By Arrion Ellis
In a time of uncertainty, the YMCA, a non-profit organization, worked to create a regimen that would put many minds at ease and continue normal operation for children, parents, and staff within their communities. Although COVID-19 placed the Y in an awkward position where physical activity thrives, the organization crafted a plan to keep their organizational values alive.
Living during a pandemic, which started as far back as Dec. 2019, has continually kept society socially restricted. COVID-19 has embedded socially distancing practices in all forms of daily habits and routines. Since the year 2019, the number of cases has continued to fluctuate, but as of recently the virus has continued to spike. According to the Texas Department of State Health Service, by early 2021, Texas had 2,234,506 confirmed cases. Both Bexar county and Guadalupe county, the counties around San Antonio, had a sum of 168,351 confirmed cases. The sum of the combined counties makes up of inner and outer San Antonio. Yet, employees and executives at the local Y worked to stay open for the communities.
The Y believes in community and has a mission statement, explaining their purpose for these communities on their website. The YMCA of Greater San Antonio (all of the YMCAs‘ in San Antonio) has this mission statement: “Our Greater San Antonio area is large in scale, but the YMCA provides the opportunity for us to become a more connected community. The Y exists to strengthen the foundations of our community through Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. We are a place where anyone and everyone can find respite from social, physical, economic and/or educational challenges, and learn how to overcome them. Ultimately, at its highest form, they feel compelled to volunteer, to give back and help others strengthen the entire community.”
Despite the pandemic, the Y is putting emphasis on youth development and healthy living, continuing youth sports programs in spite of COVID-19. The Y has been negatively impacted from COVID-19; as they’ve had to close one of their locations and youth sports registration has taken a noticeable dip since the pandemic. According to the Y, prior to the pandemic, 22,000 kids were registered for sports compared to post pandemic where only 14,000 kids are registered. However, the local Y is working to continue being a helping hand. YMCA’s Greater San Antonio sports director, Patrick Bryant said, “When it comes to family life and early child development years, sports play a vital role in how kids develop. With the brand name that we have, we became the bridge to normalcy for some people.”
Currently, The Y offers volleyball, soccer, Basketball, flag football, baseball, and softball. Parents must register their kids and pay a fee of $120 for their kid(s) to join a team. However, due to COVID-19, the sports director has found a way to award some families sports scholarships so that kids affected by the pandemic can still play. “Anybody under finical hardship can apply to the open-door scholarship, which is directly funded by donations. If kids want to come to the Y, we will make it happen no matter what,” Bryant said.
Every league is co-ed, and the Y has certain rules in place to make sure all kids who are participating get playing time and are involved. With the Y having a family atmosphere and Christin morals, they want to make sure that their sport programs really develop and set the foundation of those kid’s sports journey. Before every game, both parents and players recite a pledge before God to respect sportsmanship and good conduct.
To ensure safety for everyone that is involved in youth sports at the Y, safety protocols have been enforced to ensure that the spread of the disease is limited. Some of the rules consist of: Symptom screenings being posted for everyone to see if they exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19; All spectators, coaches, and officials 10 and older are required to wear masks at all practices and games. However, kids will not be required to wear masks while actively practicing and playing in games. YMCA staff and volunteers/coaches help make sure that these rules are followed. Richard Boothby, a coach for the Y said, “the Y does a good job in trying to educate the parents so they understand how they can contribute to the YMCA’s efforts in keeping everyone safe.”
Despite great efforts from the Y in trying to limit the spread of COVID-19, those efforts do not seem to be enough for some people and parents. Ken Ellis, a parent of three boys, does not like the Y continuing to conduct youth sports. Even with the Y having safety protocols, Ellis fears that that is not enough. “They are breathing and exhaling at a rapid rate while playing, making them even more susceptible to COVID” Ellis said.
With the YMCA contributing to an overall healthy lifestyle, social interaction is something to consider as well. According to www.newsinhealth.nih.gov, social interaction and building relationships with others has a major impact on not only our social lives, but physical, mental, and emotional health as well. The Y is staying open through the pandemic, with some adjustments in place, in an effort to provide that interaction to families to feel comfortable with it.
So far, The Y has not had any cases of COVID-19 caused from their locations. The San Antonio Y locations haven’t been linked with the spread of the disease, even as cases rose in Texas after the holidays. The Y is working to offer families a choice of whether to allow kids to play during a pandemic.
“We want to make sure that the kids are staying safe but having a social connection with their peers. In light of this darkness, we strive to keep some type of normalcy by keeping the kids healthy in all aspects of their lives” Boothby said.