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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Kicking the ball down the calendar for local soccer clubs in Essex County 

by Garrett Fodor

As temperatures begin to rise and residents itch to get outside, local youth organizations are doing everything they can to keep their soccer seasons alive to give youth a safe place to play.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, youth sports across the region and province were put to the wayside, amid safety precautions and to prevent spread. Now, 12-months later, local soccer organizations are changing on the fly to do anything possible to allow youth a chance to play.

  In an average year, this would be the time volunteers from the Cottam Minor Soccer Association and the Essex Optimist Recreational Soccer League (EORSL)would be in the midst of team selection and introductions, before an early spring start-up. Now, amid safety precautions and local health guidelines, both leagues are changing due to the pandemic.

Both leagues are monitoring the situation closely and updating the public when they can. In order to start their seasons, the local region must be in the yellow zone in order to play, which would restrict the leagues to 50 youths on the fields. In order to give more time and preparations, both leagues are shifting back their start dates to May and June.

“We just really hope to get the kids back out and give them something to do with their friends,” Ellen Hillier, President of the Cottam Soccer Association, said.

“Cottam Soccer is about the community. The kids that play together and go to school together, parents and families walk to the games. Everyone is excited when they see Shad around and playing soccer. We just really hope we can get them back together in some way shape or form, so they can have a sense of normalcy to their lives again.”

  With the limit of 50 youths on the field, while in yellow, amid other precautions, that would mean one parent is allowed to accompany their child to the field and likely with other personal protection, including practicing social distancing and wearing masks. Hillier noted they are optimistic about the return, as they have no common equipment, besides the ball, which would not often be touched.

  While they are eyeing the May and June start dates, both leagues note the added time is going to allow them to better plan and adapt to the changing conditions and mandate a return to play protocol. Hillier noted Cottam Soccer is working closely with the Town of Kingsville to have details about how they would like the park used, in addition to following along with Ontario Soccer to implement their guidelines. 

  While EORSL is eyeing a later start date in June, President, Tammy Blair, believes this will allow for more time to prepare.

Blair also believes it is important to have some form of a season to have youth active again, and for the younger children to have a social life and develop team-work skills.

While both leagues had to cancel their seasons last year, they are optimistic with this year’s chances. While returning to play is the goal, both organizations note they will do what is best for the health of parents, children, and the community. 

  Both leagues are in the process of doing registration online and gauging interest for their respective leagues.

  For more information on up-to-date protocols or registration, visit the EORSL or Cottam Soccer on their social media pages.

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