It’s become clear that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going to end anytime soon. This means that we are going to have to figure out how to live, and raise our children, when seemingly every action we take carries some risk.
Youth sports can bring great benefits to children. Team sports offer opportunities for exercise, which is crucial for health, and also for socialization and learning how to be part of a community. Children need these opportunities, which are particularly lacking during the pandemic. It would be great if we could find a way for children to engage in sports during the pandemic. But as with every trip to the store or even the mailbox, there are risks involved.
To help parents understand and navigate these risks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released some information and considerations about youth sports during COVID-19.
First, which sport?
The first thing for parents to think about is the sport itself. Some sports are just more risky than others. Questions to consider include:
- Does the sport require that people be close to each other? Think about wrestling vs. baseball.
- Is there a lot of shared equipment and/or gear? The less gear, obviously, the better.
- What about the players who aren’t playing? For example, while social distancing is relatively easy for swimmers during a race, they are often packed together on a pool deck between races.
Other considerations when thinking about a sport or team include:
- The age and maturity of the players: Can they realistically be trusted to follow all safety rules?
- The size of the team: Big teams are harder to manage and keep safe. Smaller groups, especially cohorts of children that stay the same (as opposed to mixing it up), are best.
- The coaching staff: Are there enough to manage the team, but not so many to create more risk? Are they educated about COVID-19, and do they have support for getting and doing what is needed to keep players safe?
- The nonplayers: Spectators, volunteers and other people increase the risk. How is the team/league managing this?
- The physical setup for practices and competitions: Do they maximize social distancing whenever possible? This also includes start and end times, which should be staggered so that people have time to leave before new people arrive.
- Is there a plan/policy to manage possible exposures? This should be in place before anything starts, and everyone should be aware of it.
- Travel competition plans: This is particularly an issue if one team is from an area with more cases of COVID-19. Local competition is likely better.
- Are there at-risk players on the team, such as children with health problems? This could change everything about the risks a team can safel