Boys ice hockey has been an interest for Southington High School for years. The Blue Knights played as a club team until they eventually came together with Hall High School of West Hartford to form a co-op team in 2009. Currently, the team holds about 15 Southington players on the team’s roster.
But what about girls ice hockey? The issue was discussed in depth at a Southington Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23.
Superintendent of Southington schools, Tim Connellan, Southington High School principal, Brian Stranieri, and Southington High School athletic director, Greg Ferry, have been back and forth with a group of parents representing some of the Southington girls in town who have been participating independently on a girls ice hockey team with other girls from at least two other towns.
Southington currently plays as an independent club-level team for several years now, but the discussion of starting a Southington girls ice hockey co-op with Avon has been in the talks for the past few years.
“These are parents who are really looking for opportunities for their girls,” said Connellan at the meeting.
Southington currently practices and plays their home games out of the Newington Ice Arena.
“One of the challenges with ice hockey, whether it’s on the boys side or girls side, is finding ice time,” said Ferry at the meeting. “This group has been functioning at Newington and carved out a pretty decent schedule.”
Having a club-level, co-op team would come with little expense to the Southington Board of Education, since parents would continue to fund the team. The only cost to the school is insurance.
Ferry has been surveying the interest at the high school and middle school, and he’s been holding meetings with these girls and their parents to talk about participation, skill levels, and other programs that the girls have played on.
“We surveyed seventh grade, eighth grade, and nine through twelve,” said Ferry in the meeting. “If you do the numbers, we average anywhere from five to seven girls that would be eligible in that four-year period.”
One of the big questions though was the level of interest from these girls. There certainly is depth in the Southington community, but not enough to support a Southington-only girls ice hockey club team.
“It’s been a sport that has been growing,” Ferry said at the meeting. “It’s not growing to the certain percentage where the CIAC would take it on.”
Ferry went to Avon High School athletic director, Tim Filon, and traded information back and forth in hopes that Avon would form a co-op club-level team with Southington. Avon has a core group of girls that outnumbers Southington’s players.
According to Connellan, when the board of education looks at the possibilities of creating a new co-op for a club-level team, it would be for a period of at least two years to make sure that it’s sustainable over time.
“The last thing that we would want to do is bring it forward, only to have it peter out later down the road,” Connellan said.
If a co-op team is to happen, Avon has agreed to be the host team, but Ferry and Filon would share in the program evaluation and selection of coaches.
“I think that there is an opportunity there. I would love to see opportunities for our students to participate,” Connellan said at the meeting. “As a school district and community, we provide a large variety of opportunities, and this would be wonderful if it’s able to move forward. But we’ll take a wait-and-see attitude with regard to that.”
Some of the opportunities for Southington would include scheduling games with teams in the area that were reluctant to schedule games with Southington before as a solo club team. The potential for college scholarships was another opportunity listed.
The girls ice hockey club team with Avon is expected to start for the 2017-18 school year.
Track adds a coach
Also on the agenda for the board meeting was the thought of adding a stipend assistant coaching position for Southington High School’s outdoor track and field team. The participation rate continues to grow, causing the ratio of athletes to coaches to become more lopsided each spring.
Last year’s team had about 230 total athletes, leaving an athletes to coach ratio of 60:1.
A similar situation occurred with the indoor track and field team during the winter season, and now the request for an interim assistant outdoor track and field coach has been made. It is said that the implementation of a new coach would improve athletes’ instruction, supervision, and safety. Funding for the coach would come from current appropriations.
“These are not sports where we like to cut students,” said Connellan at the meeting. “It’s the perfect sport for a student to be able to see how they progress against themselves in any one of those disciplines. All of those students can seek progress over time and get some satisfaction out of that.”
There are currently four coaches for Southington’s track and field program combined. There are 36 total events at an outdoor track and field meet, including male and female events.
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.