Keith Lipinsky wants the word to get out. As New Milford High School's new athletic director he's going to be "available, approachable and supportive.

"I want the student athletes and coaches to know, Mr. Lipinsky is here supporting us. If we need something, he'll get it done," Lipinsky said. "I'll be here every day doing as much as I can to support them in every way."

Lipinsky, a Shepaug Valley High School graduate now serving a temporary role, was appointed athletic director last week, effective July 1.

He assumed the temporary AD status in April, replacing former athletic director Lance Pliego, who resigned March 27.

"Keith is a very passionate educator," said JeanAnn Paddyfote, the New Milford school district's superintendent of schools.

"I'm confident in his appointment to fill this position."

Lipinsky previously has taught and coached at the high school for 11 years, and served as substitute athletic director from mid-September to Dec. 1, 2011, following the unexpected resignation of Ted Oczkowski just weeks into that school year.

He was assistant coach for the Green Wave junior varsity girls' basketball team for three seasons and just stepped down as junior varsity baseball coach, a position he held for eight years.

He resigned Monday as coach of Litchfield High School's boys' varsity basketball team.

A Roxbury native, Lipinsky is a 1995 Shepaug Valley graduate, with a master's degree from Springfield College.

"We're thrilled Keith is in the athletic director's position," said Greg Shugrue, principal at New Milford High School. "It's huge that he's familiar with the coaching staff, students and many of the parents. He's done a great job all along."

"I think we both see this as long term," Shugrue said. "Keith's career aspiration is to be an athletic director and I think he'll serve our school and community very well."

Lipinsky said he loves working with young people, enjoys seeing the growth teens achieve from their start in sports as freshmen through their senior year.

"This period is a kid's largest growth spurt physically," Lipinsky said, "and you also see them grow mentally in how they prepare for and develop strategy for the game."

"You can see kids grow emotionally and socially through participation in sports," he added. "That's because they're forced out of their comfort zone. You can't play on a sports team and not talk, avoid conflict or push off adversity."

Building self-confidence as well as collegial camaraderie in student athletes at New Milford High School is a key goal of Lipinsky's as he formally takes over as AD.

"We do well preparing student athletes skill-wise, but I want to see the overall mindset in the program change," Lipinsky said. "I still hear a lack of confidence from athletes going into a game against a big school's team."

"They should be going into every competition with the mindset `Yes, we can win,'" he said. "We have to build more of a mindset of confidence because we certainly have outstanding athletes and coaches."

To help achieve that goal, Lipinsky will encourage all of the sports programs teams to attend one another's events.

He said he realizes time constraints on student athletes to incorporate academic studies with sports participation, but feels building that sense of support and school spirit would be worth their efforts.

Lipinsky, the father of a 5-year-old and 21-month-old, remembered his own childhood where sports played an important role. He's now coaching the T-ball baseball team of his son, Travis.

Lipinsky is married to the former Sarah Lyon, also a Shepaug graduate, who is a Shepaug field hockey coach and the daughter of Washington First Selectman Mark Lyon.

"My parents saw that I always had the opportunity to play," Lipinsky recalled. "I was never satisfied with just being average. I'd be in the driveway shooting 1,000 baskets until I got it right. I always wanted to get better. That was fun for me."

A stellar athlete during high school, undergraduate and graduate years in college, Lipinsky prides himself on having been an inspiration to the other players in every team he was on.

"I understood the balance between being competitive and not going overboard and being aggressive," he said. "I had a mindset that losing wasn't acceptable and that attitude and exactitude in preparing for games had a very positive effect on my teammates."

"Everywhere I went," he said, "my team won."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322