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City of Washington youth sports healthy after COVID

The City of Washington’s youth sports leagues are almost back to operating at full capacity as COVID-19 fades into the background.

After a year of curtailed activities or no season at all, city-run baseball, softball, and soccer leagues are operating on a normal schedule and officials hope to re-start the basketball season in November.

“We have been very pleased with the participation so far,” Parks and Recreation Director Kristi Roberson said. “Baseball and softball went very well out at the McConnell Sports Complex, and it looks like all our soccer leagues will be full again. It’s good to get back into a normal routine.”

The Washington Youth Baseball League will send four teams to the Tar Heel League state tournament this weekend in Williamston, including the 8U, 10U and 15U All-Stars from Washington and the 12U team from Bath.

“We had a competitive league season at all levels and the kids had fun,” WYBL president Will Tyson said. “Hopefully, we’ll have success with our All-Stars this weekend.”

Soccer registration is over, and practices will start in mid-August for kids from four to 15 years old, Roberson expects around 600 kids will compete at the various levels, with games starting after Labor Day.

“We did play our season last year, but we had to limit access and make sure everyone brought their own chairs,” Roberson said. “We are back to normal this year with a full schedule of games, no masks and without other restrictions. We feel like the outdoor sports (baseball, softball and soccer) are low-risk anyway, so we are excited for a fun season.”

The only question mark now is basketball. There was no season at the Bobby Andrews Recreation Center last winter because of state guidelines that limited activities to skills and drills practice sessions with no games. There were also additional restrictions on indoor gatherings and other COVID protocols.

“We are monitoring the state guidelines and hope they continue to loosen by when registration starts in late October,” Roberson said. “We definitely want to have a season and are preparing for one, but we don’t know for sure just yet.”

Under normal circumstances, Roberson said 250-300 kids participate in the boys and girls leagues at the various age levels. Practices are scheduled to start in mid-November with games beginning on Saturdays in January. There is an All-Star team for each level that competes after the regular season ends.

The sports are funded through registration fees and sponsorships while the city pays for the facilities and staff. The group who oversees each sport is responsible for finding coaches and booking officials and they keep the concession revenue to help offset costs.

“Activities have increased across the board,” Roberson said. “Park rentals are up, and folks are getting back into a more normal routine. We’re happy to provide activities for families to enjoy.”