Considerations for Youth Sports | CDC

As some communities in the United States begin or continue to hold youth sports activities, CDC offers the following considerations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Administrators of youth sports organizations can consult with state and local health officials to determine whether and how to put the following considerations into place. Each community may need to make adjustments to meet its unique needs and circumstances. It’s important to note that safely hosting a large event, including sporting events, in areas where there are high levels of COVID-19 within the community will be challenging. Consult with your state and local health officials to discuss the particular situation in your community before considering holding such an event and make sure you are following limits on gathering sizes. The following considerations are meant to supplement – not replace – any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which youth sports organizations must comply.

Assessing Risk

The way sports are played and the way equipment is shared can influence the spread of COVID-19 among players. When you are assessing the risk of spread in your sport, consider:

  • Amount of necessary touching of shared equipment and gear (e.g., protective gear, balls, bats, racquets, mats, or water bottles). The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, but it is also possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Minimize equipment sharing, and clean and disinfect shared equipment between use by different people to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
  • Ability to engage in physical distancing while not actively engaged in play (e.g., during practice, on the sideline, or in the dugout). During times when players are not actively participating in practice or competition, attention should be given to maintaining physical distancing by increasing space between players on the sideline, dugout, or bench. Additionally, coaches can encourage athletes to use downtime for individual skill-building work or cardiovascular conditioning, rather than staying clustered together.
  • Age of the player. Older youth might be better able to follow directions for physical distancing and take other protective actions like not sharing water bottles. If feasible, a coach, parent, or other caregiver can assist with making sure that athletes maintain proper physical distancing. For younger athletes, youth sports programs may ask parents or other household members to monitor their children and make sure that they follow physical distancing and take other protective actions (e.g., younger children could sit with parents or caregivers, instead of in a dugout or group area).
  • Players at higher risk of developing severe illness. Parents and coaches should assess level of risk based on individual players on the team who may be at higher risk for severe illness, such as children who may have asthma, diabetes, or other health problems.
  • Size of the team. Sports with a large number of players on a team may increase the likelihood of spread, compared to sports with fewer team members. Consider decreasing team sizes, as feasible.
  • Nonessential visitors, spectators, volunteers. Limit any nonessential visitors, spectators, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations.
  • Travel outside of the local community. Traveling outside of the local community may increase the chances of exposing players, coaches, and fans to COVID-19, or unknowingly spreading it to others. This is the case particularly if a team from an area with high levels of COVID-19 competes with a team from an area with low levels of the virus. Youth sports teams should consider competing only against teams in their local area (e.g., neighborhood, town, or community).
  • Behavior of the athletes off the field. Athletes who do not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearinghandwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk to the team than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.

If organizations are not able to keep in place safety measures during competition (for example, maintaining physical distancing by keeping children at least 6 feet apart at all times), they may consider limiting participation to within-team competition only (for example, scrimmages between members of the same team) or team-based practices only. Similarly, if organizations are unable to put in place safety measures during team-based activities, they may choose individual or at-home activities, especially if any members of the team are at high risk for severe illness.

Promoting Behaviors that Reduce Spread

Youth sports organizations may consider implementing several strategies to encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19.

  • Staying Home when Appropriate
  • Physical Distancing
    • The size and type of a sporting event should be determined based on the ability of athletes and spectators from different households to stay at least 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart.
    • Encourage players to wait in their cars with guardians until just before the beginning of a practice, warm-up, or game, instead of forming a group.
    • Remind athletes and their families upon arrival at the facility or field to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and people they don’t live with.
    • Discourage athletes, coaches, staff, and families from greeting others with physical contact (e.g., handshakes). Include this reminder on signs about physical
    • Identify adult staff members or volunteers to help maintain physical distancing among youth, coaches, umpires/referees, and spectators (if state and local directives allow for spectators).
    • Space players at least 6 feet apart on the field (e.g., during warmup, skill building activities, simulation drills, while explaining rules)
    • If keeping physical distance is difficult with players in competition or group practice, consider relying on individual skill work and drills.
    • Increase distance for high-intensity activities.
    • Limit the use of carpools or van pools. When riding in an automobile to a sports event, encourage players to ride to the sports event with persons living in their same household.
  • Masks
    • Require the consistent and correct use of masks, by making sure that staff, athletes, and spectators are covering their noses and mouths.
    • Provide everyone with information on proper use, removal, and washing of masks prior to the sporting event.
    • Consider having additional masks on hand in case player forgets one or needs to replace a moist mask with a dry one. Higher-intensity sports: People who are engaged in high-intensity activities, like running, may not be able to wear a mask if it causes difficulty breathing. Limit high-intensity sports when indoors.
    • Risk often increases when players are not actively engaged in activity, for instance when they are taking a break or socializing. Ensure that masks are used at all times.
    • Advise staff and coaches that masks should not be placed on:
      • Babies or children younger than 2 years old
      • Anyone who has trouble breathing
      • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
  • Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
    • Encourage athletes and coaches to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer).
    • Do not allow spitting and encourage everyone to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Encourage athletes, coaches, and spectators to avoid singing, chanting, or shouting, especially indoors.
  • Adequate Supplies
    • Ensure adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene pdf icon Supplies include soap, water, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, masks (as feasible), and no-touch trash cans.

Maintaining Healthy Environments

Youth sports organizations may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy environments.

  • Cleaning and Disinfection
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on the field, court, or play surface at least daily, or between uses as much as possible.
    • Clean and disinfect shared objects and equipment (e.g., balls, bats, gymnastics equipment) between uses.
    • Consider closing areas such as drinking fountains that cannot be adequately cleaned and disinfected during a sporting event.
    • Develop a schedule for increasing routine cleaning and disinfection.
    • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of disinfectants, including storing products securely away from children. Always read and follow label instructions for each product.
    • Use EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19external icon.
    • Identify an adult staff member or volunteer to ensure proper cleaning and disinfection of objects and equipment, particularly for any shared equipment or frequently touched surfaces.
    • Cleaning products should not be used near children, and staff should ensure that there is adequate ventilation when using these products to prevent children or themselves from inhaling toxic vapors.
    • Use disposable gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash.
      • After using disposable gloves, throw them out in a lined trash can.
      • Do not disinfect or reuse the gloves.
      • Wash hands after removing gloves.
  • Shared Objects
    • Discourage people from sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect. Recommend players bring their own equipment such as bats, helmets, water bottles, etc. Do not let players share towels, clothing, or other items they use to wipe their faces or hands.
    • Ensure adequate supplies of shared items to minimize sharing of equipment to the extent possible (e.g., protective gear, balls, bats); otherwise, limit use of supplies and equipment to one group of players at a time and clean and disinfect between use.
      • Keep each player’s belongings separated from others’ and in individually labeled containers, bags, or areas.
      • If food is offered at any event, have pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee instead of a buffet or family-style meal. Avoid sharing food and utensils and be sure to have players sit at least 6 feet apart from one another. Offer hand sanitizer or encourage handwashing.
  • Ventilation
    • If playing inside, ensure ventilation systems operate properly. If feasible, adjust system when sports are played to increase outdoor air exchange. Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows and doors. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk (e.g., risk of falling or triggering asthma symptoms) to players or others using the facility.
    • If portable ventilation equipment like fans are used, take steps to minimize air blowing from one person directly at another person to reduce the potential spread of any airborne or aerosolized viruses. Fans should be used to push air outside, not across the room.
    • For additional information on increasing ventilation, visit CDC’s Information on Cleaning, Disinfection, and Ventilating your home or Guidance for Businesses and Employers.
  • Water Systems
    • To minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water, take steps to ensure that all water systems and features (e.g., sink faucets, drinking fountains, decorative fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown. If they are used, drinking fountains should be cleaned and sanitized. But encourage staff and players to bring their own water to minimize touching water fountains.
  • Communal Spaces
    • If practices or competition facilities (e.g., locker rooms) must be shared, stagger practice times and consider increasing the amount of time between practices and competitions to allow for one group to leave before another group enters the facility. Allow time for cleaning and disinfecting between use.
    • Limit the number of players sitting in confined player seating areas (e.g., dugouts) by allowing players to spread out into spectator areas if more space is available (e.g., if spectators are not allowed).
    • Add physical barriers, such as plastic flexible screens, for example between bathroom sinks, especially when they cannot be at least 6 feet apart.


Maintaining Healthy Operations

Youth sports organizations may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy operations.

  • Regulatory Awareness
    • Be aware of state or local regulatory agency policies related to group gatherings to determine if events can be held.
  • Protections for Staff and Players at Higher Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19
    • Offer options for individuals at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (including older adults and people of any age with underlying medical conditions) that limit exposure risk (such as virtual coaching and in-home drills).
    • Consider limiting youth sports participation to staff and youth who live in the local area (e.g., community, city, town, or county) to reduce risk of spreading the virus from areas with higher levels of COVID-19. If attendance is open to youth from other communities, cities, town or counties, provide their families with information about local COVID-19 levels so they can make an informed decision about participation.
    • Put policies in place to protect the privacy of people at higher risk for severe illness regarding their underlying medical conditions.
  • Identifying Small Groups and Keeping them Together (Cohorting)
    • Keep players together in small groups with dedicated coaches or staff, and make sure that each group of players and coach avoid mixing with other groups as much as possible. Teams might consider having the same group of players stay with the same coach or having the same group of players rotate among coaches.
    • Consider staging within-team scrimmages instead of playing games with other teams to minimize exposure among players and teams.
  • For Facility Staff to have Limited, Staggered, or Rotated Shifts and Attendance Times Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations by cohort (group) or put in place other protocols to limit contact between groups as much as possible. One example is increasing the amount of time between practices and competitions to allow for one group to depart before another group enters the facility. This also allows for more time to clean the facility between uses.
    • Use flexible worksites (e.g., telework) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to help establish policies and practices for physical distancing between facility staff and others.
  • Designated COVID-19 Point of Contact
    • Designate a youth sports program staff person or office to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. All coaches, staff, officials, and families should have information about who this person or office is and how to contact them.
  • Communication Systems
    • Put systems in place to:
      • Encourage coaches, staff, and athletes to self-report to the youth sports organization or a COVID-19 point of contact if they have symptoms of COVID-19, a positive test for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 in accordance with health information sharing regulations for COVID-19external icon (e.g. see “Notify Health Officials and Close Contacts” in the Preparing for When Someone Gets Sick section below), and other applicable laws and regulations.
      • Advise coaches, staff, and athletes prior to the sporting event that they should not attend if they have symptoms of, a positive test for, or were recently exposed to COVID-19.
      • Notify staff, officials, families, and the public of youth sports facility closures and restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposure (e.g., limited hours of operation).
      • Identify and address potential language, cultural, and disability barriers associated with communicating COVID-19 information to coaches, staff, and athletes. Tailor information so that it is easily understood by various audiences and is available in multiple languages and accessible formats (e.g., braille or larger print)
      • Leave (Time Off) Policies
        • Implement flexible sick leave policies and practices for coaches, officials, and staff that are not punitive and enable employees to stay home when they are sick, have been exposed, are caring for someone who is sick, or who must stay home with children if schools or child care centers are closed.
          • Examine and revise policies for leave, telework, and employee compensation as needed.
          • Ensure that any relevant policies are communicated to staff.
        • Develop policies for return-to-play after COVID-19 illness. CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation and quarantine can inform these policies.
      • Back-up Staffing Plan
        • Monitor absenteeism of coaches and officials, cross-train staff, and create a roster of trained back-up personnel.
      • Coach and Staff Training
        • Train coaches, officials, and staff on all safety protocols. Consider using CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers as a guide.
        • Conduct training virtually, or ensure that physical distancing is maintained during training.
        • If training needs to be done in person, maintain physical Virtual training is optimal when feasible.
      • Recognize Signs and Symptoms
        • If feasible, conduct daily health checks (e.g., temperature screening and/or symptom checking) of coaches, officials, staff, and players safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.
        • Youth sports program administrators may use examples of screening methods found in CDC’s supplemental Guidance for Child Care Programs that Remain Open as a guide for screening children, and CDC’s General Business FAQs for screening staff.
      • Sharing Facilities
        • Encourage any organizations that share or use the youth sports facilities to also follow these considerations and limit shared use.
      • Support Coping and Resilience
        • Promote staff and coach ability to eat healthy foods, exercise, get enough sleep, find time to unwind, and cope with stress.
        • Encourage staff to talk with people they trust about their concerns and how they are feeling.
        • Consider posting signs for the national distress hotline: 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746; The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224; and The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
      • Protect Your Health This Flu Season
        • It’s likely that the flu and COVID-19 will both spread this winter. Consider encouraging staff to get a flu vaccine.

Preparing for When Someone Gets Sick

Youth sports organizations should consider implementing several strategies to prepare for when someone gets sick.

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