PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - The Town of Phillipsburg is creating a new message for youth coaches: Get in the game or take your ball and bat and go home.
Town council is serious about upgrading, creating and enforcing a new ordinance regarding youth sports background checks of coaches and managers and a code of conduct for all participants and their parents before youngsters take any town field, rink or courts with organized sports teams.
"This is not to hurt the children, but to protect the children," noted Councilman Todd Tersigni during Tuesday night's town council work session.
Lack of compliance with existing background checks on the part of some managers and coaches of youth teams was the impetus behind the discussion.
The goal is to adopt rules and regulations governing the use of town fields. The town already has in place a policy for the use of facilities, but is seeking to develop a better set of rules and regulations, according to comments made Tuesday night by town attorney Richard Wenner.
Mayor Harry Wyandt said rules and regulations are "fine and all" but that "set deadlines" had to be set for coaches to register prior to each sporting season. Wyandt suggested a month prior to the start of the season could be a good place to start. He also added that the ordinances currently in place "need more teeth."
"If they don't complete (the registration) they don't use the field," Wyandt said.
Councilman James Stettner said that would also include visiting teams coming into the borough as well.
"You can't hold one people to a set of standards and not hold the other," Stettner commented.
He also noted that background checks, while a crucial component of the amended ordinance, was not the entire scope. Stettner said a "code of conduct" that included coaches, children and their parents.
"Believe it or not parents, sometimes, end up being the biggest problem," he said.
One of the other fissures is that there are youth clubs in town whose leadership remains consistent, while others changes frequently, according to Dawn Slifer, superintendent of the town's department of recreation. The lack of continuity can become an issue.
"It's tough to get coaches," she said. "I empathize with these guys. Sometimes they are catching up with coaches right before the season starts. Sometimes they are fielding teams and they don't even have anyone to coach them."
Still, compliance means compliance.
"They have to understand they are using town and taxpayer facilities," Slifer said. "And they have to comply every year."
"This is about being proactive instead of being reactive," said President Bernie Fey, Jr. of the proposed changes.
Wenner was asked to come back with a legal draft of the ordinance for council's next work session, which is scheduled for June 11.
Councilman John Lynn was absent from Tuesday night's meeting.
Allentown, PA 18102
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