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Youth sports’ focus is on instruction, camps

Justin Sells, the director of the New Mexico Rush soccer club, didn’t wait long to get tested for COVID-19 after hearing that youth summer activities could take place when the state released new regulations on May 13.

Each coach is required to be tested in order to work with youth.

Sells was tested Saturday and learned Tuesday he was negative for the novel coronavirus. He knows that he’s OK to work with five young athletes at a time. That’s the required ratio: five kids to one coach. And they must stay with that group through the season for contact tracing purposes in the event that someone tests positive for the coronavirus.

There are numerous other safety regulations and practices listed online. In addition, the New Mexico Youth Soccer Association and several other youth sports organizations are forming protocol for coaches, families and athletes to return to activity.

“Practicing and training will be different for a while, for at least the next three to four weeks,” Sells said. “We are leaving it up to the families for who will come out. It’s not going to be mandatory. It’s just going to be for the families that feel comfortable.”

The youth sports organizations in New Mexico, excluding San Juan, McKinley and Cibola counties, have clearance for activity, but many are being cautious and making sure they are prepared.

Myriad events have been canceled, including this month’s State Cup for soccer, and the Little League season in District 8 (includes nine leagues across Albuquerque) has been eliminated. However, sports camps and team activities remain important for the youth to not only regain some sort of normalcy but also for their physical and mental health.

“Kids are anxious to just get back,” said Gloria Faber, executive director of the New Mexico Youth Soccer Association. “From our perspective it’s just because you can right now, doesn’t mean that you should. Groups need to be thoughtful about what they’re doing and make sure that they comply with the COVID safe practices. We’re moving very cautiously.”

Faber said NMYSA has been updating its safety practices frequently since last week as it continues to communicate with the state and gain more clarity for the regulations.

The New Mexico Youth American Football League canceled its spring season, it announced Thursday.

“We are hopeful that by July 20 the health crisis will be behind us and we will be able to kick off the fall season,” the league said in a letter to parents on its website.

Elite Youth Sports New Mexico, a basketball league, partnering with 505 Volleyball/Duke City Volleyball Academy, remains on track to launch its inaugural Sports Camps at The Fieldhouse, tentatively scheduled to start June 1 and go till the end of July. Online registration and information is available at eliteyouthsportsnm.com and 505volleyball.com.

The camps were initially intended to train for competition, said Kevin Banks vice president of Elite Youth Sports. “But it’s now ‘Let’s get out of the house and let’s give mom and dad a break,'” he said.

Gabe Sandoval, owner of Elite Youth Sports, said there are six basketball courts at The Fieldhouse on Paseo Del Norte. Campers will be spread out on the courts, one athlete to each court while adhering to the 5-1 player-to-coach ratio.

“We’re trying to be inventive and think of better ways to get our kids active and out of the house,” Sandoval said. “I know a lot of them are going stir crazy. … We have parents calling us and asking when are we going to start to get going.”

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