Can my kids go back to playing sports?

Some youth sports groups are returning to play. Guidelines vary, so check with your local league or school for the right information. In any case, you should make a decision that’s right for you and your family. Check with your pediatrician to see if returning to group sports is OK for your child. And you might want to be extra cautious if there are older folks, or people with medical conditions, who live in your home.

The novel coronavirus is primarily spread through person to person contact. So the chance of you or your child getting sick will increase when there are more people, who are closer together, for longer periods of time. The lowest risk activities are those that are done at home, without contact with others. Risk will increase with team practices. And things get even riskier with games between teams. 

The level of risk also varies by type of sport. Lower contact sports, running, golf, or tennis, are lower risk. Higher contact sports, like baseketball, football, or wrestling, are definitely higher risk. Remember that these risks are both for players and for spectators!

So here are some general tips to make things safer:

Remember that person to person contact and droplet spread is the primary way that COVID-19 spreads. Measures that reduce person to person contact should be your top priority.

  • Practice outdoors whenever possible. 
  • Maintain at least 6 feet between athletes when not playing (like when sitting on the bench). It is helpful to physically mark out space as a reminder to players. 
  • Encourage cloth face coverings for players when not playing, coaches, referees/umpires, and spectators.
  • Limit spectators and make sure that fans physically distance when watching the game.
  • Limit group travel and shared spaces. Avoid use of car pools and locker rooms if possible.
  • Practice or play in smaller groups. Play scrimmages within a team instead of playing against other teams. Limit games to within a local area. 
  • Ask parents to screen their children for any signs of illness before showing up. Remind parents to keep players at home if they feel sick or have possible COVID exposure within the last 14 days.
  • Stagger arrival and drop off so that players do not arrive while another team is still on the field.
  • Prohibit spitting and shared food or drinks.  Each player should have their own water bottles marked with their name.
  • Designate a “COVID coach”.  Assign a coach or team parent to remind athletes of the guidelines. Hang signs at fields and facilities.

While it may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching something with the virus on it and then touching your face, this is not thought to be the primary way that the virus spreads. Precautions to reduce touch transmission are therefore lower priority, but are also a good idea.

  • Do not share equipment. If any equipment needs to be touched by multiple players (example: baseballs, basketballs), disinfect frequently. Individual equipment should be kept in a marked area for each player and labeled with names.
  • Provide hand sanitizer for players to use frequently throughout practices or games.
  • Prohibit contact such as high fives, handshakes, fist bumps, or hugging.

The CDC provides a checklist for coaches and a fact sheet for parents. Project Play also has resources for reducing risk for a variety of sports.  And remember even if you can’t play with your team right now, it is still recommended that kids get 60 minutes per day of physical activity.

Last update:  June 14, 2020 3:00 pm

Science review: AGB, JAB, ERS