County rec officials agree to suspend football, soccer leagues

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There will be no youth football or soccer leagues played in Harnett County this fall, a decision agreed to by local parks and recreation officials last week.

Citing potential adverse effects from COVID-19, directors from Angier, Dunn, Erwin, Lillington and Western Harnett concluded that both football and soccer are considered contact sports that present a higher risk of infection and should, therefore, be postponed until spring.

“It’s just hard for us to really look at the situation and rush into it and try to have something and then have to shut it down,” said Erwin Parks and Recreation Director Doug Stevens, pointing to schools that have recently opened for in-person instruction in some states only to close shortly after because of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Coats Park and Recreation was the first to call off its fall programs via release on Aug. 6.

“Staying in compliance with these restrictions and guidelines, and providing youth sports under these conditions, present challenges that are not worth the risk,” Coats Parks and Rec Director Mike Collins said in the emailed statement.

Meanwhile, City of Dunn Parks and Recreation Director Brian McNeill opened an online-only registration for fall youth sports leagues in early July, but ultimately acquiesced to the suspension because of the uniform nature in which football leagues operate within the county.

“We all play amongst each other. You can’t have an in-house league without anyone else (other rec departments),” said McNeill, adding that the intentions are to reevaluate conditions of the virus in the spring in hopes of conducting youth leagues then. 

The decision does not, however, rule out the possibility of youth baseball and softball leagues in the fall, which will be left to each city’s rec department. Such leagues would be confined to playing teams within the same rec department and no travel would be permitted.

Currently, McNeill and other local departments look to put contingency plans together for their respective city councilmen, which could open the door for fall activities that are safer and adhere to state guidelines for social distancing.

Earlier in the month, Gov. Roy Cooper extended his “Safer at Home” Phase 2 executive order, which limits outdoor gatherings, through at least Sept.11.

Stevens says most of the local departments are waiting to see if Cooper advances the state into Phase 3 to finalize any plans for fall sports programs.

Last week, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association released an amended athletics calendar for the upcoming school year that also postponed football and soccer seasons to the spring. 

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2040.

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