'Thank goodness': SC coaches excited to begin youth, adult recreational sports
Greer Warhawks baseball coach Chad Hart had one reaction to Gov. Henry McMaster's announcement that youth and adult recreational sports leagues could begin practices on May 30 and games June 15.
Hart would usually be getting his American Legion Post 115 team ready for the season, but the American Legion cancelled its World Series and many states, including South Carolina, will not have American Legion sanctioned baseball this season.
The Warhawks will be competing as an independent team this season in the South Carolina American League, which features approximately 30 teams.
He said the season will start in July with a minimum of 10 regular season games and the playoffs starting in August. The teams will play by American Legion rules and regulations, but not be sponsored by American Legion posts, although Hart said some posts have pledged to financially back the teams in their area.
McMaster made the announcement during his COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, and it was music to ears of the coach that led Post 115 to a state championship last season.
"The guys had their season’s taken away from them this year, and to say the least, they’re super excited to be back on the baseball field again and have a chance to compete this summer," he said.
As a part of guidelines for reopening, sports leagues are required to maintain a complete list of coaches, players, and employees present at each event. They must also keep an account of the date, beginning and ending time of the event, plus name, address and phone contact to be made available upon request from local health department.
Other guidelines to leagues opening up include that coaches should wear masks and players are encouraged to wear masks when not participating.
Activities that could spread saliva are also not allowed. These activities include, but are not limited to spitting, licking fingers, eating/spitting seeds and use of chewing gum.
Hart said he won't wear a mask during games and that players, coaches, parents and fans should use their best judgement when attending practices and games.
"I think everybody should be personally responsible for their own safety. If you don’t feel safe, don’t attend practices or games," he said. "Obviously I get it, we’ve seen elderly people and people with other conditions get attacked by the virus, but from a baseball perspective, my opinion is baseball is going to be baseball."
One of the largest club sports organizations in South Carolina is the Carolina Elite Soccer Academy (CESA), and co-executive director Andrew Hyslop said the club is in the process of looking at what reopening will look like.
"We’re certainly looking forward to getting back to training and playing again," he said. "The key for us is that everyone is safe when they take to the field again."
Hyslop said the club will be looking at a phased approach to reopening, with a current plan to begin some form of practicing and playing starting on June 1.
He said that the club will also look to guidance from the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association, U.S. Club Soccer and the medical team that works with the club for how to resume operations in the safest way.
He also said while the club is working on a timeline for when certain activities will continue, one is not in place yet.
"We’ve spent a lot of time in the past three months communicating with players and parents and we’re looking forward to being able to get back out and have some sort of soccer," he said. "We all have to be aware that this is done in a safe, effective manner. That, for us, is the most important thing."
While the itch to return is strong, Hyslop said the club has a responsibility to its players, coaches and parents to do it safely.
"We know that soccer will be back, and the players are desperate to get back out on the field," he said. "For us as an organization our focus is can we get back out on the field and can we make it as safe as possible when we do that."
Hart said Post 115 is also trying to schedule games in June at Stevens Field in Greer, where he hopes opening night can serve as a return to normalcy for some families and as a way to honor the 2019 state championship team.
"If you look at American Legion historically, it’s about community pride," he said. "I think from that perspective everyone is looking forward to some normalcy, and I think kids are jumping at the bit; to get back to that team function, to feel normal and forget about some of the stuff they’ve had to deal with for awhile."
Hart said the champion from the league his team will be playing in from South Carolina will look to play the state champion from North Carolina when the playoffs are over.
North Carolina has not announced the reopening of youth and recreational sports leagues, so he said he and other coaches have only had conversations with coaches in North Carolina about the series.
"At the end of the day, all of the coaches are trying to get the kids as many chances to compete as possible," he said.
The reopening of adult and youth sports leagues could also help high school sophomores and juniors get recruited, Hart said.
Although he admitted many colleges, who also had their season's shortened, have full rosters at the moment he is confident scouts and coaches will be excited to see baseball played at a competitive level.
"We saw a lot of college coaches last year, and I think you’re going to see that ramped up astronomically this year," he said. "The competition is incredible, I would put it against a lot of showcase baseball, so I think scouts and college guys know they’re going to come out and see a lot of talent on the baseball field."
Upward Stars Upstate is a club sports organization that has volleyball and basketball teams. On its website, it has listed protocol to suppress the spread of COVID-19 which includes: players and coaches watching and sanitizing their hands prior to entering, and leaving, a gym, placing bags and personal items in a designated area that allows for six feet of separation, no use of water fountains and frequent cleaning of facilities and balls used during practice.
"Currently, we have a strict protocol as athletes enter the facility, warm up, and exit the facility," Upward Stars Upstate executive director Ben Baldridge said in an email to The Greenville News. "We also have strict protocol when it comes to how we clean the courts, the balls, and what activities we are currently able to do (drills/programming/etc.) to make sure we are following the CDC guidelines."
Baldridge said the club has missed out on the traditional basketball season and is toward the end of its volleyball season, but he hopes to get volleyball competitions in... even if they include out-of-state teams.
"We are currently working with some of the other larger clubs in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee to be able to have “play dates” instead of full on tournaments," he said. "At this point, one of our concerns is that athletes who are typically competing and showcasing their abilities in front of college coaches have lost that opportunity. With the play dates that we are scheduling, we are having things live streamed so that college coaches can watch our athletes from their own home."
He also said teams from other states will be welcome to play them in South Carolina if they are able.
"We aren’t necessarily worried. We are wanting to be wise and take precautions," he said. "We believe that God is in control and we need to do our part to adhere to the guidelines. Most of the events that our teams will be participating in will be one day events so that teams do not have to stay overnight."
Baldridge said Upward Stars Upstate conducted a survey of approximately 400 families of volleyball players at the end of March.
"The results came back overwhelmingly that with protocol in place families would trust us and allow their athletes to train/play in our facilities," he said. "We have actually had to cap our registrations as we are limited to the amount of space we have and are working to get more space to make things possible to get everyone in."
He said the players, especially those who could be recruited to play in college, are excited to be back on the court.
"I think for a large part of our club they not only want the sport back, they want to be around their coach, friends, teammates, and staff," Baldridge said. "We have an incredible culture at Upward Stars and I know we all missed being around each other. Even though most of our teams were doing Zoom calls it just isn’t the same."