What to Know About Massachusetts' New Coronavirus Guidelines for Youth Sports

Restrictions for sports are categorized into three levels of COVID-19 transmission risk

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With Massachusetts in Phase 3 of its reopening process and start of school on the horizon, more people are headed to playing fields to participate in sports.

Concern over the safety of athletes remains, however, amid a slight uptick in coronavirus cases in the Bay State.

New state guidance set to take effect Monday has clarified what youth and adult amateur sports activities will be allowed to take place -- and with what safety precautions -- during the current phase of the state's reopening plan.

Restrictions for both amateur adult and youth sports are categorized into three levels of COVID transmission risk based on the amount of close contact, according to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Different rules for each risk level are laid out in the agency's guidelines, which apply to grades K-12.

Low risk sports like tennis, swimming, golf and cross country can engage in all levels of activity because they're inherently low-contact.

Moderate and high risk sports including soccer, basketball, football and competitive cheer must be modified to engage in practices, competitions and games by eliminating deliberate contact, staying outside and wearing masks. Tournaments are not allowed.

Read the full guidelines for sports issued by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The Revere Bolts, a youth soccer team, had a difficult time practicing with masks on, according to Director Ceasar Salazar. He’s training over 150 of his players to wear masks during active play.

“With the conditions of the game, to wear a mask will be very difficult," Salazar said. “I think they’re trying to keep us all safe. But I think some of them can go to extremes. We don’t want to go to extremes because kids need to keep moving. Kids should keep working.”

Salazar is also making sure that parents and spectators are maintaining physical distance while watching from the sidelines.

“The parents are sitting away from each other. If they’re closer, it’s because they are family. And everyone’s wearing masks,” he said.

Thursday, Massachusetts added more guidance saying low-risk sports like tennis and swimming can engage in all levels of activity, but moderate and high-risk sports, including basketball and football, must be modified to engaged in practices, competitions and tournaments.

Football season remains in question, since deliberate contact including tackling, blocking and body checking is not allowed, per the guidelines.

Boston College High School football coach Jonathan Brillo told his team their season is in limbo, since football is considered a high-risk sport. The state restrictions involve a number of provisions that would make the sport difficult to play, he said.

“It’s very hard to look at a young, teenage kid and tell them that you don’t know what his future is going to hold for the time being," Brillo said. “We’re just telling our guys, 'Keep that focus for when that time comes and your number is called, to go out and play.'”

At this point, the second-year head coach thinks a missed or delayed season is the safest bet, citing a student population from both the north and south shores of Massachusetts.

"It’s going to be very tough," Brillo said. "I think It's a safe move, it’s the right move at this point.”

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