Report roundup: Parents mostly in favor of COVID-19 restrictions in youth sports, though communication lacking

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted many youth activities to a virtual format to meet guidelines for social distancing. However, sports require in-person participation. Our April Mott Poll report asked parents of children 6-18 years about youth sports participation between August 2020 and January 2021. Media outlets and health officials across the country have been discussing the risk of COVID-19 transmission in youth sports, as cases continue to rise among younger populations. Here’s a roundup of the conversation.

Transmission and testing

Most parents in the Mott Poll said they received information about when players should sit out of games or practice due to COVID-19 exposure, but only 59% said they were informed about when players should be tested for COVID-19. MarketWatch reporter Meera Jagannathan highlighted the rise in COVID cases among young people, and pointed to recent comments by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, Dr. Anthony Fauci. “We’re finding out that it’s the team sports where kids are getting together – obviously many without masks – that are driving it, rather than the in-the-classroom spread,” Dr. Fauci said.

“As more youth sports resume, our poll suggests that parents will need further direction on whether, when and where their child should get tested,” said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark. “This is particularly important as cases are rising among younger people.”

Communication with parents

The majority of parents in the Mott Poll gave excellent or good ratings for their child’s school or sports league for clear communication of precautions, treating children fairly, and listening to parent concerns. But not all communication was rated so highly. “Communication was notably lower around COVID-19 testing,” said Clark in a Michigan Health Blog post. “It’s unclear if the lack of information was an oversight or if schools and leagues didn’t have clear guidelines from public health officials.”

Among parents whose child participated in sports between August 2020 and January 2021, most recalled receiving information about masking and social distancing guidelines, essential information to keep players, coaches, and spectators safe. “Unlike many youth activities that have switched to a remote format to meet social distancing guidelines, sports can’t go virtual,” said Clark. “It’s important that both sports officials and families closely adhere to guidelines that minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission during practices and competitions.”

Enforcement of precautions

While most parents felt their child’s school or sports league were about right in their approach to COVID-19 safety, about 1 in 4 parents gave them a fair or poor rating for their enforcement of COVID precautions. HealthDay reporter Cara Murez emphasized the importance of enforcement in order to keep players, officials, and coaches safe, as well as to curb the recent rise in COVID cases among younger populations. “As kids return to playing sports, it’s critical that teams and facilities enforce COVID guidelines to keep players, coaches, and families as safe as possible and to reduce community spread,” said Clark. “While most families seem confident in their local organization’s safety measures, our report suggests that ensuring compliance with COVID-19 protocols has also been challenging.”

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