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Nonnewaug High School's Chief News Source

NHS Chief Advocate

Nonnewaug High School's Chief News Source

NHS Chief Advocate

Can the Berkshire League Stay Alive?

The Wamogo-Litchfield merger will leave the BL with only eight teams next year, raising more questions about the league’s future
From left, 2021 Nonnewaug soccer players Eva Dos Santos, Skyla Starziski, Ella Lupo, Sofia Pagnamenta, Paige Brandt, Marley Baker, and Reilly Faraci join together as they celebrate their Berkshire League championship. With the league dwindling to eight schools in 2024, some wonder how the league will continue to survive. (Courtesy of Noreen Chung)

WOODBURY — Many athletes and coaches look beyond the current moment to the future, curious of what’s to come. Fifty-three years ago, Nonnewaug High School joined the Berkshire League, a collection of schools that’s rooted in Litchfield County.

But one topic has become the talk of many towns: Will the league continue to be sustainable? 

Next season, the league loses a member as Litchfield and Wamogo combine forces to become Region 20, thus shrinking the league to eight teams. It follows the 2019 departure of longtime BL member school Lewis Mills, which left to join the Central Connecticut Conference.

Can the BL survive the latest permutation that brings membership down to eight schools?

The riveting question has been bouncing around from school to school, producing different answers. Despite the questions swirling about the league’s sustainability, the Berkshire League continues to produce some of the state’s top programs. 

“The BL is knocked for not having depth, which may be true some years, but the top teams in the league have done just fine at the state level,” said Nick Sheikh, head coach of the boys tennis and girls soccer teams. “In some other sports, the bottom of the league may not always be strong, but the top teams are competitive and have even won states.”

Declan Curtin, athletic director and dean of students of Nonnewaug, appreciates the integrity of the league, which produced a state champion as recently as June with NHS baseball. The Chiefs boys tennis team also reached the Class S final last spring, and the Shepaug boys soccer and Thomaston girls soccer teams both reached Class S championship games this fall. 

“I love the Berkshire League,” Curtin said. “We’re a small, tight-knit community up in the Northwest Corner and we all support each other. After our seasons end, we definitely are a league that wants other teams to be successful after our seasons over with them.”

The Nonnewaug baseball team celebrates after the final out of the Class M state championship victory over Wolcott on June 10 at Palmer Field in Middletown. (Courtesy of the CIAC)

One thing keeping the BL afloat is the multi-sport athlete.

“It’s also a league where we encourage people to join sports and to be a three-sport athlete. We like that,” Curtin said. “I know some other schools that are larger, often you have to commit to the one sport you play pretty much all year round. I love the fact that we are more well-rounded here.”

While some coaches have noted the league’s continued strong performances, some players, however, have noted a drop-off in talent. 

“Since freshman year, the BL has definitely declined,” says NHS soccer and tennis player Skylar Chung, a senior. “Many of the top teams have started falling off, but the bottom teams haven’t really improved. It’s rare to have a really competitive game in the BL because of this.” 

The BL’s decline has left former members schools like Lewis Mills feeling like they no choice but to leave the league due to competitive reasons as athletes and coaches are beginning to notice the change in the quality of play.  

“Neighboring schools are probably leaving due to the lack of competition in the league,” Chung said. “For girls soccer, almost half our games we treat as practices due to the teams not being much competition.”

Many of the top teams have started falling off, but the bottom teams haven’t really improved. It’s rare to have a really competitive game in the BL because of this.

— Nonnewaug senior Skylar Chung

Nonnewaug sponsors every sport enlisted in the BL, besides football, which belongs in the Connecticut Technical Conference, and lacrosse, which plays in the Western Connecticut Lacrosse Conference, both as Northwest United co-ops.

The deterioration of competition and low roster numbers is the league’s major problem for some sports that are enlisted in the Berkshire League, but some sports teams are seeing just the opposite. 

While some sports are beginning to see the decline of the league’s performance, others are clearly experiencing the positive flip side to things. The Berkshire League’s future sustainability will continue to be questioned by more and more coaches and athletes as time goes on, but only the future knows what will happen to the Berkshire League.

Nonnewaug boys basketball player Ben Conti searches for a pass in a 2021 game against Brookfield High School. The Chiefs won the nonconference game, 65-63. (Courtesy of Noreen Chung)
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About the Contributor
Layla Coppola '24, Reporter
Layla Coppola is a senior at Nonnewaug High School and is a sports reporter for the NHS Chief Advocate. She is an athlete and captain of the varsity girls soccer team. She is a first-year journalism student and enjoys writing about all kinds of news relating to sports. She will be committing to a college for soccer in the fall of this year. She is considering a career in finance once she graduates from the class of 2024.
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