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Hall, Gainesville parks departments taking these precautions in fall rec leagues
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A T-ball player prepares to hit the ball Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2020, during a practice at North Hall Park. - photo by Scott Rogers

Stephen Howard and his son were ready to get back to a sense of normalcy.  

Howard, a volunteer baseball coach for the Hall County Parks & Leisure fall league, said he’s comfortable with the plan laid out by the county – which includes coaches wearing protective face coverings at all times – and was excited to get his son signed up to play. 

“I just think it’s important to keep them in activities, keep them busy,” Howard said. “It’s just one of those things where it was important for him to play. I asked him if he wanted to play, and he wanted to play, so that’s what we went with.” He said he hasn’t heard any complaints from other parents about the precautions being taken. 

Participation in fall baseball is down about 20% from last year, according to Wayne Briscoe, the youth sports athletic coordinator for the north half of Hall County. The sport is the only one being offered by Hall right now, with basketball starting later this fall. 

In addition to mandating masks for all coaches, Hall County has also removed the bleachers from fields to prevent spectators from getting too close to each other. The county has also removed benches from inside dugouts, placing them outside of fences instead to keep players in a more open-air environment during games. Balls will also be sanitized between every inning, according to Briscoe.  

He said that while the county has fielded several calls from parents curious about what precautions would be in place, everyone involved in fall baseball seems to be on the same page now with games set to start next week.  

“For the most part, everybody’s happy to get out there and trying to get back to some sort of a normal participation,” Briscoe said. “Being able to do something.” 

Gainesville Parks & Recreation is also just getting its fall youth sports seasons underway, with cross country already having started and football and cheerleading beginning soon. Kate Mattison, director of the city department, said the precautionary measures taken vary widely by the sport.  

 She said that while she’s talked to several parents curious for details on the plan this fall, most of the parent feedback she has received has been overwhelmingly positive. 

Mattison added that registration numbers for all fall sports are down between 20% and 25% compared to a normal year, which was expected. 

Cross country, which had its first meet on Aug. 29, is using scheduled starts rather than lining up large groups of participants at the same time like in a normal year. All athletes are required to bring their own water bottles, and there will be no communal water fill-up areas. Team huddles are being limited, and coaches are asked to have their participants spread out as much as possible when explaining drills or rules.  

With cross country being a largely individual sport as it is, Mattison said it’s been fairly easy to prepare. Cheerleading and football have been a bit more complicated. 

On the cheer side, Mattison said participants are avoiding all stunts and staying spread apart for routines. Cheerleaders are also required to bring their own water bottles, and coaches are advised to avoid huddles whenever possible and instead opt for more distance between athletes when explaining drills and routines.  

Football players will be asked to follow the same precautions, and when contact is absolutely necessary, Mattison said Gainesville Parks & Rec is looking to the Georgia High School Association for guidance.  

“There is close contact, but we’re trying to do short bursts of it,” she said. “I think that’s kind of what all the high school teams have tried to do too.” 

“People are so excited to have something for their kids to do so they can get some social interaction,” Mattison said. “I would say generally, that’s been most of the feedback that we’ve gotten.” 

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T-ball players take a water break Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2020, during a practice at North Hall Park. Recreational fall baseball leagues are getting underway in Hall County. - photo by Scott Rogers
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