Tag Archives: Westport Soccer Association

Pic Of The Day #531

Put me in, coach! Soccer bags, water bottles — and just a hint of fall — this morning at Coleytown Middle School. (Photo/Jeff Manchester)

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.

Todd Coleman: “Volunteering Makes You A Better Person”

One day in the mid-1980s, Stuart McCarthy — a former Staples star now coaching a Westport Soccer Association girls team — told Todd Coleman, “It’s time you gave something back to the program.” McCarthy named him coach of the WSA’s Under-17 girls squad.

Coleman was all of 19 years old.

He coached girls for 3 seasons. And McCarthy’s words have resonated ever since.

Todd Coleman

Todd Coleman

Coleman is in his 3rd decade of giving back. Now — as the new Westport Soccer Association co-president — he’s in a unique position. A former WSA player who has seen the program and sport evolve, he’s trying to balance the fun, play-with-your-buddies aspect he remembers with the realities of youth sports, 2014-style.

Coleman’s introduction to soccer came in 4th grade, at Hillspoint Elementary School. New to Westport, he had no idea what it meant when Rob Sweetnam asked at recess, “Want to kick?”

But he quickly learned. He played WSA recreation soccer, and made his 1st travel team at 13. Each year, his teammates’ bonds tightened.

Coleman went on to captain the Staples soccer and wrestling squads. He earned the Block “S” MVP award and Loeffler Scholarship, and won a state championship as a junior. At Bates College he was a 4-year starter and captain. He won another state title with Westport’s Under-23 Kixx team.

“Real life” followed. He worked in financial services in Europe and San Francisco. His brothers Scott (a soccer player) and Keith (a wrestler) were killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. But soccer kept him connected. When his buddies formed a Westport Over-30 team to honor Scott, Coleman played whenever he could. That team too won a state title.

Todd Coleman (top row, 3rd from left) with the Westport Over-30 team, on a tour of England. To his left his Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal CEO, who played with Westport when he was assistant commissioner of MLS. To Coleman's right is Mark Noonan, a former Staples teammate who won a national championship at Duke. Other former WSA and Staples players were on the Over-30 team too.

Todd Coleman (top row, 3rd from left) with the Westport Over-30 team, on a tour of England. To his left is Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal CEO, who played with Westport when he was assistant commissioner of MLS. To Coleman’s right is Mark Noonan, a former Staples teammate who won a national championship at Duke. Other former WSA and Staples players include Dr. Jonathan Sollinger, Guy Claveloux, Brian Sullivan, Dan Donovan and Mike Brown.

Seven years ago — now back in Westport — Coleman volunteered at the WSA’s indoor tournament. (A portion of the profits go to the organization’s Coleman Brothers Foundation.) He liked what he saw. He got more involved. And he always remembered McCarthy’s words.

“Volunteering makes you a better person,” Coleman says. “Giving back helps you get a little bit outside yourself.”

The WSA has expanded greatly since Coleman’s playing days, when there was 1 travel team per age group, and parental involvement was limited to coaching and driving. There are now 1,500 players; 29 travel teams; a robust recreational program, and professional coaches.

But though the organization has grown, its core mission remains the same. “The WSA should be as inclusive as possible,” he says. “I want it to be fun for the kids. I want them to have the same love for soccer I had when I was young. When I was 10, I didn’t feel pressured to make travel or think about college.”

WSA logoParents are involved, he says, “almost more than the kids now.” But Coleman has nothing but praise for the WSA’s 165 volunteers. “They’re enthusiastic about soccer, and they’re focused on the benefits for everyone. There are board members whose kids did not make a travel team. No one complained.”

Youth soccer — all youth sports — are different today than when Coleman was first invited to “have a kick.” (It was a red playground ball, he laughs — not even a real soccer ball.) Travel teams begin at younger ages. Parents drive further distances. Children are “showcased” for colleges.

Coleman can’t change that. But he will do everything he can to make sure that the organization he now heads holds true to the same principle — “soccer is fun” — that powered it when he was young.

And that impelled him to give back to it, starting at the ripe old age of 19.

Youth Sports Leagues Team Up To Win

Over 6,000 Westport kids play sports. Many do more than one. And — as every parent knows — many sports are now played in more than one season.

It’s a grand slam of opportunities — and a grand problem for kids (multiple demands), parents (conflicting schedules) and administrators (not a lot of fields).

Westport’s Parks & Rec Department is trying to bring some order to the pileup.

As de facto coordinator of youth sports in town — it oversees most facilities, and runs several programs itself — Parks & Rec has organized a Westport Youth Sports Council.

Members include every major organization in town: Little League baseball and softball; PAL (lacrosse, football, track, wrestling, basketball, cheerleading); the Westport Soccer Association, and Westport Field Hockey. They meet several times a year.

The goal, says Parks & Rec program manager and Council director Karen Puskas, is for every group to be “on the same page.” In the same ballpark, if you will.

Thousands of Westport youngsters play on hundreds of teams, in a wide variety of sports.

Soon after the holidays, they’ll roll out a new website. It will offer a master schedule; links to every program; a code of conduct; concussion awareness, and information for current residents, as well as anyone with sports-loving kids considering a move to Westport.

This spring, the council plans an open house. Every organization can showcase its program.

Also in the works: informational sessions for parents about college athletics, and townwide forums on topics like specialization and burnout.

“It’s a work in progress,” Puskas admits. “We’re all busy, and everyone is a volunteer. It will only be successful if everyone works together.”

But, she notes, 2 years ago Westport won a National Alliance for Youth Sports award for its comprehensive programs. This council builds on that cooperation.

Westport’s sports organizations are filled with “great people,” Puskas says. “For everyone, it’s all about the kids.”

(If your browser does not connect you directly to YouTube, click here.)

 

Sweet Frog Hops Into Town

Sweet Frog is Westport’s newest entrant in the self-serve, all-natural, pick-your-flavors-and-add-your-toppings yogurt bar wars. (They say they have a “secret ingredient,” though. They call it “fun.”)

Sweet Frog hopes to open tomorrow (Friday), just down from Fresh Market in the space previously occupied by Xenia Mediterranean restaurant.

Sweet FrogThe Virginia-based franchise prides itself on giving back to the community — particularly through youth sports, clubs and arts.

Even before opening, they bought an ad in the Westport Soccer Association‘s program book for the March 16-17 tournament. And threw in 2 free frozen yogurts for a year to the tourney prize list.

Then they said that for anyone bringing in the ad from the program book, 25% of their purchase will be donated to the WSA.

I assume Sweet Frog has a pretty good product — after all, they’re wildly successful in other places.

But I do know for sure that they’ve “kick”-started their presence in Westport in a big, friendly way.

You Can Go Home (To Art’s) Again

Dan Lasley is an avid reader of — and commenter on — “06880.”

He’s also a longtime Westport fan. And an ex-pat.

A few years ago, he moved away. But the lure of “home” is strong. Yesterday he sent along this story:

Every year we return to Westport in the spring for some business.

Last weekend I got up early to go ref at the Westport Soccer Association‘s WIN tournament. I used to manage the referees for this event. It was good to see all the usual (ref) suspects, including Stuart McCarthy and Robby Casey.

Afterward we headed over to Art’s, and grabbed an Italian combo – the first in how long? I can’t believe I used to eat the whole thing myself in one sitting!

We then headed down to Saugatuck Shores (checking out the rebuilt Riverside area), where we found our old house half demolished (or half restored, depending on your perspective).

Chatted with a few neighbors (apparently Hurricane Irene damaged many houses), and ate our sammiches on the beach. Cockenoe Island and Peck’s Ledge light are right where we left them — it’s all good.

After a brief nap, we headed over to Dunville’s for a burger. The waitress remembered us after 3 years! OK, so we’re kind of easy to remember, but still it was flattering.

Monday morning we took care of our business, then went back to Art’s for roast beef with sharp provelone. Laura popped into to Achorn’s because they have the best selection of hair clips — who knew?

As we drove back toward Philly, we passed 2 tractor-trailers that had hit bridges on the Merritt/Hutch. Where else does that happen?

Westport is a great place to visit. We miss our many friends — even though we didn’t tell anyone we were coming to town this year.

We’ll be back again.

Young Athletes Get In The Zone

Peer pressure is a dangerous thing.  And it’s everywhere a kid turns — including, these days, the internet.

Andy Moss thinks that’s a good thing.

At least, it can be.

Andy Moss

He envisions an online social networking site where student-athletes can help each other.  Positive peer pressure, he says, can provide both mentors and mentees with role models, solutions to problems on and off the field — and prizes.

Now he’s put his pixels where his mouth is.

ESMZone.com went live last week.  Although he spent 17 years with Microsoft — launching new businesses, tracking digital media and working with social media — the Westport resident was as excited as a kid on baseball’s Opening Day.

The ESMZone concept is this:  Young athletes sign up, then fill out a profile indicating their athletic and academic interests.  They can ask or answer questions — about sports, school or anything else.  There is a “like” button for questions and answers.  (No “dislike” — that’s too negative.)

Points are awarded for “likes.”  At the end of each sports “season” (fall, winter, spring), the winners in 3 age groups (7th-8th grades, 9-10, 11-12) earn rewards.   They could include a VIP pass to a pro football training camp, gift certificates to a sports store, even textbooks for college.

There are 2 ways to ask questions:  public and private.  Topics range from finding the best cleats and the difference between NCAA Divisions I, II and III, to help with algebra homework.

Of course, Moss admits, “You never know what will happen.  We don’t encourage or discourage anything.  We just create an environment where people feel comfortable — and have fun.”

Fun is nice.  But how will someone show Moss the money?

The site will including advertising and sponsorships.  Eventually, Moss says, there will be an annual user subscription fee.  He’s talking with Westport groups like the  WSAPAL and Gridiron Club — offering a 10% donation for every registered athlete.

But for now, ESMZone.com is free.  And “06880” readers are invited to click here, then register using a special code:  woog2010-1.

Waving Flag

Westporters live in a bubble.  Whether by choice or circumstance, our lives are disconnected from the overwhelming majority of people on the planet.

We don’t know how they live, or what they think.  Their concerns have nothing to do with ours.

Starting tomorrow — and continuing for the next 30 days — Westport has a golden opportunity to join the world.

The World Cup kicks off this morning in South Africa — the 1st time the global event has ever been held on that continent.  Whether you love soccer, hate it, or never think about it, you should join the magic.

For a month, the eyes of the world will focus on a country that less than 2 decades ago was banned from international sports competition.  Uruguyans, Koreans, Serbians, Cameroonians — fans of the 32 nations lucky enough to be competing for the trophy — will watch game after game, cheering and agonizing and laughing and crying as the long tournament (think March Madness on steroids) unfolds.

Fans of the nearly 200 nations that did not qualify (fun fact:  more countries try to win the World Cup than are members of the U.N.) will be equally transfixed.

Tomorrow afternoon in Westport, hundreds of soccer fans will jam the Staples auditorium to watch the US take on England — something that has not happened in 60 years.  (Fun fact:  In 1950 we pulled off one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, beating the Brits 1-0.)

Win or lose — and a win, though unlikely, is possible — the excitement will build.  Our next opponents are Slovenia and Algeria.  Though minnows in global politics, they have the potential to derail our soccer team.  In Brazilian favelas, Dutch head shops and Ivory Coast villages, people will talk about our games.

And in Westport, we’ll talk about theirs.

In 2002, people I barely knew stopped me on the street to ask how I thought our team would do.  (Poorly, I said.  Unfortunately, I was right.)

In 2006, hundreds of Staples students — athletes in all sports, musicians, debaters — gathered around TVs in the cafeteria and hallways to watch.  They knew the US players — and those on Argentina, France and Italy.  Some even followed countries like Angola and Japan.

Westport's Kyle Martino will announce World Cup games on ESPN radio, with occasional forays into the television booth.

Interest in the World Cup is at an all-time American high — and for once, Westport is not bucking a national trend.  (An added bonus:  ESPN radio and occasional TV analyst Kyle Martino is a Staples graduate, a former professional and national team player — and a good friend of David Beckham.)

I said it before:  Whether you love soccer, hate it or never think about it, give this World Cup a chance.

Watch this morning’s opening match (10 a.m., ESPN, South Africa vs. Mexico).  Thrill to see 91-year-old Nelson Mandela in the stands, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Listen to the joyful vuvuzelas — South Africa’s horn that will blare joyfully at every match.

And — if you’re still on the fence — click here to watch the most spine-tingling video you’ll ever see.  If K’naan’s “Waving Flag” doesn’t make you want to leave your Westport bubble and join the world in watching The Beautiful Game, you may not be human after all.

(Click on the Westport Soccer Association website for registration information on tomorrow’s USA-England telecast at Staples.  Click here for an amazing interactive calendar that tells you all you need to know about the entire World Cup tournament.)

Walking For Kelvin

Westport Soccer AssociationKelvin Mutambo is well known to the Westport soccer community.  The former Zambia national team player spent years as a beloved Westport Soccer Association youth coach. He’s faced medical problems recently, and now the town is giving something back to him.

This Friday, the WSA is sponsoring a Walk-a-Thon at Wakeman Field (7 to 8:30 p.m.).  Interested players and their families are collecting donations before the event — either a flat amount, or an amount per lap expected to walk.  Funds should be collected beforehand, and handed in at the event.

It’s a hectic time of year.  Let’s hope on Friday, Westport is not too busy to help a man who has spent years helping our kids.

(Tax-deductible checks should be made out to “WSA,” with “Walk for Kelvin” in the subject line. Click here and scroll down under “Headlines” to print out the pledge sheet.)