It may not be under the normal protocol that they are used to, but the return of youth baseball and softball to Pike County and the surrounding area after months of being shut down is a welcome sight.
Under Executive Order 1491 presented by Governor Tate Reeves on Wednesday youth baseball and softball were given the green light to begin their seasons on June 1.
The order contains several rules and guidelines that parents and coaches must follow in order to ensure a safe environment for everyone involved.
“There’s a lot of preparation that kind of needs to be taken care of to make sure that the parents are educated, the players are educated, the coaches, all of the volunteers,” said Richard Dodd, youth coach and a member of the Pike County Youth Sports Board. “The premise is to keep everyone safe as possible and that’s kind of been our goal especially when we are trying to start our season back.”
Some of the guidelines go into detail about communication between parents and coaches including the responsibility of the coaches to provide a copy of Executive Order 1491 to parents or guardians. It also explains that parents must report to coaches if a player has had fever in the past 48 hours.
Dodd says that he will use a group text chat to help make regular communication with the parents a bit easier.
“Every practice I may send a group message and have a group message system,” he said. “I’ll say ‘Is anyone feeling bad?’ or ‘Has this happened?’ and just try to help educate them more.”
Guidelines on equipment are also highlighted as well. One states that equipment must be spaced six feet apart and players must use their own.
Players and coaches must also sanitize their hands before entering the field and after practice.
While he said that he will definitely adhere to the new guidelines, fellow coach Stephen Williams is just glad to get back out on the ball field adding that the kids really needed it.
“They need to get back outside. There was no telling what they have all been doing,” he said. “They were probably sitting around and playing video games. They need to get outside and play some baseball.”
He adds that following the guidelines is very similar to ones taken by society while everyone deals with the pandemic.
“To me we are going to follow what we need to follow but the main thing is common sense and being smart,” Williams said. “We’ll adjust and do what we have to do to make sure everything is right.”
From a parent’s perspective, the guidelines put in place provides peace of mind knowing that precautions will be taken in order for their children to participate. Alyssa McGinnis is one of those parents and she is feeling a sense of relief knowing that her 8-year-old son Bryce can safely play once again this year, something he has been looking forward to.
“He is just always ‘I want to play, I want to play,” she said. “And finally when I told him that it is time for practice, he is all for it.”
As far as game guidelines, two keys are that fans can’t sit in the bleachers and once their game ends they must exit the stadium allowing fans for the next game to enter.
Youth Sports Guidelines
Team practices, games:
• Before practices can resume, league organizers or coaches must provide a copy of the governor’s order to players and parents.
• Each player must be screened by a coach before entering the field. Coaches must ask whether they have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days and have they had a fever in the last 48 hours.
• Players and their parents or guardians must report any COVID-19 symptoms. Any player with symptoms will be sent home.
• Park personnel, volunteers, and coaches should ensure social distancing.
• Players and coaches must sanitize their hands before entering the field and after practice.
• Dugouts are closed. Players’ equipment must be spaced 6 feet apart.
• Parents must remain in their cars during practice.
• Players should use their own equipment. Shared equipment must be sanitized by a coach.
• Players must bring their own drinks and snacks.
For leagues and coaches:
• No more than 100 people are allowed at the games.
• Coaches should ensure social distancing is maintained.
• Dugouts may be used, with players following social distancing. Teams must sanitize the dugouts.
• Players and coaches must sanitize their hands.
• No handshakes or high fives.
• Signs must be posted at each entrance mandating 6-foot separation between fans from different households.
• Fan and players must leave the field immediately after the game. Fans for following games must remain in their cars until teams and fans from the previous game have left.
• Fans are encouraged to wear face coverings.
• Bleachers are closed.
• Fan attendance is limited to two household members per player.