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Role of Youth Sports Committee questioned

Photo by Nelson Oliveira

The New Canaan Board of Selectmen - Beth Jones, Robert Mallozzi and Nick Williams - during a meeting at the Police Department in New Canaan, Conn., on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013.

The mission and performance of the Board of Selectmen's Youth Sports Committee sparked debate during a meeting this month, when Selectman Beth Jones expressed strong disappointment with the group.

"They're supposed to be an advisory committee and, to my knowledge, with their 2½ years, they've never gone in front of us or the Board of Ed to advise us on what needs to be done," she told her fellow selectmen at the Aug. 5 meeting.

The committee was established in July 2012 with the goals of acting as a liaison with the various youth sports organizations in New Canaan to ensure they employ the best governance, financial reporting and coaching practices.

During the meeting, the selectmen voted 2-1 to appoint a new member to the committee and reappoint seven others, three of whom are non-voting ex-officio members.

Jones, who opposed the appointments, said this is "one of the only things" on which she votes differently than the rest of the board.

"I still firmly believe this should not be its own committee, that it should be a subcommittee of (Park and Recreation Commission)," she said.

Jones added that the committee has not done what it set out to do and has focused on fields rather than advising best sports practices.

"Their minutes are all about field recommendations, putting in a new turf field," she said. "They were not supposed to be dealing with the field allocation ... There is nothing in (their minutes) that suggests that they have done anything that had to do with their mission, which was to be short term. That's why it's a committee, not a commission. It's supposed to have a shelf life."

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.

Sally Campbell, the committee's chairman, or any other regular member could not be reached for comment.

Recreation Director Stephen Benko, an ex-officio member of the committee, said the group has indeed "done a good job" in checking sports groups' financial statements and follows the charter. He also said the group increasingly has been talking about best practices regarding sports organizations.

Selectman Nick Williams, who was instrumental in launching the committee two years ago, shared some of Jones' concerns.

"I think this committee could and should do more," Williams said, adding that he would like to see the committee sponsor concussion awareness programs. "I think they focus, in my mind, a bit too exclusively on the use of the fields and have not dealt with things like best coaching practices or served as a liaison between and among the various youth sports." Read Full Article 

First Selectman Robert Mallozzi also agreed.

"I think, candidly, I'm probably disappointed so far with the production out of this," he said. "I think it started off with some really notable intent, (but) the focus needs to be on kids and best coaching practices."

Jones also took issue with the lack of information about the committee's meetings. She said she's never been notified of a meeting. "They've got to be more transparent," she said.

She noted that the minutes have not been posted online. Administrative Officer Tom Stadler said meeting agendas and minutes must be sent to the town's information technology department in addition to the Town Clerk's Office, which, according to Benko, the committee was not aware.

Jones said the committee should either try to become its own commission or a subcommittee of the Park and Recreation Commission. Williams disagreed, saying the committee has an important role in New Canaan.

"I think that if we have a committee for deer, we should have a committee for our kids," Williams said.

Mallozzi suggested inviting the committee to a Board of Selectmen meeting in the fall to report on what it has accomplished.

"Let's see what they have achieved and if they haven't achieved, we need to tell them what we expect them to achieve," Mallozzi said.

Besides Campbell, the committee includes Tara Clough, Chris Robustelli, Ben Sibbett and Doug Perlman as regular members, and Benko, Athletic Director Jay Egan and Parks Superintendent John Howe as ex-officio members.

Benko said they usually meet about three times a year, just before the high school sports seasons begin.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

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