Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Department of Health, has consistently shared COVID-19 guidance that’s less restrictive than the state. Safety protocols for youth sports were no exception.
As the state Department of Health recommended that masks be worn during games, Damsker begged to differ, stating a face covering during high-energy activity could be unsafe.
However, local leagues erred on the side of caution by either requiring masks on the court/field or canceling games altogether. For families in support of Damsker’s advice, there was no outlet to play in a “normal” maskless environment.
That is, until a group of parents united to form the 501(c)(3) Bucks County Sports Association. After a successful basketball season that began Jan. 6 and recently concluded, the BCSA is gearing up for spring soccer April 6-June 26.
“Throughout the first part of January, a lot of them didn’t have access to anything else. We were it,” said board of directors president Joshua Hogan.
Despite this being the height of COVID-19 transmission, Hogan said there were no incidences of the virus spreading. Children played in a typical game setting free of restrictions that, as the BCSA’s mission states, “degrade the playing experience and stunt player development.”
“Our kids were normal. Not only did they not have masks on the court, but when they came over to the sidelines to sub out, they were allowed to stand next to each other, high five and hug, do team huddles and all of the other things that kids do in sports,” said Hogan. “You could see they were happy. They had an outlet.”
Spectators were permitted inside BCSA’s hosting facility – a private gym in Newtown with a basketball court. Guests were required to wear a mask until they were past the front desk and social distance once in the observation area.
“A very common sight was grandparents. Grandparents were coming and you could almost see this is the first time they’re really seeing their grandchild participate in something since the pandemic started,” said Hogan. “It was all a balancing act. We’re not going out of our way to be irresponsible, but at the same time, we just want to have a good experience for the families.”
Children ages 3-11 are invited to register for the upcoming soccer season, which will take place outdoors in Chalfont. Young athletes hail from Bucks County as well as Philadelphia, Montgomery County and New Jersey. Hogan said there’s no cap on how many kids the BCSA accepts.
“We’re leaving it wide open. Anyone who wants to come in, we’ll find a home for them and make more teams,” he said. “That’s a byproduct of this being me and a bunch of other like-minded people who don’t necessarily run kids’ sports, but want to accommodate all who want to participate.”
According to Hogan, the BCSA is meant to be temporary.
“Really, it’s just to provide an opportunity for kids who want this but they don’t have access to it. But once that access is restored, we don’t have much of a purpose to exist,” he said. “I’m not trying to start a multi-generational youth sports league or anything. I’m just trying to get us over the hump.”
This isn’t the first time Hogan took action to promote a “normal” environment for area students. Last year, the father of a soon-to-be Pennridge kindergartener helped launch the ReOpen Bucks Facebook community. Parents who wanted their kids to have a full-time return to the classroom rallied together, with individual district groups stemming from the original, including one exclusive to Pennsbury.
Visit buckscountysportsassociation.com/ for more information on the Bucks County Sports Association and to register for the spring soccer season.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com