New health and safety guidelines for youth sports issued by state


New health and safety guidelines issued through Gov. Newsom’s office on Aug. 3 reinforced the no-game play edict among youth sports leagues in the state.

The new directive makes it clear that youth sports leagues and organizations cannot hold competitions. It applies to all school teams, club teams and recreational teams.

“Outdoor and indoor sporting events, assemblies, and other activities that require close contact or that would promote congregating are not permitted at this time,” the state’s updated guideline warns.

“Tournaments, events, or competitions, regardless of whether teams are from the same school or from different schools, counties, or states are not permitted at this time.”

The new guidelines are consistent with the July 20 announcement by the California Interscholastic Federation in which it pushed back its 2020-21 calendar to better deal with the current health crisis.

The updated state directive notes that the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus depends on several factors germane to sports, including the number of people in a location, type of location (indoor versus outdoor),  distance between people, length of time at a location, physical contact between people, touching of shared objects, use of face coverings and mixing of people from locations with different levels of community transmission.

As general guidance, the updated directive points out that smaller groups are safer than larger; outdoor locations are safer than indoor; sports that can ensure distance of six feet or more are safer than close contact; and shorter duration is safer than longer.

“Leagues, coaches, parents, and athletes need to consider all these factors as they plan to return to play,” the state’s Aug. 3 directive states.

The new directives come at a time when elementary and secondary schools are about to open for the 2020-21 term and sports leagues are preparing for their fall season, especially in regard to soccer leagues.

According to the new directive, youth sports and physical education are permitted only when physical distancing of at least six feet and a stable cohort, such as a class, that limits the risks of transmission, can be maintained.

Activities should take place outside to the maximum extent practicable, the guidelines added.

Large number of youth athletes assembled for an event, such as in a tournament setting, would be barred from happening under the new guidelines issued. This would rule out many contests that take place in a typical sports season.

However, some sports activities are allowed to continue in scaled-back form with proper social distancing protocols in place.

In these cases, only physical conditioning and training are permitted.

Conditioning and training should focus on individual skill-building (e.g., running drills and body weight resistance training) and should take place outside, where practicable, the new guidelines stress.

Indoor physical conditioning and training is allowed only in counties where gyms and fitness centers are allowed to operate indoors.

The updated guidelines continue to advocate avoiding equipment sharing, and if unavoidable, cleaning and disinfecting shared equipment between use by different people to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.

It also states that consistent with guidance for gyms and fitness facilities, cloth face coverings must be worn during indoor physical conditioning and training or physical education classes (except when showering).

Activities that require heavy exertion should be conducted outside in a physically distanced manner without face coverings, according to the new guidelines.

Other things to consider:

•Activities conducted inside should be those that do not require heavy exertion and can be done with a face covering. Players should take a break from exercise if any difficulty in breathing is noted and should change their mask or face covering if it becomes wet and sticks to the player’s face and obstructs breathing.

•Masks that restrict airflow under heavy exertion (such as N-95 masks) are not advised for exercise.