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June 16, 2020

New Jersey youth sports practices set to kick off – with restrictions

Games cannot resume for most sports until July

Youth Sports Coronavirus
New Jersey youth sports Riley McCullough/via Unsplash

Sports such as football have been deemed high-risk by New Jersey, meaning that typical practices and games cannot resume before July 20.

Youth sports that do not involve contact, including golf and tennis, can resume regular competitions next week in New Jersey. And it won't be long before other athletes can join the action, if all goes to plan. 

The state Department of Health issued safety guidance Tuesday aimed at reducing the risk of COVID-19 as outdoor organized sports gradually return. 

Youth sports are set to resume Monday, but those considered medium and high-risk will be restricted to modified, no-contact workouts. Programs and leagues must ensure that participants can remain at least six feet apart. Indoor sports remain prohibited. 

Traditional practices and games can resume for medium-risk sports, like baseball, basketball, softball and soccer, on July 6, and for high-risk sports, like football, on July 20. 

Youth sports programs must develop health and safety preparation plans that include social distancing measures, staggered schedules, temperature screenings, face covering policies and equipment cleaning and sanitation.

Programs are urged to establish practice groups that consistently contain the same staff, volunteers and athletes, an effort to limit exposure to the coronavirus. Athletes are encouraged to bring their own water bottles and equipment, as equipment sharing should be limited.

Practices and games must follow outdoor gathering limits, which are currently capped at 100 people. Anyone in attendance must wear a face covering, but athletes are exempt while they are practicing or competing. 

Nonessential spectators and staff should be limited as much as possible. So should activities involving other groups and organizations. 

"Sports provide an opportunity for healthy exercise and skill building," Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. "This guidance will enable these activities to resume while protecting the players, coaches and staff – and the larger community – from the spread of COVID-19."

The health and safety protocols released by the state do not apply to professional sports or U.S. national team activities in New Jersey.

High school sporting activities are prohibited until July, when they must follow guidelines enacted by the NJSIAA.

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