Children compete in Kittitas Valley Junior Soccer Association Jamboree at Rotary Park last year.

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At this point, people desire any normalcy back into their lives — even the slightest.

And for kids and their families, youth sports might just achieve that.

Last Wednesday, the Kittitas County health order had been updated to allow for youth sports under the Washington State Phased Plan Guidance. Recently, youth sports were suspended as the incident rate in Kittitas County climbed above 75 cases per 100,000 for two weeks.

“Local youth sports organizations worked hard before and continue to work hard to provide for youth recreation while doing so in a safe manner in response to COVID-19,” said Kittitas County Health Officer Dr. Mark Larson.

According to Ellensburg parks and recreation director Brad Case, Kittitas Valley Junior Soccer Association (KVJSA) is the only recreational activity that will play games this fall. There are baseball and softball teams practicing, but Grid Kids football or any city sports programs will not be played at this time.

But KVJSA is elated to begin playing games along with a weekly practice schedule for each age group.

“Getting outdoor time, for sure. Social, seeing their friends,” said Carey Gazis, a member on the KVJSA board on why it’s important to commence youth soccer. “… We’re doing a lot of things to ensure that they don’t transmit COVID. But I do think outdoor sports are one of the safer things that you can be doing right now.

“Kids want to see their friends and they want to run around. So, for their mental health, I think it’s really important and it will probably help their parents’ mental health as well a little bit … have something structured for their kids.”

KVJSA submitted its safety plan and its plan is enough to mitigate the harm of COVID-19 at this time, operating under Phase 3, according to the Kittitas County Health Department.

Protocols established include: no high fives, hugging, spitting, carpooling and sharing water bottles. Spectators are discouraged but are asked to social distance and wear masks if they do watch. Kids will use their own ball during practice and gear will be disinfected afterward. There will be temperature checks prior to practice and games, and kids are to wear a mask to and from the car.

As for competition, games will be 5-on-5 and the younger age groups, 4-on-4. There will be no throw-ins, rather kick-ins, and no headers, which was already established for the younger groups.

On a normal year, there are roughly 600 kids registered for KVJSA. But this year, only 321 are registered.

Players and coaches aren’t assigned to a specific team. Instead, the first 10 kids (for a specific age group) to arrive at the field for practices and games will be assigned to a coach. That group of kids will then play 5-on-5 versus each other. And will be the same for the next 10 kids who arrive at the field. It’s unlikely it will be the same batch of players for each practice and game.

“The format is quite different,” Gazis said. “It used to be each coach organized their own team and own practice. But now, it’s more of a group of coaches working together with a larger group of kids. The format is a little different, but in terms of where they play, it’s the same idea.

“Normally, we have 600 kids, so our numbers are down. It would be hard to organize 600 and keep it safe.”

According to Gazis, there are about 60 players in the Upper County and they will practice in Cle Elum. But, they are allowed to scrimmage on Saturdays at Rotary Park if they choose.

Games begin today at Rotary Park.

Luke Olson: lolson@kvnews.com; on Twitter: @lukeolsonb


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