March 17, 2020, will be a day that I remember for the rest of my life. On this day YMCA, youth sports were shut down to protect our families from Covid-19. We had to turn down what would have been the biggest sports season at the Northwest Valley Family YMCA. I could feel the hurt and pain that it brought to all of our families. This would have been the last season for many teams before they had to move up divisions. Teams were hopeful to reach the championship to get the opportunity to play at the Suns Arena. Nobody knew the severity of what was yet to come.
The Valley of the Sun YMCA would next be forced to close our doors. At this point, it seemed nothing was in our control. Thoughts drifted into my mind of will have youth sports in 2020? My heart broke for athletes that participated in our leagues. Sports was a happy space for some of these kids. But, our gyms were not completely empty. We were able to open up our facility for emergency childcare! Being able to help families is what I have come to enjoy at the YMCA. Thankfully we started to see the smiles of kids in our building! This was the first feeling of hope I had felt. It was a whole new world for me in childcare but it was incredible. I was able to see kids loving sports again. We played countless games of kids vs. counselors in basketball! There was a glimmer of hope a season would become.
On August 16th we got the news of sports returning in October! Sports were finally back and all of us sports directors were ecstatic. But, I am not sure we understood exactly what the season would look like. Practice and game day would never be the same. Protocols were put into place that would protect our participants. One of the hardest protocols was one parent per participant. We definitely received tough feedback for this and trust me it was not easy. Being a sports director you live to see the moments of a child making their first basket. Those are the stories that keep you motivated. To ask parents to miss those possible moments is the hardest thing I have been asked to do.
This season was the most important season. For me, it wasn’t about the revenue. I just wanted the kids back in their happy place. Everyone had so many ups and downs during the shutdown. Families lost loved ones have been in lockdown, and some were financially knocked down. We had to make it special and really love on these families that have been hurting. Oddly enough the season’s first game was on Halloween. Gosh, the atmosphere was electric you could feel the energy! You could also feel the awkwardness of chairs spread out and the smaller crowd size. The refs definitely enjoyed the limited amount of yelling they received!
One thing remained the same from the last time we stepped on the court. I saw kids smiling ear to ear playing the sports they love! It made those 228 days of hard work and countless hours worth it! COVID has really put a damper on so many things. But, sports are back at the YMCA and we are continuing to improve and help the families we love! If you are interested in seeing what we have to offer check out our Website!
Chevin Noone, Program Director of Sports, Northwest Valley