Youth sports can be enjoyed with caution
Despite a warning from Kansas Department of Health and Environment secretary Lee Norman that fall sports will spread COVID-19 among athletes, reasonable precautions will likely lessen the effect.
Team sports provide socialization and exercise, which can be lacking during a pandemic when people stay home.
While there is no way to eliminate all risk of getting COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest parents consider many factors to reduce risk.
Opinions as to how vulnerable children are to the disease vary.
Parents, teachers, and coaches must consider whether an activity or sport requires people to be close together, such as wrestling, or more distant from each other, such as baseball.
Skill-building drills or conditioning at home, whether alone or with members of the same household carries the lowest risk.
Team-based practice increases risk, and within-team competition carries more risk.
Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area carries more risk.
Full competition between teams from different geographic areas provides the highest risk.
Sharing equipment is best avoided. The less shared gear, the better, and shared gear should be wiped down frequently.
Parents want to consider whether athletes are able to practice social distancing when not participating. Swimmers are socially distant during a race, but can be shoulder-to-shoulder on a pool deck or bench between races.
Another factor parents should consider is whether the child is mature enough to practice COVID-19 safety rules.
The size of the team can make a difference. The larger the group, the more difficult to manage it.
Does the team have enough coaches to manage the team? So many they create more risk?
Are the coaches educated about COVID-19 and keeping children safe?
What rules will be enforced for fans, spectators, and volunteers so they don’t increase risks? While children love to be cheered on, yelling propels the virus.
Are practices and competitions set up to maximize social distancing as much as possible?
Athletes with increased risk for severe complications should take extra precautions.
Outdoor and open-air sports carry less risk of exposure.
What are travel competition plans? Will competing teams come from areas with higher COVID-19 rates, or from more local areas?
As we all know, you should stay home if you are sick or know you have been exposed. Practices and competition are not worth risking your own or someone else’s health.
As always, hand washing is important, and hand sanitizer should be available — and used — at practices and competitions.
Although wearing a mask can be difficult during vigorous exercise, it can save lives. Find the mask that works best and covers both the nose and mouth. Remember a mask is most important when social distancing is not possible.
Last modified Sept. 3, 2020