Community MVP: Suffield’s Cecchini

When people begin to approach their 80th birthday, most begin to slow down, even if they were active and maintained important roles throughout adulthood. Someone apparently has forgotten to tell Robert Cecchini, of East Granby, still shy of his 79th birthday. He’s nearly as busy as ever.

The former Suffield High School principal and longtime athletic director still answers the call when the CIAC, the governing body for high school sports in Connecticut, needs something done. He is a consultant for the CIAC, with whom he has maintained a relationship for 43 years. Though he retired from being a school administrator in 1990, Cecchini’s body of work was recognized in March when the Connecticut High School Coaches Association informed him that in June he’d be inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame as the state group’s nomination for the award.

For earning national honors and staying involved with students and athletes in Suffield and beyond since 1970 – for still making a difference while on the verge of becoming an octogenarian – The Sports Department has named Cecchini Community MVP for October.

The CIAC knows how effective Cecchini has been at fulfilling a wide range of requests. He has been the tournament director for boys soccer and golf, and he maintains that responsibility for boys basketball to this day. Judy Sylvester, the longtime administrative assistant for CIAC executives, noted how Cecchini was instrumental in bringing the girls golf tournament to the CIAC lineup nearly a decade ago.

“They call on him a lot,” she said. “If they need something, they turn to him – anything.” They being the executive directors or committees, and it would be for clarification or facilitation on a variety of issues, such as contracts, site administration or division (class) competition. “He helped in getting the girls [sports] into tournaments. He’s wonderful with what he has to offer. He’s instituted new things in regards to division [competition].”

Cecchini, known as “Mr. C” within the Suffield community, graduated Spaulding High School in Barre, Vermont, in 1953, then earned degrees at the University of Maine in 1957 and 1963. He was named assistant principal at Suffield in 1970, a role he held until he was promoted to principal for three years in 1987. Cecchini was the Wildcats’ athletic director from 1969 to 1984. He was named the state’s AD of The Year in 1979.

“I’m having fun,” said Cecchini, who remains passionate about playing golf. “I’m still helping kids. That’s the best part.

“I’ve been very, very fortunate with my health. I’ve gotten a lot of support from my wife [Beverly] who still lets me do the things that I enjoy doing,” said Cecchini, married for 52 years, whose list of accomplishments and honors is far from brief.

Cecchini, whose 50- and 48-year-old daughters, Mari-Jo and Angela, live in East Granby, had coached Suffield boys basketball from 1970-71 to 1971-72, after coaching the junior varsity from 1963-68. He did girls basketball in 1982-83, then again from 1992-96. Coaching boys hoops, he said, was “too much.” Outside of Suffield, Cecchini got his start at coaching in Brewer, Maine, from 1958-62 as an assistant for football and boys basketball. He was football coach for the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford from 1964-68. He coached Suffield baseball 1963-70 and was co-coach for the Wildcats boys golf teams from 1993-98.

During his term as Suffield’s AD, Wildcats’ teams grew in number from six to 17. “Now it’s gotten bigger,” he said.

His induction into the national Hall of Fame was in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 25. For 29 years, Cecchini has been the treasurer of the state coaches association, for whom he is on the alumni committee. He has served on the basketball rules committee for the National Federation of State High School Associations as well.

Closer to home, Cecchini was in the first class inducted into the Suffield High School Hall of Honors 10 years ago, being the first teacher to go in. That was a year after going into the high school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

He started his career teaching health and physical education. Cecchini has taught from kindergarten through sophomore level college courses.

Cecchini has served in town government as a Planning and Zonning Commission alternate for two years, and he has been on the Juvenile Review Board in town since 1996.

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