What Return to Play Looks Like Today: A Conversation with LaxManiax, All in Athletics, and Junior Comet Sports
By Jamie Hancock
August 14, 2020
Our NextUp Town Hall series aims to connect, inform and inspire youth sports organizers all across the country. In this installment, we’ve built upon the hundreds of conversations we’ve had in the past five month with organizers who are dealing with the new normal—playing during a pandemic.
We welcomed Sarah Burlingame (Owner of LaxManiax), Julian Cordle (Executive Board Member of Junior Comet Sports), and Billy Welcome (CEO of All In Athletics) to share their thoughts on the ever-evolving challenges that surround youth sports in the age of COVID-19. For access to the full video recording, click here. For the five major takeaways of the discussion, moderated by LeagueApps President and Co-Founder Jeremy Goldberg, scroll below.
1. Fully understand your parents’ and players’ risk tolerance
It’s important to check in with your participants often and gauge their comfort levels. Whether you send a survey or do something less formal, like sending a text or email, you should make sure to get their feedback at every turn. (Our platform provides organizers with a robust suite of communication tools for precisely this reason. Learn more here.)
It’s also worth noting that while some parents may feel comfortable with a hypothetical schedule, that could quickly go out the window once teams are competing in games and tournaments. Checking in with your participants and offering transparent refund and credit options along the way is something that all organizations need to plan for ahead of time.
2. Share guidelines and a plan that address every possibility
Billy Welcome shared that All In Athletics has provided parents with 18 pages worth of safety guidelines. This is the norm for organizations hoping to both calm the nerves of parents, while also providing the safest possible environment for youth athletes. It’s important for information like this to also be a “living document.” Protocols need to change in real time as state and local guidelines change over time. Safety and compliance regulations are seemingly changing week by week, which means that youth organizations need to keep up.
3. Closely monitor state and local mandates
Youth organizers can’t simply rely on receiving information from state and local authorities. They need to seek out this information, and regularly check in with these authorities to ensure continued compliance. The speed with which mandates and rules are changing cannot be overstated. What could be true for a weekend tournament could be outdated by Monday morning, that’s how quickly things are changing for the youth sports community.
4. Develop relationships with government officials
This can be game changing for youth organizations in search of facility and playing space. The financial ramifications of COVID-19 devastated the budgets of most local governments. Due to this, the revenue streams attached to the usage of public parks and fields will now take on an even more meaningful role in budgets. Securing these spaces, at reasonable rates, may make the difference between viability and financial hardship for most youth organizations. Take the time to get to know your local leaders!
5. Game plan for alternatives to tournaments/seasons, such as creating “sports pods”
One of the most interesting developments in the past two months has been the creation of training pods in response to state and local mandates on player-caps. Nearly every state has a set cap on the amount of players, coaches and personnel that can be on a court or field at the same time. As COVID-19 cases spike, caps generally are lowered to mitigate risk. This has led to parents and organizations advocating for smaller training pods that utilize space at facilities, local fields and even the homes of parents and players. For more information on pods, check out this pdf from the Minnesota Department of Health or this interview from Heathline.