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The do’s and don’ts of youth sports during a pandemic

(Photo by Chris Sullivan/KIRO Radio)

While most high school sports have been postponed this fall because of the pandemic, that doesn’t mean young athletes aren’t still practicing or working with personal coaches or teams. If your child is still hitting the gym or the field, what should parents be asking of those coaches or programs?

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If your child is working with a team or a group, Seahawks team doctor and director of the UW Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology, Jonathan Drezner, said each group should have a clear COVID procedure and plan.

“I think the question I would ask of the club is ‘what’s your plan?,'” he said. “Do you have this safety plan in place? Have you thought about all of this from start to finish, and what does the training program look like as well?”

Other questions you should be thinking about include: Are the kids going to have enough room to socially distance? Is there a mask requirement?

Dr. Drezner said kids should maintain more than six feet of distance when participating in sports.

“The six feet distance is really when you are talking to someone at rest,” he said.

Heavy-breathing can push the virus even farther.

Parents: You need to make sure your child is vigilant with their mask-wearing as well — on the car ride, before and after practice, and during practice if you can’t maintain social distance.

Before practice, when you’re getting ready to leave the house, Dr. Drezner says you need to perform a self-check on your child.

“You should talk to them and make sure they feel good,” he said. “Do your own symptom screen at home and make sure that before they get in the car to go to practice that they have no symptoms.”

And about that car ride? No more picking up a friend or teammate on the way.

“We’re not recommending that kids are in carpools,” Drezner said. “If you can get your kid there alone, that is obviously the safest.”

When you get to the field or gym, don’t stack your bags in a pile. Put them as far apart as you can. Have hand sanitizer to use between drills. Don’t share liquids. And when finished, don’t hang around and chat.

“We all want them to have that time together, but this is just not it,” he said. “They need to get their bag and get back to their vehicle, and, likewise, the parents shouldn’t be clustering on the sideline either. We have to model what our kids should be doing.”

That guidelines will be harder on the parents than the kids. I always had a few parents clustered at the fence watching everything and discussing what I was doing wrong.

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If your child has had COVID-19 and has since recovered, be sure to check with your doctor before resuming activity. This virus has a tendency to linger long after symptoms have disappeared.

“Make sure that they feel well and that they are not having symptoms with exercise — chest pains, exercise intolerance, and shortness of breath — that seems disproportional to what they’re doing,” Drezner said.

This is youth sports during a pandemic: Simple rules that require a lot of diligence by both player and parent.

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