On what was supposed to be the night before the first games of the season for the West Seneca Soccer club, its president had to alert some 800 kids and their families that their house league is canceled for 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"A couple times I teared up. It just hit me. I know people have died, but I just feel so bad for the little kids," said Mary Walczak, club president.
What You Need To Know
- Many WNY youth sports programs are canceled for the spring and summer
- West Seneca Soccer Club canceled its house league for more than 800 kids
- KidsPlay, an WNY instructional program, hopes to resume play in the fall
Walczak says the New York State West Youth Soccer Association informed the league that even if allowed to play, children would be required to wear masks the entire time on the field.
For Walczak and the league's board, that just wasn't realistic. Social distancing among players, parents, coaches and officials was also a major concern.
"It's really sad. All the socialization is gone for the summer," she said. "It was also a good outlet for the children who have been stuck in the house since March."
West Seneca Soccer Club is one of many youth leagues taking a timeout for the summer.
"It's the first time in 42 years that I won't be out in the fields connecting with kids," said Tim Hirschbeck, co-owner of KidsPlay along with his wife Tricia.
The Western New York instructional sports program has teamed up with local school districts to provide trained, paid coaches for about 5,000 each year kids in a variety of sports like soccer, t-ball, flag football, basketball and floor hockey.
Roughly half of the schools they work with have already canceled for the summer and he expects the rest will do the same — a big loss for those children.
"Just the emotional impact and the emotional benefits and the physical benefits that young athletes have from playing on a team and playing together," Hirschbeck said.
Some area youth sports programs are still trying to decide whether they hit the field this summer. The New York Baseball Coalition has an online petition asking Governor Cuomo to allow them to play ball. More than 3,500 people had signed it as of Tuesday evening.
Hirschbeck is hopeful KidsPlay will be back in the game this fall — but likely with many changes for people's safety. That could include eliminating the use of shared equipment, minimizing physical contact between players, and asking parents to wait outside or in the halls for indoor activities.
Still, he does see a potential victory through all of this.
"This gives a unique opportunity with parents to just hang out with their children, and play and throw a ball around or a frisbee or a football.
Keeping kids active and engaged — the number one goal.