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New Canaan Looks to Form Youth Sports Committee

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Youth sports groups in New Canaan will soon have to meet with a new committee if they want to continue to use town-owned fields and gyms.

“The primary use is to make sure that youth sports organizations utilizing town property, including athletic fields and gyms, employ the highest and best corporate governance, finance reporting and coaching practices,” said Selectman Nick Williams.

The Board of Selectmen plans to create a Youth Sports Committee, which will emerge from the ad hoc Fields Usage Committee under the Parks and Recreation Commission. The board tabled the creation of the group during its meeting Tuesday to discuss it further with parks and recreation.

Williams, who was a member of the Fields Usage Committee, said the youth sports committee will consider and recommend policies. It should allow for more transparency, he said, and act as a liaison between nonprofit youth sports organizations and town boards.

The committee could eventually serve as an arbiter of last resort, Williams said. It could serve in an ombudsman role if a parent had a grievance, such as about the behavior of a coach, he said.

Youth sports came under criticism recently after complaints were made that New Canaan Youth Football coaches burned third place trophies last fall in Irwin Park. Also, former New Canaan Lacrosse Association coach Claudia Harris filed a lawsuit against the association, accusing it of discrimination. Harris is a former coach with New Canaan Lacrosse. The organization has refuted the accusation.

Williams said the trophy-burning incident was not representative of how youth sports groups in New Canaan behave and said the commission cannot and will not be a micromanager.

Mike O’Neill, chairman of New Canaan Baseball and Softball, said he supports more communication among the sports groups so kids don’t have to choose between one sport or another. However, he wants more information about the youth sports committee and says sports groups should govern themselves.

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