SARATOGA COUNTY — During Governor Cuomo’s announcement on June 14 regarding the shift to Phase 3 of reopening, he stated that low-risk youth sports can begin again on July 6. This was a pleasant surprise for many families around New York as it gives their kids an outlet to get outside and stay active during quarantine.
Since early March, many local Recreation Departments have been forced to shut down annual sports and youth-enrichment programs. The Saratoga Recreation Department was forced to cancel its spring soccer, fishing, ice skating, and bowling programs due to the escalation of the COVID-19. While necessary at the time to protect athletes and families, many were sad to hear that another community outlet was shut down until further notice. As summer grew closer, many questioned the potential of these Recreation Departments and their programs being closed for another season. However, with New York’s almost complete shift to Phase 3, this question is now answered.
Many local recreation departments have begun to announce the reopening of summer leagues for lower-risk youth sports. Popular sports included in this category are: soccer, crew, individual swimming and diving, baseball, softball, track and field, and golf. While many kids are excited to regain a bit of normalcy in their lives, there are a lot of precautions being taken to ensure that both kids and spectators can be safe. The sports that were given the green-light to open back up contain minimal contact and share little equipment. Furthermore, most of these can be done while practicing regular social distancing rules.
While it is up to each state or community to enforce and mandate certain safety precautions, local recreation departments such as the Ballston Area Recreation Commission (BACC) and Saratoga Springs Recreation have taken many efforts to ensure that people are maintaining proper safety when getting back out on the fields this summer. One change that will be implemented for the summer and fall leagues is a limit on the number of spectators allowed at each game. They ask that there only be two spectators per child participant. As well, these Departments have begun to discuss with league directors about keeping players safe during games. Some private leagues have already started posting their own health and safety guidelines during COVID-19. The Ballston Spa Jr. Baseball League is requiring that all coaching staff must wear masks in and around the playing field and that players are required to have masks on in the dugout. The traditional after game handshake is being replaced with both teams lining up on their base path in front of their dugouts and tipping their cap to opposing team.
However, while things may look bright for Saratoga and Ballston Spa in regard to the reopening of summer youth sports, Glens Falls has decided to keep their sport leagues closed for the summer. In a release by the Glens Falls Recreation department, “In wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and the Covid-19 threat, and in the interest of maintaining public health, the Glens Falls Recreation Department has cancelled the bulk of its summer programming.”
While the concern of COVID-19 will not go away anytime soon, it’s a step in the right direction for local communities as they try and not only restore some normalcy to kids’ lives, but also some smiles.