After a long year of pandemic-related closures and strict protocols, more kids are returning to team sports, either through their high school athletic programs or community youth organizations, like Kidsports.

“I think it’s fantastic that we are getting kids back into sports,” says pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “It’s so good for their physical and mental health. However, it’s important for everyone to remember that we still need to do these activities in a safe manner.”

Focus on safety
Kidsports made a game plan early on in the pandemic to get kids back to playing, while reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmissions. Following strict protocols from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), the youth sports organization started with summer camps, serving 1,200 kids in an 8-week period by keeping them in small cohorts, focusing on regular handwashing and sanitation, as well as temperature checks.

The organization had to get creative in providing outdoor activities in the fall and winter, since indoor sports were not allowed. This spring, more players have returned for soccer and lacrosse with continued vigilance regarding safety protocols.

“And that’s what we like to try and remind our coaches, our staff, our parents, our community—that regardless of whether we’re at the lowest risk level in Lane County, we still have to follow COVID protocols,” says Kidsports Executive Director Bev Smith. “And when we are playing outdoor sports, if we can’t keep 6-feet apart, we need to wear masks because that is what mitigates and allows us to play if we get close to one another.”

The Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control have provided some very helpful guidelines to make athletics as safe as possible for those participating, Dr. Bradshaw says. In addition to wearing cloth face masks when social distancing cannot be maintained, players are encouraged to:

  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before and after practices or games, and before and after sharing equipment.
  • Keep belongings separate from that of their teammates.
  • Avoid sharing towels, pieces of clothing or anything else that touches the face.
  • Refrain from touching masks; if masks are touched, use hand sanitizer or wash hands.
  • Stay home when sick or having been around others who are sick.

“We’re very careful, and the OHA really guides us on saying, ‘Let’s have an abundance of caution.’ When people come into Civic Park, they are required to wear masks because that is really the one factor that we’ve seen mitigate the transfer of the COVID virus,” Smith says. “Over the last year, we were able to have one parent for each athlete come in to watch the games. This spring, we’ll be able to allow two parents, and I think that will help families enjoy their child’s youth sports experience.”

Your child doesn’t have to play organized sports to reap the benefits of physical activity. Go for a walk, ride bikes, play hopscotch or tag, throw a ball—any activity that gets the blood flowing to the brain helps kids mentally, as well as physically and academically.