Coaches fear youth sports may not get through coronavirus shutdowns

CNN's Bianna Golodryga shares how coaches and facilities across the nation are working to bring youth sports from team Zoom chats back to the fields and courts.

Posted: Jun 17, 2020 8:21 PM
Updated: Jun 17, 2020 8:21 PM

Youth sports are coming off the sidelines as states begin to reopen.

Baseball and softball have resumed in Iowa, and youth football leagues in Indiana returned for on field practices last Sunday. In hard-hit New Jersey, non-contact outdoor organized activities can begin next Monday. In Texas and Florida, two of the states that were among the first to reopen after closing for the coronavirus pandemic, all youth sports have been given the green light.

But while there are green shoots, this is a far cry from what the industry -- worth $19.2 billion, according to WinterGreen Research -- looked like before coronavirus hit. That has many sports directors worried.

New York City's Downtown United Soccer Club has a newly resurfaced pitch at Pier 40 at Hudson River Park, a mile north of the Freedom Tower that's visible from the field.

"We always thought our biggest nightmare scenario was that this field would be flooded," said club executive director Kevin McCarthy. "And now that it's done and beautiful, the irony is, we can't play on it."

Practice for the last three months has consisted of biweekly Zoom sessions for the club's 50 coaches and more than 5,000 players. Kids have attempted to do everything from lacrosse, gymnastics, football and even soccer virtually. But it's not worked for some players.

"Sometimes they won't move in front of the camera because that's not their environment," coach Danny Rodriguez said of the children at his sessions. "They want to be with the kids, they want to be with the teammates, they want to score goals, they want to run around."

He's worried about the impact on tweens and teens, whose bodies are changing as they enter puberty. "This time was important for them, we were getting into shape, we were getting habits and we help them to eat properly, get sleep, sleep properly. Now they are away, we cannot see what's going on with them."

That may soon begin to change, as the US Soccer Federation recently released its recommendations for a phased reopening, focused on individual and small group training.

Rodriguez is looking forward to getting his players back onto the field but, for this year at least, one of the biggest parts of their season, travel tournaments, is canceled because of league guidelines.

It's been the same for Bob Westbrook, the founder and board chair, of the A5 Volleyball Club north of Atlanta, whose 1,000 registered players often train abroad.

"We live in a technological age, so we've bought a lot of those kinds of tools and we have a very robust social media platform and presence," he said. "We had workouts posted for them every day."

But Westbrook acknowledges that technology can't replace team building and bonding.

"For athletes, people that play ... any game, it's like a black hole, void in your life that you can't find an outlet for. Simply being at home and beating the ball around your back is not the same."

McCarthy agrees. "You see that on the field, you have the opportunity to not only grow as a soccer player, but to grow as a young man or young woman as you're competing," he said. "You can't replace that by being in your apartment or being in your house and not having interaction and engagement with your teammates, not having the challenges of facing opponents."

Just three months into Covid-19 shutdowns, sports clubs nationwide have seen billions lost from canceled courses, clinics and camps. Hundreds of organizations have joined a PLAY Sports Coalition asking Congress for bailout help.

Westbrook believes his club will survive the pandemic, but others will not.

"A lot of clubs don't have any sort of infrastructure and we're getting ready to pass out, you know, several hundred thousand dollars in refunds. We think we're gonna make it, but there will be a lot of clubs that don't and that's a shame because they need their sport," he said.

McCarthy says his club had to cancel its summer camp program that's one of its financial engines, and he's worried about registrations for next year. "I'm concerned that we will not have enough players to continue to employ all our coaches if this lasts longer and longer."

Team sport participation for 6-12 year-olds dropped from 45% in 2008 to 38% in 2018 after the financial crisis and remains at about that level, according to the Aspen Institute.

As children do return to the playing field, high fives and handshakes won't be there but regular temperature checks will be. Equipment will be cleaned more often, and locker rooms may need to be remodeled. Some Little League baseball fields will likely have Xs painted 6 feet apart in the gravel and each player will be issued their own bat and helmet. Dugouts may be closed for the season.

McCarthy knows the new soccer practices will look different, but they cannot come soon enough for him.

"When I walk here and see hundreds of players training together again, I think I might get down on my knees and be thankful."

Huntsville/Madison
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 37°
Muscle Shoals
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 37°
Huntsville/Madison
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 37°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 37°
Fort Payne
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 38°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 701847

Reported Deaths: 8777
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby779711168
Davidson72385688
Knox39701432
Hamilton35466337
Rutherford33860294
Unassigned23587134
Williamson21906144
Sumner18644232
Out of TN1615282
Montgomery14979149
Wilson14728164
Sullivan12893218
Blount12267132
Washington12102203
Maury11179128
Bradley1108895
Sevier10704120
Putnam10116151
Madison9273183
Robertson782687
Hamblen7172117
Anderson6947114
Greene6719115
Tipton632969
Gibson5733114
Coffee573282
Dickson552682
Cumberland550576
Bedford540391
Roane530081
Lawrence518869
Carter5171115
McMinn516774
Warren504454
Loudon503550
Jefferson490178
Dyer483386
Monroe467063
Hawkins455272
Franklin420065
Fayette408751
Obion404582
Rhea388457
Lincoln385546
Marshall353338
Cocke352758
Cheatham347331
Weakley344248
Henderson336559
Campbell334940
Giles330574
Carroll315860
White315144
Hardeman314054
Hardin304250
Lauderdale296933
Macon293251
Wayne267424
Henry266958
Overton258846
DeKalb246342
McNairy245442
Haywood243747
Smith234230
Marion233932
Trousdale230315
Scott228832
Hickman227835
Claiborne224932
Fentress215734
Grainger214339
Johnson204634
Morgan193916
Crockett182438
Chester177439
Bledsoe177011
Unicoi169545
Cannon160320
Lake157821
Decatur148628
Polk147817
Union143225
Grundy142622
Sequatchie140319
Humphreys136717
Benton133435
Lewis130121
Meigs117616
Stewart109620
Jackson105723
Perry95825
Clay95426
Houston94624
Moore8299
Pickett69020
Van Buren6737
Hancock4177

Community Events