Schools Sports

War-Chief Sports Council Tailgate Will Provide a Boost to West Hartford High School Athletics

Winners of the 2016 Coach of the Year, announced at the annual tailgate (but presented at a later date) included Rob Cersosimo of Conard (center, above, with Dennis Swanton on left and Athletic Director Jason Siegal) and Jim Solomon of Hall (center, below, with Paul McConnell on left and Athletic Director Jason Siegal).

The 5th annual War-Chief Tailgate will support the athletic programs at West Hartford’s Conard and Hall high schools.

By Ronni Newton

Supporters of athletics at both Conard and Hall high schools will gather on Nov. 11, and although some may be decked out in their favorite team’s red while others will be wearing blue, the annual War-Chief Tailgate is dedicated to what can be done working together as one team.

In addition to a fun and casual outing with a tailgate atmosphere, the fifth Annual War-Chief Sports Council Tailgate is a fundraiser to support athletics at both Conard and Hall high schools.

For the second year in a row, the Sports Council will also honor a coach of the year from each high school – nominated by other coaches with the final selection made by the high school principals and Athletic Director Jason Siegal. The winners will be announced at the tailgate.

In 2016, coach of the year honors were awarded to Jim Solomon of Hall High School (tennis) and Rob Cersosimo of Conard High School (football and girls lacrosse).

The tailgate is traditionally scheduled for the Saturday evening preceding the annual Conard vs. Hall football game, and while there might be a bit of friendly trash-talking about that contest, the event will also celebrate the fall season and include great food from Russell’s Catering, beverages, DJ entertainment, and great auction items – all with the goal of raising money to support athletics at both high schools.

It’s a chance for families to mingle in a relaxed atmosphere. Many coaches also attend, and it’s a chance to chat with them off the field as well.

Paul McConnell (left) and Dennis Swanton, co-presidents of the War-Chief Sports Council, at the 2016 tailgate. Courtesy photo

“The War-Chief Sports Council is a booster club made up of parents who are devoted to athletics as a component to education that emphasizes ethical and moral development of the mind, body, and heart,” said Co-President Paul McConnell, a Hall parent. “We vividly recall the bonds we forged with our childhood friends where we learned that the greatest pleasures in life come after the greatest amount of sacrifice. Together we – Hall and Conard parents – celebrate that by giving back.”

“The Hall and Conard rivalry is worth celebrating because of its uniqueness and history,” added Co-President Dennis Swanton, who represents Conard. “The kids and parents grow up in the same town with same ethos playing on the same youth leagues and then divide to compete against one another. It is like Army and Navy in terms of mutual respect and admiration, but united in one goal: to beat their rival. It is so much fun and the parents involved can’t get enough. Come join us and many of the coaches at the Tailgate; high school athletics is a great thing to support and celebrate.”

The tailgate is the organization’s largest fundraiser, and last year’s event netted more than $15,000. “Almost double the year before,” said event organizer Monica Ehrlich.

The War-Chief Sports Council is a 501(c)(3) organization was originally founded to continue the townwide cooperative efforts that the Hall and Conard community put together in the “Unite for Light” campaign, where $250,000 was raised to cover the town’s costs to light the stadiums at the high schools. The board has representation from both schools, and continues to work together to enhance the experience for West Hartford student-athletes by augmenting what the Board of Education’s budget cannot cover. Money raised is shared equally between Conard and Hall.

Proceeds from the 2016 tailgate included using $8,400 to make Hudl software available for use by all boys and girls teams. Hudl provides the opportunity to create high-quality highlight videos for use as entertainment or for recruiting, with the tools to edit and share video and interact with statistics. It is currently being used by more than a dozen programs at the high schools.

The War-Chief Sports Council has recently co-sponsored activities with the Hall and Conard PTOs, including important presentations on drug and alcohol abuse from basketball legend Chris Herren and Kathi and Chris Sullivan.

The organization also sponsored an educational panel on concussions led by national expert Dr. David Wang of Elite Sports, the team doctor for the Quinnipiac University hockey team. The War-Chief Sports Council also works in partnership with West Hartford Community Television to produce and broadcast Conard vs. Hall sports contests throughout the year.  

The tailgate will be held in the West Hartford Town Hall Auditorium, 50 South Main St., on Saturday, Nov. 11, from 6:30-10:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 per person. Tickets for coaches and their spouses are $20 per person.

For more information or to purchase tickets, click here for the War-Chief Sports Council website.

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