Youth sports leagues get ready to return to the fields

Spectators watch the Lady Riders against a H2O during U14 field hockey action at DE Turf Sports Complex in 2017. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — After being stuck on the sidelines for nearly three months, youth sports are making their return in June.

Youth sports were allowed on a limited practice-only basis beginning on June 1 — the first phase of Delaware’s reopening from the shutdown put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. With the state moving to the second phase on Monday, June 15, guidelines are being extended to create a pathway to resume competition.

The DE Turf Sports Complex in Federica has scheduled small group training for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey in its under-8, under-10 and under-12 age groups for soccer and field hockey while lacrosse is for under-8, under-10, under-12 and under-14. The first training sessions will begin Tuesday, June 9.

The cost for each player is $50. Each player will need to bring their own sport specific equipment and any shared training tools will be sanitized after each session in accordance with orders from the state during phase one.

Masks must be worn by any spectators and coaches. All spectators must adhere to social distancing rules. A monitor will be checking if spectators are six-feet apart.

Concessions will not be open and hand-washing stations will be installed throughout the complex. The state mandates all participants must bring their own drinks which are not to be shared.

Any sport looking to resume competition during the second phase of reopening on June 15 must submit a plan to be approved by the Division of Public Health and Division of Small Business that provides guidelines of how the sports may be played while maintaining social distancing.

District I Little League is meeting next week via conference call to discuss a possible plan for local baseball and softball Little Leagues, said District I Director Biff Newnam. More information will be released next week.

Some Little League organizations have already announced their plans for a season.

Milford Little League canceled all divisions except Major League boys baseball. League President Lance Skinner said that division plans to start practicing on June 15 following all guidelines recommended by the Center for Disease Control and the state.

Competition will resume the following week

“Games will begin the week of June 22 with the first two weeks limiting pitch counts to not jeopardize the safety of the children who are returning to the game of baseball for the first time in several months,” Mr. Skinner said. “The season will extend through the first week of August.”

M.O.T. Little League posted on its Facebook page registration for all age groups remains open until June 12. It is having a manger meeting next week to discuss safety measures in place for the season with the intention of returning to the fields during the second phase of reopening.

Two local leagues have already announced the cancellation of their seasons in Smyrna-Clayton and Harrington.

“After reviewing the guidelines set forth by Little League International and the Delaware COVID-19 restrictions set forth by Gov. Carney, the SCLL Board of Directors has decided to cancel the 2020 spring season,” Smyrna-Clayton Little League posted on its Facebook page. “This was not an easy decision to make, but we feel it is in the best interest to protect our players, parents, volunteers and coaches.”

Smyrna-Clayton Little League said it hopes offer a fall season starting in August and finishing in October. It also said Little League International has allowed the league to release any player this summer to play with another league for this year only.

Harrington Little League posted its decision to cancel came after a survey was sent out to families.

“It is with a heavy heart that HLL Board of Directors announces the cancellation of our 2020 Little League Season,” it said on its Facebook page. “We have remained very hopeful since the start of this pandemic and were very anxious to get our players back on our fields. Unfortunately, with the restrictions we will be required to follow, the extremely limited educational benefits this season can offer, and results of our survey, we feel it is best to cancel.”

Delaware Indoor Tennis is resuming private lessons, required to take place outside. It will hosts its lessons at Dover High.

The Delaware Youth Soccer Association’s protocol for play in phase two for any soccer organizations allows practices of single teams on each field and with no more than 50 players and coaches present on adjoining fields. No games, scrimmages, friendlies, tournaments or jamborees are permitted.

Coaches, officers, paid staff and any other adult that comes in contact with players must wear a face mask while hand sanitizer must be provided at all bench areas and participants must keep their belongings in stations at least six-feet apart.

Players must bring their own soccer ball to training. Throw-ins or any other activity which includes picking up the ball with hands are not allowed.