Mary Guzek is used to playing the role of “Team Mom” for her two sons’ Fridley youth football, basketball and baseball squads. Time was, that meant supplying snacks or filling water bottles.
But this fall, in the midst of a global pandemic, it means taking players’ temperatures before every practice and game, counseling parents of sick kids to keep them home, and running down a checklist of whether any of the 22 players on the fifth-grade football team have a cough or feel short of breath.
“Unfortunately, it’s what we have had to do to make sure our kids can play,” said Guzek, whose boys are 12 and 10. “But it was worse in the spring, when seasons were canceled, and the kids were sad and depressed. Now, they can play.”
It’s hard enough for some parents to volunteer their time and energy at the end of a workday to coach youth sports. But with COVID-19 rapidly spreading, they’re now forced to do more than manage lineups and the X’s and O’s to keep players on the field and the virus at bay.
Many parents and volunteer coaches across the metro area have added COVID-19 protocols to their duties. Taking player temperatures, scrubbing down equipment and alternating practice times have, for most, become routine. Meanwhile, some park and recreation departments, not wanting to saddle volunteers with such responsibility, have moved away from traditional soccer and football games, offering instead skills camps run by paid staff members at a handful of hub sites.
Jayme Murphy, who focuses on COVID-19 issues for the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission, said youth sports groups across the state spent much of the summer exploring ways they could safely play in the fall. Some, he said, were committed to playing out the season. Others created scaled-down versions of their usual offerings. Still others canceled seasons altogether.