LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — By now in a normal April, the Royals would be heading out on their third road trip and you’d hear the pinging of aluminum bats across the metro in youth sports leagues.
But instead, the Lee’s Summit Girls Softball Association met Sunday to discuss its plans after the stay-at-home order was extended to May 15 in Jackson County.
In mid-March, LSGSA had just completed its registration process and was assigning coaches.
“Then of the course the virus hit the metro area in a big way, and it came to a grinding halt,” LSGSA’s President Bob Johnson said.
The Lee’s Summit soccer league 10-year-old Parker Jackson plays in canceled the spring season after her first game and offered refunds or credited payments to the fall.
“Kids just really need to be playing right now. It’s a totally different time for us because we don’t understand not having practices three times a week,” her father Troy Jackson said.
Parker now has her eyes set on softball.
“Upon conversations with governmental officials, in Jackson County in particular, maybe just maybe in the first part of July, we’ll be able to actually play softball games,” Johnson said.
This week for the second time since the outbreak, the league is offering parents full refunds who either aren’t comfortable with their children playing or can no longer afford it.
Fifty of the league’s more than 750 players dropped out during that first refund window last month.
“Nobody is going to put a kid at risk just to have a season,” Jackson said. “If there’s a chance that something — where they don’t feel 100% they’re not going to have a season, then I’m confident in the people that are in charge,” Jackson said.
Youth sports is an estimated $19 billion a year industry. More than 100 leagues across the country asked Congress for more than $8 billion in relief from canceled events and the expectation that leagues that go forward will do so with fewer players.
“It costs a lot of money to mow grass, and we have an obligation with Lee’s Summit Parks and Rec to maintain the mowing responsibilities whether there are games are not,” Johnson said.
The deciding factor on when leagues might be able to operate will likely hinge upon the maximum size of gatherings allowed at the time. If it’s less than 100, it might mean only one parent is allowed in the stands per player.
Sports like softball and baseball have the advantage of not having a lot of close contact. But there’s the concern about sharing of equipment like bats, ball and masks.
Johnson said no matter how far we may be past the peak of the virus, if they play, there will be a lot more sanitizing than past seasons.