By Evan Brandoff, Co-Founder and CEO, LeagueSide
In the pandemic, when basic features of life are prone to shifting at a moment’s notice, it can be easy to adopt a pattern of unplanned day-to-day living. But if you’re a youth sports organizer, advance planning has never been more important to the success of your league and teams than it is right now, particularly with winter sports fast approaching.
Winter sports leagues organizers cannot give themselves over to reactionary preparations and last-minute decisions. If there are going to be youth sports this winter, the time for planning is now. Here are a few key considerations for winter sports organizers as they look to keep kids active and leagues in motion amid the pandemic.
Embrace the outdoors. “Because we’ve always done it this way” is a phrase that has no business in youth sports right now, and that applies to even the basics, like location planning. Even if your sport has always been considered an indoor winter activity, take a pause: Does it have to be? Particularly if your league is in a warmer climate, consider playing winter sports outdoors—even if you’ve never done so before. For sports like basketball, outdoor court options typically abound. But if you’re going to make this transition, you need to get the wheels turning now.
Consider another sport. As you plan your winter leagues, remember this: The most important aspect of youth sports is that kids get to play. Yes, organizers, coaches and athletes typically gravitate to certain sports in certain seasons, but it’s quite possible that certain winter sports won’t be viable in the pandemic, particularly if a move to outdoor courts isn’t possible. So before you consider cancellations, consider this: Could you choose a different sport this winter? You might be surprised by how many parents and athletes are thankful for the opportunity to keep moving this winter, regardless of what type of jersey they’re wearing or ball they’re handling.
Look for refundable options. Particularly in colder climates, where indoor courts might be your only option, make sure the court time you rent is refundable. This winter promises to be one that’s rife with disruption, and your partners should be approaching the winter sports season with a “we’re all in this together” mentality. Expect disruptions, and look for contracts that will accommodate it.
Get virtual. None of us are strangers to Zoom at this point, and it would behoove winter youth sports organizers to get set up with accounts. Although it’s not always ideal, virtual practices and online coaching will be a welcome option for many families in situations where live practices and games simply aren’t feasible.
The benefits of youth sports, particularly in this time of uncertainty for families across the country, are undeniable—and worth the extra effort to preserve. To maximize the chances that kids can play this winter, the time for advance preparations and creative thinking is now.