Youth and rec sports still in holding pattern on use of parks, facilities

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Club and recreational sports are still waiting for the go-ahead on when they’ll be permitted to resume in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But counties are beginning to at least plan for moving that way.

This is the time of year where youth baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, and basketball are all playing with many of them gearing up for the busy summer season. But the coronavirus pandemic has many parents and athletes wondering when they will get to play again.

After weeks of being shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, athletic fields across the state came to life recently when Florida’s reopening plan reached a full Phase 1 status.

However, organized team practices are still something that are not allowed, at least right now.

Those thing are slowly beginning to gain a timeframe on when they may return.

On Wednesday, Clay County announced that on July 1 it plans to reopen all basketball courts and multipurpose fields for organized play.

Duval County said that it was hopeful to have a decision from the state in the coming days about when parks could be utilized for youth and recreational sports.

“At this time, we are waiting on the Governor for more clarity,” the City of Jacksonville said in a statement. “We have expressed our desire to resume organized sports and youth sports … but he makes the final call. We are hopeful for a decision by the end of the week.”

St. Johns County said that it was gathering information from youth programs from within the county on how they planned to adhere to CDC guidelines for various sports.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that the state was exploring ways to get youth and recreational sports restarted.

Across the state, youth and club sports have been radically affected by the pandemic.

The Amateur Athletic Union was planning to proceed with a volleyball event it has touted as the world’s largest, scheduled for June in Orlando, Florida. An event that drew nearly 3,000 teams last year had about 500 entrants when it was postponed until mid-July. Another marquee national event, the Little League World Series, was canceled entirely, including its regional rounds that would have no doubt seen local teams qualify for.

While it has been a strange spring for youth and club sports the summer is beginning to show signs that things are moving forward.

This week, the National Federation of State High School Associations also released guidelines that could guide the return of high school sports. The guidelines are very restrictive limiting the number of people that can participate and identifying sports that are lower risk, moderate risk, and higher risk with lower risk sports returning first.

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