Will Youth Sports Return During the Pandemic?
Thu, October 21, 2021

Will Youth Sports Return During the Pandemic?




Playing sports is healthy for children— but with the COVID-19 pandemic— what will they do to keep themselves active? When will it be safe for them to resume sports? According to Bruce Y. Lee of business news Forbes, these are the questions that are plaguing the minds of children and parents as businesses and organizations in the US attempt to resume their operations.  

COVID-19 cases continue to spike and although youth and school sports teams and leagues may be resuming practices and games in some areas, it may be natural for parents to be concerned about their kids’ safety of returning to sports too soon.  



Survey On Children Returning to Sports

North Carolina State University, a leading public research university, worked with the Aspen Institute’s Project Play— who helps stakeholders build healthy communities through sports— and other institutions like the Utah State University and George Mason University for their survey. 

The survey found that 59% of African American parents were worried about their child getting sick, cited Jon Solomon. 56% of parents were concerned that they would get sick. Of all parents, 50% were worried about their child falling ill while 46% were concerned about getting sick.

58% of African-American parents anticipate their child resuming any sports activities at the same or higher level as before once allowed, which was less than white parents (73%) and Hispanics (66%). Meanwhile, 61% of all parents said they expect their child to play sports at the same level as before while 10% expected higher participation in sports once restrictions are lifted.

40.3% of parents were extremely comfortable about their participation in individual pickup sports (versus 2% of those answered extremely uncomfortable). The parents were also extremely comfortable letting their kids play neighborhood pickup games (29.2% versus 3.5%), intramural sports at school (33.4% versus 2.4%), interscholastic school sports (31.1% versus 3.8%), community-based sports (31.3% versus 3.1%), and travel/elite or club league sports (21.4% versus 9.7%).

The participants strongly agreed that being afraid of getting their child sick if they start playing sports (18.9% versus 9.6% of those who answered strongly disagreed), being afraid of getting sick (16.1% versus 11.3%), and difficulty to fit sports into their schedules (9.1% versus 22.5%) were potential barriers to resuming sports when current restrictions are lifted. Other barriers were their child not interested in playing sports again (7% versus 38.9%) and the difficulty of transporting their child to play sports (7.9% versus 31.4%).

Parents whose child plays basketball strongly agreed (24%) that they are more worried about their child getting sick by returning to sports compared to those that play baseball (16%), tackle football (15%), and soccer (13%). Of these sports, baseball parents (75%) were among those who expect their child to resume participation at the same or higher level as before when restrictions are lifted, along with basketball (73%), tackle football (69%), and soccer (69%).

62% of parents noted that their child’s physical level activity has decreased a little or a lot since the COVID-19 shutdown back in Match. However, 69% of parents said their kids are focusing on improving their fitness during this period. Parents earning a household income of over $150,000 (62%) said their child is increasing fitness at home during the outbreak compared to parents earning below $50,000 (37%).




How Will Return to Play Vary?

The Aspen Institute has been releasing sport-specific guidance as part of its “Return to Play” initiative in recent weeks—even the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee has published its own recommendations, reported Tom Schad of USA Today, an American middle-market newspaper.

Davidson Hamer, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health and School of Medicine and physician at Boston Medical Center, said, “Those sports that are likely to have a lot of contact – basketball, football, soccer – are ones where there’s a greater potential, if somebody’s infected, for spread from person to person.”

However, social distancing in sports like tennis is easier to maintain, he added. Resuming play for many youth sports leagues may be up to local and state recommendations since said leagues are not under a national governing body. For example, in one state, it might be safer to resume a recreational baseball league in June while another may resume play in July.

Lauren Sauer, the director of operations with the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, conjectured that youth sports will likely return earlier than national level sports. According to a webinar hosted by The Aspen Institute in May, youth sports are more flexible as they can change the game’s rules and regulations, including “how they can have regionality to where they can be conducted and how they can quickly pause and restart activities,” Sauer asserted.



What Are the Challenges?

It is still unclear how COVID-19 will affect children, stated Ryan Demmer, an assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health. Although kids are not hospitalized or dying, that does not mean they are immune to the virus. There are still concerns surrounding asymptomatic carriage and transmissibility. Demmer said we need to be cautious about it as we have not seen testing in settings where groups of people are gathering.



How Is the Pandemic Affecting Youth Athletes?

How hard should my child be training? What is my child training for? In fact, many athletes who play multiple sports struggle with deciding to train for their spring, summer, or fall sport, explained John Hopkins Medicine—John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, a top pediatric center in the Tampa Bay region and the west coast of Florida.

This also entails answering the question of how children will train in their current environment. For instance, swimmers can’t access pools or pitchers in baseball can’t get on the mound. Training is different for these athletes and they may be rushed back into a season they are not prepared to compete post-pandemic.

Right now, you should focus on making your child’s life as normal as possible by practicing social distancing guidelines. This may require your other loved ones to be your child’s teammates and involve cross training for children who can’t play their sport. Overall, you need to keep your child motivated and active in these trying times.

Resuming youth sports may be risky right now. Some parents observed a reduction in physical activity among their kids due to the pandemic. However, parents should motivate their little ones to be as physically active as possible.