Youth sports adjusting to the times

Local youth sports leagues met Wednesday, June 17, to discuss football and cheerleading seasons amidst COVID-19 worries.

Sulie Roach, the head of Claxton youth sports, said they came to some decisions that should help set a timeline for parents and kids alike.

“We decided that we’re going to go ahead with the season, but we put our practices back to Aug. 3 and the Jamboree back to Aug. 15,” she said.

Changes have happened this year with youth sports, with South Clinton and Clinton both pulling their association with the Volunteer Football League after the board voted to return the age brackets to 5-6 for JV, 7-8 for Hoppers, and 9-11 for Cutters.

“They didn’t agree with our decision,” said Roach. “But they’re run by the city, whereas everyone else has their own individual boards. They have to do what they’re told, and they’re not allowed to do anything until Aug. 1, so they’re not sure if they’ll have a season.”

South Clinton stated on its official Facebook page that it was considering doing signups online, and the city has allowed that, but the process hasn’t started yet. The people assured everyone that they were “taking precautions to keep everyone safe… and do what’s best for our children and communities.”

Other problems will have to be worked out, though, Roach said.

“The ones that have a football field on school property, Claxton and Norwood, they can’t have home games,” she said. “Claxton has locked down, they don’t want anyone on the field or the premises until either September or October. Claxton and Norwood will have a lot of away games in the beginning of the season, and it might not be until September when we can have home games. It’s not that we don’t want to have home games; we just can’t use the schools.”

The change of the jamboree will also change the cut-off date for sign-ups, since the usual cut-off is three weeks after the jamboree. The exception to that rule is if any team has fewer than 20 players, it can continue sign-ups after the cut-off date. Still, Roach said, that shouldn’t be an issue for Claxton.

“We’ve actually had extra kids coming in,” she said. “They’re bored sitting at home. All my returning boys have sent me messages saying they’re coming back, and all my parents have said the same, saying as long as we have a season, they plan to go.”

So far, the official guidelines have been relatively sparse for youth leagues, with Roach saying that one of the only hard guidelines has been that each player has to have their own water bottle this year. Still, other coaches have been abiding by social-distancing principles

“Blake Morris with Union County has been doing seven-on-seven, which we allow,” she said. “They’ve been doing groups of 10. The rest of us haven’t participated in it. The Lake City coach has been doing groups of 10, and they have to take temperatures and ask questions every time before practice.”

Sign-ups are not open on the website for now and won’t be in the foreseeable future, but sign-ups are still taking place in person for youth leagues. Check each league’s respective Facebook pages for sign-up dates, times, and locations. Claxton has shut down online sign-ups because it doesn’t want parents paying fees until the season starts, in case refunds would have to be made. Still, even with all the restrictions and uncertainty, youth sports are moving along.

“If they want to come play football,” said Roach, “I hope they’ll come down and sign up.”