Support, Skepticism for New Field Hockey Org.

A recent movement to splinter off from the Wilton Field Hockey Association the creation of a new field hockey league doesn't appear to go without opposition.

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. 

Sue Donem January 18, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Craig: The subheading of your story might lead some to conclude that the WFHA is NOT "privately funded". In fact, both organizations receive their funding from parents, so there is no distinction on that score. Frankly I'm not sure what the big deal is: as I undersatnd it, every other sport in town is split into two parts: the HS associations and the Youth programs. The reason seems obvious: at the HS level, the coaching, scheduling, referees, etc. are handled by and paid for by the school district. The WFHA, like other HS sports associations, play a support/booster role. However, at the youth level money and time needs to be spent finding coaches, refs, fields, clinics, etc. Given the substantially different objectives it seems to make sense to have two different groups. Lastly, I would suggest to the WFHA that any delay in building a new field has far more to do with town finances than with this minor squabble.
robin lynch January 18, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Craig Donofrio January 19, 2012 at 06:15 AM
Thanks Sue, I changed it.
Wilt_in_Wilt January 19, 2012 at 10:45 PM
I grow concerned with these stories. I think sports were better before parents came along and inserted themselves into the process. Sports used to be about a group of neighboring kids getting together after school on an empty lot down the block. They'd run around with a ball and have fun. It worked plenty fine. Now, I'm not sure what sports are about anymore. We need artificial grass fields. And stadiums. We've introduced the need to travel to other towns and states. And 5 AM practices on the ice. And 4 hours of practice after school. I read about local parents suing each other over a little league dispute. I read about local coaches encouraging their team to burn their 3rd place trophies. And a local coach punching an umpire. What happened to the original idea of kids running around with a ball and having fun? I think we, the parents, should bow out and let the kids go back to being kids. IMHO.
Field Hockey Fan January 20, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I have no idea if this new association is a good idea or not. But self-appointed Board Members (Jennifer Kendra, President; Anna Marie Bilella, Vice; Bridgette Healy, Secretary; and Elise Ahearn, Treasurer) who claiim the need for openness and transparency - plotting secretly since September - apparently stealing proprietary email lists - setting up secret websites - reserving fields and game dates in an attempt to block the WFHA from using them - seems to rule these ladies (?) out to lead this new operation. They should quickly resign before causing any more damage. If there is a need for a 2nd association - folks with clean hands should step forward. As I understand from the various accounts in the press, this self-appointed President Kendra was playing a leading role volunteering for the WFHA at the same time she was conspiring to stab it in the back. What kind of person does that ? And why are these other 3 ladies associating themselves with her ? Transparency / openness ... give me a break !


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