With word that 14 members of the Miami Marlins and their staffers have been found to have coronavirus only days after the baseball season was on, it is a difficult play in kids’ sports as complicated as a triple play to get children playing again, but safely.
“You know what gives me anxiety around that is they have access to all the top-of-the-line testing, they have all of the safeguards in place,” said Rhonda Blanford-Green, commissioner of the Colorado High School Activities Association about The Marlins. “It’s kind of heartbreaking to think that we’re not where we all think we are to resume athletics and activities.”
“I love the rush of the game,” said 12 year old Paige March. She was practicing with the Slammers Untouchables on a field in Aurora and remembering what it was like when play was suspended. Not good.
“I felt very like a piece of me was missing almost,” she said.
Around the state, local communities decide whether children are safe enough to be playing again locally and some teams have even traveled out of Colorado. But CHSAA still is not back on again with big time high school sports competition, outside of plans to resume golf in early August. Football, baseball and softball, soccer and hockey are still off.
“Because anybody who thinks they’re going to operate status quo in the middle of a pandemic that would be a false assumption,” said Blanford-Green.
There are still risks in putting children together as there are with pro sports teams.
“So they have more elements of travel, there are more people on the team, there are probably more contact, a more intense environment,” said Dr. David Buether, a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health. “But we can’t be sure this won’t happen to the youth little league team or the high school football team.”
“Softball is a non-contact sport, we can stay safely distant,” said Paige’s coach David Graves. “Obviously your physical health is important but the mental health of these girls is critical.”
With youth sports, there is a balancing act of keeping young people active and busy.
“These sports are not necessarily intrinsically 100 percent safe, but they are safer if there’s less disease out there and we have more capacity in terms of testing and tracing,” said Buether. “If we did everything right back in March in April as a country and as a state we could all be in Broncos stadium watching a game without a mask on, because a few cases could be aggressively handled. But that’s very difficult to achieve and we haven’t achieved that.”
Recent upticks in cases in Colorado prompted the governor to tighten restrictions again. There are concerns that sports could be in danger if there’s a significant hotspot.
Even Buether says he has plans for his two children to play in the fall.
“My own personal household is not at high risk, I don’t have a multi-generational household, so I’m going to take a little risk.”
But that risk, he points out, may not be appropriate for all.
“We all have a risk budget to spend and maybe we’ll do fewer events with friends and fewer trips to grocery store so that our kids can go to school and play some sports if we can manage that safely.”