The COVID Sports Scene

In March 2020 everything changed. The sports world, like many others was drastically affected. Seven months later sports, especially at the youth levels continues to tetter on the brink of existence.

It seems that everyone is trying to figure out how to make youth sports work. We’ve already seen how the professional sports leagues operate within COVID-19 guidelines, and for the vast most part have done so without much incident. There were cases, nothing is perfect, but it’s working. That’s the professional level. How does that translate into the local youth levels, and what’s the impact going forward?

One of the big challenges’ youth sports faces is that it has drastically changed from a local format to largely a regional and broader format. The emphasis on teams traveling from state to state, or across the country to regularly compete creates insurmountable challenges right now. Organizations are at a standstill with no guarantee that they’re coming back any time soon. On top of that you have discrepancies between counties on who and/or what sport can play. Everyone is trying to figure things out and it’s no easy task, even if you’re allowed to play. The truth remains that kids just want to play.

What will youth sports look like going forward. If elite travel teams and programs are shutdown, or even specific sports remain locked down, will kids and parents look elsewhere to remain active and compete? How does this effect the sports market going forward?

I have a lot of friends and contacts across all sectors of sports programming. All of them are in the same boat. Some are at a standstill, while others are moving forward. Things may look different, but they’re at least able to make it work. Is this an opportunity for kids to learn new skills, try new things? Or, will kids and parents cling to the past models hoping things will change? Is it better for kids to sit on the sidelines that engage in a new sport or activity?

Right now, it all comes down to who can best adapt to the new guidelines. More importantly, what sports and activities can show that they can operate within these guidelines. That hard part is that ultimately kids are stuck in the middle, and many are losing out.

Having watched this play out for the past seven months and continue to play out across the country it’s been sad to watch. It’s one of the reasons why we worked to ensure that when we could start Floorball programs in our area that we did so following guidelines. We’ve had to adapt across the board. From the numbers allowed in the program, to masking, and how we teach our programs. Being able to show that this can be done has been an important part in the process.

In my own facility at the University I’ve been using the lessons learned to get creative in thinking about how we can offer more recreation programs for students on campus. It’s not an easy task, but getting creative, being adaptive, and willing to make changes along the way are a big part of getting it done right. Hopefully, we’ll be able to move forward and get more kids back to sports in some fashion.