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Volume 26 No. 182
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SBJ Unpacks: How Will Youth Sports Navigate The Road Back?

While major leagues like the NBA, MLB and NHL have taken the spotlight for being on hiatus, youth sports leagues also are facing their longest dark period in years. On the latest episode of "SBJ Unpacks -- Weathering COVID-19," our Bill King is joined by Tom Farrey, Exec Dir of the Sports & Society Program at The Aspen Institute, to examine what a safe return to sports will look like for kids and whether now is the right time.

On whether there is a consensus among healthcare officials on what the path should look like for youth sports to return
Farrey: Youth sports is a highly disjointed space. We don’t have Youth Ministry of Sport or some entity to coordinate things from the top down. What we do have is the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee which issued what I think are really strong ‘return to play’ guidelines for athletes and returning to events. It’s super solid … but what you have are a lot of organizations who are not paying attention to them and sort of drawing up their own ideas on how to bring back play.

On how aware youth organizations are of the guidelines being issued by the CDC, the USOPC and other healthcare entities
Farrey: This is the challenge. This whole situation has laid bare the structural flaws and deficits of our sports system in this country, particularly at its base. … There’s a way to structure practices and there’s a way to give parents the confidence to put their kids back into these settings. It’s just going to take a level of commitment and understanding that we are in a new era.

On whether youth sports could come out better off from the pandemic
Farrey: We are now in a crisis and we’ve got real challenges in front of us, but I’m talking to a lot of leaders from the leagues, from NGBs, from top corporations engaged in this space. They all are excited to put in place a new model coming out of this and they’re thinking very hard and there is a lot of momentum around rebuilding community-based sports.