The Next Normal: Youth sports coming back with changes in game day experience

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Updated: May. 25, 2020 at 6:52 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Next time you go to your local ball park things will look different.

After two months of delay, youth sports programs across East Texas will be opening up in the coming weeks under Governor Greg Abbott’s Phase 2 portion of reopening Texas. On May 31, leagues can start holding practices. On June 15 games can resume.

Not all leagues in East Texas are coming back this summer. Several have announced their seasons are canceled but for the ones coming back officials are hard at work making plans to keep everyone safe.

Most league’s will have accelerated seasons with many finishing in just over a month.

“If you are a baseball fan you are going to see a lot of baseball in a short period of time," Lufkin Parks and Recreation Director Michael Flinn said. "It is going to be a challenge. I know people are tired of hearing things are going to be different but it is going to be different.”

The main thing parents will need to know is that under state guidelines only one parent or guardian can bring a athlete to practice. For games, varying leagues will have their own policy but most are asking for spectators to be immediate family and to social distance from other family groups. Masks are being strongly suggested and leagues are asking for elderberry family to reconsider coming out to the large groups.

“We are not making the players wear masks,” Flinn said. “It is optional. We will leave that up to the individual parents. We want them to feel safe about it.”

In Lufkin Bleachers will be closed off to the fans so spectators will need to bring folding chairs to set up around the fence of the field.

“That is where our overflow is going to be for the dugouts,” Flinn said. “We are not out here all the time but we are asking people to self comply, be safe and have fun.”

Many of the parks will have limited concession stand items as a way to limit exposure to the virus. Spectators will be allowed to bring in outside food and drinks. The maximum occupancy of Restrooms will be restricted and water fountains closed.

“We are really just trying to keep everyone from crowding all at once,” Jenny Wells with the City of Tyler said. “There are really great places to come together but this virus is very contagious.”

The big goal of youth sports has always been to promote the games and good sportsmanship. While those two goals will still be there the second will be harder to notice under social distancing.

“Teams are not being allowed to do Handshakes,” Wells said. “No high fives, none of the big team huddles. We are trying to make sure everyone stays separated. Baseball season is going to look a lot different this year but hey that is okay. baseball season is still happening.”

For more details from the state on how youth sports will be coming back during the COVID-19 pandemic click here.

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