Young athletes in Northern Virginia to (carefully) take field Friday

After almost three months of restrictions related to COVID-19, young athletes and their parents will be able to expend that built-up energy, Friday.

As Northern Virginia enters Phase Two of Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to reopen the state after the March shutdown due to the novel coronavirus, youth sports will be able to resume, with several conditions to allow increased activity while maintaining physical distancing.


REOPENING PLANS AROUND THE REGION


In Tuesday’s briefing, Northam’s Chief of Staff Clark Mercer said Phase Two will require athletes, coaches, and spectators to maintain at least 10 feet of physical distance, rather than the 6 feet guidance for nonathletic interactions.

“When you’re exercising, those air particles move a little bit quicker, and it’s more likely that it spreads — that’s the reason for 10 feet,” said Mercer.

Phase Two allows for incidental contact, maintain prohibition on sports requiring sustained physical contact, and set guidelines on the number of people who can be present for outdoors and indoors sports.

“Incidental contact is accidental contact that you didn’t plan for,” Mercer said. “We understand you can’t play a lot of sports without having some incidental contact.”

Mercer offered examples: “Can my child go back to having indoor karate classes? Yes. Can your child spar with another child and have intentional contact in those classes? No.”

While baseball outdoors will be allowed, sharing of helmets and bats won’t be.

In football, Mercer said quarterbacks can practice throwing to receivers who are wearing gloves.

“We’re not doing tackle football in the middle of the summer. In high school football, folks should be training right now, I don’t know what will happen with the high school season, down the road.”

During training for soccer, throw-ins should be avoided, and players should be instructed to begin play by kicking the ball.

“For most of the training we do, across the Commonwealth, you don’t have to have everyone picking up the ball and throwing it in,” Mercer said.

As far as capacity, indoor capacity will be limited to 30% of a facility’s maximum, up to 50 people. In sportsplexes that have several fields, courts and rinks, each playing field will be able to hold that number.

For sports outdoors, the total number of people present can’t be more than 50% of the field’s capacity, or 50 people, including players, coaches and spectators.

The restrictions will allow for parents of youth players to stay and watch their children.

“There’s no limit, or capacity, for spectators of youth sports, given that they’re parents or guardians, either watching their children, or taking care of their children, at the game,” Mercer said.

Spectators should keep their distance from each other, according to Mercer.

“These are phases — they’re not permanent,” Mercer said. “We will have a Phase Three in Virginia that the governor will articulate.”

“You will be able to get your sons and daughters out practicing and playing this Friday. Let’s just do it in a smart way.”

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