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.
One of the many grateful moms in our incredible town
The Staples High School soccer field honors Albie Loeffler. The field hockey turf next to it is named for Jinny Parker. Last month, the track was dedicated to Laddie Lawrence.
If a group of former athletes and fans have their way, the football field will soon bear a new name.
That would be fitting. Lane — now 93 — was not only the Wreckers’ longtime football coach. He also headed the track program. In the 1960s, one of his runners was a young Laddie Lawrence.
Paul Lane, by the Staples High School football trophy case.
A petition circulating throughout town says:
Paul Lane has served his community for as long as he has been alive.
His leadership, skills and determination has demonstrated that the dreams and abilities he has instilled on others, ripple through the world.
We have many coaches in our town, but no one other then Paul Lane is called, “Coach.” Paul Lane is a patriarch of coaches, the father of Staples High School sports, who laid the rails for Wreckers football and it’s legacy of success known throughout the Northeast.
The Staples High School football field may soon be named for Paul Lane.
Paul Lane’s biggest win was against Stamford Catholic High School in 1967, beating them 8-0 and crushing their 30 game winning streak.
Paul Lane not only served this community by being a coach and second father to many of his athletes, but also served his country in the Korean War, stationed in Germany.
Football wasn’t the only sport he coached and won state championships in, Paul Lane also coached Staples Boys Track and Staples Girl’s Golf teams.
30 years of coaching, Paul Lane would later on coach American Football in England and Italy.
Coach Paul Lane can be found everyday at his home on Soundview where he has been for decades, surrounded by his four children, ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
Paul Lane is staple to Staples and this community and should be honored with his name, added to the Fifth Lane of the track as proposed by Laddie Lawrence who was coached by Paul Lane too.
The petition can be signed here. It will be presented to the Board of Education at this Monday’s meeting. It would go next to the Representative Town Meeting.
As former president of Staples High School’s Gridiron Club and current treasurer of the Staples Boys Basketball Association, Amanda Thaw knows that whenever a Wrecker team needs help for a fundraiser, it turns to local restaurants and businesses.
They always come through.
Now, she thought, there must be a way to help support those owners in their time of need. And at the same time, to help front line personnel when they’re working so hard.
She made a few calls. Quickly, nearly a dozen Staples sports teams said “sign us up!”
#FeedItForward works this way: Teams pair up with a restaurant they choose. They provide a meal for a front line group of their choice. The restaurant delivers. The hungry personnel eat well. Everyone wins!
So far the girls soccer team fed Norwalk Hospital staffers, from Sherwood Diner. Boys soccer provided Tutti’s dinner to the Westport Police Department. The football team took care of the Westport Police Department, thanks to Viva Zapata. And boys lacrosse donated dinner to Westport EMS, through Colony Grill.
Also committed: boys basketball, rugby, wrestling, boys track, boys volleyball, baseball and boys tennis.
Future food providers include Calise’s Market, Jr’s Deli & Grille, and Four Brothers Pizza. All are grateful for the business, and eager to help.
Boys soccer co-captain Jack Douglas, flanked by Tutti’s owner Maria Funicello and Officer Jimmy Sullivan.
ASF — the always-helpful sports store — is involved too. Norwalk Hospital staffers are on their feet all day. So they’ve been provided new socks — and chewing gum. (Their mouths get stale wearing masks).
Hot meals for the Fire Department, courtesy of Staples football and Viva Zapata.
There are plenty of other groups to feed too, like supermarket and pharmacy personnel, utility workers and others.
More teams can get involved — not just Staples, but throughout town. Other organizations can help as well.
“06880” seldom covers sports. There are way too many leagues, teams and games. Besides, newspaper sports sections, and plenty of websites, already do a good job of this.*
But “0688o” is also about people — and “the story behind the story.” So when the Staples High School football team recently named 2 new awards after legendary adults, my ears perked up.
And when I heard who the first honorees were, I knew this was “06880”-worthy.
The Coach Paul Lane Award goes to a senior who displays “the highest levels of positive energy and an unbreakable positive spirit.”
Lane served as head football coach from 1962 to ’86. His teams won the 1975 FCIAC championship and 2 FCIAC titles, and in 1967 ended Stamford Catholic’s 30-game winning streak. After retiring, Lane coached professionally in Italy and England.
Lane also coached Staples track and girls golf — and won a state crown in both. As in football, he led by quiet example.
The recipient of the Paul Lane Award is Adam Petro. A football player since 3rd grade, and last year’s leading receiver, this year he suffered a career-ending ACL injury during preseason practice.
Gridiron Club president Jim Adrian says that Adam “embraced the reality that sometimes life deals you bad breaks, and unlucky consequences beyond your control.” Yet he always encouraged his teammates from the sideline. He “never let the positive energy or pride for his teammates wane.”
Adam Petro, flanked by Paul Lane and his son Skip.
The Dan DeVito Community Citizenship Award is presented to a senior player who consistently exemplifies commitment to the team over self, has strong character and leadership, and benefits the program, school and community.
DeVito — who had a long career with Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department — helped reestablish Staples’ Gridiron Club in 1994, and served as president and chairman for over 20 years.
He helped create the Wreckers Wall of Fame, chaired the Field of Dreams turf field project, and led a long campaign to install lights at Staples. He has also coached youth football, basketball and baseball.
Dylan Curran received the Dan DeVito Award. Despite disabilities, Dylan was an integral part of the Staples football program. Starting freshman year he was on the sidelines at every practice, every bus ride, every game, every team event.
Adrian said, “Dylan’s passion lifted up his teammates.” He always brought “contagious energy to the team.”
Dylan Curran (right) and Staples High School assistant football coach Garret Lederman.
Both awards were presented at the annual banquet, held earlier this month at Giovanni’s in Darien.
* And I say this as the head coach of the Staples High School boys soccer program, which really deserves tons of publicity.
An alert “06880” reader — and grateful parent — writes:
Like many local businesses, Little Barn gets hit up for lots of good causes. Donate a gift card to a fundraiser? Buy an ad in a program book? Sponsor a team?
Owners Scott Beck and Kevin McHugh always say “sure!”
But the pair go way beyond donations. They’ve made their casual, friendly Post Road restaurant — formerly Dairy Queen, then Woody’s and Swanky Frank’s — what those other places never were: a “Cheers”-like home-away-from-home, where everyone feels welcome any time, and everybody knows your name. (And your kid’s name.)
Enter here for the Little Barn.
Some of their most devoted customers are Staples High School sports teams.
Take last fall’s freshman football squad. The heart of the squad has been together since 4th grade. Parents formed bonds as tight as the players. They all celebrated together after every game.
Many places viewed the enthusiastic group as an intrusion. Little Barn embraced them.
After the final game of the year — when the 9th graders finished undefeated — parent Miki Scarfo warned the restaurant that this gathering would be particularly large.
“Can’t wait to see you!” they said.
Players and siblings filled the back. Parents hung out in front. The varsity coaches and captains arrived, surprising the freshmen. It was organic, free-form and fun — a snapshot from another part of America, perhaps.
A small part of a large Little Barn gathering.
The rugby and wrestling teams have made Little Barn their own too. It’s where coaches, parents and athletes gather before and after competitions; where their booster clubs meet; wherever anyone goes at a random moment, knowing they’ll be welcome.
Little Barn’s support of Staples goes beyond sports.
Some restaurants with live entertainment hire adult musicians. Little Barn gives student bands a shot. The same parents who meet up for athletes pack the place, supporting the teenagers.
How does everyone know to go? When a gathering takes place, parents often send out texts. A group assembles in minutes. They call it “flashing the bat signal.”
Little Barn owner Scott Beck likes the “bat signal” idea so much, his marketing team created this graphic for it.
Little Barn sounds like a throwback to a different era.
Adam Behrends was announced moments ago as the new head varsity football coach at Staples High School.
He replaces Phil Treglia. He resigned earlier this month to pursue opportunities closer to White Plains, where he lives and works as a guidance counselor.
Behrends joins Staples High School from IMG Academy in Florida. He has served as an assistant coach with the IMG Academy football program since 2010.
As an assistant coach with the IMG Academy national football team he coached all the skill position groups, and helped guide the development of dozens of top NCAA prospects and Division 1 All-American athletes.
Behrends has also made an impact with the IMG Academy pre-combine/draft training program, working with players like Seattle Seahawks and Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson, Minnesota Vikings’ Kirk Cousins, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Josh Dobbs, Tennessee Titans’ Ryan Tannehill, New Orleans Saints’ Teddy Bridgewater and New York Giants Kyle Lauletta.
“I am excited for the opportunity to coach at Staples,” Behrends says. “This community has a rare combination of academic and athletic excellence K-12, with a football program steeped in tradition.
“It has always been a goal of mine to lead a program where I could impact the lives of young men on and off the field. This includes collaborating with school educators and administrators, town officials, athletes and their families to advance the complimentary core values inherent in sports, academics and community. I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead the next chapter of Staples football. Go Wreckers!”
Staples High School athletic director Marty Lisevick adds, “Coach Behrends brings a wealth of football knowledge and experience to our football program. Coach Behrends’ passion and enthusiasm for the game of football is contagious. Our student-athletes, and entire community, are fortunate to have him as their head coach.”
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).
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.
Like many Americans, Tommy Greenwald has a complicated relationship with football.
He was thrilled when his son Jack played.
“If I saw him limping or shaking his head, I’d say ‘Get back out there!'” Tommy says. “I was as happy to see my kid hitting and getting hit as anyone else.”
In 8th grade, Jack hurt his ankle. “My first concern was not going to the doctor,” Greenwald admits. “It was, could he finish the game?”
Jack had a great football career, with Westport PAL and Staples High School. His father appreciates what he learned from intense practices, tough games and his relationship with his coaches.
But, Greenwald says, “the football culture — with its pressure to be tough and strong, to play hurt, to not be perceived as soft” — has its downsides.
That’s the heart of “Game Changer.” Published this month, it’s the local author’s 10th book — and a departure from his previous “Charlie Joe Jackson” (named for his 3 sons) and “Crimebiters” young readers’ series.
Jack Greenwald (center), with his brothers Charlie and Joe.
There’s not a laugh to be had in this one. There are no wise guys, no dog with special powers.
“Game Changer” is deadly serious — almost literally.
13-year-old Teddy lies in a coma after a football injury during preseason camp. His family and teammates flock to his bedside to support his recovery — and at the same time trade rumors and theories on social media.
Was this a tragic but fairly common result of a violent sport? Or did something more sinister — bullying and hazing perhaps — happen on the field that day?
“Game Changer” is different type of book. It mixes together dialogue, text messages, newspaper stories — and Teddy’s own inner thoughts.
It’s different too in that it’s a no-holds-barred look at the terrifying risks of a major American sport — and the entire culture supporting it.
Greenwald is emphatic that this is a work of fiction. He added an author’s note to that effect at the end. He says he never saw or heard anything like what happened in “Game Changer” during Jack’s Westport career.
But, Greenwald says, it is “based on a culture I saw through Jack. It’s not far-fetched that this could happen. We’ve all heard about terrible cases in college, high school, even middle school.”
“Game Changer” is not, he insists, a condemnation of football. “My respect for coaches, the life lessons they taught, the lifelong friendships Jack made, is amazing,” Greenwald says.
He calls Westport PAL and Staples “great programs.” And Greenwald has done enough research to know that football in Fairfield County — while intense — is “a dust speck compared to programs around the country. When football is the dominant event in a community, the pressure ratchets up unbelievably. Westport seems to have a good balance. We don’t pin our hopes and dreams on young kids.”
But his book is “a wake-up call for everyone — including me,” he adds. “People — including me — have to pay more attention to the culture and the injuries” of football.
Greenwald never had to confront the even more dangerous effects of football at the higher level. Though Jack was “semi-recruited” for college, he ended up at Elon and did not play. He graduated from there last June, and now works at a Boston cyber-security firm.
“Jack’s era was a tipping point,” Greenwald says. “The media started focusing on concussions, and parents started looking at football differently. If Jack wanted to play in college, that would have been a much larger discussion.”
Greenwald — who won a state championship as a Staples High School soccer captain in 1978, and whose son Joe was a Wrecker soccer captain in 2012 — remains a “huge” NFL fan.
“I read, like everyone else, about the dangers,” he says. “And like everyone else I camp out every Sunday looking for the best games.
“It’s a weird feeling to like a game you probably shouldn’t.”
(Tommy Greenwald will host a discussion on the pros and cons of youth sports at Barnes & Noble this Sunday [October 7, 12 p.m.] Panelists include his own son Jack; former Staples High School, Temple University football captain and Staples assistant coach Mac DeVito, and Dan Woog — in my role as Staples boys soccer head coach.)
Phil Treglia is the high school’s new football coach. He succeeds Marce Petroccio, who in 25 years brought a moribund program to state renown.
Petroccio resigned in January to become head coach at Trumbull High School, his alma mater.
Treglia was recommended enthusiastically by a search committee of administrators, teachers, coaches and parents. Most recently he was offensive coordinator at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains. With a quarterback who threw for 30 touchdowns last fall, the Crusaders won the New York AAA Catholic state and league championships.
Before Stepinac, Treglia spent 5 seasons as head coach at the Hackley School. When he took over, the small private school in Tarrytown, New York had 18 players. He more than doubled that number, to 42, and added a junior varsity program.
In 2012 the team won the Fairchester League championship, the school’s first football title since 1971. The next year they went 8-0. In 2015 Hackley was named the #1 small school program by MSG.
Treglia went to Hackley from Woodlands High School in Hawthorne, New York, his first head coaching job. The Falcons reached the league championship in 2010, and Treglia was named Coach of the Year.
He started his coaching career as offensive coordinator at Iona Prep High School in New Rochelle.
Treglia takes pride in growing programs, celebrating every player’s accomplishments, and creating a family atmosphere.
In addition to football, he is currently head junior varsity basketball coach at Bronxville High School, head junior varsity baseball coach at Scarsdale High School, and assistant varsity track and field coach at Iona Prep.
His day job is guidance counselor. He has a bachelor of science degree from the State University of New York at Cortland, with a major in business economics and a minor in international business, and a masters of school counseling from Mercy College.
Marce Petroccio — one of the most successful coaches in Connecticut football history — made history today.
In a somber meeting, he told his Staples football team that he’s leaving. His new team is FCIAC rival Trumbull.
It’s also Petroccio’s alma mater. And, he says, Trumbull is the only school he’d leave Staples for.
Marce “Coach P” Petroccio
When “Coach P” arrived in Westport 25 years ago — at 31 years old — he took over a moribund program. Within 4 years the Wreckers won their first FCIAC title since Paul Lane’s in 1975. They also reached the state championship game.
Since then, Staples has appeared in 8 state finals. They won 3 titles — in 2002 (Class MM), 2004 and ’05 (Class L). They won 5 FCIAC titles in 7 appearances too.
Petroccio — also a popular physical education teacher at the high school — says he would not leave Westport for any other job. He calls Staples “a great community (with) a great administration and great kids.”
A search for a new head football coach will begin soon.
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