Category Archives: Sports

Where “06880” Meets The World (Swedish Edition)

As an All-American goalkeeper, James Hickok led the Staples High School soccer team to 3 FCIAC titles.

At Dartmouth College, he captained the Big Green to their 3rd straight Ivy League crown last fall.

Hickok graduated in the spring. UBS hired him as an analyst.

But they allowed him to defer work for a year. First, he’s playing professional soccer.

After trials in Spain and Scotland, Hickok was signed last week by Swedish club Gimo IF FK.

He headed overseas. He walked into the clubhouse — and there, among the dozens of banners hanging from the rafters, he spotted a very familiar one:

The Westport Soccer Association pennant was exchanged with Gimo when the youth teams met years ago, at the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden.

And — in another reminder that this is indeed a very small world — the coach of that Westport team became (years later) Hickok’s Staples coach.

How do I know?

That coach was me.

NOTE: James Hickok made 12 saves in his professional debut yesterday.

James Hickok in Sweden.

Bespoke Stephen Kempson

At 16 — with just $150 and “a bag of clothes” — Stephen Kempson left England for San Diego. His dream was to become a professional soccer player.

It didn’t happen. But unlike many Brits who don’t become the next Beckham, Kempson had another talent to fall back on.

As a lad, he’d worked for a small London haberdasher. On tea breaks he watched as tailors took fittings, then turned fabric into handsome suits.

Kempson liked soccer. But he loved men’s style.

When his sports career ended, Kempson worked on Rodeo Drive. Then came stints at Hickey Freeman, Dormeuil and Brioni. He learned about textiles, manufacturing and more.

In 2001, he opened his own business in Los Angeles. It grew — but the real potential was in his New York clients. They dressed more formally than men in California. Soon, Kempson was traveling every other week to the East Coast.

One summer Sunday in 2004, a friend who had moved from L.A. to Westport took Kempson and his wife to Longshore. Sitting at Splash, both said “Wow!”

It did not take long for them to move. They’re raising 3 kids here, and love the community.

For most of that time, Kempson commuted to his Park Avenue atelier. But a few months ago — as the train ride got longer, and his children got older — he thought about opening a pop-up shop here.

Driving over the Post Road bridge in April, Kempson spotted a sign in the first storefront on Post Road West. George Subkoff Antiques was moving.

The space was perfect. With a cutting table in the front, passersby could watch suits being made. Enormous windows on the side and in back offered superb views of the Saugatuck River and downtown.

Stephen Kempson in his store. Behind him are diners on Arezzo’s patio, and the Saugatuck River.

Stephen Kempson London opened just over a month ago. In addition to bespoke suits, jackets, pants and shirts, he offers shoes, ties and cufflinks; tailoring; ready-to-wear items off the rack, and wardrobe consultation.

In fact, that personal touch is where Kempson truly excels.

As we chatted the other day — with the river behind us, and a well-stocked bar in the corner — a customer walked in. He carried a $5,000 jacket. But it did not fit well — and the tailor in Milan had never met him.

Kempson knows his customers — where they work, what they do, what makes them them.

“I want people to put on my jacket, smile, and say ‘Wow! This is me!'” Kempson says.

Stephen Kempson explains fabric.

He tells the story of a Financial Times staffer who interviewed him in New York. At the end, the writer asked Kempson for a critique of his suit.

Kempson told the truth: It did not fit him well. When the man handed over his business card, Kempson learned he was Lionel Barber — the FT’s New York managing editor. Kempson figured he’d blown the interview.

But it turns out Barber’s colleagues had long despaired of his wardrobe. They encouraged him to get a full makeover.

A few weeks later, Barber wore his new suit to an industry dinner. Colleagues marveled at how great he looked. One asked where he got his tie. Others wondered if he’d lost weight.

“That’s why I do what I do,” Kempson says.

Suits in the Stephen Kempson window — and reflections across Post Road West.

And that’s why he is so happy to be doing it in his adopted hometown. He’s looking for a way to get more involved in the community — particularly for those in need.

Eight years ago on a train to New York, he overheard a conversation with a down-and-out man. Touched, Kempson offered to pay for his monthly train ticket, so he could keep his job. The two are still in touch.

“You have to give a hand up, rather than a handout,” Kempson explains.

And then — near the end of our chat — this perfectly dressed, well-coiffed man says something stunning.

“I was homeless once,” Kempson admits.

Twenty years ago in L.A. — separated from his wife, with a 6-month-old child — he was living on the streets, showering at a pool. A friend of a friend gave him a place to live.

Today, Kempson lives in Westport. He is elegant. His new store — also in Westport — is warm, welcoming and classic.

You can’t make this stuff up.

But Stephen Kempson can make sure that your clothes make you.

(Hat tip: Kami Evans)

Pic Of The Day #119

Longshore golf course, 10th hole (Photo/Dave Dellinger)

Teens Swim 15.5 Miles, Raise $9,000. And What Did You Do Last Sunday?

The easiest way to cross Long Island Sound is on the Bridgeport-Port Jeff ferry.

You can also sail, motorboat or yacht across on your own.

It’s a lot tougher to actually swim those 15 1/2 or so miles yourself.

It’s especially difficult to do it faster than anyone else.

But that’s what a team of 6 Westport YMCA Water Rat swimmers did last Sunday. And they finished in just 6 hours and 20 minutes — beating 150 competitors by a wide margin.

It was hardly a day at the beach. Before taking the Swim Across the Sound plunge, they secured $9,000 in pledges for St. Vincent’s Medical Center.

Congratulations to the intrepid, strong and very fast group of 16-year-olds: Scott Adler, John McNab, Richard Nolan, Josiah Tarrant, Austin Twiss and Charlie West. All except Richard swim for Staples High School.

From left: Austin Twiss, Charlie West, Scott Adler, John McNab, Richard Nolan and Josiah Tarrant.

 

Fun fact: Swim Across the Sound director Liz Fry is a former Staples High School swimmer.

(Fast forward to the 10:00 mark below, for an interview with the Water Rat swimmers.)

 

Pic Of The Day #114

Longshore Sailing School (Photo/Amy Saperstein)

Saugatuck Rowing Club Sets Sights On Horizons

Rowing is a great sport.

It’s demanding, but healthful. It teaches discipline, teamwork and goal-setting. It instills self-confidence, self-control and pride. Plus, nothing beats being out on the water at 5 a.m., in a driving rain.

But rowing also has a stigma: It’s expensive, and elitist.

For the past 4 years, Saugatuck Rowing Club has defied that stigma. The Riverside Avenue facility throws open its doors — and provides a place in its boats — to a special group of teenagers.

And the kids have given back as much as they’ve gotten.

Thanks to a partnership with Greens Farms Academy’s Horizons program — a national project that provides underserved children with academic, social, emotional learning and enrichment programs — SRC welcomes more than a dozen 8th graders for 6 weeks each summer.

Three afternoons a week, the Bridgeport children clamber off buses and into the sprawling clubhouse. Very quickly, it becomes their home.

“Our mission is twofold,” says Diana Kuen, a beginner/intermediate SRC coach who oversees the program.

“We want to introduce them to a sport would never otherwise have a chance to experience. And it’s our responsibility to chip away at the socioeconomic barriers that exist in our own backyard.”

They start like many beginners. Some are terrified of the river. None ever touched an oar.

Under Kuen’s direction, they row on an ergometer. When they’re ready, they step into a boat and onto the water. Figuratively — and literally — they jump into the deep end.

Diana Kuen, and a Horizons rower.

Kuen and co-coach Bridge Murphy watch closely. They figure out which kids will work best where, and who is comfortable going out alone.

The new rowers are like boys and girls everywhere. They’re quick learners. They want to succeed. They love to compete.

And they sure have fun.

“These kids bring joy and levity with them every day,” Kuen says. “They are genuine, authentic and happy.

“Each afternoon is filled with laughter, pride and a sense of purpose. When they step into the club, they light everyone up.”

Another day, with Horizons rowers on the Saugatuck River.

None of that comes easily. The coaches demand that these youngsters — just like any new rowers — step out of their comfort zones.

One girl was terrified. The first victory was getting her out on a launch, with the coaches. Gradually, she eased into a boat.

At the end of 6 weeks, Kuen says, “she was an outstanding rower.”

One boy was so successful at rowing with 7 teammates that he asked if he could scull alone. Once he pushed off from the dock however, he froze.

Kuen swam out to get him. “We tell them we will never let anything bad happen. We will do whatever we can to help.”

Every day throughout the Horizons program, the coaches and kids talk.

“They’re great communicators,” Kuen says. “They understand that this is about so much more than rowing.”

On the final day, each 8th grader spoke from their hearts about what the program meant. Kuen and Murphy listened, with tears in their eyes.

That final session ended with a pizza party. An SRC member — someone who’d witnessed the kids’ transformation, and appreciated the can-do attitude they brought every day — bought ice cream cakes for everyone.

On the way out, SRC general manager Suzanne Pullen overheard 2 girls talking.

“I’ll miss this place so much,” one said.

But not as much as the Saugatuck Rowing Club will miss them.

(Hat tip: Frank Rosen)

The Bridgeport Horizons group poses proudly.

Unsung Hero #7

Tom Lowrie is Westport’s Mr. Pickleball.

The 89-year-old retired architect is the man who pushed the Parks and Recreation Department to create a court for the quickly growing sport at Compo Beach in 2015.

A member of the Parks & Rec Racquets Advisory Committee, he’s now advocating for courts at the Doubleday complex behind Saugatuck Elementary School too. He is proud to be Westport’s ambassador to the USA Pickleball Association.

Tom Lowrie posed for the Westport Library’s “I geek…” campaign with — of course — pickleball gear. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

But pickleball is not Lowrie’s only passion.

A longtime volunteer since moving to Westport in 1966, he was a charter member of the Sunrise Rotary Club. He received Rotary’s Service Award, and serves as the group’s unofficial historian. Though nearly a nonagenarian, he can be seen at every Sunrise Rotary event, doing the thankless work that helps them raise and distribute tens of thousands of dollars for good causes.

Tom Lowrie and a duck — a promotion for the Westport Sunrise Rotary’s Great Duck Race.

Lowrie’s contributions to Westport buildings include converting the downtown firehouse to the former Westport YMCA fitness center, and modifications to the Masonic Temple at the corner of the Post Road and Imperial Avenue.

Lowrie is also a longtime Westport Weston Family YMCA member. He’s also active with the Y’s Men. His pickleball and other activities — like golf at Longshore — help him say in great shape.

A Pittsburgh native, he graduated from Princeton University in 1950. He served in the Navy, earned his graduate degree from the Columbia University School of Architecture, and began working for Philip Johnson.

Lowrie married Jean Sammons. They raised 2 children here: Dave and Anne.

Most “06880” readers who know him will not believe Tom Lowrie is 89 years old. But all will agree he is a worthy honoree as this week’s “06880” Unsung Hero.

(Know of an unsung hero we should celebrate? Email details to dwoog@optonline.net)

In 2012, Tom Lowrie was runner-up in the Longshore Men’s Golf Association President’s Cup.

Staples Grads Still Get Their Kicks

Old Staples soccer stars don’t hang up their cleats. They just keep kickin’.

So do Westporters who love the game, but never played for their high school.

At Gillette Stadium on Saturday, 5 20-something grads — former Wreckers Ben Root, Megan Root and Jessie Ambrose, along with Mike Ljungberg and Nick Yu — led their team to the championship of the America Scores Boston tournament.

The 40-team event raised $350,000 for America Scores Boston. The organization supports 1,400 children with an after-school program that combines reading, poetry, community and service.

The winners!

Passing The Olympic Torch To Bill Krumm

When Kevin Strong was a Westport YMCA Water Rat swimmer, coach Bill Krumm asked him to mentor a new team member. Both boys were 11 years old.

They forged a great friendship. Strong — a very talented swimmer — quickly brought his teammate to the Water Rats’ high athletic and personal standards.

Both swam at high level college programs. They were in each other’s weddings. Today, Strong — a Staples High School Class of 1988 graduate, now a pediatrician in northern Maine — calls Krumm’s request to help another boy “an opportunity I’ll never forget.”

Three years later, the Westport Y selected Strong as its representative to run with the Olympic torch on a 1/2-mile Fairfield County leg, from the East Coast to the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. He was chosen not only for his swim team accomplishments, but because of the way he lived the Y’s values.

Strong’s run came at night, in the pouring rain. The electric torch was lit. More than 3 decades later, he recalls how thrilling it all was.

Runners kept their torches. Each was also given a gorgeous mahogany case, inscribed with their name and date of the run.

For years, Strong kept his in the basement.

Bill Krumm

He told both stories last week at Christ & Holy Trinity Church, to an audience of 200 Water Rat alumni, Y friends and admirers of Krumm. They came from as far as Singapore to honor his memory. The longtime coach died suddenly in March, of a heart attack. He was 61 years old.

“Bill was a great technical coach,” Strong recalls. “But he was just as talented in helping kids get through that awkward 9- to 14-year-old stage.”

So — at the end of his 5-minute eulogy — Strong tied his 2 stories together. In a surprise, stunning move, he lifted up the Olympic torch he’d brought from Maine — and announced he was donating it to the Westport Y.

Then he asked everyone who knew Krumm to help choose an appropriate inscription.

Kevin Strong with his Olympic torch, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church.

Strong is not sure where the gift will be displayed. He hopes it’s somewhere near the trophy case, at the pool.

But he knows what it will do.

“I want that torch to inspire some 8-year-old kid to be the best swimmer and person he can be — just the way Bill inspired me, and helped me grow,” Strong says.

“I learned so much from him. Now I can give back to others, just like he did.”

Besides, he says, “That Olympic torch does a lot more good at the Westport Y than sitting in my basement.”

Pic Of The Day #86

The Saugatuck River was filled, as Downunder sponsored its 3rd annual “Stand Up for Veterans” paddleboard event. (Photo/Dave Curtis)