Tag Archives: Albie Loeffler

Back In The News: Coaching Kudos For Paul Lane, Albie Loeffler

Paul Lane and Albie Loeffler retired decades ago.

But both men — longtime Staples High School coaches, physical education instructors and friends — are back in the news again.

Lane — one of Staples’ legendary football coaches — was honored at last week’s game against Norwalk.

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 (center) at last week’s Staples High School football game. He’s flanked by his sons Peter (left) and Skip. Both played for him.

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’s been 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 drop by to chat with their former coach.

Last week on the football field, Lane was introduced with a video produced by Justin Nadal and Staples’ media lab. Then he shook hands with coaches and players, stood beside the team for the national anthem, and headed to the 50-yard line for the coin toss.

This week also saw the announcement that Loeffler — who, with Lane, co-owned a summer sports camp for Westport youngsters in the 1950s and ’60s — has been selected for the United Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame. He’ll be inducted at the organization’s annual convention in Chicago this January.

Loeffler joins 62 other major contributors to the game. The Hall of Fame already includes legends like former men’s national team and University of Virginia coach Bruce Arena, women’s national team and University of North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance, and University of Connecticut coach Joe Morrone (with whom Loeffler co-founded the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association).

Albie Loeffler

Loeffler — who died the day before his 94th birthday in 2009 — was a goalkeeper at the University of Connecticut. He began his coaching career in South Windsor (1942-52), where he won 2 state championships.

He came to Staples in 1952, teaching phys. ed. and coaching basketball, baseball and track. In 1957 he formed a club soccer team. The next year it earned varsity status.

His Staples record includes 12 FCIAC titles and 7 state championships — 5 of them in a row. His teams recorded 25 consecutive shutouts (including post-season tournament games), won or tied 43 straight matches, and lost just 2 home games between 1966 and 1974. When he retired in 1978, his 314 career wins was a national record.

Loeffler was a 2-time National Coach of the Year. More than 175 athletes went on to play college soccer; 11 became All-Americans.

Albie Loeffler (left), coaching a Staples High School soccer team in the early 1960s.

In 1998, the soccer field at Staples was named in his honor. Earlier this month, it was the site of the program’s 60th anniversary celebration.

Loeffler’s daughter and grandson will accept his posthumous award in Chicago.

I’ll be there too. Albie Loeffler was my mentor. I played for him. He got me involved in coaching — and in the United Soccer Coaches organization. He was an original member when it was formed (as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America) in 1941.

I am honored to have known Albie Loeffler. I’m glad I’ve continued my long friendship with Paul Lane.

And I’m proud that both men are back in the headlines, in the town where they influenced countless lives.

Remembering Jinny Parker

Jinny Parker — legendary Staples High School field hockey, volleyball, track coach and physical education teacher; national champion (women’s track team); fierce and outspoken girls’ sports advocate; state leader, and all-around great woman — died July 9 in New Hampshire. She was 90 years old.

(And yes, it’s spelled with a “J.” Throughout her 26 years at Staples, people wrote her name as “Ginny.” They still do, when referring to the school’s field hockey field, named in 2002 for her. But around that time, she signed a letter to me “Jinny.” I asked her about it. “All my life they’ve been writing it wrong,” she said. “I never bothered to correct them.”)

Sue Windrick —  one of the many former athletes who revered her, and stayed in touch for decades after graduation — says: “I loved that woman! I learned what it meant to work hard, to work as a team, because of Miss Parker. I would do anything to make her proud of me. I thank her for taking a chance on a mediocre field hockey lover, and saying, ‘You can always do more than you think you can.'”

Deb Holliday Kintigh adds: “She was a gem in my treasure box.”

In 2004, as I was writing my history of Staples — 120+ Years Of A+ Education — I asked “The Old Gray Mare” (her field hockey athletes sang the song on bus rides home, and her license plate read “TOGM”) for an interview. She responded to my questions by email. Here’s what she said:

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After 8 years of teaching, I gave it up for a year at Boston University to get my master’s. Not entirely a good move, for while I was well qualified, I was not affordable. So when I got wind of an opening at Staples I applied, went down and was interviewed by [principal] Stan Lorenzen and [athletic director] Frank Dornfeld. I was offered a job, and I took it. I never regretted my hasty choice.

Jinny Parker

Jinny Parker

I was very nervous about following Karen Sniffen, a legend. The p.e. program had all the usual stuff – team sports, tennis and badminton – about which I knew nothing. I changed it to stunts and tumbling, and got away with it. Interscholastic sports were field hockey, basketball and softball. I was paid an extra $150 a year to coach field hockey, basketball, softball, tennis, cheerleading and intramurals. Our girls ran the gamut from jocks to duds but we had fun, and we did pretty well with what we had.

In those days the “official” view of girls’ sports was very apprehensive. They focused on play days and sports days – nothing too strenuous. I attended various area and state meetings, and didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or get mad. I had coached in Maine and New Hampshire and never lost a kid, so that attitude drove me nuts.

The period from 1955 to 1981 saw tremendous changes in both p.e. and sports for girls. The “wise ones” finally discovered that girls were tougher than they thought, and had the same desires for activities that boys did.

We had a well-rounded program, and I think some of the gym-haters actually learned something and even enjoyed it. Some kids were horrified, though, when they were given written tests on sports rules. They said, “I thought you were a gym teacher, not an English teacher.” Yeah, spelling and penmanship counted.

Jinny Parker, during her Staples High School days.

Jinny Parker, during her Staples High School days.

Interscholastic sports were something else. I was privileged to become a state committee member. We met monthly, and quietly tried to move girls’ sports to an equal plane with boys’. It worked, but there were quite a few bumps in the road.

Our first “breakthrough” came when we wanted to have a state volleyball tournament, as most schools could scrape up a team. Only the referees knew the rules, and they whistled like mad. At noon we had a conference and sort of got things straight. It was one heck of a learning experience.

There was a real nice bunch of young coaches in Connecticut, and we all had the same idea: good girls’ sports. All the hard work was done long before anyone even thought of Title IX. Most of us had the good fortune to work for good athletic directors, who let us move ahead. Budgets were always a problem, so progress was slow.

But the programs you see today in Connecticut were well underway in the ‘60s. My national champs in track were in 1966! I look back fondly on those building years, even though most of us are now retired, and most people think it took the feds to give girls the great athletic opportunities they enjoy today. But Connecticut was way out ahead, and the CIAC [state organization], FCIAC [Fairfield County league] and DGWS [Division for Girls’ and Women’s Sports] were responsible.

I was also fortunate to work with Frank Dornfeld and Albie Loeffler. They let me and my colleagues do what we thought best for our programs. They were gentlemen in all the interactions I ever had with them. Men and women often had different ideas about the p.e. program, as can be expected, but there were few conflicts – mostly who gets which gym or field space, and for how long.

Lowlights followed shortly after the birth of Title IX, though I don’t think there was any valid connection. I’m talking about the advent of coed p.e. classes. Our giant computer spit out 25-30 kids’ cards per class. It made little difference what a kid wanted, or where he or she really belonged. I felt worst for the little immature sophomore boys who got stuck in a class with me – by then old enough to be their grandmother – and who could be flattened by some of the girl varsity basketball players who were in that class too. Those little guys could have profited from a male role model, not an old goat like me.

Jinny Parker coaching field hockey in 1970. The Staples High School field is now named for her.

Jinny Parker coaching field hockey in 1970. The Staples High School field is now named for her.

But Staples certainly was a special place, or I wouldn’t have stayed for 26 years. I never aspired to college work or administration, so I couldn’t ever think why I should leave. No one ever threatened to fire me, though one chap might have liked to try.

Westport sure grew while I was there, but along the way I met some very nice people – parents mostly, as well as Tip Schaefer, Lou Nistico, Joe Cuseo, Jim Calkins and a host of others.

I probably would be a failure today, as discipline was a prime component in my dealings with kids. I hear from a lot of them from time to time, and I haven’t found they suffered much. I made mistakes, but not bad ones, I guess.

I spent 3 years teaching in a paper mill town – kids with green teeth, and 2 sisters who liked p.e. because they could shower. They lived in a tarpaper shack in the woods. They taught me a lot.

Westport was a shock after that, for the kids had everything and didn’t know it. I think Westport parents want only what is best for their kids, but as a child of the Great Depression, I am convinced that a batch of diversity is an excellent learning tool.

(For Jinny Parker’s full obituary, click here. A graveside committal service is scheduled for Thursday, August 6, 2 p.m. at the North Newport Cemetery in New Hampshire. Memorial contributions may be made to the Senior Citizens’ Outreach Program: Sullivan County Nutrition Services, c/o Wendy Callum, P.O. Box 387, Newport, NH 03773. 

Albie Loeffler — Legendary Coach And Teacher — Dies

Albie Loeffler

Albie Loeffler

Albie Loeffler — the founder of the Staples soccer program — died peacefully this morning at his home in Oxford, North Carolina.   Active and independent until breaking his hip earlier this summer, he would have been 94 years old tomorrow.

Mr. Loeffler — no player, and few alumni, ever called him “Albie” — retired with a then-national record 314 wins.  His teams won 13 league championships and 7 state titles.  Over 175 of his players went on to play college soccer.

Mr. Loeffler also coached basketball, baseball and track at Staples, and is a member of the United States Soccer Hall of Fame as a referee.  One of the premier soccer officials in the nation, he refereed the very 1st NCAA Division I finals.

Mr. Loeffler arrived at Staples in 1952, already a highly regarded coach.  In 1957 he heeded the requests of several students — who had played soccer in elementary and junior high school — to form a high school team.  The club became a varsity squad the following year.

Despite his many other accomplishments — including serving as a headmaster at Staples — his 20 years as Staples soccer coach defined him for the rest of his life.  His quiet demeanor — he indicated anger by slowly picking up grass and throwing it into the wind — and dry sense of humor were hallmarks of his soccer coaching career, though his basketball and baseball players remember a more vocal side.

Personally — having played for Mr. Loeffler, been encouraged by him to become a youth coach, then proudly becoming only the 3rd permanent head soccer coach in Staples’ 51-year history — I will remember another side of him.  We spoke at least once a month since his retirement 31 years ago; I visited him in North Carolina and Vermont.  As incisive as his soccer mind was, our best conversations involved politics, history and life in general.

The last time we talked — a couple of weeks ago — we discussed President Obama (Mr. Loeffler’s politics were very progressive), the economy, and changes in Westport over the years.  Then he asked about Staples’ upcoming team.  He wanted to know how well they’d do, what obstacles they faced — and he encouraged me to hold them to the highest standards, on and off the field.

When Mr. Loeffler retired in 1978, he was a 2-time National Coach of the Year.  His teams had recorded 25 consecutive shutouts; gone 43 straight games without a loss; lost just 2 home games in the entire stretch between 1965 and 1975 (including post-season play) — and won the division championship every single year.

In 1998 the Staples soccer field was named Albie Loeffler Field.  Mr. Loeffler attended the ceremony, and spoke about the impact soccer and Westport had had on his life.  He did not attend Staples’ 50th celebration last September, but his presence was felt by all.

The Staples soccer community — all of Staples, in fact — has lost a legend.  None of us who love Staples soccer would be here today without his quiet leadership and determined vision.  He created something that has positively impacted thousands of lives directly, and tens of thousands more indirectly.  I would not be who I am had I not known Albie Loeffler — and I know countless others say exactly the same thing.

(For more information on the early days of Staples soccer, go to http://www.Staplessoccer.com; then click “History” from the tab above.)