How many people target that dream job in high school and 20 years later, actually hold that position?
Lindsey Boutilier, who sits comfortably in the uncluttered and freshly painted athletic director’s office at , can raise his hand, look you in the eye and respond with an unwavering yes.
“It sounds corny, I know, but I wanted to come back as the athletic director,” Boutilier said. “It sounds a little strange, but it’s true. I thought the baseball coach job here would be more realistic in the beginning.”
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Boutilier, who graduated from Plymouth State University and went on to earn a master’s degree and sixth year administrator certificate, returned to the high school in the fall of 2010 as the athletic director after 20 years in the Hartford school system as a teacher, coach and vice principal.
School is not in session on this early summer Friday afternoon and Boutilier is busy with a fitness center renovation, working on bus schedules and trying to home for six hockey players who were abandoned by previous partners Rockville and Stafford, among other things. It’s the time of year the always sharply dressed member of Manchester High’s class of 1990 can shed the neck-tie and reflect on his first two years at his dream job.
Boutilier wasn’t two months into his first semester at MHS before the he felt the heat of the spotlight. Southington High coach D.J. Hernandez admitted to cheating in a football game his team eventually went on to win 24-14 on Oct. 22, 2010, and the story sparked a national debate with the likes of Sports Illustrated and ESPN chiming in with opinions.
“That first year, we had the cheating thing with Southington,” he said with a slight hint of a flashback. “Two months into my employment at Manchester High, I’m dealing with ESPN coming in and doing an Outside the Lines story. And then .”
Yeah, the indoor track thing.
Many saw Boutilier as the fall guy when the indoor track team was forced to end a decades-long tradition of running in the hallways due to liability concerns. For the past two winters, student athletes have been bused to Star Hill Family Athletic Center in Tolland, which has led to decreased participation and is still a thorny subject for those involved in track and field.
“Basically what happened was that (then-superintendent) Dr. (Kathleen) Ouellette asked if we run in the halls,” Boutilier recalled. “I said, ‘yes.’ She said, ‘well what would you do if you couldn’t run in the halls?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it, but I will figure something out.’ And that’s how it happened. I did look like the bad guy for a while. This new guy comes in and the change happens. It was a change that was directed.”
Boutilier had another unforeseen problem on his hands and solved it.
“It was not something that I was not looking to change myself but when it was directed after the advice of the attorneys, I found a place for our team to practice. Was it ideal? No, ideal would be right out the back. But Star Hill is a great facility they have been very supportive of us.”
A back-yard facility at MHS?
“All of the programs in town could use it, whether it’s little league or softball or a running club,” Boutilier said of his wish for a long term solution that would also benefit the community. “The legion and junior legion baseball all could use an indoor facility.”
Boutilier has a vision of linking all Manchester sports programs together under one umbrella and is in the process of creating the Manchester Youth Sports Alliance.
“It seemed like all of our youth sports in town were independent, on their own island and not connected,” said Boutilier, who was a middle infielder on the baseball team at MHS and continues to play softball in town. “I want these athletes to be part of it (MHS) at an early age. We have one public high school in town and I feel as if the public should be more connected to it. It doesn’t seem like our youth programs were connected and it doesn’t seem like our public is connected.”
The alliance is in the embryotic stage but moving along quickly and should be ready for a launch in the near future. So far, Boutilier compiled contact information for 16 Manchester youth programs as well as Bennet and Illing Middle Schools and Manchester High and hopes to keep adding.
“A few things have happened from this already that I see as a step in the right direction,” said Boutilier as he explained the nuts and bolts of the program. “From the town page there would be a link that says 'youth sports' where you can get information on any sports program in town. So I’m a parent and I say ‘oh, I didn’t know we had a swim club in town; I didn’t know we had a running club in town.’ Even within our own school, there was no connection with the high school and Illing or the high school and Bennet. So that’s an obvious connection.”
The hope is that the alliance could build up a voice strong enough to put a sports complex plan up before voters for referendum.
“I see it benefitting our kids at this level, but I also see it benefitting Manchester High School athletics in the future,” he said. “There are a number of families among those groups who are more likely to come out and vote for something that will benefit them.”
Boutilier lives in Manchester with his wife and two young daughters in a renovated farmhouse that once belonged to his grandfather and looks forward to a more active role in the community that he grew up in.
“When you have a passion for kids and sports every day is good,” he said. “There is never a bad day. It’s a great job and again, it sounds a little corny, but this job was written for me.”
For more information on the Manchester Youth Sports Alliance, contact Lindsey Boutilier at: firstname.lastname@example.org.