Youth sports leagues adapt to COVID-19 era

Youth sports leagues adapt to COVID-19 era

NEWBURGH, Ind. (WFIE) - With Stage 3 of Indiana’s “Back on Track" plan going into effect on Friday, youth sports and recreational leagues across the state are now able to get outside and start practicing.

For those leagues that are still planning on having a season, they can now do so, but in a very different way.

In Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan, low-contact sports are now able to begin practicing. During Stage 4, games and tournaments can resume starting June 14.

“Our clientele is young, from 4-16, therefore less affected than other age groups, so we thought that we would give it a shot," Newburgh Youth Soccer Vice President Mike Williams said. “We just thought that there was an unmet need if you will, and we’ll let parents decide for themselves, given the procedures put in place if we’re a good fit.”

For leagues like Newburgh Youth Soccer, it was an easy decision to hold the season just a few months, but not without a mountain of restrictions.

“The benches have had to be removed from the fields, we’ve had to mark off – or we’re going to mark off spaces for the kids to put their gear so it’s distanced," Newburgh Youth Soccer President Stacy Hein said. "Kids can’t go and congratulate each other anymore with a hand clap – we have to find different ways to do that. The ball has to be wiped down and sanitized by the referee at the start of the game, halftime and after the game. So it’s a lot, but it’s well worth it.”

Even with guidelines still in place, there’s a lot of debate among families whether or not the risk is worth it for their child to play sports in the COVID-19 era.

“Honestly for us, it was pretty easy," Hein said. "I have teenagers, and they are very vocal and very spoken on their wishes. They completely understand the social distancing aspect. They are missing their friends though and they want to get back to a sense of normalcy.”

“Normal” seems to be a state that’s nearly impossible in times like these, but it’s so desperately needed.

“A lot of us are coaches as well - we miss the interaction with the kids, we miss the joy we see them getting by being out and around everybody," Williams said. "We’re really excited to see them again, and I think everybody’s ready to do something – not everybody – but many people are and we want to provide that outlet.”

Although able to practice during Stage 3, Newburgh Youth Soccer is waiting until Stage 4 to begin in-person practices.

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear announced low-contact sports can resume with restrictions on June 15.

In Illinois, low-contact sports may resume with restrictions in Stage 3.

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