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Summer sports registration for kids on the rise in London, Ont.

After two years of sports seasons hindered by the pandemic, young athletes appear to be taking advantage of the restriction-free summer season.
After two years of sports seasons hindered by the pandemic, young athletes appear to be taking advantage of the restriction-free summer season. Fred Chartrand / The Canadian Press

After two years of house league sports seasons hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, young athletes in London, Ont., appear to be taking advantage of the restriction-free summer season.

It’s a trend that’s been noticed by officials with the North London Baseball Association, also known as the North London Nationals.

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The city’s largest volunteer-operated youth baseball club saw 700 players, ranging from three to 20 years old, register to play in 2022 before the season kicked off in May.

“That’s about 150 or 160 kids extra, which is about a 20 per cent increase from last summer,” said NLBA Vice President Matt Biderman.

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“It was a bit unexpected … and it showed up in some of our programs a little bit in that there was an extra rush for equipment.”

The NLBA isn’t alone. The City of London also saw registrations quickly fill up for its spring and summer sports, as well as its recreation programming.

In a statement to Global News, London’s director of recreation and sport Jon-Paul McGonigle said he’s pleased to see registrations increase.

“In comparison to the past few years, this spring and summer we are closer than we have ever been to a full programming schedule,” McGonigle said.

With additional program opportunities this year, in comparison to 2020 and 2021, we expect to see more participants too.”

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As for why the sudden increase in registration, Biderman says one of the top reasons, especially for house league baseball, is the performance of the Toronto Blue Jays so far in the 2022 MLB season.

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“We kind of find that when the Blue Jays are doing well, naturally, the registration goes up and I think you’ve seen looks of that all across the last three or four decades or so of the Blue Jays,” Biderman said.

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On a more local scale, the Forest City is also enjoying some high times in baseball after the London Majors were crowned IBL champions for the first time in 46 years last October.

While the pandemic is not yet over, Biderman says the current state of restrictions has finally allowed for sport leagues to nearly operate how they did just over two years ago, which he adds is also influencing registration numbers.

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Colin Hopper, president of Source for Sports, agrees and says his shop is seeing the results of “almost two years of extra demand.”

“There was next to nothing played in 2020 and if we look at the spring/summer season of 2021, certainly the competitive teams were playing, but they weren’t as full as they would hope to be, and basically, for the most part, house league did not go last year,” Hopper added.

“It’s not a surprise that our sales are up quite remarkably.”

Source for Sports president Colin Hopper says it’s not a surprise that sales are up “quite remarkably” now that COVID-19 restrictions have subsided. Andrew Graham / Global News

Hopper says even though Source for Sports had planned for the increase in young athletes seeking equipment, supply chain issues have created challenges in keeping up with demand.

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“Once we’re sold out, we just can’t go back to our suppliers and say, “hey, send us another 100 batting helmets,” because they literally don’t have batting helmets,” Hopper said.

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“Even though we thought we had planned very well, we still missed on a couple categories.”

Hopper says his store is now making another gamble as it gears up for what’s expected to be an equally busy winter sports season.

“Having that many new people take advantage of snow sports last year, I think we’ll have very similar demand next season,” Hopper added.

“I’m telling everyone I can, if you want the best selection, buy early.”

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