With stay-at-home orders lifted across the country, some players and coaches are anxious to get back in the game—and their fans are clamoring for them to go back too. But, many of us are grappling with how to make that possible.
While national sports organizations like Major League Baseball are struggling with safety measures and their 2020 season, what about the safety of the 30 million children and adolescents who participate in youth sports in the U.S.?
When will it be safe again to join practices? How will we get them back in the game? Will it ever be safe enough? These questions and more are on the minds of many parents and youth.
Administrators of youth sports leagues across the country are consulting with their state and local health departments, as well as turning to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine if, when and how to safely roll out sports. There are a number of actions and considerations they’ll have to make to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and reduce the spread.
As a parent, you know just how crucial activities such as sports play are in a young person’s emotional, physical and mental well-being. How do you balance these benefits while also doing your part to protect your children, the team, families and the community?
If youth sports are opening in your area, here are six things to consider before you send your child out onto the court, rink, field or mat.
How old is your athlete?
Older athletes may be better at following safety measures and social distancing then little ones. For younger players, you may be asked to monitor your children and make sure they follow protective actions (e.g., sitting with parents versus in the dugout) during practices and games.
What physical contact—and for how long—will they have with other players?
Some sports require physical closeness for a certain length of time, so it may be difficult for your child to social distance.
Check with their coach(es) to see what modifications will be made. Things you can ask if not already shared:
- Will they focus more on individual skill-building versus person-to-person contact?
- Will they scatter pick-up and drop-off times?
- Will they stagger schedules to limit contact?
- Will they postpone travel outside of our community?
- Will face coverings be used when players, coaches and staff are not engaged in vigorous physical activity, such as sitting on the bench or interacting with a trainer or coach?
Can they use their own equipment and gear?
It is possible to get COVID-19 by touching surfaces and objects that have the virus on them, and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes. If possible, have your child bring their own equipment, such as gloves, helmets and hockey sticks, and thoroughly clean and disinfect after each practice or game. If equipment is shared, make sure they are cleaned and disinfected before and after each player’s use to reduce the risk of COVID-19’s spread.
Also send your child with their own snacks and water bottle so they aren’t sharing food or drinks with other kids on their team.
Does your child have an underlying health condition?
If your child suffers from asthma, diabetes or other health problems that may put them at higher risk for a severe illness, discuss with their coach the level of risk to determine if you think they can safely return and play/compete.
Are you comfortable shuttling them to every practice and game?
While carpools are the lifeblood of any parent whose child participates in an after-school activity, doing so could put your family and others at risk. Check your child’s schedule to see if you or another family member in your household can help your child make it to practices and games.
Are you OK sitting this one out (mom, dad, loved one)?
Whether or not your child likes having you watch them play or compete, try to avoid practices unless requested by the coach and staff. To avoid overcrowding, consider having only one family member attend a game so it’s easier to maintain social distancing and safety measures.
To Let Them Play … Or Not to Play?
Ultimately, the decision to engage in indoor and outdoor youth sports is a personal one. However, there are things you can do to help ensure you and your loved ones are safe on and off the field during this uncertain time.
- Staying home if they are sick
- Bringing their own equipment and gear
- Covering coughs and sneezes
- Thoroughly washing their hands before and after events and sharing equipment
- Telling a coach or staff member if they don’t feel well
If you have questions or concerns, contact your health care provider to discuss your personal risks and any additional preventative measures you can put into place to protect your child and family.