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Aldermen vote to play youth sports

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

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Youth sports will be played this fall in McMinnville after all.

Just a week after McMinnville Parks and Recreation announced it would not be holding its soccer and basketball leagues, the McMinnville Board of Mayor and Alderman revived youth sports in unanimous fashion.

Aldermen Kate Alsbrook, Everett Brock, Ryle Chastain, Steve Harvey, Rachel Kirby and Mike Neal all voted to resume soccer and look for ways to make sure basketball would be played this winter. Mayor Ben Newman was not present at the event.

McMinnville Parks and Recreation athletic director Terry Beard said last week the decision to shut down was made after conversations were held between Parks and Recreation officials, mayor Newman and city administrator Nolan Ming. When the story broke on the Warren County Sports Authority website, parents immediately voiced their displeasure.

Casey Simpson was one of many parents to speak at the meeting. Along with wanting his kids to have the opportunity to play, Simpson was curious why so few seemed to be involved in such a huge decision.

“COVID presents many challenges, but we can adapt and make fall sports happen if we are willing to try,” said Simpson when asked Wednesday about stepping up to speak. “I’m happy the decision has been reversed, yet still don’t understand why more individuals weren’t consulted before the initial decision was made.”

Tuesday was the first time the six aldermen had a chance to add their input on the topic. When they were brought in to consult, sports were back on the table.

“Normally a decision like that would go before the respective committee that oversees the department, but it didn’t happen this time,” said Chastain following Tuesday’s meeting. “I believe Scott McCord, Nolan Ming and Ben Newman were acting in good faith and had the best interests of the employees, parents and kids (in mind).

“We didn’t know about it. I found out about it on Facebook and from people calling me. Many came and spoke last night at the meeting and voiced their displeasure about the decision and about their desire to play.”

Alsbrook also believes there was nothing malicious meant by the decision made last week, but noted, “It should have went through committee.”

Alsbrook voted to resume because she feels individual choice is important during these times.

“Personally, I think it’s up to each family on if they’re comfortable to let their kids play during COVID. Activity is good – I have a 4-year-old at home. It’s good to have an extra push to get them outdoors – we had fun with soccer last year,” said Alsbrook. “There are still reservations about playing basketball because it’s an indoor sport. If we have staff willing to work and referee, I like the option to have it.”

Soccer signups are likely to begin in a matter of days, with a goal of playing games in October. Basketball could be trickier, especially with venues needing to be secured if the league can’t start at the revamped Doug Milner Recreation Center.

“We don’t have a concrete, set-in-stone option for basketball. We’re looking at contingencies for basketball and there have been some discussions about the possibility of playing in elementary gyms. We’re going to have more discussions on options for basketball to start,” said Chastain, who noted the league could wait out renovations of the Milner Recreational Center, which could be completed by late November.

The aldermen heard several parents (who also serve as volunteer youth coaches) speak on behalf of playing, including Jeff Chisam and Tania Torres Quintana.

Chisam wrote an impassioned plea to play youth sports last week, starting a “Let Them Play,” movement on social media. Quintana took it a step further, creating an online petition which gathered almost 400 signatures.

Quintana presented the petition at the meeting and was glad the voices of many were heard.

“After I read Jeff’s article, I knew many people shared his point of view. I appreciate the board for listening and taking my petition into consideration," said Quintana. "It’s a good feeling – there are a lot of great volunteers each year coaching and making a difference in these little athletes’ lives. Being able to help this continue for fall season is rewarding.”

Chisam added, "I was very appreciative that the aldermen gave us the opportunity to speak and were able to come to an agreement with us. I felt the need to speak up on the issue because I know how important it is to our youth."

Chisam, Quintana and Simpson were also backed up by speeches from Pieter van Vuuren and Casey Hertwig. All had the same message – let the kids play.

Simpson added, “Our club soccer team has been fielding practices and scrimmages for a month just like AAU basketball had been going on all summer. Kids need sports and many are making it happen, so why can’t we?”

“The meeting went well. I appreciate the board for giving us the opportunity,” said van Vuuren, who has been coaching for several years in multiple youth leagues. “This is just necessary. The reason I went was because our kids have to get back some normalcy. They’ve been playing baseball and travel ball, so I didn’t understand why they couldn’t play city leagues.

“I just think they were too fast in making that decision.”

Fortunately for kids, parents and coaches ready to play basketball and soccer, the board of aldermen were just as fast in reversing course.

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