Arcata

How returning sports will work and the challenges ahead

File photo – Staggered starts and widened courses will be required when cross country returns to the North Coast.

By Ray Hamill — With the H-DNL approving a return to action for four sports on Wednesday, you can expect each of them to look a little different and face some unique challenges when they do resume competition.

All four sports approved are low-contact outdoor sports — cross country, golf, tennis and track and field — and their return in the coming weeks must still be approved by local health officials.

So what can we expect, and when will fans be allowed?

While all of the returning sports will need to maintain the obvious restrictions such as no sharing water bottles or equipment, no handshakes, the wearing of face masks and social distancing, each sport will also have its own individual restrictions.

In golf, masks will be required at all times, even during competition, while only athletes, coaches and essential personnel will be permitted to attend.

Immediate household members will be allowed to attend in cross country, tennis and track and field, as long as they wear masks and maintain social distancing from other spectators.

For student athletes competing in those three sports, masks will be required at all times outside of competition.

Cross country will also require staggered starts and widened courses, as well social distancing when checking in.

Track and field, meanwhile, will present some of the biggest challenges.

In the track events, competitors will not be required to wear masks during competition, but  every other lane will remain open.

Competitors in the field events, on the other hand, will be required to wear masks during competition, while the equipment in both the high jump and pole vault will need to be disinfected after each individual use.

The tarps will be required to be disinfected after each competitor, which will mean having extra tarps to quickly pull on and off while the others are being disinfected.

In tennis, only competitors will be allowed to touch the tennis balls.

According to the most recent state youth sports guidelines, attendance at indoor events as they are allowed under the different COVID tiers will be restricted to 25 percent under orange and 50 percent under yellow, with no indoor sports competition allowed in the purple or red tiers.

Athletes will also be restricted to competing in just one sport at any given time.

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