No Tackling: New Mass. Guidelines for Youth, Adult Sports Go Into Effect Monday

The updated guidance provides tiers of which types of activities are allowed depending on levels of expected close contact

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As the start of school comes closer and more people hope to return to fields, courts and rinks, Massachusetts has new rules around amateur sports set to take effect on Monday.

These guidelines are categorized into three tiers of risk depending on the frequency of close contact involved: low, moderate and high risk.

Low risk sports, which include tennis, swimming, golf and cross country, may engage in all levels of activity because they require almost no physical contact.

Football, basketball, lacrosse, wrestling and competitive cheer have conversely been identified as high risk sports. These must be modified to engage in practices, competitions and games by eliminating deliberate contact, staying outside and wearing masks.

Moderate risk sports like track and field, baseball and softball have similar restrictions as high risk ones.

Tournaments are not allowed for either moderate or high risk sports. You can read the full set of guidelines here.

While some higher-risk sports are trying to make accommodations, like wearing masks during practice, it’s not always easy.

“With the conditions of the game, to wear a mask will be very difficult," said Ceasar Salazar, the director of the Revere Bolts, a youth soccer team. “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.”

It’s not just the players on the field that are affected, either. Salazar is trying to ensure parents and spectators follow social distancing guidelines as they watch their kids 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.

As a high risk sport, football season is still in question. Mandatory modifications in these guidelines state include collisions, body checking, tackling and blocking among prohibited close contact actions.

“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," said Boston College High School football coach Jonathan Brillo, who has told his team the season is not a sure thing. “We’re just telling our guys, 'Keep that focus for when that time comes and your number is called, to go out and play.'”

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