That’s the question dogging many parents of young athletes as life begins to get back to normal with the easing of coronavirus restrictions. Organized sports for children, such as Little Leagues, soccer leagues and flag football leagues, were forced to at least delay the start of their seasons. If and when they return, they are sure to look different from what we are all used to.
Barring any unforeseen spikes in coronavirus cases in the region, Little Leagues on Staten Island are targeting an early July opening date. It remains to be seen whether or not other sports can follow suit.
But what if you aren’t ready for your child to return to organized sports? Like beauty, sufficient precautions are often in the eye of the beholder. Some parents say they won’t be ready to send their children back to their school buildings come September no matter what safety precautions are in place, and the same may hold true for when they will feel comfortable allowing their kids to rejoin their sports teams.
None of us had experienced living through what we were forced to endure this spring. Little Leagues in the borough had never missed a season since Staten Island leagues began popping up during the 1950s!
Little Leagues have one advantage over other sports when it comes to their ability to salvage some of the season: they have their own fields. The leagues that use the public parks are at the mercy of those who run them. At this point, the New York City Parks Department and Gateway Federal Recreational Park, which controls Miller Field in New Dorp, have informed leagues that they will not be issuing permits to use their facilities until Sept. 1.
When organized sports do open up again, there are sure to be guidelines. The Staten Island Soccer League, through which nearly 5,000 boys and girls in the borough play recreational soccer, will follow the protocols set up by its parent organizations — U.S. Youth Soccer and Eastern New York Soccer. Those protocols call for play to be opened in phases: first individual and small group instruction, followed by team training, team competitions with restrictions and competition with no restrictions. However, these phases won’t begin until after New York City is upgraded by the state to Phase 4.
Since field permits won’t be issued, players will not be insured at the league has informed parents it will not be liable for injuries or the contraction of COVID-19. Parents and coaches need to be aware of this.
Bowling centers also are unable to open until the state reaches Phase 4.
If Little Leagues on the Island begin their seasons in early July, as the district commissioner is targeting, it will need for teams have practiced for at least two weeks. Once games begin, the district is asking masks be worn, 6-foot social distancing guidelines be maintained, only one parent be in attendance and a number of other restrictions — including having the child miss games if he, she or someone in their household displays symptoms of the virus until it is confirmed they are not due to COVID-19.
Parents may be asked to sign a clause holding the leagues harmless should a child contract coronavirus as a prerequisite for their child being allowed to participate.
If you choose to let your child participate, it would be wise to comply with the league’s safety measures and follow CDC guidelines. If you choose to skip the season and not let your child return to his or her organized sports until things return to normal, try your best to keep them involved in outdoor activities — shooting basketballs, throwing baseballs, kicking around soccer balls, bicycle riding and running — to promote their physical well-being.
By local sportswriter Joe LoVerde, who has coached youth sports on Staten Island for nearly 40 years.