By Dave Ruden
WESTPORT — There might be a coach in the state with a more diverse and extensive resume than Dan Woog’s, but it would require the same kind of attention to detection that the Staples High School boys soccer coach uses to cover his hometown.
For Westport residents past and present, Woog’s “06880” blog is a must-read. The same can be said for the 17 books he has authored, most recently the entertaining, poignant and occasionally tear-inducing “We Kick Balls: True Stories From The Youth Soccer Wars,” which details Woog’s coaching experience with his youth, travel and high school teams. The true stories portion of the title will almost definitely cause some skeptics to believe they derive from a masterful imagination, but there is indeed truth in advertising.
Woog also is the Staples yearbook adviser, handles publicity for the Westport school district, is a freelance writer and has done groundbreaking work with the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender alliance. Woog helped bring greater awareness and acceptance, in the school community and well beyond the town’s borders, to a subject well over a decade before addressing the topic was itself out in the open.
Somewhere in between, Woog finds time to successfully lead one of Connecticut’s most venerable high school sports programs.
“It’s what we tell the kids, time management skills,” Woog said. “You have to figure out what you can do and when. Most of the time it is figuring out what is most important.”
Writing has always figured prominently in Woog’s life, going back to when he was a sophomore at Staples in 1969.
“My byline has appeared in the Westport News in six different decades, which is kind of weird,” Woog said.
Soccer and writing have long been intertwined for Woog, who covered the Brown University team for the school paper, The Daily Herald.
“I was very fortunate to be on the Staples soccer team,” he said. “I was far from a star, but I got to be around and a part of the growth of soccer. To be part of a top-notch program. At Brown I wrote about it. What the Cosmos did, and the youth soccer explosion when youth soccer was young. In many ways I was at the right place at the right time.”
Woog is the de facto historian of the Staples soccer team, and took over as head coach in 2003, the same position held by one of his greatest influences, the venerable Albie Loeffler, who started the program. Woog is just the Wreckers’ third full-time head coach in 55 years.
“It is a ton of pressure, and it’s pressure that I love,” Woog said. “Other teams can kind of reload. We don’t have that luxury to look ahead a couple of years. In some ways it can seem like a ton of eyes are looking at you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Staples has won 27 league and 12 state titles.
Woog’s work ethic serves as an example for his players, who have to balance their own taxing schedules.
“We ask a lot of our athletes, we ask them to fully commit to the program, and if the head coach doesn’t follow it why should they?” Woog said. “One thing I learned from Albie, if you are going to do something, make sure you do it right.”
Woog also has one of the state’s best staffs, which includes Kurt Dasbach, goalkeeper coach Tom Henske, who led the University of Virginia to three national championships, and two former Staples stars, Seth Sholes and Chris O’Dell.
“Huge props to the assistants,” Woog said. “I learn something from them every day.”
It should come as no surprise that Woog is also the caretaker of one of the best high school team sites around, staplessoccer.com, which is a treasure trove of information.
As for filling the 06880 blog, which gets between 5,000-6,000 readers daily, Woog said, “I keep my ears open. Most people talk to someone and say ‘That’s interesting.’ I ask how I can make that a story.”
“We Kick Balls” took time to find its way to print.
“It could be my favorite book,” Woog said. “It’s my favorite because of the stories. Stories of people I care about. Good stuff, bad stuff, tragic stuff. I wrote it a few years ago and couldn’t find a publisher until I self-published.”
Just one more entry for Woog’s resume.