Staples Soccer Community Mourns Death Of Albie Loeffler

Albie Loeffler

Albie Loeffler

Albie Loeffler — the founder of the Staples soccer program — died 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 FCIAC championships — including 5 in a row — and 7 state titles (including a then-national record 5 in a row). Over 175 of his players went on to play college soccer; many became captains, and several enjoyed professional careers.

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 1st-ever 2-man system college game, as well as the very 1st NCAA Division I finals.

When Mr. Loeffler arrived at Staples in 1952 — replacing legendary physical education teacher and coach Roland Wachob, who died at 39 of cancer — he was already a highly regarded coach.  For 10 years he had taught history and coached at Windsor’s Ellsworth Memorial High School, winning 2 state championships in basketball and 1 in soccer. 

Inklings — the Staples newspaper — described Staples’ new coach as “the tall, lean, gentleman in the blue and white Staples warm-up jacket (number 30).  He is seen at almost any hour of the day participating, (for he would much prefer to play than supervise) in a game of touch football with the members of one of his classes.”

In 1957 — after 6 years at Staples — Mr. Loeffler heeded the requests of several students who had played soccer in elementary and junior high school to form a high school team.  Mr. Loeffler — who grew up in Bloomfield — had been a goalkeeper at the University of Connecticut in the 1930s.  The club team 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.

Staples head coach Dan Woog said:  “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.  He knows we’ve come close to a state championship several times in the past few years, and he was excited that this could be the team to do it.”

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.

After retiring from Staples in 1978, Mr. Loeffler spent a year teaching history and coaching at Green’s Farms Academy.  He and his wife Carolyn moved to North Carolina.  She died of lung cancer.  Mr. Loeffler remarried; his wife, Gunhilde, survives him, as does his daughter Leslie, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  His son, Paul, died several years ago.

“The Staples soccer community — all of Staples, in fact — has lost a legend,” Woog said.  “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 the home page of http://www.Staplessoccer.com; then click “History” from the tab above.)


11 responses to “Staples Soccer Community Mourns Death Of Albie Loeffler

  1. This remembrance comes from Mark Noonan ’83:

    I just read your report on Mr. Loeffler’s passing and, while saddened, I quickly came back to a very warm place. While I never played a second for the man his presence had a deep impact on me. Whenever he was at a game I played in, I always felt like I had to play my very best and usually did. In fact, in the few games he attended (at least when I knew he was there…he had a habit of “quietly” coming and going without being noticed) I always scored a goal. It was very strange but wonderful.

    I also remember trying to get close to the halftime huddles when Mike played for him but he spoke so softly I couldn’t quite make out what he has saying! May he rest in peace. He had a great run and his legacy lives on through all of us.

  2. What a wonderful man. I have known coach Loeffler a very long time as a player at Manchester High School and as a referee working some of his tournament games. A true gentleman in every sense of the word. I remember working a state tournament game held at Choate in which he lost. Later he sent me a letter, thanking me for officiating his game.
    He was also a loyal supporter of NISOA, which I am a Past-President.

  3. This planet has been the showcase for the very few that define for the rest of humanity how life should be lived – and enjoyed. Some become icons who remind us that duty and desire without conflict is actually possible. Fewer yet live on the desktop of our minds and hearts. Such was Albie Loeffler.

  4. Since Staples I have played and coached soccer always using Mr. Loeffler’s priniples: know the basics – how to dribble, kick, head and strategize. It always works. For many of us who switched from football to soccer in the 60’s, soccer was new and different. Coach Loeffler taught us the basics upon which we improved and won. His teaching imparted many life lessons.

  5. More than a high school coach, Albie was simply the finest educator I’ve met since I started school in 1949; a mentor, a beacon of honesty and straight talk, a friend, a counselor, a font of wisdom and humor, above all a caring individual, he will be horribly missed and remembered with love and respect by all of us who knew him. He led us all by example to seek excellence at all times, with humility and teamwork, and to face possible defeat together with courage and pride.

  6. All who have posted prior encapsulate the man…the legend! Mr. Loeffler had only one peer in the profession of coaching and educating young men. John Wooden will be remembered as ESPN’s greatest coach, For those that knew him and played for him, Albert Loeffler leaves us as his only peer. His presence is with me every day and his voice guides me in the most difficult decisions and the greatest joys of my life.

  7. Albie Loeffler was one of the first high school coaches I met when I began recruiting at George Mason University. He always treated me with the courtesy and respect that he surely extended to everyone he interacted with. He represented all that was good in a coach, educator, and ambassador for the game

  8. “We’ll be lucky if we go .500” Albie was known to start each year with that challenge to his players, that no matter what you did the year before you were starting over from scratch. It was up to you to prove him wrong. No one ever motivated a team is such a quiet manner, and commanded such respect. Lucky to have played and blessed to coach alongside Albie.

  9. This comment was originally posted on the Stamford Advocate website:

    Mr. Loeffler was truly a commanding presence in Connecticut high school soccer. I’ll always remember how nice he was to a bunch of Stamford High soccer players, back in the late winter/early spring of 1972, when we applied to enter a team in what must have be a statewide U-19 league. Without a sponsor, coach or other “adult” affiliations, our commitment was questioned by some on the league board. Not Mr. Loeffler, who remembered that our Stamford High School team had beaten Staples 2-1, the previous fall in what could still be the highlight of a soccer career that included Div. I in college and various adult leagues on which I continue to play at age 55. Ken Dixon Shelton, CT

  10. This comment comes from David Harrison P’91, longtime Staples social studies teacher, former baseball coach, soccer timer, and all-around Wrecker sports aficionado:

    For those of you for whom Albie was a near mythical figure, I know that his death is particularly painful. I send you my sincerest sympathy for your loss; I know it is as though you have lost one of your own parents, siblings or dear friends.

    For me, Albie (and, yes, I always called him Albie!) was a wonderful role model when I first came to Staples. I marvelled at his public restraint in most all situations; something I envied because I never became real good at restraint–public or private!

    I listened to the manner in which he dealt with kids, with peers, with parents and with supervisors. There was much to learn and he and Frank Dornfeld were equally important mentors for me in my formative years at Staples. I shall always be grateful for what I was able to learn from them about my profession in general and about coaching in particular.

    And now it really falls to those of us left behind to keep the lessons he taught us all alive in subsequent generations. To you, in particular, falls the task of helping future generations understand Staples Soccer–the family–as originated by Albie and kept alive and well ever since by Jeff, and Frank, and by you. You know I’ll be glad to help in any way that I can.

    Even in death, Albie will continue to be the “Founding Father,” who provided the model for the program for which we have all come to feel is part of our family. I know with your leadership we’ll successfully “carry on.”

  11. What Ray remembers is exactly what I remember.. every season started with that….”If we’re lucky we’ll go .500″… When I coached I started each season the same way…

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