Bethel High coaches and athletes hosted a free clinic for their town's children on the turf at the Danbury Sports Dome earlier in January. The hope is that by the time these up-and-coming athletes reach Bethel High they will be playing on turf at Bethel High — and not have to compete on grass as the Wildcats do these days.
The clinic was held to encourage healthy living and being active, as well as promote the need for a new turf field. Bethel is the only high school in the SWC without a turf field or access to one.
School and town officials were on hand and there were a couple hundred participants who got a chance to test out many sports under the guidance of coaches and Bethel Wildcat players.
"I think it's important to start getting the young kids in the programs early," said Brooke Lacey, a soccer, basketball and lacrosse player at Bethel, who helped run soccer and basketball drills at the event.
Bethel football players, including Amari McKinnon, Jimmy Moffat and Colin McCleary, were on hand to help out with drills and talked about the need for turf. They mentioned less chances for injuries and cancellations being advantages for playing on turf.
Bethel Booster Club President Greg Henry pointed out that athletes will benefit from the field at a young age, through recreation programs.
"It becomes an asset to the community. The kids will have access to the turf field growing up, playing on it, and continuing to play on it in high school and beyond," Henry said.
The booster club is looking to raise money to help offset the estimated $700,000 expense to switch DeSantis Field over to turf, Bethel Athletic Direcor Mark Caron said.
Caron said the field would be accessible on days when natural surface fields are out of service, recovering from weather cancellations. A turf field can handle three times the use of a grass field, Caron added.
Bethel sports teams are at a disadvantage in that they lose practice time to rain and other weather cancellations and have to play most games on turf they other teams practice on regularly, the athletic director pointed out.
"It levels the playing field," Caron said of having turf. "The biggest thing is the versatility the field provides."
In a brochure put together by boosters, details about the need for turf include the fact that over the last three years the Bethel Board of Education has spent over $10,000 in rental fees to provide alternative practice opportunities due to weather cancellations.
The brochure indicates that Bethel High would be eligible to host SWC and state playoff games on turf — postseason games are money-makers for athletics programs because of both ticket sales and concession sales bolstered by games with larger crowds.
Visit the Booster club website, bethelallsportsboosterclub.com for information.