Just when Ben Boldt figures he’s got a handle on dealing with COVID-19 when it comes to Rochester youth and amateur sports this spring and summer, he doesn’t.
Something new keeps cropping up for the Rochester Park and Recreation Department recreation supervisor to deal with.
“This has been so unique,” Boldt said of working around a pandemic. “We try to build contingency plans for all kinds of things. But we’re writing rules as we go along while looking for guidance from authorities and health professionals.”
Boldt isn’t the only one who’s struggled to know how to proceed the last few months with youth and amateur spring and summer sports, or whether seasons should be offered at all due to the pandemic.
Once the youth soccer, baseball and softball associations were green lighted May 20 by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to have seasons, it was then shifted to the associations themselves to determine whether or not to accept the invitation. Those proceeding were then required to hand their “stay-safe” preparedness plan to the Rochester Park and Recreation Department for evaluation.
Both of Rochester’s youth soccer organizations, Rochester Rush and Rochester FC, haven’t bothered to write up a proposal.
That’s because both have elected not to have summer seasons during the pandemic. The city’s largest youth soccer organization, Rochester Rush, explained itself in a press release this week.
It stated: “Through discussions with numerous clubs, our insurance and legal experts, the board has found it prudent to cancel the current season. This gives us great sadness, as we all want our children playing the game they love. We all recognize the numerous benefits sports give our lives. However, the Minnesota Rush board feels there are too many risks and unknowns to carry forward at this time.”
Rochester FC began a season in February but then ended it in March when the state shut down all Minnesota organized sports activities. Rochester FC co-owner Midhat Mujic said it is now looking ahead.
“We’re focused on possibly doing something in the fall,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re going to postpone things until 2021, or whenever it’s safe to go back to playing.”
Two youth organizations that are planning to have seasons are the Rochester Youth Baseball Association and the Rochester Youth Fastpitch Softball Association.
But in compliance with Walz’s “stay-safe” instructions, both will be offering practices, but not games — at least for now. Pods of 10 people will be allowed on the field together, likely with eight players being instructed by two coaches.
That is in compliance with Phase 2 of Walz’s Stay-Safe Minnesota plan, which takes effect Monday.
The RYBA offers house and travel leagues for its players.
RYBA board president Brian Koch said plans for the season remain “fluid,” knowing that a spike in COVID-19 cases will potentially shut everything down.
Koch is sensitive to families who aren’t comfortable gathering and playing during a pandemic. Registration fees will be reimbursed for those opting to sit the season out, as is also true with the RYFSA.
“We understand that this is not the best situation for everyone,” Koch said. “If you are not OK with it, you can certainly (be refunded).”
RYBA house league plans are for a season that begins June 15 and continues through July. The usual break during the week of July 4 will not be observed in order to provide more playing opportunities in what is already a shortened season. There also remains the possibility of games toward the end of the season, though that’ll be determined by Walz’s Phase 3 of his Stay-Safe plan. So far, Walz’s arrangement does not allow for games. No date has yet been given for the announcement of Phase 3.
The RYBA travel season will be much the same as its house league, though it starts Monday. Practices will be offered and they’ll follow Walz’s Stay-Safe guidelines. No games will be played unless Walz eventually gives it the OK.
Like RYBA, the RYFSA is taking great lengths to safeguard participants. That includes working in pods of 10, on-field diagrams instructing players where to proceed during practices, parents not being allowed on the softball complex, hand-sanitation zones and a ban on the sharing of equipment.
The possibility of games exists for the RYFSA, though that will be determined by Walz’s Phase 3.
The RYFSA will not begin its practices on Monday, as had been previously reported by the Post Bulletin. Rochester Community and Technical College will first get a look at how the Rochester Youth Baseball Association does with its “stay-safe” preparedness plan before giving other Rochester youth sports associations the go-ahead. The RYBA is set to begin its practices on Monday.
The RYBA and the RYFSA both conduct their practices on RCTC land.
Becky Macken, RYFSA secretary, said it is paramount that people stay patient and flexible during these COVID-19 times in order to be safe. That goes for all players, coaches and parents involved in RYFSA.
“We can’t be firm on our plans; we have to be fluid,” Macken said. “Things change every day with this. We have to respect what is put in front of us by our leadership. Our priority is keeping kids and their families safe.”
• Boldt said that Rochester’s amateur slowpitch softball leagues are on hold for now. They offer games only, not practice sessions. So Walz’s announcement of Phase 3 will be hotly anticipated by its players.