Spring is looking a little more normal than it did last year, with youth sports returning to Glen Cove. The Youth Bureau and Recreation Department has been hard at work preparing the fields, and the junior baseball, lacrosse and soccer leagues are all starting play this month. And while sports will help provide a sense of normalcy, there have been some changes to the programs that, directors hope, will be positive for both players and parents.
The most notable change affects the Glen Cove Baseball and Softball Association. The program had traditionally been run by parent volunteers, but it became the responsibility of the city about five years ago. This year, a new commission was created, putting parents and other community volunteers back in charge, so the city is only responsible for the fields, according to Spiro Tsirkas, director of the Recreation Department.
“People reached out and wanted to bring back baseball the way it used to be, under parents and family members,” Tsirkas said. “There were people who played in the league and had new ideas. So far, it looks like we’re headed in a positive direction.”
Right from the start, he said, people offered to volunteer their time, and the organization has over $12,000 in sponsorships. “We have a very good group of individuals putting their heart and soul into the program,” Tsirkas said. “Their hard work is showing now; the numbers are up. We’re not where we used to be, but it’s one step closer to getting there.”
Last month, the Baseball and Softball Association received a donation of $5,000 for batting cages, and Tsirkas said that a scoreboard will be installed by the softball field. In addition, he said, Field 5 will be converted to a softball field.
“I think a fresh start is always great, and I think the pandemic caused that for all of us,” Tsirkas said. “We were closed into our bubble for way too long, and when we walked out and opened our eyes, we saw what’s needed, what’s valuable, what’s an asset, and what we need to do to make other people realize these things. For me, it’s always been the youth, and I’ve always had the best intentions of the kids in mind. I think Covid made us all cognizant of thinking outside the box and how to make things happen.”
Roughly 100 children attended a free clinic last Saturday, hosted by the Baseball and Softball Association, at City Stadium. Coaches taught the players a variety of skills, and worked them hard for two and a half hours. A total of 240 children have signed up for the league. The season will officially begin on April 10 with the traditional ceremony, though there won’t be a parade this year.
Kim Kessel, the association’s president, who played in the league as a child, said she was encouraged by the number of players registered and felt confident about the changes. “I’m looking forward to a fresh start,” Kessel said. “I’m excited to be down at the stadium, in the fresh air, and to see the kids play.”
For the Glen Cove Junior Lacrosse Club, there are have been a few more setbacks. Club president Brian Neice said the season was supposed to start in late March, but was delayed and is now slated to start April 11. Despite the delay, he said, the older players will have a full eight-game season, while the younger ones will have a six-game season.
The pandemic has impacted the league in several ways, Neice said. There are no girls’ teams this year, which he attributed to girls either having rediscovered an interest in softball or losing interest after playing lacrosse last year. Another factor is the conflicting schedules of this year’s spring sports, he said. While Glen Cove Junior Football decided not to have a spring season so as not to compete, Oyster Bay’s football program moved forward, so some of the older Glen Cove lacrosse players who also play football in Oyster Bay have had to miss practices.
Nevertheless, Neice said he was looking forward to the lacrosse season, and was excited that the club had kindergartners on a team for the first time. It is an instructional league, he said, so the goal is to get them playing young and teach them the proper skills. “Hopefully next year we’ll be back to 100 percent,” he said.
Though the football season won’t begin until August, registration for Glen Cove Junior Football and Cheerleading will take place on April 17 and 24, and the league will hold clinics this summer. Glen Cove Junior Soccer is set to start on April 25, with 300 players registered. The program is not accepting any more registrants, but Board President Marty Shannon said it could use more coaches.
Tsirkas said that tennis and basketball were also starting back up, and that all of the basketball courts would have new nets. The courts near the baseball stadium will be resurfaced thanks to a $35,000 grant. He is also finalizing plans for summer camps, both through the city’s Youth Bureau and the city, and plans to add week-long sports camp options in addition to the traditional day camps. And the city has not only been preparing for the youth leagues, Tsirkas said, but has also been expanding adult leagues and programs, which include kickball, tennis, pickleball and yoga.
“We’re trying to offer as much as we can to the public,” Tsirkas said, “and hopefully people will take advantage of it, get out there and play.”