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Adaptability Key in Youth Sports’ Return, FAQs

Many youth sports are beginning to come back, and may even be starting to play before professional sports. According to Lauren Sauer, the director of operations with the John Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, youth sports are more adaptive in their ability to change the rules and regulations of the game, and that only works to their benefit as they try to return to play.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When is my state reopening youth sports?
  • Who is providing return to play guidance?
  • What changes should I expect for a practice?
  • How do I know how risky activities are?
  • My NGB is allowing my child to return to play, what if I'm not ready?
  • How will this affect travel sports?
  • Will insurance cover youth sports? (Cancellations, exposure to the virus)
  • What responsibilities do NGBs have to make sure their member clubs, teams, or campers know about the scope of coverage purchased through them?
  • What if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 on a member team or entire organization, or from an event that you sponsored/hosted?
  • What risk mitigation strategies do your insurer require to trigger coverage? (For example hand washing, bat sanitizing, ball sanitizing, temperature-taking, etc.)
  • What should we do to prepare for practices outside at the area park?

When is my state reopening youth sports?

All states are operating on their own, and while most are moving back towards reopening the economy, each is doing so at their own pace and with their own restrictions. Here is an interactive map from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce highlighting where each state is at. There are also links to each state’s full plan in regards to lifting the Shelter-in-Place order: https://www.uschamber.com/article/state-by-state-business-reopening-guidance

Who is providing return to play guidance?

Since there are a lot of sports that do not fall under a national governing body, many decisions are going to be made at a state or local level, and will also vary on a sport-to-sport basis. However, there are multiple institutions that are providing recommendations regarding a return to play, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Aspen Institute (a non-profit think tank), the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the PLAY Sports Coalition.

What changes should I expect for a practice?

Practices are likely going to focus more on the building of individual skills rather than on competition, as this will allow players and coaches to social distance properly. There may also be an increase in disinfecting shared equipment throughout practices as a way to limit the spread of COVID-19. Players at practice may also be asked to wear cloth masks when they are able to.

How do I know how risky activities are?

The CDC assess the levels of risk as such

1. Lowest Risk

Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone, or with family members.

2. Increasing Risk

Team-based practice.

3. More Risk

Within-team competition.

4. Even More Risk

Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area.

5. Highest Risk

Full competition between teams from different geographic areas.

Activities that involve contact, or players coming within close proximity of each other, such as wrestling, football, basketball, or soccer are considered to be the highest risk. Even if your child’s favorite sport is a higher risk one, there are still safe ways to participate as the Aspen Institute lays out under the “Sport Activities” section of this article.

My NGB is allowing my child to return to play, what if I’m not ready?

While your sport’s national governing body may say it’s OK to return to play, the decision will always come down to the parent and the player. If you or your child do not feel comfortable returning to play then you do not have to.

How will this affect travel sports?

Travel sports will likely be one of the last to return to play. They are deemed as being the “highest risk” by the CDC, especially when teams from an area with a lot of COVID-19 cases travel to an area with few cases. It will also take coordination between surrounding areas to figure out proper guidelines on how to play and keep everyone safe.

Will insurance cover youth sports? (Cancellations, exposure to the virus)

According to healthcare.gov, the treatment for the coronavirus emergency will remain the same as other viral infections. For specifics about your health insurance plan, make sure to reach out to your healthcare provider.

National Governing Bodies do tend to have insurance plans in place, and most are still active during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, most only cover injuries that take place at approved facilities under approved supervision. For details specific to your program's insurance please check with your NGB or the insurance provider.

What responsibilities do NGBs have to make sure their member clubs, teams, or campers know about the scope of coverage purchased through them?

Most experts, including the Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance say that communication is going to be key in making sure everyone feels as safe as possible when sports continue. Some things that can be implemented are creating a Frequently Asked Questions area for parents and children to visit, layout descriptions of the different types of insurance and what they offer/protect, and even have a specialized COVID Coordinator within the organization to oversee all aspects of the COVID-19 risk management plan, including communication with everyone involved.

What if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 on a member team or entire organization, or from an event that you sponsored/hosted?

Always make sure to follow the advice of your local leaders and health professionals, as well as organizations such as the CDC when it comes to handling an outbreak.

One of the most important things that one can do is to make sure to isolate the sick individuals as quickly as possible to try and stop the spread. Youth sports administrators may use examples of screening methods the CDC recommended for child care programs that remained open as a way to help identify sick individuals as quickly as possible.

Once sick individuals are identified, youth sports organizations should notify local health officials, in accordance with state and local privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations. They will also need to clean and disinfect areas used by the sick individual, and do not let anyone in those areas until they have been cleaned. Finally, isolate and transport those that are sick and make sure they do not return until they meet the CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation.

What risk mitigation strategies do your insurer require to trigger coverage? (For example hand washing, bat sanitizing, ball sanitizing, temperature-taking, and social distancing)

After checking with your insurance, one of the best things you can do is follow the lead of government agencies and the recommendations they are making. The CDC has created a guide for youth sports that includes ways to assess risk and promote behavior that reduces spread. However, the CDC also says you should use its guidelines in accordance with your local and state government.

What should we do to prepare for practices outside at area parks?

Being able to get outside is recommended by most experts, but it is important to stay safe while doing so. The CDC recommends that players and coaches practice social distancing whenever possible, so there is likely going to be an increase in individual skill training. It will also be important for athletes to wear cloth masks when they are able to, and to continue practicing good hygiene to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The National Recreation and Park Park Association (NRPA) has also created a guide to follow while in parks as the country begins to reopen. The first piece of advice they give is to continue to listen to organizations such as the CDC, as well as state and local governments. They then separate their guidelines into three main phases: Slowing the Spread of COVID-19, Path to Recovery, and the Essential Role of Parks and Recreation.

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