Local recreation sports leagues enact safety changes
COLUMBIA — Summer sport leagues in Columbia have been trying to keep athletes safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mid-Missouri Kickball is an adult kickball league that started in 2017. Their spring season was cancelled due to the pandemic, but they're preparing for the summer season starting on Sunday.
"We were anticipating to have our largest season of probably over 200 players," Mid-Missouri Kickball owner Adriana Nieman said about the cancelled spring season. "We have 120 players, so the decrease is kind of minimal compared to last year, but we were slated to have a lot more."
Other leagues like Diamond Council of Columbia Missouri's youth summer baseball league saw a drop in participation because of safety concerns.
"We lost about 200, 225 kids that decided they didn't feel safe enough to play," Diamond Council Executive Director Paul Blythe said. "I totally understand it. I get it."
The Columbia mask ordinance that went into effect Friday at 5 p.m. gives an exception for outdoor sports while maintaining social distancing. For the kickball league, masks are still encouraged as much as possible.
"What we're telling people is when you're hanging out in your dugout or you're waiting to go kick, you need to have a mask on," Nieman said. "When you're in the field, you're running, catching — you will not have a mask on."
The kickball league is just starting their season, but Diamond Council has been playing games since Jun. 6. Since then, they have taken a number of precautions to keep their players safe.
"Every dugout has a spray bottle of disinfectant, every dugout has a bottle of hand sanitizer in it," Blythe said.
Diamond Council also ask coaches to sanitize shared equipment after each use and encourage the players to have their own equipment.
"We're not requiring them, because we're going to supply the disinfectant," Blythe said. "This has been a tough time, people have lost jobs and don't have as much income as they had, so asking them to go out and buy a helmet, you know, we think that might be a little too much."
Diamond Council is also trying to encourage social distancing by eliminating high-fives, spacing players as much as possible in the dugouts, and giving umpires the option to officiate from behind the pitcher's mound.
"They have two choices," Blythe said regarding the umpires. "They can either wear a mask if they're working behind the plate, or they can go to behind the mound, and as long as they stay six feet away, they don't have to wear a mask."
As for the adult kickball league, a much bigger responsibility lies on the players themselves to keep everyone safe as the five-week season begins this weekend.
"What we've shared with our players is it's your responsibility to make sure the season goes, because if there's a positive [COVID-19] case, we're all taking a break," Nieman said. "We will not play if it is not safe."