Per the Rhode Island State website for policies, procedures, and guidelines related to Phase II of ReOpening RI (www.reopeningri.com), youth sports may begin their Spring/Summer operations. Youth sports, such as baseball, should carefully read through the guidelines and encourage parents, volunteers, league administrators, and players to do the same. The efforts of so many on social media, via local media outlets, online petitions, and email campaigns have been rewarded by the news that youth sports can and will happen this summer. We all want to get our kids out into the parks, on the fields, on the basketball courts, and into the pools. And we need to make sure that by staying compliant, we will ensure a successful transition from Phase II to Phase III, which will lift many restrictions and allow larger gatherings and potentially games, tournaments, and other fun events. Here are some of the main bullet points of the Reopening RI Phase II document:
- Stable groups of 15 or less – Work with your league to schedule practices on a staggered schedule. Two teams of 12 players, the coaches, the parents, are going to drive up the numbers and the interactions. The last thing your league needs is a crackdown from State officials because they witnessed teams and/or groups of 15 or more participating in Phase II.
- Physical distancing – Encourage smaller groups for drills. If holding a team meeting before, during or after practice, make sure your players are a comfortable space apart.
- Space between stable groups – Encourage family members to practice social distancing at practices if they elect to stay and watch practice. Again, we don’t want 10 to 12 groups of parents congregating next to the backstop to watch practice. Social
- Quarantine – Not sure this will apply to our RI leagues in Phase II because most of the league comprise of local players. Quarantine in this sense refers to players coming in from out of state to play in your stable group. Players that live in the same community, go to school together typically play recreational baseball. Unless this is an AAU or travel team, your local team is not likely to have out of staters.
- Screening – This will require good communication between the league’s administrators, the coaches, the parents, and the players. Simply put, if you or your child feel sick, you should not put others at risk. Take a day off and get better and then return to practice in a few days.
- Hand cleaning and sanitizing – Make sure your dugouts and your practices have plenty of hand sanitizer on hand. Whenever possible, use a sanitizing liquid to wash your hands. Especially now that you will be catching and throwing a baseball that your teammate recently caught and threw.
- Facilities – Town parks, where most of our baseball fields are, will differ in their policies regarding restroom usage and availability. Contact your local town or city public works department to determine whether or not your restrooms will be available.
- Shared objects – Bring your own stuff, equipment, water bottle whenever possible. Most players have their own glove, batting gloves, some even have their own catcher’s gear, bat, and helmet. Encourage your player to bring his/her own equipment and not to share it with teammates, during this Phase II.
- Face coverings – According to the guidelines, players are not required to wear a mask while they are practicing on the field. Coaches are encouraged to wear a mask if social distancing is an issue during practice, talking to players and parents, and certainly leaving the practice field.
- Plan and communicate – Get the news out to your league about your operational procedures in advance of your first practice. Get the expectations of your league to every player, parent, volunteer, and coach so there are no gray areas. In order to keep the momentum going through Phase II into Phase III, we need everyone to be on board. 95% compliance is not going to work. Our goal should be 100%!!!
I see a ton of leagues on social media posting operational messages. There are email marketing campaigns going out to league community members regarding practicing, social distancing, sharing equipment, practice schedules, and more. I encourage leagues to download the Phase II Summer Youth Sports Guidelines PDF (Phase II Sports) and refer to CDC Guidelines for Youth Sports. Let’s keep the momentum going through Phase II and hit the ground running into Phase III.