Youth Sports Leagues Team Up To Win

Over 6,000 Westport kids play sports. Many do more than one. And — as every parent knows — many sports are now played in more than one season.

It’s a grand slam of opportunities — and a grand problem for kids (multiple demands), parents (conflicting schedules) and administrators (not a lot of fields).

Westport’s Parks & Rec Department is trying to bring some order to the pileup.

As de facto coordinator of youth sports in town — it oversees most facilities, and runs several programs itself — Parks & Rec has organized a Westport Youth Sports Council.

Members include every major organization in town: Little League baseball and softball; PAL (lacrosse, football, track, wrestling, basketball, cheerleading); the Westport Soccer Association, and Westport Field Hockey. They meet several times a year.

The goal, says Parks & Rec program manager and Council director Karen Puskas, is for every group to be “on the same page.” In the same ballpark, if you will.

Thousands of Westport youngsters play on hundreds of teams, in a wide variety of sports.

Soon after the holidays, they’ll roll out a new website. It will offer a master schedule; links to every program; a code of conduct; concussion awareness, and information for current residents, as well as anyone with sports-loving kids considering a move to Westport.

This spring, the council plans an open house. Every organization can showcase its program.

Also in the works: informational sessions for parents about college athletics, and townwide forums on topics like specialization and burnout.

“It’s a work in progress,” Puskas admits. “We’re all busy, and everyone is a volunteer. It will only be successful if everyone works together.”

But, she notes, 2 years ago Westport won a National Alliance for Youth Sports award for its comprehensive programs. This council builds on that cooperation.

Westport’s sports organizations are filled with “great people,” Puskas says. “For everyone, it’s all about the kids.”

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4 responses to “Youth Sports Leagues Team Up To Win

  1. This sounds good; I hope there is also someone specifically looking out for the interests of kids who want access to the fields and indoor courts at a reasonable time for the purpose of pick-up games. I know Parks and Rec, for example, in the past has scheduled “open time” at the Staples Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoons in the winter for kids who want to come and play some pick-up basketball. I hope that type of policy remains in place.

  2. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    That’s a lot of orchestration. Is it really feasible to make sure that every kid can attend all (and every minute) of his/her multiple sports?
    It’s a fine idea, though. Good luck with this master plan, and how it works with neighbouring communities.

  3. One big issue that hopefully will get addressed is field space, or lack of. Some sports in town due to long history seem to get space, and extra space too, while the new sports that are growing do not. I was the travel director of Westport soccer, so I know.

    With girls sports, the fastest growing participation is both field hockey and lacrosse. Girls Lacrosse especially struggles to get fields for practice and sometimes games. Parks and Recs refuses to line some fields in town to help. That leaves only one field in town that is lined for girls lacrosse that the youth program has to share with freshman, JV and Varsity teams at Staples. Today over 200 girls participate in the youth program. We can do better if we want to.

    Again I will hope this situation is openly, and sincerely analyzed and rectified without bias.

  4. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Does Parks & Rec schedule together with the School Board?