The creation of a new youth field hockey organization, founded by four Wilton mothers, has resulted in a bit of a face-off with the town’s already-established Wilton Field Hockey Association (WFHA).
The new group is called Wilton Youth Field Hockey (WYFH) and the four field-hockey moms—Jennifer Kendra, President; Anna Marie Bilella, Vice; Bridgette Healy, Secretary; and Elise Ahearn, Treasurer—held their first official open-to-the-public meeting last Thursday, Jan. 12 at the to a crowd of roughly 25 people.
“We come to you as a group that loves field hockey….This is about the kids.. This is about girls who love field hockey,” said Kendra in an energetic opening statement. “This change is nothing. This is the same people, the same program; the only thing that changes is the opportunity and the way we can grow.”
Control of funds and forming a seperate entity
The WYFH inception began late last year because youth field hockey—grades 4-8—did not have a consistent representation on the WFHA board, Kendra said.
“[Youth field hockey] needs to have an independence, be an independent entity, and [have] a financial control. With funds coming in, parents want to see where funds are being spent,” Kendra told Patch. Funding for the WYFH would be used for “investments in areas that we haven’t been able to [focus on] in the past,” such as coaching or uniforms and equipment, she said.
WYFH would also “support them [the WFHA] in [budget] shortfalls or areas that haven’t been met by the BoE,” said Kendra, stressing that cooperation for “the greater good” is one of the new organization’s main goals and that the WFHA is the “greater entity.”
As it stands now, there will be overlapping grade 7 and 8 field hockey organizations, one led by WYFH and one by WFHA.
“It appears today that there will be two 7 and 8 [teams],” one in WYFH and one in WFHA, said Ahearn.
“It’s not anything anyone is excited about, and not in the best interest for the program,” Kendra told Patch. WYFH and WFHA are currently scheduling dates to meet and discuss the new direction youth field hockey will be taking, she said.
The WYFH will operate under the Fairfield County Field Hockey Association (FCFHA), an organization with a governing board comprised of representatives from several Fairfield County towns.
“We don’t compete; we share information. I send out my curriculum to other towns—you need a drill? Here you go. It’s not about competition,” said Kelly Vegilante, the Director of FCFHA who also represents Darien’s Youth Field Hockey league.
“One town, one sport,” said Healy, who will also act as liaison to ’s board.
Parents at the meeting expressed enthusiasm and positivity, occasionally erupting into applause.
A case against the idea
Diametrically opposed to this idea is Lisa Roman, President of the WFHA; she believes the split-off is a bad idea that will be detrimental to the sport.
“We think [having] two organizations is bad. We want one organization. It’s going to hurt the entire program—we didn’t know about it, we didn’t ask for it,” said Roman. Roman said that the WFHA offered the four WYFH members board positions.
She said that while the WYFH has promised transparency, the way the organization splintered off from the original board was deceptive because the group registered their domain on Sept. 10 2011, but never came to the WYFHA about beginning a new group. After a recent WYFHA meeting, prior to the announcement that there would be this new youth organization, Roman said she felt blindsided by the new league.
“We were left scratching our heads,” she said.
Not the best plan for the system
“I don’t have a gain in all of this,” said Roman, whose two girls—both active Wilton field hockey players—have been out of Wilton’s youth league for at least a couple years. “But I’ve been here since [my daughter was playing field hockey in] 4th grade. I can look forward and backwards and see how this system works.” Roman said she has been involved in Wilton youth sports for 12 years.
Roman said that WFHA had been transparent with their funds in the past, and that they were “already doing” what the WYFH is planning to do in the future.
“It will change if there are two organizations. I don’t fully understand why they’re doing it.”
Roman alluded to problems resonating with the WFHA during this time last year when parents wanted a high school field hockey coach removed but the association stood behind the coach. The fallout included a number of persons resigning their positions on the board. At last week’s WYFH meeting, Ahearn mentioned problems with a coach in the past, calling it “an elephant in the room” and encouraging those in attendance to leave the issue behind them.
“We were trying to mend issues at the high school level which was a huge issue last year,” said Roman. She believes that the new group will cause “backpedaling” which would be detrimental to everyone involved.
Responding to y Roman stated that she was confused at the anger, saying that the WFHA has “ been forthright, true and factual…I didn’t malign or mention names...our responsibility, our constituency, is to the Wilton Field Hockey players in this town.”
Roman also said that plans for a new turf field, something she believes Wilton sports need in general, would be delayed due to the new distraction.