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Future of fall sports in South Florida: Could coronavirus cause delay of game?

Some sports programs ready to play ball, while others are benched
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Posted at 2:42 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-10 22:06:10-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — With the infection rate of COVID-19 growing in South Florida and the possibility of Palm Beach County schools opening virtually, parents are wondering about the state of athletic leagues and other sports programs.

In Jupiter, the Jupiter and Tequesta Athletic League plan to offer baseball, soccer, flag football, softball and cheerleading this fall. Each sport, however, will have modifications for players and fans.

"We are focused on participants and families safety No. 1. We are working on putting procedures and processes in place before we open up for the season," JTAA Executive Director Adam Magun said.

Magun said the JTAA plans to enforce social distancing, as well as have players sanitize equipment before and after usage. They will also educate players on health and safety procedures and fans will be required to wear personal protective equipment.

In Royal Palm Beach, there are the usual obstacles when the conversations about bringing back sports come up right now.

"Baseball is hoping it can come back because of the social distancing involved with the sport," Blake Mikolaichik, assistant parks and recreation director for the village, said. [The baseball league] is talking about spreading out the bench. Football is struggling [to come back] because there is so much interaction between players."

Evan Reif, program director for the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County, said it remains "semi-unknown" if there will be sports this fall.

"We are waiting on the [School District of Palm Beach County]," he said. "We do what they do regarding contact and interplay sports."

The school district said it hasn't made a decision yet on fall sports. Julie Houston Trieste, a spokeswoman for the district, said July 15 is still the decision day on whether schools will be holding classes virtually, "and then we can move forward from there with items such as sports."

In Palm Beach Gardens, the Youth Athletic Association's website said programs are shut down until Sept. 1.

All PBGYAA Recreation sport[s] programs will be shut down until Sept 1, 2020.
PBGYAA is committed to caring for the health and well-being of our players, parents, and volunteers.
https://www.pbgyaa.com/

i9 Sports, the United States' largest multi-sport provider, has locations all over South Florida offering flag football, basketball, baseball and soccer leagues starting this week in Delray Beach. Other locations, like Boynton Beach and Loxahatchee, have programs starting at the end of September.

Becky Smith, of West Palm Beach, said she already registered her 7-year-old in i9.

"I have concerns, of course, but she needs this mentally [and] physically, especially if she can't go to school," Smith said.

Reactions from parents on children participating in sports run the gamut from hesitation to enthusiasm.

Vero Beach resident Heath West wasn't sure if he would allow his twin teens to participate in sports this fall.

"I think they would [want to] in a heartbeat, and I'd probably let them if proper protocols were in place to check all the participants beforehand," he said. "But still, someone could be asymptomatic and still carry it. It depends on the sport, too."

West admits it would be a "long" discussion with his wife.

"It's a dividing situation," West said. "Just like everything else right now. Plus, there's the optics of other parents looking at you and saying, 'Why would you put your child at risk? What a terrible parent you are.'"

Shelli Lockhart, a single mother living in West Palm Beach, has a 5-year-old who was hoping to take soccer. She's hesitant.

"The kids don't fully grasp the idea of the virus," she said. "They take off masks, they touch each other, wrestle and, honestly, are gross little people."

Kelly Torre, a Jupiter mom, said she's "completely torn."

"I know how much my kids want to play, but I also feel like it's not safe," she said. "My younger son is totally pumped about playing fall baseball. I'm going to register him. I will make a final decision as the time comes closer. Now that Palm Beach County schools are beginning virtually, it makes me feel like we are not ready for sports, either. I think guidelines need to be put in place for sports, too. For example, kids piled into a dugout between innings certainly defeats the idea of social distancing. There needs to be a set of rules that everyone follows so that everyone is safe. I'm not sure that is possible or that people would be willing to follow these rules."

Wellington mom Jennifer Gavillan has a son who plays basketball and baseball. She's not ready for him to hit the court or the diamond.

"My son is OK with that decision," Gavillan said. "[Playing sports] makes me nervous right now. If they can't have school[s] open then playing a sport is the same. If nothing changes then, eventually, I will put my son in sports because it will have to be the new way of life and kids should be involved in something."

Melanie Rey, of Palm Beach Gardens, is keeping her daughter Molly in gymnastics class because the gym is large and has better options for social distancing.

"[Molly] is with the same group of kids and [there] would be [no] new exposure," she said. "They also require parents to wear masks."

Jupiter resident Jodi Flanigan has a daughter cast as Cinderella in May 2021 at Dreyfoos Hall and a son who plays hockey.

"Right now it's just practices at [the] rink and summer intensive classes at the [ballet] studio," Flanigan said. "They get [temperatures] taken and can't linger, and have to social [distance], so it's [OK]."

Mandy Bermudez, of Royal Palm Beach, plans to enroll her son in soccer if it's available.

"Definitely, safety is important, but social balance is just as important to me concerning the lower risk [of infection] for their age group," she said.

Brent Seifert, of Stuart, agreed.

"I have zero fear of the [coronavirus] death rate. [The U.S. has a population of] 330 million people and 205 dying July 5 is .0000000633%," he said. "[It's] more dangerous to walk to the park. Everything should be open."

Stacie Garboden, of West Palm Beach, said her son, who attends John I. Leonard High School, marches in the band.

"I'd let him go back in a second," she said. "His mental health is going down fast."

List of Known Active Programs

This is list is actively updating, to add a program to this list please e-mail tawalker@wptv.com.

i9 Sports
Sports, location, deadlines, and start dates vary by location.

Register for i9 sports leagues by clicking here.

JTAA (Jupiter Tequesta Athletic Association)

Sports Offered: Baseball, soccer, flag football, softball, and cheerleading.
Registration Deadline: Mid-August
Start Date: After Labor Day

Health and safety procedures:

  • Sanitize equipment before and after usage
  • Enforce social distancing
  • Families will need to wear PPE
  • Education on health and safety procedures

Register for JTAA sports leagues by clicking here.

Palm Beach Gardens Youth Athletic Association Inc.
Click here for updates about the latest decisions being made regarding upcoming tournaments and events in preparation for COVID-19.

Village of North Palm Beach
Sports Offered: Soccer, basketball, flag football, pickleball, and baseball.
Registration Deadline: Varies by sport
Start Date: After Varies by sport

Village of Royal Palm Beach
The Recreation Center is hoping to have an update on baseball, soccer, and football by the end of July.