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Youth Sports & Coronavirus: When and What Can Kids Play?

Youth Sports & Coronavirus: When and What Can Kids Play?

Everything you need to know about the return youth sports this summer in the New York area.

While we continue to live under COVID-19 restrictions and modifications to our usual summer routines, there are certain activities that seem to be on the cusp of heading back to normal—youth sports being one of them. Kids are beginning to have play dates again, and some are even going to summer camp, but where do youth sports fit in with respect to coronavirus? Can young soccer players gather at the goal? When will baseball players be able to return to the mound? We consulted the experts to determine which youth sports are too close for comfort and which can be safely played with modifications.

When can kids play youth sports again?

Decisions about which youth sports can reopen will likely be based on local and state recommendations. It might be safer for a recreational baseball league in one state to return in June, while another state must wait until July.

Lauren Sauer, the director of operations with the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response says "I think it’s very likely that youth sports will return before national level sports," because they are more adaptable in the way that rules can easily be changed. 

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that “low risk” youth sports can begin on July 6 in regions in phrase three of reopening. The Hudson Valley is scheduled to reach Phase 3 on Tuesday, June 23 and Long Island on Wednesday, June 24. 

“Low risk” youth sports, as indicated by Governor Cuomo, include:

  • Baseball
  • Softball
  • Field hockey
  • Crew
  • Cross country
  • Gymnastics

This allowance, however, only applies to these youth sports when they are played recreationally, not as part of a league or school. In addition, each kid can bring no more than two family members or friends to each game. 

So, what about soccer, football, lacrosse, etc.? The Aspen Institute’s Project Play, a nonprofit think tank that has been rolling out sport-specific guidance as part of its "Return to Play" initiative, predicts that higher risk youth sports will not open up until at least August. And again, this will be dependent on the particular state’s COVID-19 status at the time and coinciding recommendations.

Hundreds of Nassau County residents are even signing a petition to get Governor Cuomo to include lacrosse in the category of "low risk."

RELATED:  What You Need to Know About Swimming in Pools This Summer

How will youth sports be different?

When youth sports do start up, they will likely look different. Team members will have to social distance, wear masks, and modify certain plays. After all, even the Major Leagues have called for radical new safety protocols, where every player must be temperature checked and an estimated 10,000 COVID-19 tests will be conducted every week.

The youth sports industry itself will also be changed. Many parents won’t be comfortable allowing their child to be on a team. Plus, with the ongoing recession, many families may not be able to afford league fees, uniforms, and other fees associated with youth sports. “There is not going to be that kind of discretionary income out there,” Dave Brown, owner of Basketball Stars of New York, says. The recession may also cause 20-40% of youth sports clubs to close, according to the Wall Street Journal.

How to Play Youth Sports Safely 

When it’s time for your kid to resume their position on the team, there are precautions to take. The CDC recently released youth sports guidelines on what teams and leagues can do to protect kids, which includes keeping six feet apart from others, wearing a mask when around other people, disinfecting equipment, and washing hands frequently. 

While it may be a relief for some of the 20 million kids who play organized youth sports every year not to have to attend practices, many young athletes will be devastated by the loss. In that case, according to Patrick Mularoni, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Sports Medicine program at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, parents should encourage their kid to continue training— with their family members or at a safe distance from peers. The exercise and routine will help them stay active and motivated, and it can help kids avoid the depression that befalls injured athletes when they have to give up playing. 

Finally, this period may be a blessing in disguise—an opportunity to try something new try something new and take a break from an overscheduled life. Maybe instead of lacrosse practice, they will go on more bike rides or learn to rollerblade. Maybe kids can join their parents for runs or walks. At best, your kid who was once accustomed to back to back practices after school everyday will be able to join the family for dinner more often.

RELATED: How Child Care Centers are Keeping Kids Safe Upon Reopening

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Shana Liebman


Shana Liebman is the features editor of NYMP. She’s a writer and editor who has worked for magazines including New York MagazineSalon, and Travel & Leisure—and she is the mom of two energetic little boys.

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