stopped playing. It was a total waste of a gym period. We built big shower rooms, but no one sweated enough to use them.

But the good things – the FCIAC is a great league. It’s definitely improved the coaching. There’s been the introduction of soccer, hockey, skiing, lacrosse, wrestling, and about 10 girls sports. And there’s been the addition of junior varsity and freshman teams. And the facilities now – artificial turf, lights….

Paul Lane and assistant coach Earl Smith on the sidelines in 1977.

But the athletes haven’t changed. Sure, they know more now, because they see it on TV. The kids I coached in the ’50s, most of them hadn’t seen football. We had to teach them how to tackle and throw.

The best teams always stay together. They have reunions, and stay in touch. Success bonds them. That doesn’t change. There was no difference between my 1963 and ’75 teams. In the ’80s kids could throw and catch a little better, because of all the advantages they had, but a lot of success is the luck of who moves into town together.

One thing that was a real big blow for all sports was losing junior high interscholastics (when the 9th grade moved to Staples in 1983). That had been a real feeder program for us.

Let’s see – what else – well, uniforms in phys. ed. went out with the drug era. Gym classes became a lot less structured. They did away with mandatory showering. That was probably a bad policy; the lack of privacy was overdone.

The fieldhouse made a huge difference.

And I remember taking track teams to the Penn Relays and the New York Armory. That was tremendous for our kids. It’s probably the reason Laddie Lawrence is still involved in track!

Paul Lane, 1984.

Remembering Paul Lane

Last month, Paul Lane had a seat of honor at the dedication of Staples High School’s Laddie Lawrence Track.

Lane spent nearly 30 years as a Staples coach and physical education instructor. Though best known for his football teams — including a powerhouse 1967 FCIAC champion squad, and 1975 state champs — he was also a noted track coach.

In fact, he coached a young Laddie Lawrence. The dedication last month spurred a drive to name Staples’ football stadium for Paul Lane.

Town boards will make the decision soon. But now the honor is posthumous. Lane died this afternoon. He had been in good health, until a recent fall. He was 93 years old.

Paul Lane, by the Staples High School football trophy case.

Naming the field should be a slam dunk.

Between 1962 and 1987 Lane led the Wreckers to 4 FCIAC Eastern Division championships, 2 FCIAC crowns, and 122 victories. His 11-0 1975 squad was the last single state champion — determined by sportswriters — before the current playoff system began.

In the 1967 FCIAC title game, Staples snapped Stamford Catholic’s 30-game win streak, 8-0. The Crusaders — ranked #1 in Connecticut – had outscored their opponents 333-66. The Wreckers stopped them twice on the goal line, in the last quarter.

Paul Lane at a 2016 Staples High School football game. He is flanked by his sons Peter and Skip. Both played for him as Wreckers.

Lane started coaching football in the Army in 1950. He then served as an assistant to Frank Dornfeld for 8 years, before taking over the top job.

At Staples, Lane also won state championships coaching indoor and outdoor track — and girls golf.

He grew up in Bethel, but his family has long ties to Westport. He was a Compo Beach resident nearly all his adult life. Former players — and of course his sons Skip and Peter, both of whom played for him — often dropped by to chat with their former coach.

He entertained them — and anyone else who passed by — with a constant stream of stories. Lane remembered every game, every athlete, and every bit of Westport history.

Service arrangements are incomplete. Arrangements for the naming of “Paul Lane Field” will begin soon.

The Staples High School football field may soon be named for Paul Lane.

Pic Of The Day #1517

Future Staples High School stars, at Compo Beach (Photo/Ed Simek)

Remembering Dr. Horace Laffaye

Dr. Horace Laffaye died on May 31, in Durango, Colorado. A prominent Westport physician, he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 86.

Dr. Horace Laffaye

After a long association with a private practice at The Willows, Dr. Laffaye served as chief of surgery at Norwalk Hospital for 22 years. He organized annual symposia for his colleagues, where surgeons shared their professional expertise and socialized at places like Lake George and Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Golf and tennis competitions were often included. He retired in 2005.

He was president of the New England Surgical Society and the Surgeons’ Travel Club. For several years he mentored physicians’ assistants, as a Yale University professor.

Serendipitously, a patient sought treatment for a polo injury. That reignited a passion for a favorite endeavor back in his native Argentina. For 2 decades Dr. Laffaye played polo at the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, and other venues throughout the Northeast.

After his playing days ended, Dr. Laffaye combined his love of history and passion for polo by reinventing himself as a scholar and author. He authored or edited 9 books and innumerable articles on polo in Spanish and English, adding significantly to the historical record of the sport.

In 2010 he served as a Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Museum and Library in Middleburg, Virginia. His research led to his  publication “Polo in the United States: A History.”

After retiring to Wellington, Florida Dr. Laffaye assisted the Polo Museum and Hall of Fame in many ways, including adding to the collections of books, art and memorabilia, and serving on the board of directors and chair of the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee.

Dr. Laffaye was comfortable conversing with CEOs, ambassadors, grooms and other staff. He bonded with many through their shared love of polo.

He also loved golf. In his youth he both played and refereed rugby, and met his future wife after a match.

Dr. Laffaye was honored with a lifetime membership in the Sports Car Club of America, after competing in rallies for decades. Late in life he told caregivers “You drive like Fangio,” a reference to an Argentine car-racing idol.

Dr. Laffaye was predeceased by his wife Martha, sister María Teresa and brother Roberto. He is survived by his daughter Gisele Laffaye Pansze (Trent) of Durango, Colorado and their children; son Patrick of Norwalk, and former daughter-in-law Ann Kovarik Laffaye of Phoenix, and their sons; his loving companion in his later years, Mary Boykin of Palm Beach, and numerous nieces and nephews and their families in Argentina.

When he gathered his family for an Alaskan cruise he said, “After I die, my grandkids won’t remember that I was a surgeon or an author. But they will remember that I took them to Alaska.” He was generous, thoughtful and gracious. Even toward the end, his sense of humor and his laughter would emerged at unexpected moments.

A celebration of his life will be held July 24 (noon, Greenwich Polo Club).

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Dr. Laffaye’s honor for Alzheimer’s research and support programs to Memory Matters, PO Box 22330, Hilton Head Island, SC 29925.