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Soccer Pioneer Left Mark on Westport

WESTPORT, Conn. – Dan Woog didn't hesitate when talking about Albie Loeffler's contributions to the Westport soccer community. Loeffler was named last week to the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame , and Woog said Loeffler would have not wanted the attention.

"He would have been a lot uncomfortable,'' said Woog, the current boys soccer coach at Staples High. "Attention was not his thing. He deflected any kind of attention paid to him."

Loeffler's work, particularly in Westport, makes him worthy of the Hall of Fame award. He founded the Staples soccer program in 1958, and in his 20 years as coach, he turned it into one of the nation's finest. He amassed 314 wins, then a national high school record, and was twice named the National Soccer Coach of the Year. Staples won 13 Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championships and seven state titles in Loeffler's tenure. The Wreckers won five straight from 1969 to 1973.

Loeffler, who died in September 2009 at the age of 93, was also a pioneer in soccer officiating. He worked five NCAA Division I finals, including the first one. He was also involved in writing the national soccer officials handbook. He is a member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame as a referee and was one of the inaugural 13 members of the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame in 1999.

His most profound impact, however, was at Staples, which still has one of the state's premier programs.

Woog, a former Staples player who took over in 2003, says the program owes a lot to Loeffler's influence. "God no,'' Woog said. "The players today don't know Mr. Loeffler. They know there's a field named after him. But I tell them they would not be here without him. After we won the state title in 2009, we held a moment of silence for him. I called his daughter and told him that we won the state championship, and she said he already knew."

Loeffler is so revered that Woog and former players still refer to him as "Mr. Loeffler." He has been compared to legendary college basketball coach John Wooden for his demeanor. Woog also believes Loeffler's old-school approach would work with today's teens.

"I hope it does, because I've modeled myself after him,'' Woog said. "I've come to see the value in his style, and that it's not a coach's game, it's a player's game. You can't create that environment by constantly yelling at them. I think his approach would work in any era."

What do you think of Albie Loeffler's influence on the Westport soccer programs? Start the discussion below!

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