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Youth Sports During COVID-19: What Parents Need to Know and Do

It’s become clear that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going to end anytime soon. This means that we are going to have to figure out how to live, and raise our children, when seemingly every action we take carries some risk.

Youth sports can bring great benefits to children. Team sports offer opportunities for exercise, which is crucial for health, and also for socialization and learning how to be part of a community. Children need these opportunities, which are particularly lacking during the pandemic. It would be great if we could find a way for children to engage in sports during the pandemic. But as with every trip to the store or even the mailbox, there are risks involved.

To help parents understand and navigate these risks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released some information and considerations about youth sports during COVID-19.

First, which sport?

The first thing for parents to think about is the sport itself. Some sports are just more risky than others. Questions to consider include:

  • Does the sport require that people be close to each other? Think about wrestling vs. baseball.

  • Is there a lot of shared equipment and/or gear? The less gear, obviously, the better.

  • What about the players who aren’t playing? For example, while social distancing is relatively easy for swimmers during a race, they are often packed together on a pool deck between races.

Lowering risk, but not erasing it

The only way to have zero risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 from youth sports is not to play them. Some families will likely end up making that choice, such as families with vulnerable children or other vulnerable people living with them, or families whose living or work situations put them at ongoing risk of catching the illness, which could end up spreading it to the team. For these families, it will be just one of the many difficult and sad decisions they have to make during this crisis.

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