Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Can Our Children Participate in Sports? title=
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By Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT County of Santa Barbara, Department of Behavioral Health

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the State’s stay-at-home order issued on March 19, 2020, effectively suspended youth sports, including school-based, club, and recreational youth sports.  Then, beginning July 30, the California Department of Public Health began allowing youth sports training, conditioning, and physical education under specific circumstances.

Our children’s brains need physical activity to stay psychologically healthy. If your child has stopped exercising, you may notice an increase in emotions, especially irritability.  Children and adolescents who are used to being physically active have brains that are used to this activity.  Their brains need the physical activity to stay psychologically healthy.  

We know that brains work best when they have regular physical activity. Concentration and focus right now are challenging for the student engaging in ‘alternate learning’ while school is physically.  Moderate exercise for at least 20 minutes has been shown to increase ability to focus and learn in the few hours after exercise.

Remember that exercise promotes better sleep:  We need our children to sleep well, and normally, during this time.  Schedules are off.  People are stressed.  This is harder to manage when we are sleep deprived.  Our coping skills are not as sharp.  Exercise helps with both sleep initiation (falling asleep) and consolidation (staying asleep).

 So what group sports activities are allowed now and what should we have our children avoid?

What sports are allowed?

Youth sports and physical education are permitted only when the following can be maintained:

  • Physical distancing of at least six feet between participants
  • A stable group of participants, such as a class or team, that limits the risks of transmission by adhering to the Health Orders
  • Activities that take place outside

What if the sport cannot be played with physical distancing and participating with others not infected?

For sports that cannot be conducted with sufficient distancing or participating with others not infected, only physical conditioning and training is permitted and ONLY where physical distancing can be maintained. 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. Indoor physical conditioning and training is allowed only in counties where gyms and fitness centers are allowed to operate indoors. 

What's not allowed?

As noted above, sports that cannot be played with sufficient distancing and participating with others not infected are not permitted. In addition, outdoor and indoor sporting events, assemblies, and other activities that require close contact or that would promote congregating are not permitted at this time. For example, 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.

What youth sports are impacted?

This impacts all youth sports and activities, including school-based, club and recreational youth sports.

Are pre-season, conditioning programs permitted?

Sport conditioning programs are permitted for individual or team training ONLY where physical distancing of at least six feet can be maintained. Conditioning and training should take place outside, where practicable, and focus on individual skill-building activities such as running drills and body weight resistance training.

Can individual or team conditioning be conducted indoors?

Conditioning and training should take place outside, where practicable, and indoor sports activities should follow local guidance for gyms and fitness centers, including requirements for physical distancing, face coverings, and occupancy.

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

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. 

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.

Are adult team sports allowed?

Adult, amateur (non-professional) team sports are not permitted at this time. The state plans to issue guidance for amateur, adult team sports soon.

It is vital that children, teens and adults engage regularly in exercise, preferably outdoors, where there is less chance for disease transmission.  Even if children cannot participate in a team sport at this time, for the sake of their emotional, mental and physical health, try to get some regular, outdoor exercise.

Here are some ideas for your family:

  • Make physical activity intentional.  If you don’t plan it, it probably won’t get done.  Consider one-hour blocks of time for exercise each morning and/or afternoon. For older children and teens, many coaches have been sending home training ideas. Be intentional about this and include it on their daily schedules.
  • Let them choose.  Everyone needs to feel in control of themselves, so give your child two choices for exercise, both of which would be acceptable.  Example:  We are going on a hike!  Would you like to hike in the park or to your school?
  • Make it fun.  Try a hike in your neighborhood and in local parks, ride bicycles and scooters to the park, and consider adding a picnic to your plan.
  • Start fresh! For children and adolescents who are not regular exercisers, now is a great time to start, especially with more down time at home. Aim for 20 minutes of walking, preferably outside. Increase the time as you can – with a goal of at least 60 minutes every day. This doesn’t have to be in one long session. Feel free to break it up as needed.

Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT, is the County of Santa Barbara’s Chief Quality Care and Strategy Officer and is responsible for leadership of Quality Care and Strategy Management within the Department of Behavioral Wellness.

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a-1601338634 Sep 28, 2020 05:17 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

This is ridiculous. My kid just got kicked off another ball field while trying to practice for high school! Girsh park is allowing literally HUNDREDS of soccer players to play in close proximity in the outfield of the large filed, but baseball players are not allowed to work on their skills on the other fields. Either close it to everyone or allow ball players to get some reps in! The school fields are closed so they have no where to practice! Girsh should open to all sports, especially those that are socially distanced by their nature!

PaulineK Sep 25, 2020 07:33 AM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

The line about bells tolling is from a poem by John Donne. Hemingway used Donne’s famous quote as the title of his book but didn’t come up with it on his own. Would have thought this common knowledge but guess not.

LooseCannon Sep 24, 2020 07:46 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

It's ridiculous that the Hitchcock YMCA swimming pool, with 30' ceilings and plenty of air circulation, remains closed, even to single swimmers, one per lane.

letmego Sep 25, 2020 10:15 AM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Yes, I'm so sad. I've been paying my monthly dues, but haven't been since March ...9? I miss the pool. I figure it's a charity and it does good work. I'm not sure I'll remember how to swim.

For years, several of my friends have been suggesting Cathedral oaks to me, but I always say "YMCA is more convenient, and cheaper, and it's ALWAYS OPEN regardless of weather!" Joke's on me now...

LooseCannon Sep 25, 2020 08:33 AM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

The lockers are sealed shut and haven't been in use since COVID precautions were taken. Bathrooms remain accessible to the patrons using the weightlifting equipment and spin cycles. The emphasis on cleaning surfaces, while admirable, is highly overrated since the virus is transmitted almost exclusively through respiratory droplets. For quite a few weeks, the pool at Hitchcock was open, safely, with patrons wearing masks in the building, swimmers taking them off in the pool, where the virus can't survive due to chlorine, and where swimmers were restricted to one person per lane. I appreciate the fact that this thread is about children's sports, but adults and their health need some consideration, too.

a-1601003363 Sep 24, 2020 08:09 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Yes, the pool closures are a pain. I suspect they are concerned about being expected to clean and sanitize the lockers and toilets at some higher level, and just don’t want to mess with the risk.

RHS Sep 24, 2020 04:24 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Bosco: I can just imagine you in the time of WWII telling people they should not submit to rules designed to defeat fascism and protect the future of this nation. Don't save metals, don't go without a new car, don't ration meat, make cakes and butter up your toast. Such selfishness is nauseating. We are in this society together. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

dukemunson Sep 27, 2020 10:02 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Alex - you literally repeatedly made crazy extreme “close everything” and type comments. You can try and back up and disown them.... but you made them. But You can’t now try to stake out a moderate tone/position. I mean you can of course... it’s an Internet message board... but it’s silly. Own it... you made some nutty comments. And like I did from the get-go (and will continue to)... I’ll call you on them.

Alexblue Sep 27, 2020 01:08 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

I agree that certain youth sports should be allowed with some hygiene protocols. I'm not in favor of a total lockdown, I have a child who plays a team sport which includes minimal contact, and I know that kids are suffering more than anyone and need as many social options as can reasonably be allowed. What I have a problem with, and I will say it again, is people who lie and misrepresent and then turn around and say they are "joking" or "mocking" people who didn't even necessarily express such extremes to begin with. That's what Dukedumbass did. Yeah, a real sane and temperate moderate alright, lol.

sacjon Sep 25, 2020 01:16 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

ALEXBLUE - You actually DID say that. You referred to Duke and others as "science deniers and Covid deniers." Your exact words in your comment at 5:42 on 9/24. Perhaps the context is different, but I made nothing up. What would you call me? I allow my kids to participate in modified skills practice. Am I a "Covid denier?" Stick to your guns, don't back down just because you got called out.

Alexblue Sep 25, 2020 01:09 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

478--I own my own business and have been at about ten percent of my normal income for the past six months, so I am well aware of what you speak, in fact I am the "them" you speak of.

I also prefer to traffic in facts, not hyperbole. A total lockdown is a real thing. That's not what is happening.

Alexblue Sep 25, 2020 01:07 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?


Okay amigo, I agree with you on four different points and your response is that you don't know you agree with me on anything--

But I'm the extremist.


bosco Sep 25, 2020 12:31 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Wow. Just checked in and saw my comment stirred up Edhat's "best". For the record, I'm left of center, I have a science and health background, and strongly believe we have approached this all wrong. There has been (and continues to be) more self inflicted damage done to our health, society, and economy than necessary. A more reasonable common sense approach could have been implemented however, we live in a far too sensitive, litigious, and risk averse society. We need to face these reality's but our leadership is too afraid and too weak. Unfortunately, the political lines have been drawn and when that happens people go to their corner and throw all reason out the window rather than challenging their own bias. Our current leaders only further divide us rather than bring us together in reason. Like most issues these days, COVID has resulted in the extremes from both sides getting the most attention when the reality lies somewhere in the middle. This is on full display here. The WWII comparison is one of the most idiotic statements I've heard. To RHS, you sound like a real pleasant person and may are paths never meet.

PitLocal Sep 25, 2020 09:32 AM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

I have consistently thought that throughout this pandemic. Numerically speaking, the covid crisis has had the most serious impact on our country, of any other disaster, in most of our living memories. But, for me at least, having fortunately avoided it's devastation, it doesn't feel that way. We have had to sacrifice some freedoms in the covid pandemic, but nothing even remotely close to what Americans sacrificed for our effort in WWII. And yet, here we are, whining about our freedoms and staging protests to protect against government restriction on our lives. Although I understand the protester's rationale, and actually agree with the philosophy if not the reason, I can't help but wonder what would happen if WWII came about in today's times? Would we as Americans rise to the occasion or would we whine and complain, and get defeated for lack of willingness to sacrifice for the greater good?

a-1601007478 Sep 24, 2020 09:17 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Alex is correct - government workers still get paid where they are locked down or not. So they don't feel there has been a complete lockdown. However, ravaging the local private economy do feel the lockdown has been complete and it is arrogant to dismiss them, Alex.

dukemunson Sep 24, 2020 08:01 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

And no alex... you were defending someone who was attacking the idea of kids running around outside to get air and exercise. Defending the idea that being outside in groups as kids is nauseating and somehow akin to thwarting the ww2 war effort?

dukemunson Sep 24, 2020 07:46 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Never said there was a complete lockdown... merely mocked the people who seem to be in favor of that in perpetuity (Many Of which are on the old Edhat... and seemingly have been in favor of keeping a complete as possible lockdown in place for... well... ever! ) RHS is in that group. People out and about is “nauseating” and somehow “unpatriotic”. Don’t know that I agree with you on anything... and that includes your short term rentals which strip SB of much needed housing...

Alexblue Sep 24, 2020 07:22 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?


At any rate, we agree on a couple of things, i.e., Trump is ridiculous and anyone who denies the pandemic is an idiot.

And people should wear masks.

And life must go on.

So--yep, I agree on all those things. What I don't agree with is your claiming that someone said that we should stop lifer and hide inside.

So, maybe you should think before you put words like that in someone else's mouth. Other than that we agree on pretty much everything it appears, so tell me again, who is the extremist?

dukemunson Sep 24, 2020 06:36 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Yes yes, of course anyone who disagrees with a complete lockdown is a conservative science denier! The scientists say we can open... numbers are wildly down... but I guess I’m a “science denier” for listening to them. Alex you are blinded by political hate. Trump is ridiculous and anyone who denies the pandemic is an idiot. We should be wearing masks... but life still goes on. You are obviously part of one of the extremes that has overtaken their party... and like your counterpart on the far other side, you are the problem. Saner calmer reasonable minds can and should prevail. The far right is insane... it’s tragic that the far left feels determined to mirror their insanity at every turn.

sacjon Sep 24, 2020 06:27 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Alexblue, allowing your kids to participate in modified, distanced, non competitive sports conditioning and skills practice doesn't make you a "Covid denier." You can respect this virus and still engage in some minimal outdoor activity. It's not all or nothing as many hysterics would have us believe.

sacjon Sep 24, 2020 05:44 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

RHS - that's absurd. Comparing kids doing modified, socially distanced sport practice to what was happening during WWII is beyond ridiculous . There is extremely low risk to some of these outdoor activities. No, contact sports are not advised, nor allowed obviously, but sports such as baseball (which relies on distance and minimal contact) are and should be allowed with modification. We can't just cancel everything and stay indoors. It's over 6 months now and will likely be much much longer. The kids are already losing out with school, they need to get some activity and even distanced social interaction. Many youth athletes work hard for years to achieve their levels in sports and missing a full season plus off season now could undo those years of work and sacrifice. Calling parents selfish for allowing their kids to do some bare minimum of activity is foolish and selfish in itself. YOU can choose to keep your kids locked up for another 6-12 months, but the rest of us want our kids to have some semblance of normality before they are permanently affected by the isolation and apathy you would force upon them. Just plain selfish.

Alexblue Sep 24, 2020 05:42 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?


How is it that so many of you science deniers and Covid deniers are such abject liars. RHS did't say anything about stopping life and hiding inside, they said something about sacrificing for the greater good--which you extreme "conservatives" seem to have forgotten it the bedrock of patriotism. And Hemmingway, by the way, wrote that as a result of traveling to a foreign land to chronicle and assist in the struggle against fascistic tyrants who scheme to serve at their own pleasure and fo their good--like Donny Diapers, your favorite fat assed fascist.

dukemunson Sep 24, 2020 05:31 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

RHS - I don’t think Hemingway would appreciate you using his most famous line to justify extreme cowardice and insanity. We get it... you want to Stop life and hide forever, no matter what science and logic says. That’s fine... you can... but I’m pretty sure Hemingway would find your thinking utterly, truly and completely embarrassing ...

bosco Sep 24, 2020 02:44 PM
Can Our Children Participate in Sports?

Thank You. I believe this is an important article. I strongly believe we have become a nation that has focused too much on what we can NOT do and not enough on what we Can do. Between social media and the news media we have put way too much attention on the restrictions. This has a psychological impact of its own by giving people an unreasonable sense of fear. We need more emphasis on on how to continue to live our lives in a way that is safe but also not so restrictive. As someone with experience in healthcare and Risk Management, I tell people everyday that this is not going away. It's imperative we continue get outside. Everyone has to find a way to manage their own risk but people locking themselves in their home and socially isolating themselves from friends and family is detrimental to their mental and physical health. We need better messaging and better messengers.

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