Youth Softball Organizations Should Follow This Advice
By Melissa Wickes
November 18, 2021
Over the last year and a half, youth sports have changed tremendously. Softball organizations have had to pivot in many ways to keep their businesses alive and keep kids out on the field. But as they say, the game must go on (right?).
To dig into navigating these changes, we gathered a group of leading baseball and softball organizations to discuss what present day youth baseball and softball look like, and share tips and ideas for keeping clubs afloat as we travel the road back to “normal.”
We were joined by Joe Lopez, Organizational Development and Co-Owner of Gators Baseball; Keri King, CEO of Triple Crown Sports; Donny Dreher, Director of Operations at Finesse Fastpitch; Charlie Sperduto, Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement at the Washington Nationals; and Kathryn McElheny, MD, Primary Sports Medicine Doctor at the Hospital For Special Surgery; in a conversation moderated by Jeremy Goldberg, President of LeagueApps. As leaders in the youth softball, baseball, and medical space, their expertise and organizational approach in the coming weeks and months will be emulated by organizers looking to deliver a safe play to their parents and players.
If you’d like to access the Town Hall in its entirety please watch the video here:
For a summary of the major highlights as it relates to today, continue reading below.
Limiting Risk in Softball Organizations is Key
Dr. McElheny provided a blueprint for softball organizations looking to allow kids to play as safely as possible. The key, according to Dr. McElheny, is minimizing density. By that, she means training in small groups and staggering start times so that your players, coaches, and parents aren’t congregating in the same areas. The reason for this is that it is believed that transmission is possible between players at a range of 6- to 15- feet, depending on the level of physical exertion.
As for hygiene recommendations, symptomatic players should not be allowed to attend practices or games, suggests Dr. McElheny. Organizations should attempt to keep track of players’ medical histories, which would include temperature screenings. While it appears that the risks are lower for an outdoor sport like softball, masks are still highly encouraged, especially when players are off the field. Minimizing the number of players and coaches in the dugout is also a must. Additionally, hand washing can limit transmission on objects like bats, balls, and other equipment. Dr. McElheny advocates utilizing the EPA’s approved products for cleaning surfaces.
Whether it’s spacing players out on buses or at the team facility, communicating with players and parents every step of the way is crucial when trying to achieve full buy-in. Organizations can even provide players with team-branded masks to add a bit of team spirit and fun to the experience. Being creative in how you implement these strategies will go a long way with the players.
Navigating Credits and Refunds
Keri King was candid about the financial challenges brought on by COVID-19—and the fact that they aren’t going away any time soon. At Triple Crown Sports, they’ve handled registration fees with a multi-faceted approach, he explains. Refunds and transfers have helped them balance the future financial health of the organization.
Every family has a unique financial situation regardless of the pandemic, so it’s important to be sensitive to that and offer families flexible payment plans where possible. Similarly, every family has their own level of comfort with respect to the virus—so if a refund is needed for one reason or another, this is a good way to establish trust with your customers. The common thread has been clear communication with parents, holistic financial planning, and a long-term view of organizational success.
Navigating Liability in Softball Organizations
Baseball and softball players have returned to the field, which raises the question of liability for organizations. From on-field protocols to waivers, it’s clear that baseball and softball organizations need to be extremely buttoned up to avoid any potential liability. Joe Lopez’s uses a waiver that details a comprehensive list of strict rules, including how many kids can be on the field at one time, coaching protocols, where parents are allowed to be and when, and the organization’s screening procedures. For organizations looking to start from scratch, the YMCA published an 82-page safety document “Field Guide for Camps on Implementation of CDC Guidance” that could be useful for any group trying to safely engage in outdoor activity.
Community has never been more important than it is now. Connecting with other softball organizations to see what they’re doing to remain successful can help you design your own plans. Join our NextUp Industry Slack group where you can connect with other softball leaders.