After a season on the sidelines due to COVID-19, youth sports back in business

COVID-19 forced the village to cancel all youth sports in March of 2020. As the number of coronavirus cases started to explode in South Florida. The Key Biscayne Youth Athletics Advisory Board followed guidelines set down by Miami-Dade County.

After months of being quarantined and enduring remote learning -- without the enjoyment of seeing their friends in school or on their respective playing fields -- the village’s kids were finally freed to play sports again.

On May 22, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that Florida would allow the resumption of organized activities for children, including summer camps and youth sports.

“We are not going to institute a lot of rules,” DeSantis said at the time. “At the end of the day, we trust parents to be able to make decisions in conjunction with physicians.”

The CDC noted that “relatively few” children have suffered severe health consequences due to COVID-19.

In June, the village’s Youth Athletics Advisory Board issued guidance on how to resume athletics, said Todd Hofferberth, Key Biscayne’s director of Parks, Recreation & Open Spaces.

The board at first allowed only outdoor sports to reopen, but soon developed a plan to have indoor sports open according to their usual seasons -- volleyball in August and basketball in November.

But 2020 will be remembered as an unprecedented year for youth sports.

“Baseball never started in 2020, which is unfortunate since the council had just approved lights on the field,” said Hofferberth. Installation of the lights cost $332,500.

All things are different this year, however. “We have had practice this year already since the first week in March and plan to start games the week of April 12,” said baseball coach David Carreno. Currently, the league has 10 teams, ranging from t-ball (ages 5-7) to the Bronco Team (ages 11-13).

COVID’s impact continues to be felt, however, according to Carreno. The league had to cancel the Opening Day Ceremony, where the kids would walk from the Village Green to the KBCS baseball field, joined by Billy the Marlin mascot. Also, the village mayor would historically throw out the first pitch.

“I am just glad to see the kids out there on the field enjoying themselves and not worrying about daily stresses -- especially in these abnormal times,” Carreno said, adding: “As well as the parents.”

Perhaps one of the beneficiaries of the delayed baseball season in 2020 was soccer.

“Back in August at the start of the season, (registration) was slow,” said Marcelo Radice, president of KB Soccer Inc. “By late December we reached our expected registration numbers. By January we kept growing beyond our expectations. Historically, we do about 850 registrations, and this year we are at 970.”

To keep everyone COVID safe, Radice said the league has been following CDC and US Club Soccer guidelines. “Our communication policy was designed by the village,” he said. “When players are exposed or test positive, we have clear guidelines that require quarantine and testing before returning to play.”

Flag Football had to shut down two of its four leagues for a period awaiting several COVID tests, according to coach Nick Bevilacqua. “One child unfortunately missed his playoff and subsequent championship game because of a positive test,” he said. “”Minus the obvious social changes, it was a relatively normal season.”

The 2021 season, which will start in September, “looks bright,” said Bevilacqua. “The league grew, island participation grew, and fun grew and grew.”

Things have been a bit tougher in the field hockey club, according to Florencia Manero. “We played the summer in July (2020) and then we began the season in September. It has been tough to have all the team members present at practices with the quarantines, but we made it through.”

The number of youth swimmers is also down some. Since starting up in November, Gaby Larea shared they have 200 swimmers: “It is definitely not the same number as pre-COVID.”

The COVID limitations are easier for the swim club to handle than some other sports, Larea said. “We keep 6 feet apart and adhere to the rules and regulations of the Community Center.”

Rugby Coach Hernan Lopez Varela said they started playing matches again in January, and the season ends in April. “Our sport keeps growing in popularity, this year more than 200 players registered,” he said “COVID has made things more complicated as we follow protocols to ensure players, coaches and families are safe.”


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