By Bob Bonner | April 30, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT – Updated April 30 at 7:13 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – “I anticipate that we will be able to lift all mandatory social distancing capacity and mass gathering restrictions by June the first.” Governor Roy Cooper.
When Governor Cooper made that announcement April 21, 2021, it confirmed what many were already starting to feel – North Carolina is getting back to normal, which was something that many have not felt in more than a year. One group are kids who have had their educational and social lives turned upside down and that too appears to be changing
“I think we just look at the data and now there’s been a lot of sports experiences throughout and particularly for outside sports it’s been shown that the environment is a lot safer.” said Dr. Phillip Brown.
Much like the rest of society youth sports were sidelined last spring. Still, as seasons and understanding of the pandemic changed kids slowly returned and now, they are coming out in huge numbers
“They weren’t going to school normal they weren’t seeing their parents normal at home parents were stressed.” Said Lee Spooner, Athletics Director for the YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina. “Luckily, we’ve been a saving grace I get thank you after thank you for at least doing something.”
Youth sports leagues across the area have seen an increase in numbers since the Fall season and the numbers for the current Spring are on par or even better than they were in 2019.
“This season, Spring of 2021, we have over 1700 kids playing at four different locations and it’s been a fantastic turnout.” said Craig Decatur, Program Director i9 Sports.
Time has played a huge role in the increase in enrollment numbers as it has allowed for significant thought on how to run the league safely. Dr Phillip Brown, Chief Physician at New Hanover Regional Medical Center believes it can be done, especially when you consider the games are being played outdoors.
“There is a world of difference in the safety between outdoor events which are much safer and indoor events which carry more risk certainly.” Said Dr. Brown. “Anytime we’re indoors we still need to be wearing masks but when we’re outdoors and can space, really masks are not as critical.”
For parents, safety was in the leadoff spot when it came to questions about letting their children return to the field. They also wanted to give their kids a chance to be kids, but in a safe environment.
“I could just tell he was tired of being in the house.” Said Jordan McEwen whose son is an i9 participant. “At the beginning he wanted to go see friends and we had to explain to him you can’t go see friends, so I think he was excited just to be around other kids and be doing something constructive.”
With all of the safety measure boxes checked, the goal was to simply play the games like they’ve always been played and so far, leagues are passing the eye test.
“I had to tell coaches not to worry about soccer, it’s not about soccer right now it’s about the kids interacting with other kids and soccer will come but at this time we just need to let the kids be kids.” Lee Spooner.
“Maybe parents are cheering a little bit louder these days because it is so nice to be back out and having fun, you know enjoying beautiful days like today and just soaking it all in.”
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