West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 22 | Oct. 31 - Nov. 06, 2007

Paul Weinstein a.k.a. Tall Paul, left, and Steve Lee at Saturday night soccer

The benefits of horsing around without keeping score

By Judith Stiles

In Tall Paul's professional life he crunches numbers and analyzes performance data, not for stocks and bonds, but for thoroughbred racehorses. From his office on Varick St. and through the Web site thorograph.com, he searches for patterns that will help identify a horse's particular form cycle in order to predict that horse's likelihood of winning.

Because the Web site's motto is "Everything You Need to Win," it is rather surprising that in Tall Paul's avocational sports life, he is almost entirely unconcerned with keeping score and which team is winning. "Sometimes during a game people will ask me what the score is, and I have no idea," he says, wolfing down a quick sandwich on his way to coaching a soccer team at the City & Country School on W. 13th St. These days when 6-foot-4 Paul Weinstein, a.k.a. Tall Paul, plays basketball, softball and soccer, he is immersed in the flow of the game and improving the general level of play. In his view, the score at the end of the day is irrelevant.

Tall Paul is not known on the block for his horseracing expertise. Rather, he is esteemed for his coaching smarts, because he creates a sports environment that emphasizes learning and having fun.

"When my players walk away at the end of the season, I simply hope they will want to come back and play again," he says.

In examining the social dynamics of youth sports today, Coach Paul observes that overzealous parents are causing a lot of problems.

"Kids are constantly looking at their parents on the sidelines for approval, always asking, 'Did I do the right thing?' " he notes. Yet, American parents most often don't understand the game of soccer and give bad armchair coaching advice, he says. For example, sometimes there is too much emphasis on individuals shooting and scoring for glory, which overshadows strategic passing and teamwork. Coach Paul tells parents at the beginning of the season that it's O.K. to be supportive of your team, but better to just be quiet during the game. If they don't cooperate, he'll give them a warning, followed by telling them to leave the field.

Needless to say, coaching youth teams keeps Tall Paul very busy, but managing the parents keeps him busier. And if coaching several youth teams isn't enough of a challenge, on Sundays he morphs into a coach for the adult women on Team Phoenix in the Metropolitan League. On Thursday nights, he plays with an adult men's recreational basketball group, and on Saturdays, he plays and coaches sports from dawn to almost midnight. On a typical Saturday he coaches in the Downtown United Soccer Club's girls' recreational division, and then at 5 p.m. he hurries home to Barrow St. to cook dinner for his family.

And after cooking dinner, he grabs his beloved baseball glove and goes to J. J. Walker Field to play in the West Village Softball and Social Club. This group has been playing for more than 15 years, dating back to when J. J. Walker was a crummy, dirt field. There are no uniforms, not a lot of attention given to the score, and most of these diehards can be seen playing in sweaters and wool caps late into the fall.

At 9 p.m. when the softball players head home exhausted, Tall Paul whips out his soccer ball to begin warm-ups for the Uncoordinated Soccer Club. This is a motley crew of players from all over the world, who as Paul puts it, "are so devoted to soccer that they give up their entire Saturday night social life for soccer." This is an inclusive group that welcomes players of all abilities; somehow, Tall Paul has managed to orchestrate a friendly environment where, again, few keep score, there is no slide tackling and newcomers amicably play side by side with very seasoned soccer stars. He reports that a core group of players attend every week, such as architect Chris Connock, who has "amazing ball skills," according to Tall Paul, and used to play Division 1 college soccer at University of Virginia.

Says soccer nut Steve Lee, who doesn't miss a game unless there is snow, "I come almost every week because it is very collegial and is a great change of pace from my pre-med studies and my work as a database analyst."

Tall Paul is quick to note that the Uncoordinated Soccer Club is really a misnomer, because this group is known in the neighborhood for their lively and well-played games. They mix diverse styles of soccer imported from Italy, England, Senegal, Ireland, Turkey, Vietnam and Scotland, just to name a few of their nationalities. Each week they play a vigorous, sweat-drenched match for hours, until the Parks Department shuts off the field's lights. Then Tall Paul locks the field until next time, wishing that more people would take their cues from the Uncoordinated crew, by spending less time keeping score, and more time just having fun playing any sport.

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