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Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Youth sports programs adapt to changes due to COVID-19 pandemic

New safety measures implemented to comply with social distancing guidelines

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced youth sports programs to adapt in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. Davis Youth Softball, Davis Little League and the Barbara Morse Wackford Community & Aquatic Complex in Elk Grove have adapted their programs to ensure the safety of their staff and players.     

Davis Youth Softball Publicity Chair Sarah Roseen explained the values that players learn through their program. 

“Our players learn the fundamentals of softball,” Roseen said. “We really value having fun, learning the fundamentals, making sure that all participants play, learn the game and hopefully learn to love it.”

Roseen further explained how Davis Youth Softball has a recreation league for both new and returning players, a youth league for ages 4–16 and a select league that competes in regional tournaments. 

Roseen commended the parents and players for adapting to new social distancing guidelines imposed by the pandemic. 

“We’ve shared what our expectations are in terms of health and safety,” Roseen said. “The parents and the players have just been great in terms of following those requirements and keeping everybody safe, so now we’ve been playing for a couple of months and it’s been really fun.”

Roseen described the other new adaptations that have been implemented, which include social distancing, expanded dugouts, alternating seating for players, additional distance in the dugout, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. 

Roseen noted Davis Youth Softball’s focus on prioritizing the safety of others. 

“I think our priority is to keep everyone safe in this pandemic as long as it takes,” Roseen said. “We would love to increase our numbers of participants and get the word out around Davis that we are a fun, inclusive and great way to get kids outside and participating in a sport.”

Roseen emphasized her gratitude for the community and their support during these challenging times. 

“I want the community to know that we are really focused on being a fun, inclusive league,” Roseen said. “It’s great to be part of this community that values the whole child and wellbeing, and sports in general play a really big part in that.” 

Jefferson Nguyen, a UC Davis third-year Civil Engineering major and Sports Recreation Leader at the Barbara Morse Wackford Community & Aquatic Complex in Elk Grove, explained via email how the pandemic caused the sports recreation leaders to be laid off.

“When the pandemic began and lockdown came into place, I and my fellow part-time coworkers were actually laid off, leaving only the full-time administrative staff and a few senior part-timers,” Nguyen said via email. “All sports programs were suspended and the Rec. Specs. were repurposed to various maintenance and child-care roles.”

Nguyen further explained how part-time staff were rehired in March 2021 after restrictions began to be lifted in Elk Grove. 

“Part time staff were finally rehired throughout March and we began assisting the coordinators in the PE style sports program (known as after school sports) as well as Adult Softball scorekeeping,” Nguyen said via email. “These two are our only current programs and they are both held outdoors and we check every participant’s temperature as they arrive.”

Nguyen described the importance of youth sports for child development, especially during the pandemic.

“Youth sports is very important in children’s lives because it promotes an active lifestyle and socialization,” Nguyen said via email. “During the pandemic, where many sports facilities and programs are closed, it can be hard for kids to find the opportunity to play their favorite sports in a safe and controlled environment. Our programs offer them an escape from being stuck at home all day and keep them active during their childhood development.”

Nguyen added a final note regarding the return to normalcy that playing sports represents. 

“The competitive nature of sports is not something that can be replaced,” Nguyen said via email. “Allowing kids to participate in sports once again (in a safe way) is huge for their mental health and a sign that things are getting better.”

Director of Coaching and Player Development and Safety Officer at Davis Little League Carina Bender-Abrams explained that before the pandemic, Davis Little League had approximately 700 to 800 Little League players between the ages of 4 and 12. 

When the pandemic began, several adaptations had to be made, including adjusting foot traffic around the complex, instructing parents on locations of where to pick up kids, prohibiting spectators, temperature scanning, hand sanitizing and masking. A new role was also developed called Safety Parent, who would ensure that kids follow proper safety guidelines so that the rest of the staff could focus on coaching.

“As restrictions lifted over the winter, we were able to have a fairly normal season, with the addition of masks and hand sanitizing,” Bender-Abrams said. “Our hope is to be able to continue to play and to continue to grow.”

Bender-Abrams noted the benefits of kids playing youth sports from both a mental and physical standpoint. 

“Being part of the team is a huge positive for a lot of kids,” Bender-Abrams said. “It’s a huge social and emotional outlet to be able to be outside with your peers doing something that you love.”
Written By: Jelena Lapuz — city@theaggie.org


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