Some youth sports leagues making changes to play ball, limit spread of virus

Sports

LENEXA, Kan. — As the school year winds down, summer sports leagues begin to ramp up.

One pediatrician from Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Hospital said doctors expect to see major changes in how kids sporting events are conducted in the light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under normal circumstances, the diamonds at Johnson County 3-and-2 Club in Lenexa would be busy. But coronavirus concerns and restrictions have caused delays in getting the baseball and softball seasons underway.

Jeff Chalk, the league’s executive director, said the first few team practices won’t be held there until May 18. Chalk said when games get going on Memorial Day weekend, teams will be required to follow government guidelines regarding social distancing and keeping equipment sanitized.

“Initially, parents shouldn’t be hanging out at practices. We should continue to minimize the number of people who are there,” Dr. Angela Myers, a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital, said during a Wednesday morning town hall meeting.

Youth sports is a major topic of concern, as expressed in the hospital’s Wednesday morning webcast.

Myers said she recommends athletes not share water bottles with others, and equipment and hands should be kept cleaner than in sports seasons of the past.

However, Myers said wearing a cloth face mask while competing might be too much.

“As you can imagine, kids are exerting themselves a lot while playing a sport, and it’s not a great idea,” Myers said. “If they’re on the bench or not participating, wearing a mask should be considered. Coaches should be wearing masks, and if there are spectators present, they should also be wearing masks during this time.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends social distancing and not participating in organized sports, since it tends to draw large crowds.

Missy Heidrick is a former college athlete and now a mother of two young ballplayers who compete in Johnson County’s 3 & 2 Leagues. 

“Social distancing is OK. Cleaning equipment is fine and wiping out dugouts and making sure places are cleaner than they were before. That’s not going to be a bad thing. I think that’s only going to be a benefit for us now,” Heidrick said. 

Myers said she understands some families, like Heidrick’s, still want to participate in youth sports this summer.

She said some decisions about safety come down to each family and what will keep themselves and others around them from spreading coronavirus. 

As for water sports, recent CDC reports state there’s no proof the virus can live in pool water. The agency said so long as shared equipment is kept clean and social distancing is respected, everyone should be fine in the pools.

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