SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Leveling the playing field: that’s the goal of a new soccer league designed for high schoolers in the Syracuse City School District.
The Syracuse City School District opted to postpone fall sports until March, but that’s where Tillie’s Touch came in to offer an alternative. The organization created an independent, all-boys soccer league for high school students in the district. The league is not affiliated with the district, but it’s giving kids a chance at a season they’re missing out on.
“We’re treating this as our season because we really don’t got a season yet so we made the best of what we got and we just go out and play hard,” Cyrus Etheridge, a senior at PSLA at Fowler High School says.
Since March is not entirely guaranteed, parents like Kelly Etheridge say these games allow her son to have a senior season he may not have.
“I’m excited. I get to see my boy play again! So that’s, I mean, he’s been playing since he’s five. I didn’t want him to be robbed of this, so it’s exciting,” Kelly Etheridge says.
The league hosts JV games on Friday nights and varsity games on Saturdays. It will run through October 24 and it’s free for players to join. The organization says the schools’ coaches are volunteering.
“I think it’s a big deal for any kids that can’t participate in their love for their sport but for these guys, it’s a really big deal,” Dale Johnson, president of Tullie’s Touch, says.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, safety measures are in place to keep everyone safe. The league is following protocols that are provided by the New York State West Youth Soccer Association. Players are not required to wear masks on the field, but everyone has to wear them on the sidelines and in the stands. Masks are also being handed out to those who don’t have one. Organizers are encouraging social distancing, putting out hand sanitizer and wiping down the soccer ball, among other new measures.
Organizers say it’s important city soccer players have the chance to get back on the field.
“It would be difficult enough to say, ‘Well, you have to sit out this year. You don’t have a season this year.’ But to sit out and watch your suburban counterparts all playing on Tuesday, Thursday and Wednesday night, and you’re sitting on the sideline, that’s hard man. That’s hard to swallow,” Johnson says. “So, us trying to do this for these kids is just a little help or a little nudge in that direction of, you are equal and you are the same.”
Johnson says the league is open to middle schoolers as well.
Visit Tillie’sTouch.org for more information.