Stefanie Goettsche has earned her place among the best female athletes to ever come out of Staples High School, earning All-State honors in basketball and volleyball while leading the Wreckers to FCIAC championships in both sports.
The 1990 graduate led the Staples girls volleyball team to back to back FCIAC crowns in 1987 and ’88 while as a senior in the fall of 1989 she was named to the All-FCIAC and All-State teams. But it was in basketball where Goettsche really made her mark, garnering All-FCIAC and All-State accolades as a junior and senior while leading the Wreckers to the FCIAC title in 1990. She was also recognized on all-star teams selected by the New York Daily News, the New Haven Register, Hartford Courant and Bridgeport Post newspapers. Goettsche capped her outstanding career by being named to the 1989-90 Kodak Metropolitan High School All-Star Team and was selected the Naismith Player of the Year.
But she was just warming up. Goettsche received a scholarship to play at Providence College where as a senior in 1993-94 she was First-Team All-Big East and a District I Honorable Mention All-American. In addition, was a three-time Big East Academic All-Star.
Following her collegiate career, Goettsche continued her basketball career overseas where she was a six-time German all-star playing against the top competition in Europe. Born in Buchholz, Germany, she spent the 1994-95 season playing for the WEMEX team in Berlin and helping them to a league and German Cup runner-up finish. From there Goettsche played for the Osnabruecker Sports Club in Osnabrueck, Germany from December1995 to April 1998. She spent the next two years in Wuppertal, Germany with the Goldzack Wuppertal team, who she helped lead to a pair of league and German Cup championships as well as a berth in the 1999 FIBA Euro League Final Four. The following season Goettsche took her talents to Sweden where she led Lulea Basket to the league semifinals and was named a Swedish League all-star. Goettsche became quite the globetrotter as she played the 2001-02 season in Spain with P.C. Mendibil. Talent wise, Spain is considered one of the best leagues in Europe along with Italy, and Goettsche had the opportunity to play in Italy for one month in the fall of 2002 when she replaced an injured player on the roster of the Rovereto club in the Premier European League. “I thought I was done playing after Spain,” Goettsche said, “but I couldn’t pass up going to Italy. I’m not that crazy!”
Goettsche was done playing, however, after her brief stint in Italy, closing out a career that saw her play for the German National Team from 1994-98 and again from 2000-02, and participate in the European Championships in 1995 and ’97. She also competed in the 1998 World Championships and the 1987 National Team Games. In fact, Goettsche calls winning a Bronze medal at the 1997 European Championships and playing the ’98 World Championships her most memorable feats from a team standpoint. Individually, however, it was harder for her to pick out one single accomplishment. “I can’t list just one,” she said. “I’d have to say it was the whole journey, from Staples to receiving a scholarship to playing professional and making the National Team. “Having had the opportunity to play basketball as a profession has been a very rewarding and memorable experience for which I will be forever grateful,” she added. “Who’d have thought the places I’d go and the people I’d meet during that time. I have fond memories to last a lifetime and nowadays enjoy reminiscing with former teammates about the good old days of chasing that orange ball up and down the court. “Funny when I think back to the days of Staples High School and especially my freshman year when I couldn’t hit the side of a barn.”
Goettsche, who earned a B.S. Degree in Marketing and graduated Cum Laude, currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona, where she is a sales and dispatch coordinator for United Rentals. She is still involved with basketball, however, as a coach of an Arizona Elite Club team in both the Junior (10-11 years-old) and Senior (15-and-Under) divisions.
Mark Cizynski established himself as one of the top high school basketball players in all of New England back when the was playing for Staples in the early 1970s. More than three decades later, his career on the hardwood still ranks as one of the best in the history of the Wreckers’ program. What made Cizynski’s numbers at Staples even more remarkable was the fact he compiled them in only two seasons. Born in The Bronx, N.Y., he attended St. Nicholas of Torentine in The Bronx, playing on the freshmen basketball team and then the varsity as a sophomore in 1970-71 with his brother, Gene, who was a senior. St. Nick’s advanced to the quarterfinals of the Catholic High School Athletic Association state tournament that season.
Cizynski and his family moved to Westport the following year and St. Nicholas’ loss turned out to be Staples’ gain. Cizynski made an immediate impact as he led the 1971-72 SHS team in scoring with an 18.2 average and helped the Wreckers go 17-6 and reach the Class LL state semifinals. In FCIAC contests, he averaged 19.2, sixth best in the conference. Cizynski scored double figures in 21 of the 23 games that season, including a season-high 31 points in a 73-72 win over Wilton. In his next game, a 60-52 win over Roger Ludlowe, Cizynski tallied 25 points for his second-highest output of the season. He also scored 25 against FCIAC champion Norwalk, and in back to back games against Stamford and Danbury. He was only the underclassman selected to the 1972 All-FCIAC first team and was also a Class AA All-State Honorable Mention.
But it was in his senior year that Cizynski really made his mark in basketball. The 6-foot-3 forward and Staples co-captain was nearly unstoppable down low that 1972-73 season as he averaged 32.9 points a game to lead both the state and New England in scoring. In fact, he accounted for more than half of the Wreckers’ offense, which averaged 62.5 points a game. Cizynski also won the FCIAC scoring championship with a 32.7 average, a whopping 6.8 points per game more than his nearest rival. Staples went 15-7 that season and Cizynski scored double figures in all 22 games, including 20 or more points 20 times. He also topped the 30-point mark 15 times, including 40 or more points six times. He had a career-high 46 points in a 76-51 win over Ludlowe to set a new Staples single-game scoring record. His younger brother, Jerry Cizynski, would eventually break the record with a 47-point game in 1981. Another brother, Joe Cizynski, had also played for the Wreckers.
The night Mark scored 46 would be the first of three straight games he would reach the 40-point mark, tossing in 42 points against Eastern Division champion Andrew Warde and 40 versus eventual league champ Brien McMahon in his next two games. Cizynski also scored 45 points to lead the Wreckers to an 84-68 win over Amity in their opening state-tournament game Then in his next game, he recorded 39 points in an 88-73 loss to Fitch in what would be his final high school game. Cizynski finished his career in grand fashion, though, scoring 33 or more points in his final 10 games and 12 of his last 13. He finished with 724 points that season, and counting the 419 he scored as a junior, Cizynski graduated as Staples’ all-time leading scorer with 1,143 career points, a record eventually broken by his fellow Sportsmen honoree Dom Calise. Cizynski not only repeated as an All-FCIAC first-team selection, but was a unanimous choice and the leading vote getter. He was also named to the Class AA All-State team.
Following his graduation, Cizynski played at the University of Rhode Island, where he averaged 12.6 points as a senior co-captain. His career-high was a 27-point effort against the University of New Hampshire.
Although his playing days have long been over, Cizynski still stays close to the game by coaching his 10-year-old daughter Jillian’s basketball team in Irvine, California, where he and his wife, Linda, now reside. Cizynski is a sales representative in Southern California for U.S. HealthWorks , a nationwide occupational medicine company.
Whether he had a baseball or softball bat in his hands, Mike Calise was one of the most feared hitters to ever come out of Westport. It all began for him in the Westport Little League in the late 1960s when he helped the Jaguars win four straight town championships and make the all-star team his last two seasons. He won another town championship in the Westport Babe Ruth with Schaefer’s Sporting Goods in addition to making the all-star team all three years and being named MVP twice. And in 1972 he added yet another town title and MVP award to his collection with the Bedford Junior High baseball team.
Calise arrived at Staples High School in the 1973 season and was coach Brian Kelley’s starting shortstop all three years, earning All-FCIAC, All-State and All-Daily News honors in the process. Following his graduation in 1975, Calise played the ’76 season at Mesa Community College in Arizona where he moved to third base and made all-league, all-state, All-Southwest Region and second-team All-American in the only season he played there. That summer he played with the NEON baseball team out of Norwalk in the Connecticut Collegiate League and compiled a sizzling .513 batting average. Catching the eyes of several scouts, Calise signed with the St. Louis Cardinals organization on Aug. 8, 1976, a day he still calls “my greatest feat in sports.” In his first full season, 1977, Calise helped the Cards’ Gastonia, N.C. team win the South Atlantic League championship and he was selected to the all-star team. He was also named the Cardinals’ Organization Player of the Month in June. Also in ’77, Calise played in the Florida Instructional League where he won another championship.
But after that promising start, Calise’s progress was slowed from 1978-80 as he missed parts of all three seasons while undergoing four operations on his right thumb. He finally played a full season in 1981 with the Triple A Springfield Redbirds and made the American Association all-star team. In 1982, Calise was promoted to the Louisville Redbirds AAA team where he enjoyed another all-star season while setting a new team record with 33 home runs, a mark that still stands today. Calise began the 1983 season with Louisville, but in July was traded to the Baltimore Orioles organization and played the rest of that season and the 1984 campaign with the Triple A Rochester Red Wings. Then in 1985 he joined the Houston Astros system and played for the Tucson Toros AAA team in what would be his final season of professional baseball. During his career, Calise played for Hal Lanier, Joe Frazier and Jim Fregosi, who all went on to become Major League managers.
But while Calise’s baseball days as a player might have been behind him, he wasn’t done swinging a bat. As his early baseball career was developing, Calise began playing softball at the age of 13 with Sonny’s of Westport for coach Sonny DeMattio. And it wasn’t long before he became an accomplished hitter in that sport, too, winning numerous championships and individual awards along the way. In 1982, he made the All-World team (along with his brother and fellow Sportsmen honoree Dom Calise) and was named MVP of the World Tournament as he helped lead Sonny’s to a runner-up finish. Calise continued playing softball even after he moved to Arizona, making the All-World team five more times while playing for three different teams during his 17 years as a USSSA Major player.
Calise also managed to stay close to the baseball diamond after his playing days as he coached his son Mike from the time he was five years-old right through high school. From 1988-2001, Calise coached in both the Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle summer programs sponsored by the East Mesa Recreation Association, as well at Fremont Junior High School and Red Mountain High School, where his son set a new school record his senior year when he hit .489. “I am still in contact with most of the players I coached along the way, which makes me feel very proud,” Calise said. He now gives hitting instruction for players as young as nine years-old through high school. He has also assisted his brother, Dom, with his 9-10 year-old baseball team, and for the past three years he’s been coaching a men’s traveling softball team.
While baseball and softball were always his main sports, Calise also played basketball growing up in Westport. He played for Assumption Parochial School in 1970 and ‘71, making the all-star team both years and being named All-Star MVP in 1971. He then helped Bedford Junior High to the 1972 town championship, setting a single-game rebounding record that season with 33 against Coleytown. He also went on to play at Staples from 1973-75, starting and lettering for the varsity his last two seasons.
Calise and his wife, the former Jennifer DeWitt of Norwalk, have two children, Mike and Christy, and reside in Mesa, AZ. For the past 21 years, Calise has worked for United Parcel Service.
It didn’t take sports fans in the town of Westport very long to discover Dominick Calise was going to be a special kind of athlete. In fact, he was only 10 years-old when he captured first place in the local Ford Punt, Pass & Kick competition in 1970. And it only got better after that. Two years later, he was selected to the Westport National Little League all-star team. But it would be in basketball where Dom Calise really made his mark. During the winter of 1974-75 he won the Norwalk Parochial League scoring title, averaging 25.8 points per game, made the all-star team and won the league MVP award while leading Assumption Catholic School to the league championship.
It was also in 1975 that Calise moved to Mesa, Arizona with his family, but the change in location did nothing to slow his athletic career down. At Carson Junior High School, he was the leading scorer (17.6 ppg) and MVP on the basketball team, which won the City League title. Then in the spring he was also named MVP of the baseball team as he broke the school record with a .390 batting average and pitched a no-hitter. He also excelled in the classroom and received the Outstanding Student-Athlete Award at Carson Jr. High.
But his first stay in Arizona would be a brief one. After only one year, Calise returned to Westport in 1976 and played three years of varsity basketball and baseball at Staples High for coach Brian Kelley. In basketball, Calise made the All-FCIAC First Team all three years and was a three-time winner of the Staples Block “S” Award as the Wreckers’ MVP. As a senior in 1978-79, he reached the coveted 1,000-point career mark in December, and the following month he became the school’s all-time leading scorer, breaking the record held by fellow Sportsmen honoree Mark Cizynski. Calise won the FCIAC scoring title that season with a 26.8 average, and in addition to All-FCIAC he was named first-team All-State as well as to the Bridgeport Sunday Post and New York Daily News all-star basketball teams. He was also selected to play in the Pro Keds All-Star Festival Game, the 12th annual Schoolboy Invitational Tournament, and the fifth annual Omar Shrine Game at Staples between the FCIAC and MBIAC. Calise would finish with 1,525 career points, a Staples record that lasted 25 years until it was broken in 2004 by John Baumann.
The Staples baseball team also benefited greatly from Calise’s return to Westport. As a senior in 1979, he broke the school’s all-time batting average record by hitting a scorching .445 as he helped lead the Wreckers to the Class LL state championship game and a runner-up finish. He received another Staples Block “S” Award as the team MVP and was named to the All-FCIAC first team and the Daily News Baseball All-Star Team. Calise capped off his scholastic career by receiving a $500 scholarship from the Sportsmen of Westport at their 19th annual Dinner of Champions.
After his graduation, Calise returned to Arizona where, following in the footsteps of his brother, Mike, he played baseball for Mesa Community College. Dom played for the Thunderbirds two years and in 1980 helped MCC reached the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado, where they finished in fifth place. He returned to his Connecticut roots in 1983 and played baseball at Sacred Heart University. He closed out his collegiate career in grand fashion, going 4-for-4 in his final game with two home runs and nine RBIs.
Like his brother, Dom also excelled on the softball diamond, playing for a number of teams both in Connecticut and Arizona since 1979. From ’79 to 1990, he played locally for coach Junior Bieling with Jr’s Hot Dog Stand and for Sonny DeMattio with Sonny’s of Westport, as well as with the Westport Merchants and Shiney’s. Following his move back west, Calise, since 1990, has played with the Arizona Elite, Primetime Sports, the Arizona Heat and the Arizona Demarini/Amigos. He is currently in his 29th season. All told, Calise has played in 23 world tournaments and 19 state tournaments in the men’s ASA Major and A divisions as well as the USSSA Men’s A-AA and B divisions. He has made several all-tournament teams and won his share of tournament MVP awards. One of his biggest years was 1982 when he was named to the All-World Team and won a Gold Glove Award as he helped Sonny’s finish runner-up at the world tournament, a team that included his brother and fellow Sportsmen honoree. Dom Calise was also named MVP of the ASA New England Regional in 1988.
Calise has also remained close to both baseball and basketball through coaching. He currently coaches his 10-year-old son Anthony in the Minor Division of the All Sports Arizona Baseball League, and also coaches him in the Junior Basketball Association. He previously coached his daughter Erika, now 15, for three years in a girls fast pitch softball league.
Calise, and his wife, Alison Branstrom Calise, and their two children live in Mesa where Dom works in the Mesa Public School System as an Electronic Technician.
Forty years after he made his last tackle and threw his final block for Staples High School, football fans in Westport still talk about the exploits of Win Headley. Headley is not only another in a long line of outstanding football players to come out of Staples, he ranks right near the top of the list.
A 1967 graduate, Headley played three years of varsity football for the Wreckers as an offensive and defensive tackle for legendary coach Paul Lane. He capped off his career as a senior in the fall of ’66 by being named All-County and All-State as well as being selected to the New York Giants Tri-State Football Team. Headley’s defensive coach back then was fellow Sportsmen honoree Saul Pollack, who also coached Headley in wrestling for three seasons, including 1967 when he was named All-County and won the state heavyweight championship.
Following his graduation, Headley went on to play at Wake Forest University in North Carolina where he was a three-year starter at defensive tackle and as a senior in 1970, helped the Deacons win their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship. In fact, they didn’t win another league crown until this past 2006 season. Headley was named All-ACC that season and was also voted team MVP. The honors didn’t end there, however. He also received All-American recognition by the National Education Association as well as the Walter Camp Foundation. And in the spring of 1971 Headley was named co-recipient of WFU’s Arnold Palmer Award.
That summer, Headley found himself in camp with the Green Bay Packers, who converted him to an offensive guard. He impressed head coach Dan Devine with his play enough to survive until the final team cut right before the start of the 1971 NFL season. But that wouldn’t be the end of Headley’s football career. Instead, he started at offensive guard for the Hartford Knights semi-pro football team. One of the players he matched up against was Otis Sistrunk, who went on to play for the Oakland Raiders. Then in 1972, Headley played on the offensive line for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
That would mark the end of Headley’s playing days on the gridiron, but he was able to stay close to the game he loved through coaching. He served as an assistant football coach with Winston-Salem State University in 1972-73, his alma mater at Wake Forest from 1973-75, and with Princeton University from 1975-82.
Then after a more than 20-year hiatus, Headley returned to the sidelines in 2003 as the offensive line coach and defensive coordinator with the Princeton Day School football team in Princeton, N.J., where he currently resides. He also had the opportunity to coach in the Sunshine Football Classic, an area all-star game which features players from 40 schools. Headley will be starting his fifth season with the football team this fall, and he is currently in his second season as the head varsity golf coach at Princeton Day, where both his daughter, Summer, and his son, Jonathan, graduated.
In 1994, Headley was inducted into the Wake Forest University Hall of Fame, while in ’95 he received the Distinguished American Award from the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. He was also recognized in 2000 with the Mike Campbell Lifetime Achievement Award from the All-American Football Foundation.
Born in Culver City, CA. Headley and his family moved to Westport in 1957. After his football days, he remained in the area and worked in marketing with Columbus Circle Investors, a professional investment management service, from 1987-2001 when it was located in New York City and then relocated in Stamford.
Headley, who will turn 58 on the Fourth of July, is currently employed as a personal trainer with the Princeton Fitness and Wellness Center in addition to his coaching duties at Princeton Day School.
Sandy Forehand has been a fixture in the Staples High School athletic department longer than even some of the Wreckers coaches. For the past 16 years, Forehand has been the secretary and a valuable member in the successful athletic department at Staples. But besides her secretarial duties, Forehand could be found at a number of Staples athletic events in the past, selling tickets at home football games, boys and girls basketball games, and indoor track meets, as well as CIAC state tournament games in different sports at the high school. In addition, she has served as the official time keeper at Staples field hockey games and helped record scores at outdoor track meets.
Forehand even had a brief stint as a Wreckers coach herself when she headed the SHS cheerleading squad during the winter season of the 1991-92 school year. The Fairfield resident has also been active in her community where she has been a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 77 since 1995. She served as the Flotilla vice commander in 2000 and 2001, and participated in the OpSail 2000 in New London as a member of the boat crew.
From 1986 to 2002, Forehand was a member of the Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County, serving as both assistant treasurer and then treasurer. She was also very active at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, serving on the Churchwomen’s Board from 1988-91 as well as teaching Sunday school. She has also been involved with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Forehand’s list of civic activities include being a volunteer with the Fairfield Christmas Tree Festival, a member of the Fairfield Cotillion Classes Committee, and the Stratfield School PTA Executive Board, serving as both treasurer and vice president.
In recent years, Forehand managed to find time in her busy schedule to become an accomplished long-distance runner, capturing first place at the 2003 Mossman Triathlon in the women’s 55-59 age group. She also ran the Virginia Beach Half Marathon in 2002 and competed in the Smith Mountain Lake Triathlon in 2004. Also in 2003, Forehand and her daughter, Aimee, finished in third place in the Mother/Daughter category at the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club Women’s Half Marathon. Forehand lists that and her first-place finish at the Mossman Triathlon as two of her three greatest accomplishments in sports. The third was attending the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School on the Maine Sea for 10 days in the summer of 1991, during which time she sailed and lived on a boat at Hurricane Island. “One of the best things I have ever done,” she said. “An awesome experience.”
A native of Savannah, GA, Forehand graduated from Melbourne High School in Florida before attending Palm Beach Junior College and the University of Florida. She is also a 1987 graduate of the Connecticut Realtor Institute and worked in both banking (at the Westport Bank & Trust Company) and real estate (at Rowe Realtors and Dunlap-Hibbs Real Estate). She also worked at The Landings on Skidaway Island as the information coordinator for the state of Connecticut.
It was in September of 1990 that Forehand joined the Staples High School family as a part-time aide in the Foreign Language department. Five months later, in February 1991, she became the full-time secretary in the athletic department and has been a part of Wreckers sports ever since.
She is married to Jack Forehand, a 1965 Staples graduate and former quarterback and track standout for the Wreckers who was honored by the Sportsmen in 2005. They have two children, Aimee and Jack.
The name Saul Pollack has long been synonymous with the sport of wrestling in the town of Westport, as well as throughout Fairfield County and the rest of the state. The legendary Staples High School wrestling coach guided the Wreckers for 15 seasons, beginning in the 1963-64 season and building the program into an FCIAC and state powerhouse by the time he retired following the 1977-78 campaign. During that time, Pollack recorded 177 victories, still a Staples record, while winning seven FCIAC championships and three state titles. In fact, when wrestling was finally recognized as a varsity sport by the FCIAC in 1966-67, Pollack, in only his fourth season, led Staples to the conference’s inaugural championship. He also led the Wreckers to their first state championship that season. The following season, Staples repeated as FCIAC champions, while in 1970 the Wreckers shared the crown with longtime rival Brien McMahon, both teams going 11-0-1 in the conference with the one tie coming against one another.
Then from 1973-76, Pollack led the Staples to four straight FCIAC crowns, a feat that went unmatched until Danbury went on its current run of 21 straight titles. When the FCIAC went to the league-wide championship tournament it currently uses in 1976, it seemed only fitting that a Pollack-coached team would win the first one. When the FCIAC went to a two-division format in 1971-72, Pollack’s teams won the first three Eastern Division championships and six of the first seven (the one season they didn’t win, 1974-75, they still won the FCIAC).
In addition to the 1967 season, Pollack would lead Staples to two more state championships in 1970 and ’73, giving the Wreckers state crowns every three years. They almost won another one three years later in 1976, but were edged by Hall High School at the Class LL state meet. In Pollack’s final season, 1977-78, Staples went 14-1 in the FCIAC to win another Eastern Division title, and then finished runner-up to Westhill – the only team in the conference to beat them – at the FCIAC Championships. The Wreckers went 16-2-1 overall that season and finished fourth at the Class LL state meet.
Three times in his illustrious career, Pollack was named the wrestling coach of the year by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association, earning the honor in 1967, ’70 and ’73, the same three years he led Staples to the state championship. He was also named the Eastern Regional Coach of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association, which qualified him as one of eight finalists for the National Coach of the Year award.
But wrestling wouldn’t be the only sport Pollack made his mark in at Staples. For two decades he also served as the defensive coach of the Wreckers’ football team under head coach Paul Lane, another legendary SHS coach. In fact, it was Pollack’s defense that keyed the 1975 Staples football team to the state championship. Pollack’s success in both wrestling and football earned him a place in the FCIAC Hall of Fame.
Born in Bridgeport, Pollack attended Roger Ludlowe High School in Fairfield where he was a linebacker on the football team from 1953-55. He also threw the shot put and discus on the track team all three years. Following his graduation in 1956, Pollack played football at Springfield College for four seasons, converting to the offensive line as a guard. It was also at Springfield that Pollack was introduced to the sport of wrestling, competing in the 187-pound weight class. Little did anyone know at the time that experience would lead to a legendary coaching career. After graduating from Springfield in 1960, Pollack joined the Westport School System and began his teaching and coaching career at Staples.
He would eventually retire from both to own and operate Harry’s Wine & Liquor Market in Fairfield, the business his father Harry started 65 years ago. Pollack and his wife, Anne, reside in Wilton and have three children, Scott, Kira, and David and two grandchildren, Mia and Anthony.
Much of the recent success of the Staples High School football program can be traced back to Carmen Roda. Roda has been a coach in the Westport PAL Football program since 1996, and during that time he has coached five different teams to league championships. In fact, there were several seasons in which he coached more than one team at different age levels. His resume includes four straight league crowns in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, and another in 2006. His teams also finished division runner-up in 1997, ’98, 2004 and ‘05. When Roda first became a youth football coach, Westport PAL Football consisted of three teams with a total of 75 children. Since then, he’s been an integral part of the tremendous growth of the organization.
In addition to his coaching, Roda joined the PAL Football Board of Trustees in 1998 and currently serves as president and Chairman of the Board, overseeing an organization that in 2006 had swelled to 14 tackle football teams, another eight flag football teams, and six cheerleading squads for a total of 410 children that are served by PAL.
In 2000, Roda was one of the co-founders of the Fairfield County Football League and has been a member of the Executive Board ever since, taking over as president of the FCFL in 2005. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Westport Police Athletic League, and in 2005 was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Staples High School Gridiron Club. He is also an Executive Board Member of the Westport Field of Dreams Committee.
It certainly came as no surprise when Carmen Roda was selected as the Westport Sports Person of the Year by the Fairfield County Sports Commission, which recognized an award winner in each of the 15 communities it serves for their positive contribution to the sports community. Roda was honored at the commission’s second annual Sports Night awards dinner last October.
Roda is a 1983 graduate of Andrew Warde High School in Fairfield where he was an offensive and defensive tackle on the Crimson Eagles’ football team. He then attended Southern Connecticut State University, earning his B.S. Degree in Criminal Justice/Sociology in 1987, and then his Master’s Degree in 1997 with a Certification in Counseling. He also worked at Southern Connecticut as the assistant director of residence life, residential supervisor of an adolescent treatment center, and director of an alternative detention center for teens.
Born in Norwalk and now a resident of West Haven, Roda, who turned 43 on May 20, is currently a probation officer for the state of Connecticut judicial branch, and in that role has conducted presentations to Staples High School senior health classes.
“I want to thank the Westport Police Athletic League for allowing me to be a part of an organization in which kids come first,” Roda said. “I also would like to thank the Westport community for allowing me to help make a difference in the lives of God’s most precious gift: Children.”
Carol Bieling, who has devoted countless hours to many wonderful causes in Westport including local sports, has always been one to avoid the spotlight. Tonight, however, she has no choice. Carol Bieling will be in the spotlight as the first female recipient of the William A. Krause Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Sportsmen of Westport.
A lifelong Westporter, the former Carol Digisi attended Saugatuck Elementary School, Bedford Junior High, and Staples High School, graduating in 1951. Growing up she was involved in many different sports, including crew, softball, swimming, field hockey and basketball. She graduated from Keuka College in New York in 1955 with a degree in Education and that same year began teaching at Bedford Junior High School. It would mark the start of a distinguished 32-year career, all at Bedford, as an English and social studies teacher. “Carol is one of the very special people in education,” said Glenn Hightower, a 2005 Westport Sportsmen honoree and Bieling’s principal at Bedford from 1969 until her retirement in 1987. “She had a gift for getting students on any part of the spectrum of ability to do better.”
During her tenure at Bedford, Bieling served as the cheerleading coach and advisor for many years. In addition, she worked as a counselor and director of the Westport Beach School from 1955-87. Bieling helped numerous students in Westport in many other positive ways as well. Long before the Work Study and Career Education programs at Staples were formed, she was able to use her many contacts in town to set up job opportunities for students to work at local businesses. “Carol is a giver and never looks to be in the spotlight,” Hightower said. “It was never about her, but always about the group or the organization. She had a way of injecting her positive influence in a very quiet, modest fashion.”
That “positive influence” also carried over into the field of sports and for many years Carol and her husband, John Bieling Jr., have been and continue to be big supporters of Staples High School athletics. In fact, John Bieling, more affectionately known as “Junior” in Westport, was the first recipient of the William A. Krause Jr. Humanitarian Award in 2005. Together, Junior and Carol Bieling formed a winning combination working alongside one another at Jr’s Hotdog Stand on Riverside Avenue, a landmark in Westport for years.
The Bielings were not only close friends with the late Bill Krause, the former Sportsmen president for whom the award is named after, but for years the trio was the driving force behind the annual Dinner of Champions. It was just one of the many ways Carol Bieling impacted the Westport community, yet, as Hightower pointed out, she never focused on herself.
“It’s very simple. I just did,” she said in her familiar humble manner. “I just helped. It was all for the benefit of people.” In this way, Carol Bieling is so much like Bill Krause, always there to help, especially when it came to the welfare of children and students.
“Carol was a master at being able to build bridges between people and end up with a positive result,” Hightower concluded. “She did this with students and colleagues, as well as in the community.”
Nancy R. Coley
Bob & Ann Driscoll
Peter & Irene D’Amico
Staples Class of ‘49
John Bieling “JR”
Joe & Lorraine DeFelice
John & Lucille Chacho
Junior & Carol Bieling
Iain Bruce & Family
June & Jerry Bieling
JoAnn & Fran DeLuca
Joan Romano & Family
Mary & Richie Romano
Art Bradley & Family
Angelo Cookup Veno
Buddy & Joan Perrottelli
Marty & Celeste Rogers
Mr. & Mrs. John Kondub
All bios written by George Albano, assistant sports editor and columnist at The Hour Newspaper in Norwalk, CT.