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By Georgetta L. Morque

We’ve all heard “winning isn’t everything,” but losing on the other hand can be devastating. Picking up the pieces when things have gone south has long been a challenge for many, both young and old and from all walks of life. Rye resident Sam Weinman explores this topic in his new book, “WIN AT LOSING: How Our Biggest Setbacks Can Lead to Our Greatest Gains,” which will be published December 20.

Weinman is the digital editor of Golf Digest and former lead hockey and golf writer for The Journal News and LoHud.com, where he also launched the popular hockey blog, “Rangers Report.” An award-winning writer, his work has regularly appeared in Gannett newspapers across the country, including USA Today. He has also contributed to Golf World, Yahoo! Sports, ESPN the Magazine, and Sports Illustrated.

Through his work, Weinman has witnessed top professional athletes rebound from major upsets, yet he was really drawn to writing about losing after seeing his two sons, Charlie, 11, and Will, 8, struggle with losses in their sports. He could relate well since he remembers passing the puck to an opposing team player, who then scored in a Rye High School Varsity Hockey playoff game. After Rye’s loss, Weinman said he threw his team jacket into a puddle. “But I didn’t want this to define me,” he recalls, and became motivated to have a better season the following year.

Passionate about the topic, he set out to examine how others bounced back from humiliating losses and found resilience and strength. “Everyone has had some sort of losing experience that has crushed them at some level,” says Weinman in video about the book. In addition to pro athletes, he wanted to move beyond sports to interview business executives, start-up entrepreneurs, actors and politicians. He also consulted leading psychologists and coaches to better understand the essential life skill of learning to lose.

In the end, Weinman uncovered uplifting stories from people such as presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, who lost the election in 1988; actress Susan Lucci, who finally won an Emmy after 19 nominations; golfer Greg Norman, who blew his last chance to win the Masters; and the Columbia University Football team members who lost 44 straight games. Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and noted authors have given the book stellar reviews.

While his career in journalism didn’t gel until college, Weinman remembers influential teachers at Rye High School, including Kevin Kelly, Jane Johnson, George Roy, Neil Mendick, and John Serafin, as well as his hockey coach, John Zegras. He and his wife, Lisa, née Quirk, whom he has known since fifth grade at Osborn School, were both members of the Rye High School class of 1992. “We loved growing up here and the sense of community,” said Weinman, whose parents, Jerry and Sandy Weinman, still live here. Sam coaches Rye Little League and Rye Rangers Hockey, which he says are the highlights of his weekends.

Weinman hopes the book will be a source of inspiration and that readers will come away feeling confident that they can try something and not be afraid of failing. Failure, he concludes, can be a great opportunity. He quotes his favorite hockey player Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Whatever the context, Weinman says Gretzky really means that the biggest mistake you can make is to not even try.

Weinman will speak at the Rye Free Reading Room, where he spent time writing the book, on January 22.

Captions:

Sam Weinman

Photo by Charlie Weinman

By Janice Llanes Fabry

Once upon a time, there was a 6-year-old girl named Ellie whose dazzling smile vanished when little girls at the playground refused to play with her. To cheer her up, her father wiped away her tears and told her an anecdote about a princess with smelly toes. Not only has Ellie Williams, now 17, lived happily ever after, but she has enchanted many a small child with her version of “Princess Smelly Toes.”

“The story always stuck with me and I thought everyone who was having a bad day should hear it. Then when I was 14, I decided to recreate it,” she explained.

Her mom Wendy recalls Ellie and her dad, Nick, discussing the narrative frequently over the years. “This has been going on a long time in our family,” she noted. “They would talk about publishing it.”

The Williams’ moved to Rye from Shenfield, England, 12 years ago. As a 6-year-old, Ellie arrived with a strong British accent, which gradually faded. She has a younger brother Josh, 15, and a little sister Ruby, 8, who is a big fan of “Princess Smelly Toes.”

The original idea was whimsical and sweet, but Ellie felt there was one critical component missing. She was determined to add a message of kindness to the plot.

“When I would watch the news with my mom, I saw so many things I didn’t want to see and a whole lot of negative energy in the world,” she recalled. “I felt that just like an act of violence leads to another violent act, kindness could be spread the same way. One person could start a chain reaction.”

Ellie, now a Rye Neck High School senior, started putting all her efforts into the book as a sophomore. First and foremost, she integrated benevolence into the storyline. To cure the princess of her malodorous feet without hurting her feelings, one character proposes performing acts of kindness. Subsequently, all the villagers get on board.

Next, she illustrated the book herself. “Aside from taking a lot of creative writing classes when I was very young, I always loved drawing,” she said.

Amidst keeping up her grades, going on college visits, and completing college applications, as well as being a Rye Neck Key Club and SADD member, a tennis captain, and a dance captain for the musical, Ellie started raising money to have 1,500 copies of the book printed and bound.

A family friend in the neighborhood, Keith Spencer of Newtown Kindness, an organization formed after the Sandy Hook tragedy to facilitate acts of kindness, suggested a Go Fund Me web page. Once she launched her fundraising campaign on gofundme.com, she raised $5,000 in a couple of months. Last summer, “Princess Smelly Toes” was finally hot off the press.

Holding a copy of the book for the first time, she remembers she was ecstatic and exhilarated about spreading her message. To promote the book, Ellie created her own website, passthebooks.net.

“Our mission is to inspire, create, and share books that convey a specific message, from kindness to bullying to social media and beyond,” she explained. For every book sold, another is donated to a community organization.

In addition, she has already donated hundreds of books to Mamaroneck Community Nursery School; Rye, Mamaroneck, and Port Chester libraries; the Carver Center; Newtown Kindness; P.O.T.S. Holiday drive; Rye Presbyterian Nursery School; and Storefront Academy Harlem.

Most organizations, whose own missions and curriculums align with Ellie’s, request she read the story to the children, typically ages 4-7, herself.

“The experience has been very gratifying. The kids always laugh at the mention of Princess Smelly Toes and ask me questions. One little girl even admitted, ‘sometimes that happens to me,’” said Ellie, who believes that blending her positive lesson with humor effectively conveys the message.

College-bound in September, Ellie will be passing the baton to a successor, a current junior at Rye Neck High School who will continue printing the book and encouraging acts of kindness. Moreover, Ellie revealed there’s a sequel in the works with another good-natured, giggle-inducing protagonist poised to fill the shoes of the princess who started it all.

“I hope I will inspire other people to make a difference,” she said. “Sometimes you think, ‘oh I'm just one person and there is not much I can do.’ But I don't think that is true. One person can make a difference. You just need to get out there and do it.”

CAPTION:

Ellie Williams

Slcie-editSLICE OF RYE: Isaac Kligman’s Gift of Life
By virtue of his profession, Isaac Kligman makes people’s dreams come true. The countless testimonials and the abundant number of picture Christmas cards he receives every year attest to the impact he has as a fertility specialist.

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