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Coronavirus crisis leaves question marks for youth sports in Delaware

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Jon Buzby Sports Buzz square

We’re in a national pandemic, and that puts the youth sports organizations in a local dilemma.

While we never should compare the coronavirus to sports, or maybe even care about the latter for the time being, the reality is that for many families, their spring has been turned completely upside down with the closing of schools and yes, the suspension of youth sports.

From baseball to softball to lacrosse to soccer and so many others, at this time of March, games are already underway or traditional opening days soon to come.

Not in 2020. At least not yet. And regardless of if or when they do happen, it’ll be far from business as usual on the local fields.

Chatter has already started among parents and coaches and leagues about what to do if schools reopen in the middle of May.

Do they play a full season into the summer? Or an abbreviated one to coincide with what many predict will be a school schedule that will extend through June? Or do they just call it a day and scrap the 2020 spring season all together?

A lot of variables will go into whatever decision independent leagues make. It starts with the fact that if the state cancels schools for the rest of the year at some point, all youth sports leagues will be canceled as well. It will be a no-brainer at that point because a full closure of schools will mean that as a state, we will still be under the directive to not gather in large groups.

That would be the easy, albeit most disappointing, way out for league decision-makers.

The harder decisions come if school does reopen with what will be approximately six weeks remaining if districts abide to the Department of Education’s suggestion that no schools extend their final marking period beyond the end of June.

And keep in mind, that’s the public schools. With virtual learning already well underway in most private and charter schools, those students will most likely be finished by the middle of June. Vacations will begin and rosters will be impacted, the loss of volunteer coaches, officials and event organizers inevitable.

Many local Little Leagues planned to open the first weekend of April after what would have been a solid three weeks of practice. Their regular seasons – typically 15-20 games -- scheduled to wrap up the first week of June. Playoffs and then all-star tournaments would follow.

Using those leagues as an example, if teams spend the first week kids are back in schools practicing, it would give them five full weeks to play games. Playing the usual two games per week, that would create a 10-game regular season. And why not leave it at that. Play a 10-game season and the team with the most wins is the champion.

As a former league board member, I know it’s not exactly quite that simple. But it is a simpler template to use under these circumstances versus beginning the discussion and planning process trying to simulate the usual season. It’s just not going to happen.

And that’s OK. Just ask the children in my neighborhood who are currently quarantined to hitting off a tee into a net in their backyard by themselves and they’ll tell you, “We’ll take it!”

The season won’t be perfect. In fact, it might not even be close.

But what it will be, is for the kids. And after going through this hopefully once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, I think we’d all agree they deserve it.

Stay safe and healthy … and if at all possible, stay home.

The Sports Buzz is meant to provide commentaries and opinions on sports issues of interest to the local community. Join the conversation or start a new one by commenting below or @JonBuzby on Twitter.

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