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“1-2-3-Arsenal!” the familiar cheer is followed with whoops and gratitude. Soccer is back, and for some, it is a sight for sore eyes. Kids sprint to the fields with exuberant joy to once again join their teams; playing the sport that means the world to them. Covid-19 had its impact surely, but the dedication of the YMCA and its player’s promises of a great season to come.

Not but six months ago, the season was prematurely canceled. YMCA officials remained calm but cautious at the emerging news of a global pandemic. Following the recommendations of the United States Youth Soccer Organization, the YMCA closed down the Recreation and Academy seasons, thus leaving parents and children off the field for the foreseeable future. “It all happened so fast. They canceled schools and then soccer. It was a total whirlwind.” recalls YMCA parent, Rosalie Chacon.

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Despite a large outbreak at a YMCA camp in Rabun County, GA, the YMCA of Rome is confident they can provide safe athletics for the children. Director of Soccer, Lucas Levesque explains, “Sure, it was a bit scary to hear of an outbreak. The fact that is was at a YMCA camp really hit home. However, that incident happened at an overnight event, a much different situation than outdoor sports. Many colleges have chosen to cancel their fall seasons due to the challenges of the close locker room and bus proximities. Playing at the YMCA on a club level is a much different scenario. We can keep everyone at a much more controlled and safer social-distance.”

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Levesque details the thorough preparations that went into this fall soccer season. Mask wearing coaches, no handshakes, no huddles, pre-workout temperature checks, and no shared clothing and equipment are the bulk of new protocols in place to keep families safe. “We continue to preach social distancing -even on the sidelines- and are proud of the effort put forth by everyone to ensure we are healthy going into the season,” says Levesque.

The kids race back and forth on the field in drills, fine-tuning their skills. The emotions are that of enormous appreciation and optimism. Children, parents, and coaches alike are so grateful for the resemblance of normalcy to return to their lives, and the positive effects are all-encompassing. Getting out of the house and being active in a team sport has a tremendous impact on the children’s mental and physical health, as is evident by all the smiling faces.

Earlier this summer, the YMCA and Harbin Clinic announced Team Up for Health, an initiative focused on the health and well-being of children and youth in the community.  Harbin Clinic has been a long-time supporter of the Rome YMCA, and the expanded partnership affords new opportunities for young athletes to participate in youth team-based programming, such as the Arsenal Rome soccer program. 

“Through our Team up for Health partnership, we are committing to work collaboratively in support of a shared mission for a healthier community,” says Kenna Stock, chief executive officer of Harbin Clinic. “Ensuring sports like soccer and basketball are accessible for children of all backgrounds is incredibly important. Involvement in sports not only provides benefits to physical health – like lower obesity rates and improved cardiovascular and pulmonary function – it also improves overall well-being.”

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