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When sharing a presentation of an overview of the Athletic Department with the Board of Education at its meeting on September 19, district Athletic Director Matt Memoli said it is currently a “pretty exciting time” for athletics at both Newtown High School and Newtown Middle School.
“Winning and championships are absolutely not our number one priority,” said Mr Memoli near the start of the presentation, “more so teaching kids life lessons that they are going to take with them through something that they love, such as athletics.”
NMS Principal Tom Einhorn helped Mr Memoli share the presentation with the board. The presentation highlighted current enrollment in sports programs, stats on coaching, and more.
Between the two schools, there are currently more than 550 student athletes enrolled in fall sports. There are also 42 coaches — 11 of the positions are unpaid volunteers — overseeing the fall programs.
Mr Memoli thanked the board for its support last school year of implementing the NMS cross country program.
“We had 60 middle school student athletes come out for cross country this school year, which is more opportunities for our kids to be involved in school sports,” said Mr Memoli.
Unified Sports programs, Mr Memoli continued, are also “taking off” under the leadership of Kathy Davey at NHS and Ken Kantor at NMS.
In the 2016-17 school year Mr Memoli reported sports teams offered 1,100 opportunities for students to participate, and 766 students filled those positions, with some students participating in multiple sports.
Also in 2016-17, according to the presentation, Newtown teams won six South-West Conference championships, had 21 All-State Athletes, had two Academic All-State Athletes, one Coach of the Year, one Athlete of the Year, and multiple New England Championship runners-up.
Mr Memoli also highlighted how student athletes are encouraged to participate in community service activities. The presentation shared a list of all of the sports programs offered in the fall, winter, and spring.
When speaking about head varsity coaching positions, Mr Memoli said, “We have 29 varsity positions. We replaced 16 head coaches over the course of a year-and-a-half, which is pretty amazing.”
Mr Memoli highlighted a trend of coaches applying from outside of the district, rather than district teachers applying for the positions. All of the district’s coaches, he said, are well qualified, and some coaches have been serving in their positions for years. Both Ms Davey and Mr Kantor, for example, have been coaching in the district for 19 years. Boys Cross Country Coach Carol Strait was listed in the presentation with the most number of years, 24, in service to the district.
The presentation also highlighted responses to a survey created by former Pomperaug High School athletic director Joe Velardi and presented to the SWC principals last spring. The trend of coaches coming from outside of districts is also happening throughout the SWC, and, according to the presentation, Mr Velardi’s survey focused on that trend. According to the presentation, the SWC has 865 coaches supervised by 14 athletic directors. Newtown has 112 coaches.
Mr Memoli also shared reasons why experienced coaches are valuable, survey results showing difficulties that can make it hard to retain coaches, and reasons shared in the survey for why coaches chose to do what they do.
In Newtown, Mr Memoli said, the district is “trying to grow” the middle school and high school athletic programs.
“We’ve implemented a student athlete study hall, we have a student athlete advisory committee, we’re going to have a bimonthly college recruiting seminars, [and] we broadcast a lot of our games,” Mr Memoli said, sharing a number of initiatives in the district.
Using online registration has made “everything easier,” he added.
Near the end of the presentation Mr Einhorn thanked the school board for supporting middle school sports.
“We found that shared experiences builds friendships,” Mr Einhorn said, adding later, “Plus, it gets them connected to the school.”
At NMS Mr Einhorn said the school is looking forward to adding more sports programs next school year.