Sports parents may be on the outside looking in

The number of fans, like these cheering for Middletown High’s football team, will be limited at high school sports this fall. Delaware State News file photos

There’s at least one basic truth when it comes to youth sports.

If there’s a kid on the field, chances are there’s a mom in the stands.

And there’s not much that’s going to stop them.

“From the moms’ perspective,” joked Caesar Rodney High football parent Sonya Dyer, “moms are going to figure out a way to be there, probably, if their sons are playing on the field.”

But now even the most ardent sports moms may have met their match.

After battling to get high school fall sports played in Delaware, a lot of parents may not actually get to see them play those games — at least not in person.

Currently, Delaware’s COVID-19 regulations restrict public gatherings to no more than 250 people at one time.

So, at a football game, the number of players, coaches and officials all count toward that number. Then schools will have to decide whether they want to use the remaining spots for cheerleaders, band members or fans — from either team.

Keep in mind that most schools are hoping to live stream games online. And with football not starting competition until Oct. 23, there is still time for the situation to change.

Still, it’s easy to see that a game ticket could be a very coveted item this fall. Some states are playing games without any fans in attendance.

Dover High athletic director Kevin Turner thinks it will be important for the Henlopen Conference to agree to specific rules for attendance and then stick with them.

“I would hope that we would be able to come up with a consistent spectator plan,” said Turner. “Nobody wants to be the person that’s allowing less people than others. We don’t want to put anybody in that situation.

Schools will have some tough decisions to make about who can attend games, including cheerleaders.

“Everybody’s got a different opinion on things. We’re going to try to go along with the majority as far as keeping the numbers in moderation but also be accepting of what the other schools want to do.”

According to the sports guidelines that Gov. John Carney’s office put out on Sept. 1, “each athlete shall have only one person accompany them to practices or games.”

Of course, those rules will also apply to the other fall sports: boys’ soccer, cross country, field hockey and volleyball. Given the fewer number of people usually involved in those sports, though, football may be the only sport where the number of fans is an issue.

If the one-ticket-per-player rule is adhered to, it could make for a tricky situation where, say, a player’s parents are separated.

Dover principal Dr. Courtney Voshell told the Capital School Board on Wednesday night that she “struggles” with the idea of one ticket per player.

“We have families that need more than one ticket because mom and dad are not together and they would both like to be at the game,” she said. “(But) if you consider having more than one ticket available, it limits the number of additional students you can put into the stadium.”

“My sense is that they should stick with the protocol that’s been set out,” said Capital board member Dr. Anthony DePrima. “Look, parents may have to switch off — ‘I’m going to go to this game, you go to the next game.’”

Kelly Klerlein Boettcher, organizer of the Delaware HS Parents Group, said she knows that a lot of parents would find it difficult not to be able to attend their children’s games.

People were just starting to talk about the matter more on Friday after Thursday night’s state Board of Education vote to allow sports to be played.

School marching bands are another group that will count against the number of people permitted into football games.

“I want to be at all the games,” said Klerlein Boettcher, the mother of two Caravel seniors. “I think it’s definitely going to be an issue. I saw one person posted in our group today saying ‘let all senior parents go (to the games).’ ‘Compromise’ is a word I said today. We just have to find a happy medium and accept whatever we’re given.

“Six weeks ago we weren’t having anything (in the fall). We need to say, ‘OK, let’s appreciate that now the kids can play.’”

Another Caesar Rodney parent, Corey Handy Sr., said his main concern is safety — especially when it relates to COVID-19. Everything else is secondary.

So if many parents can’t go to every game, that’s just the way it will have to be.

“If that is one of the cautionary measures that’s in place, then we would abide by it — if it’s going to keep everybody safe,” said Handy, who has a family member with health concerns. “That’s what’s important, everybody remaining safe.

“I believe it’s going to be different. We’re living in different times — trying times. But I believe we’ll get through it.”

Even knowing how passionate parents can be about seeing their kids play sports, CR’s Dyer said she thinks people will try to make the best of a tough situation.

At the end of the day, the thing that parents said they wanted more than anything was just having their kids be able to play sports again.

“I definitely think it’s exciting,” Dyer said about having fall sports permitted. “Having a senior, particularly, I was really sad to think that they were not going to get to play until the spring. I think it’s going to be challenging, of course, and things will be different.

“As long as they are playing and on the field, I think we can work with anything else. … It is daunting to think about that (not attending games). But the goal is for them to play. So if they play and we have to watch highlights or watch it streaming then I guess it’s what it’s going to be.”