Everyone knows that time flies when you’re having fun, but it’s still hard to believe it’s already time to sign up for 2022 fall sports at the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department.
Registration for drafted soccer, flag and tackle football, volleyball, cheerleading and cross country running is open until Friday, Aug. 12. New for 2022 are a few changes to the programs, including a girls-only league for drafted soccer, NFL affiliation for the flag football league, as well as starting new partnerships with neighboring communities to increase competition.
“We’re doing pretty well with having kids signing up. Right now, the numbers are about the same as last year,” said Victor Rodriguez, one of the athletic coordinators for the department. “The numbers are probably going to jump up in the final week. We’ll have enough to make a league for all of the sports, but we could definitely use more kids signing up.”
“We usually wait for that first week of school to get through before we cut off sign-ups,” said Caitlin Sharpe, department director. “That first week of school, parents are usually like, ‘Oh no, we still have to sign up for sports’ so we try to keep that window open for them to come over and register.”
Registration ends on Aug. 12, and then evaluations (for team placements) start on Saturday, Aug. 13, Rodriguez said.
With the exception of cross country, the fall sports offered are open to kids ages 4-12. Cross country is open to kids ages 7-14.
“This year, for soccer we’re splitting up the girls and having an all-girls league starting at 5 years old (instead of playing coed teams). The numbers are looking good, I think we’re going to have enough players to have our own teams, but we’re also going to combine with Calhoun and Bartow County to play against them for girls’ teams,” Rodriguez said.
“It’s an effort to promote more girls’ sports,” said Sharpe. “And really start placing a focus on a trend that we’re seeing which is girls play non-coed soccer so we’re going to see how it works for our department.”
Flag football has been around for years at the department, but the addition of the iconic NFL shield logo is new for 2022.
“This year, we’re associated with NFL Flag Football which encourages grade-level registration for players,” Sharpe said.
“It used to be we had big age groups, but there was a huge gap between the 7-year olds and the 10-year olds,” Rodriguez said. “Now we’re splitting them up by age group and we’re combining or joining with the Georgia-Tennessee Flag Football League out of East Ridge, so we’ll be playing there some and they’ll be coming down here to play some games.”
The element of forming partnerships with neighboring recreation departments for certain sports adds a travel element to rec sports which should enhance the experience for the young participants.
“It’s an opportunity for other smaller leagues to be able to have a variety of competition at the rec level by doing this traveling. But it’s not a lot of travel,” Sharpe said. “We think it will be really good this year. We’re going to test the waters and see how it goes with that.”
Of course, anyone who dribbles a soccer ball is excited about the biggest addition for the 2022 season — the Northeast Community Soccer Complex. The new facility being built near Heritage Point Park and Park Creek School will feature two FIFA regulation-sized turf soccer fields. The facility is expected to open sometime in September, meaning the facility will be available for the fall sports calendar.
“We’re going to be able to have more practice times opened up, more games,” said Rodriguez. “I know I’ve already got a few requests to rent it out.”
“There’s a lot of community engagement on it already,” Sharpe said. “Turf was delivered (this week) so we’re excited that we’ll have it for the fall season.”
There’s also an opportunity to get involved for parents or even grownups without kids who still remember what it was like to lace them up and go play.
“As always, we’re always looking for volunteer coaches,” said Sharpe with a smile. “Anybody who just out of the goodness of their heart wants to volunteer time to coach a youth team we’ll probably be able to find something for them.”
To register for fall sports, visit the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department at mydprd.com. You can also call the department at (706) 278-5404 or you can visit the department offices at the John Davis Recreation Center, 904 Civic Drive.