Just like that, youth sports are making a tentative return in Minnesota, albeit with caution and new protocols to keep kids and coaches safe as COVID-19 restrictions ease throughout the state. The neighborhood ball fields are being used by kids playing catch and taking in some batting practice; the local tennis court is being used by parks-and-recreation staff who are running a camp; and soccer teams are donning the pinnies, and going through drills with their teams and coaches.

Kids across the state get to engage in youth sports programs now that some COVID-19 restrictions have eased.

Teams can now meet for inter-squad practices and scrimmages. And, in a few weeks, an assessment will take place and further protocols will be established to let teams play games against opponents.

“It is important that we look for opportunities to allow children to engage in activities that promote health and well-being,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a recent press release from the Minnesota Department of Health. “While several key metrics show COVID-19 transmission is slowing, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Learning to live with COVID-19 means finding ways to balance risks and benefits, and that’s what we are seeking to do with this guidance.”

As a parent of a child involved in youth sports, I’m thankful for the opportunity to allow my son the opportunity to continue working with his youth coach. The benefits of that experience and that relationship go far beyond the world of sports: He has another caring adult in his life, someone else he can look up to and who will teach him skills that will stay with him for a lifetime. That’s why I encourage him to be part of a team.

filmed in 2019

As summer stretches on and teams are able to get into a groove, young people will be able to push back memories of this spring’s distance learning and return to their pre-COVID involvement in some of the activities they enjoy. From one father’s perspective, I’d rather see young people learning to overcome obstacles, expressing graciousness in defeat and perking up a teammate who is down than watching them try to keep up with their studies on the family computer. After all, the lessons learned on the field are far-reaching.

filmed in 2019

Without knowing what the upcoming weeks and months will bring, I’ll be sure to remind my son to enjoy the opportunities he has to run and play with his friends and teammates. To help ensure this can last as long as possible, I’ll be adhering to the guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Health, including:

  • Avoid sharing individual water bottles, community snacks or towels.
  • Encourage use of dedicated personal equipment such as bats, mitts, rackets, etc.
  • Find new ways to show sportsmanship – tip your hats instead of handshakes.
  • Ensure policies are considerate of staff, volunteers and participants who are at the highest risk of complications from COVID-19.
  • Adhere to social distancing recommendations when participants are not playing (on the bench, in the dugout, etc.).
  • Practice social distancing of six feet from other households during player drop off/pick up.
  • Friends and family should not attend practices to avoid crowding.
  • Maintain health checks and screening of participants and staff/volunteers.
  • Organizations should require participants and family members to stay home when sick.

No one knows what the fall will bring. So here’s hoping that the summer brings Minnesota kids all the chances in the world to experience the joys and life lessons of sports in the great outdoors.

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This story was made in collaboration with the Minnesota Twins Community Fund.

 

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