Youth sports programs set to kick off soon under Craig Parks & Recreation Department’s guidance |

Youth sports programs set to kick off soon under Craig Parks & Recreation Department’s guidance

Maddy Hughes / Craig Press

The Craig Parks & Recreation Department is opening the Youth Sports Program after months of not knowing whether they would hold summer sports at all following Governor Polis’ Stay at Home order issued on March 25.

On April 27, that order turned into the Safer at Home order. On June 1, following Polis’ transition to the “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors” order, The Parks and Recreation Department announced they would be holding the soccer season as usual. 

Travis Sanford, Recreation Manager for City of Craig Parks & Recreation Department, has been in his new role for three months. He started working before the pandemic had taken off, when the department was still planning on going forward with all youth sports.

They had just started out with adult volleyball. Youth baseball, softball, and tee ball were coming up next, but upon hearing of Polis’ Stay at Home order, all three were cancelled. 

“It’s been a day by day process of seeing where youth sports is going with COVID-19 and keeping up to date,” Sanford said. “We were assuming that soccer was going to be a go but then there were days that we assumed youth sports were going to get cancelled for the rest of the summer.” 

In the meantime, Sanford and his staff spent time fine tweaking soccer rules and studying up on what was happening with COVID-19 and youth sports in general.

“During the shutdown it was a lot of, ‘what else can we do to get kids outside?’ We want to safely get kids out because we understand the importance of play and we understand the community needs something to do outside. We started coming up with different ideas to try to implement, studying up on virtual videos to send out via our Facebook page, like fun ways to practice sports skills at home,” Sanford said. “I was looking at outdoor recreational pursuits as well.”

The Facebook posts didn’t hit off as well as he would’ve liked them to, however.

“It’s just hit or miss with that, and we focused more so on announcements, like ‘we’re sorry that we had to cancel this event, here are some things you and your family can do while isolated,’” Sanford said.

On June 1 they heard back from Governor Polis that youth sports can be conducted. Leagues can have the same groups of up to 25 people for outdoor soccer, and ten for indoor. Sanford said they are projected to begin soccer practice on June 18. As of June 4, he had already constructed rosters and the teams were all set for age groups that will be playing.

“The last thing I’m doing is getting coaches. I’ve got most of my coaches, and I need about five or six more, so I’m still calling around,” Sanford said.

There are about 21 soccer teams total, and they include players from five to 14 years old. The skill level is within two years (for example, there is a team of five and six year-olds) and every two years, players bump up a team. The soccer season is six weeks long, or really eight weeks give or take, Sanford said, because they “encourage two weeks of practice prior to games.”

Sanford noted that they have to remain aware of continuing pandemic guidelines.

“We’re really excited to go forward. My biggest concern is the parents and spectators following social distancing orders. We’re going to be putting signs out and encouraging it, but with that many people out, it’s hard for us to enforce it,” he said. “It’s a matter of seeing how this goes and how the virus goes throughout summer.” It is recommended through Polis’ order for spectators to wear masks, but not mandated, and “not something that we’re going to require.

“If the new order works and we’re getting back to normal, I don’t foresee sports being a problem, but if we end up reversing and going back to ground zero, there could be new legislation written up about youth sports.” 

Sanford explained that he and his team sent out a mass email to everyone who’s participating saying that Craig Parks & Recreation does not guarantee that events will be COVID-19 free,  and asking families to follow state rules, act accordingly, plan accordingly, and “engage at your own risk.”

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