As Indiana considers its plans for reopening its economy, the state is also laying the groundwork for a return to youth and high school sports.
As of now, high school sports are shut down until July 1, but there remain complications for club and other sports that aren’t affiliated with high schools.
“It has been complicated,” Brandon Lafferman, the chief operating officer at Pacers Athletic Center at Grand Park in Westfield, told the Indianapolis Star. “We made a decision from the beginning to err on the side of caution and make sure it is safe.”
Lafferman and others involved in youth sports are eyeing May 24, the day governor Eric Holcomb has set for the phased reopening of gyms, playgrounds, movie theaters and basketball courts. Current guidelines would allow those venues to accept up to 100 people into their facilities at a time.
The 400-acre Grand Park Youth Sports complex is spacious, but contact will nevertheless be limited.
“We will have small groups with no interaction,” Lafferman said. “Kids will have their own ball, probably four courts (it is an eight-court facility) maximum. Kids in our program could come in and stay within those guidelines.”
Meanwhile, the Indiana Soccer Association has published a lengthy document of guidelines for a return to action on May 24 that would allow coaches to “welcome each player as they come to the field but should not make physical contact with the player and should stay a minimum of 6 feet away when greeting the player” and to drill “individual activities only, no competitive activities (i.e. no 1v1, 2v1, 3v3, or scrimmaging of any kind, etc. activities).”
“The Indiana Soccer Association did a good job of putting a plan in place,” said Josh George, the director of coaching for Westside United. “But I still think there are quite a few clubs that are thinking, ‘Let’s wait until June 15 when we can actually play soccer.’ Not everyone is going to jump right into tryouts and start going. I’m not sure we’ll do anything until July.”
Little League in Indiana could also conceivably return at the end of May, and those the Star talked to suggested it will be up to each individual program to decide how and when they want to return.
Nina Johnson-Pitts, the Central Region director for Little League baseball and softball, said the 13 states in her region are allowed to choose if they would like to continue with state tournaments.
“It is up to each program to decide if it wants to continue and have a season,” Johnson-Pitts said. “They may choose to organize a district tournament as people may be willing to travel in their little area. After May 11, it goes back to whatever each state’s restrictions are.”
The only certainty for many who are planning to return to the field is that it will all be very different.
“I think we’re still in kind of a wait-and-see approach,” George said. “I’m praying to God we have soccer in the fall (starting in July and August). I think it’s going to happen. But it may look different with how many people are allowed into games and that type of stuff. I think most of us in the soccer community are in agreement that it’s better to be safe right now than anything.”
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