TOMS RIVER, NJ – The good news is if you’re a professional soccer player on Governor Phil Murphy’s women’s soccer team you can play ball. If you’re anyone else, you can’t. It’s not just soccer either. As professional sports were given the green light to resume training, the children of New Jersey who have just sacrificed the past two months for Governor Phil Murphy for a disease that has little impact on their own lives are still sitting on the bench.
Today, South Jersey Assemblymen Antwan McClellan and Erik Simonsen are calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to reopen the state’s youth sports leagues for the summer season after he cleared professional teams to resume activities noting the immense benefits this action would provide to local businesses which have been harmed by the Governor’s mandated shutdown of the state’s economy.
Murphy announced Tuesday that professional sports teams, including Sky Blue FC – which he co-owns with his wife Tammy, can resume training and even competition amid the coronavirus pandemic if the leagues choose to move in that direction.
“It is striking to see that the governor’s own soccer team is allowed to play while our kids sit at home with their bats, sticks and balls locked away in a closet. That’s not fair,” said McClellan (R-Cape May). “I see no reason why a well-run little league or summer basketball league couldn’t meet or surpass the guidelines set forth by doctors to safely conduct games and enjoy the experience.”
Many travel basketball, baseball and softball leagues, club volleyball and countless other sports have begun preparing reasonable, science-based plans to resume operations. These operations will have a beneficial effect on hard-hit local small businesses that provide equipment, facilities, and related goods and services for these amateur leagues.
“If the pros can play, then why can’t our kids,” said Simonsen (R-Cape May). “Youth sports are an important leisure industry here in New Jersey and across the nation. A failure to open this summer could bring about the demise of these opportunities for families and kids. We won’t allow that.”
Little League Baseball and Softball outlined a plan that protects players, coaches, umpires and families so affiliated organizations around the country can safely resume their seasons. Other youth sports and facilities could use the Little League model for their reopening.
“Playing youth sports will help kids, their parents and scores of small businesses that depend upon the summer season to make it through the year,” said Simonsen. “We need to safely and responsibly reopen now.”
Like the hospitality industry fueling South Jersey, youth sports is reliant on bringing children and their families together on fields and in gyms. The summer is the big money season because family vacations are often planned around travel team tournaments.
A 2014 study published by Utah State University found that American families spent an average of $2,292 each year on youth sports with much of this money going to local businesses and facilities that work with the youth sports leagues.