By Joel Zendel, a local youth sports coach

Someone recently asked my opinion on how youth sports have been impacted during the coronavirus, and what effect it has had on families, kids and coaches.

These are such broad questions that can be debated for hours upon hours. There are so many questions of the impact of the virus, the sorrow for kids to miss out on a game, team, tournament because they will age out. Coaches missing out on impacting youth, parents missing that photo opportunity, kids adding to their skill level and friend group. We could always focus on the negative of this impact and I could spend this entire opportunity to focus on the negative, but l chose to focus on the positive. I’m focused on the future.

I have coached youth girls’ lacrosse for the past 10 years and helped oversee youth programming for 13 years. Girls who are graduating seniors this past year started with me when they were in Kindergarten and first grade. I’ve had so many positive memories of spending hours on the lacrosse field, helping kids of all ages play to their potential and learn this fantastic game. Lacrosse has taken me all across the world, where I have not only coached kids in the United States, but also in Israel. So many things have been altered and changed since the fateful day of March 12th when the call came to postpone and ultimately cancel spring lacrosse.

When the call came, thoughts flooded my brain immediately: When can we return? What will the return look like? How will this impact the game?

I decided to not go down all of these rabbit holes and, and instead, focus on the most important element. While it pains me to think of this past season cancelled, I know it was the right decision. The health and safety of any of my players is more important than losing a season. After taking care of the appropriate communication messages of postponing, and ultimately, cancelling the spring season, my thoughts went to what’s next and when will we begin again.

In thinking about what’s ahead for the re-start of youth sports, it is my belief we have a unique opportunity to refocus and reset what we call “youth sports.“ This opportunity has me excited for the future. In considering the future, we have to examine the “positives” of this shutdown. More families have been enjoying family time, and parents were not glorified chauffeurs where the family dinner is a chicken sandwich and waffle fries.

In this opportunity, we will need to change and adjust and use different resources to improve the experience. Instead of cancelling practices due to weather, we can hold Zoom meetings and Zoom practices. We can use other technology to broadcast youth sports live for loved ones unable to attend (either due to regulations, or simply because they cannot attend). Families who have kids playing multiple sports will be able to see one child play in real time, and watch another child on screen – so we no longer have the awkward “Yes, Dad told me about your goal!” The time is now to also collaborate with youth sports programs, as best we can, to consider schedules so families are not driving all over the community for their kids to play a sport.

It is easy to focus on the negative. I choose to focus on the fun changes we can implement to make the “loss of Spring 2020” as a positive for future generations of athletes. Change, in response to COVID-19 in the youth sports realm is inevitable. But, if we can make positive change, reduce impacts on families and grow youth sports participation, then Spring 2020 will be a turning point for the good.


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