Youth Sports During COVID: Practicing Common Sense

Kids need to get their wiggles out. Teach them how to do it safely...

It looks like COVID has made itself at home everywhere, and turns out, it doesn’t know when to take a hint and leave. 

Like all obnoxious guests, it also needs to be entertained, it seems. This means for many of us, our regular activities will have to change in order to accommodate for the time being.

When considering the impact of our actions on the health of others, it’s kind of a no-brainer: just don’t put other people at risk, period. 

But sometimes it just isn’t that black and white. When it comes to our kids, social activities, school, extracurricular activities, and for some, sports, are all areas where we have some nuanced choices to make.

We all know that youth sports have so many great benefits- physically, mentally, and socially. So what’s the best way to slowly ease the kids back into the things they love, and that we know are so good for them? 

  • Measure The Safety Of Their Activity Of Choice

It all boils down to contact. How much contact will they need to have in order to play the game? There’s a big difference between wrestling and golf, right? But also consider what kind of sharing they’ll potentially be doing when it comes to equipment or gear.

It’s not just behavior on the field we need to consider. Where do they hang out in between playing? When baseball players aren’t on the field, they’re usually hanging out in dugouts with others or at least sitting in close proximity. 

Same thing with swimmers. While they’re in the water, they’re doing their own thing, but when they’re not, they’re hanging out on the deck in close proximity to each other. 

The safety protocols we’ve all worked so hard to maintain can take a flying leap out the window during situations like these if we don’t teach our kiddos how to act responsibly and respectfully, so make sure they understand the rules of social distancing and take the appropriate precautions. 

  • What Happens If You Have Tiny People To Coach?

Let’s face it, the younger the kid, the harder it is to get them to control their impulses to touch things, get in other people’s space, pick their noses, and/or all of the above. 

The size of the teams makes a difference. If you’ve got larger teams with fewer adults to police behavior, it’s much riskier. Another problem with this arrangement is that the larger the group, the more kids there are interacting. 

If you can maintain a smaller group of kids and keep the same kids together consistently, you’ve got a much better shot at keeping everyone safe.

  • Balancing The Numbers

In addition to maintaining a limited mix of children, keeping a balanced number of adults involved is just as, if not more than, important to keeping everyone safe.

On top of the number of coaches, referees, parent volunteers, and anyone else who may be involved in the game, there is the issue of who’s ready to enforce the rules? Is the coaching staff getting plenty of backup from the parents to create a safe environment for the kids to play? Likewise, what about referees, volunteers, vendors, etc? Are they adhering to the guidelines, and are they being supported in their actions to keep everyone safe?

  • The Spectators

Beyond those directly involved in working with the kids, what about spectators, parent volunteers, and other people ancillary to the organization? The league should be enforcing rules of social distancing, including the numbers of spectators allowed inside an enclosed area or limited space during games and practices.  

The rules of engagement for those present to watch and cheer on their favorite athlete should be clearly stated and followed. 

  • What About Travel?

There are all the variables to consider with non-travel sports and a whole lot more if your kiddo plays with a travel team. 

Think about where you’re coming from (and where they’re coming from). If you live in an area with a higher instance of COVID-19 cases, or if you’re playing a team from a town with more cases, precautions may operate on a totally different level. 

Also, what if there are kids with health conditions that make them more at risk for getting sick? These are all things that are imperative for teams to take into consideration when it comes to planning for safety. 

  • So What Are We To Do?

Practice common sense. Period. 

The only way you can completely avoid the risk of spreading or contracting COVID is to avoid hanging out in close proximity and having regular contact with others. For many of us, that’s becoming a less and less do-able scenario. 

It’s heartbreaking to think that the reality for many children is relative isolation due to health conditions, or living in a household where others are vulnerable to the illness. 

So for everyone else who’s ready to dip their toe in the waters of uncertainty, there are plenty of things to consider and rules to follow:

  1. If you’ve been potentially exposed to the illness, or don’t feel well, STAY HOME.
  2. Follow quarantining instructions for your particular city or state when it comes to travel. If you leave the state, and the mandate is that you must self-quarantine upon return for a couple of weeks, so be it. That’s a choice we all have to make.
  3. Wash your hands frequently and practice good hygiene. Soap and water are preferable, but keep hand sanitizer with you at all times, too. 
  4. Wear a mask. It’s a pain when you’re hot and sweaty and out of breath, but when they’re around others, it’s pretty much non-negotiable. If we need to step back and take a breath, do it far away from everyone else!  
  5. Wipe down surfaces and equipment with anti-bacterial wipes. 
  6. Don’t yell into your fellow spectators’ faces when your kid hits a home run. That’s probably just good manners regardless of a pandemic… 

Grownups have an obligation to lead by example during these strange, and dangerous times. Show your kid how to do the right thing by respecting the space of others’ wearing a mask, practice regular hand sanitizing, and staying home when in doubt. 

Kids are caring creatures by nature, and above all else, they’ll understand how important it is to keep their friends and family safe. Educate them on how to do that and why, and they’ll be well on their way to helping kick this stupid COVID mess to the curb. 

For more information on how to teach your kid about sports and safety in the time of coronavirus, visit: