Finally, we have sports back. Well, some sports back.
Earlier this week I took a stroll around to shoot some Little League baseball as this was many town’s first week. Many others will kick things off next week.
I had no idea what to expect as a spectator considering the thorough restrictions regarding COVID-19. Between players not being allowed in the dugouts, having to use their own equipment, families not being able to sit in the stands as they normally would, as well as many others, I was not sure what we were all in for.
However, from the first inning, it was clear that this can work and resemble the good old days of summer fun.
At Warwick North, the league closed off the bleacher sections adjacent to the dugouts in order to give kids more space sprawl out. I know some leagues have been lining kids up along the foul line or in the outfield, but this was a great idea. Coaches wore their masks, kids had their own equipment, and on the field, it felt the same as any other game. It was the first time in months that I actually felt like things were back to normal.
The kids were having a blast too, it was great to see. I can’t imagine how bored a bunch of 10-12 year olds must become after months of isolation … I can’t imagine how much these parents have on their plates having to handle it every day, especially in households with multiple children. It was great to see the kids hit the field and to see the game be played so closely like it would have before this crisis.
The question now becomes, is this sustainable? Can a league actually provide safe fun for kids, coaches and families during this time?
I’ll tell you what, I was skeptical, but after finally seeing it first hand, I believe that they certainly can.
Of course, the disease is still very much present in the state and I would not recommend parents to completely lift the restrictions. We are not out of the woods.
However, I guess the best way for me to put it is, after seeing what I did earlier this week, I would say kids playing the game in this fashion is much less risky than kids going into grocery stores, restaurants, what have you. Sure, there are more bodies around than what they are used to having at home, but it seems like as long as they are spaced out while playing and kids are not touching one another, they may be onto something here.
Like I said, the unfortunate reality is that people can catch the virus just about anywhere, but I am a little more optimistic than I have been the last few weeks after seeing it. In general, it felt good to be back.
On a separate but similar note, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League put out a statement on Monday explaining that it will now shift its total focus toward having a plan in place for sports to return in the fall. The current start date for practices is in mid-August, with games likely beginning in early September.
Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not kids will return to school, first and foremost.
From the rumblings I have heard, it seems like that is the potential dealbreaker. If students are not back at school or are distance learning, sports cannot happen.
But, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume kids are back to school and that issue is resolved … what will it take for high school sports to get back on track?
Not that I am as equipped to handle these situations as those who are being paid to do so, but I feel like considering most fall sports are outdoors, then this should be pretty simple and these youth leagues should serve as the model going forward.
Ultimately, it is about kids not being too close and not sharing equipment. I know, I know, there is way more that goes into it, but if those basic essentials are met, everything should be able to fall into place.
Football concerns me, I do not know how we will be able to see a football season anytime soon considering it’s full contact. I desperately want it to return, but I just can’t wrap my head around a scenario in which it happens.
Volleyball is another sport that may be shaky since it is indoors. Is it going to be like the end of winter sports, when spectators were not allowed?
What frustrates me the most about this crisis is the fluidity of it … we struggle to find the answers, and when we do, they are met with more problems. That is why ultimately, we need to continue to stay safe, operate at a distance, and listen to the health and state guidelines that have been put in place.
When looking at some of these other states that are experiencing a surge, like Florida, Arizona, it is really disheartening. As I said last week, I am for these summer leagues dipping their toes in the water and seeing how it unfolds. But beyond that I still, strongly ask everyone to be as safe as possible so we can start having these leagues make progress toward a return.
The next two weeks here are a great start, let’s get the ball rolling.