Youth Sports: How Parents Really Feel About a Return to Team Sports

Feb 1, 2021

Youth sports took a time-out over the past year to reduce COVID risks. Now, soccer pitches and basketball courts are re-opening. While youth sports are a staple of individual growth, health, and community-building, parents are split on the return to play. Opinions vary from fear to cautious optimism to outright relief.

In this post, we look at how parents really feel about their children returning to team sports during the Coronavirus pandemic. As well as how to make sure their children are staying safe. 

The Relieved Parent

Sports represent a lot of different opportunities, purposes, and meanings to each individual. For some parents, the loss of regular youth sports represented a significant hamper in their child’s development, welfare, or future.

A common concern throughout the lockdowns has been the increasingly sedentary life of kids. Without sports, evenings are filled with video games, social media, and Netflix. In moderation, none of these things are necessarily bad. But in excess, they can have a negative impact on the social, mental, and physical health of youths.

Getting their kids back on the pitch means allowing them to thrive in healthy activities. Plus, it’s a great way to keep them out of trouble!

For some teenagers, the pause on organized sports was especially concerning. Organized sports are their ticket into higher levels of sport. Even though few people can count on playing sports professionally, many students still rely on athletics to pay for academia.

According to the NCAA, over 180,000 students receive athletic scholarships for college education. For student-athletes, the opportunity to play organized sports may be the difference in whether they can get into, or afford, higher learning. As such, this return is a major relief for the parents of student-athletes.

The Cautiously Optimistic

Even if athletic scholarships or too many sedentary activities aren’t a major concern, youth sports still represent a return to normalcy. While many parents are still concerned over the potential  risks, many still welcome the return.

Time has passed and regulations are coming under more control. This is helping some parents feel more comfortable about sending their children back on the field. Despite having concerns, some parents are still feeling ready to get their kids back into the activities they love. 

The Fearful

Every parent is concerned about their child’s safety, so at this time being worried about sending your child back into organized sport is totally understandable. As great as youth sports are, the parents who are not feeling ready to risk it.

A study by Aspen University reports only 53% of parents feeling comfortable with their child resuming sports. This is down from 70% at the beginning of last summer. Although cases are winding down, concerns remain high for many parents.

This percentage isn’t a big surprise when we look at school attendance. While youth have to attend school, the majority of parents are opting for online learning to reduce exposure. A study from Burbio revealed that 52% of U.S. elementary and high school students are only attending school virtually this year.

While many parents welcome a return to youth sports, a significant percentage aren’t ready yet. And that’s okay, you have to stick with what you feel is in the best interest of your family’s health, safety, and happiness. But, if you do decide to return to youth sports, here are a few tips to stay safe.

Tips to Stay Safe With Youth Sports


Physical distancing can be difficult in sports. Games often involve physical contact or at least competing in close proximity. Although you may not be able to avoid this during play, it can be minimized on the sidelines and during practice. Wherever contact isn’t avoidable, encourage frequent washing/sanitizing of hands and equipment. 

Keeping at least 6 feet (2 m) apart helps reduce the risk of transmission. Running drills that involve separation allows players to focus on skill development without the risks. 

Some parents may feel more comfortable having their child transition to individual sports. Golf, track & field, tennis, and boxing (minus sparring) are a few examples of sports that reduce contact with others. Joining a group, league, or team can keep the social aspect of sports strong, even when choosing individual sports.

Choose Outdoor Where Available

KidsHealth recommends that parents choose sports in outdoor facilities where possible. There are fewer contaminable surfaces and the improved airflow outdoors decreases infection risks.

If you must choose an indoor facility, make sure that it is well-ventilated and is cleaned between uses.

Small Groups = Smaller Risk

The larger the team or group, the greater the risk of exposure. With fewer people, there are fewer points of contact and it is easier to ensure kids are following protocols. Consider looking for leagues with smaller team sizes to reduce risk.

5-on-5 and 3-on-3 leagues are still highly satisfying for players. They offer a faster pace of play and can really ramp up skill development. All while facing fewer exposures. 

If pursuing scholarships, these alternate leagues may not be an option. But changes can still be made to reduce the number of players at practice. For example, running separate practices for offense and defense. Having fewer players practicing at once, also allows coaches and trainers to give them more individual attention, which could be beneficial in the long run.

Wear a Mask

As with all things COVID, staying safe relies heavily on wearing a mask. A good athletic mask for COVID fits properly, comfortably, and covers the nose and mouth. Many people, especially youth, find the mask stifling particularly during physical activity. 

To make it more comfortable and to encourage mask-wearing, consider breathable mask inserts. Products like the PowerAir mask insert increase comfort, help to eliminate hot/stale air, and draw in fresh air safely through an approved mask.

Youth sports are finally back, and we hope to see you on the field! With the right precautions, you can stay safe, stay smart, and stay in the game.

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