Youth Sports Committee resets
Published 3:08 pm, Friday, September 19, 2014
The committee was established in 2012 following at least two controversies with the town's youth sports groups. Its main goals were to act as a liaison with the various sports organizations in New Canaan to ensure they employed the best governance, financial reporting and coaching practices.
In an Aug. 5 meeting, the selectmen, especially Beth Jones, said they were not pleased with the group's performance. Jones said then that the committee has not done what it set out to do and has focused on fields, rather than advising best sports practices.
During Monday's meeting, presided over by Selectman Nick Williams, Chris Robustelli was elected chairman and two new members were introduced -- Tara Clough and Doug Perlman. The group revisited its mission and discussed ways to be more effective and communicate better with the town's sports leagues.
"In order to use town property, the thought was that the government of this town should make sure that the various youth sports organizations employed certain (practices)," Williams said. "We had some well-publicized, and I mean well-publicized, incidents in this town."
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In December 2011, three football coaches resigned after burning players' third-place trophies in Irwin Park. Weeks after that, a former coach filed a lawsuit against the New Canaan Lacrosse Association for gender discrimination.
The committee was established just months after the two incidents in order to deter those types of behavior.
"We're not perfect," Williams said. "We're not trying to run these sports. We are, however, as a town, setting forth requirements that these sports must demonstrate to the best of their ability to this committee."
According to its mission statement, the Youth Sports Committee "may make recommendations to the Parks and Recreation (departments) and the Board of Education, in their capacities as the direct responsible parties for the use of such fields and gymnasiums, with respect to those practices and their implementation by the various youth sports organizations."
In addition, the committee shall "serve as a liaison between and among the various youth sports organizations, the Board of Selectmen and other town bodies to encourage and support" corporate governance, financial reporting and coaching practices.
Williams, who was instrumental in launching the committee two years ago, called the mission "pretty broad," but he said the key goal is to seek transparency among all the sports groups.
"There are some requirements, but it's not Big Brother," Robustelli said. "It's a way to let them have an expectation of what the town thinks they should provide as youth organizations running seventh-grade basketball, running seventh-grade football," and other sports.
Williams also suggested creating a mandatory fee for the youth sports groups, noting that some of them have been making voluntary contributions for years. He said all groups, boys and girls, need "to be treated equally.
"How is it fair that some sports make a voluntary payment and others don't?" Williams said.
The committee itself cannot impose fees for field usage, but it can make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen and Park and Recreation Commission. Committee members said they would take the issue into consideration until they meet again in two months.
The group has agreed to meet six times a year; the next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m.
The committee also agreed it needs to find ways to communicate its activities to the various sports leagues in town. Suggestions under consideration include a newsletter, a new website, more meetings with coaches and more dialogue with the Board of Education.
Jones, in attendance at the meeting, asked the group to be more transparent by filing agendas and minutes on time and making sure its materials are available for public inspection.
Clough suggested partnerships with sports groups to have speakers address the community about athletic issues.
One of the biggest accomplishments of the group so far, according to Recreation Director Stephen Benko, is the website newcanaansportsfacilities.com, which has centralized information regarding sports groups and their schedules.
Other regular members of the committee are Sally Campbell, former chairman, and Ben Sibbett. Benko, Athletic Director Jay Egan and Parks Superintendent John Howe are the committee's ex-officio members.
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