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8U, 10U and 12U practices start next week!

By Jeremy Waschek, 06/05/20, 4:30PM CDT

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Great news if you haven’t heard - we are GO to start practices starting June 8! We are super-excited to get things going after being on hold through the COVID-19 outbreak.

We are currently in Phase 2 of the Stay Safe MN plan. Until June 10, youth sports practices are limited to pods of 10. We will operate within this guideline to promote social distancing, following the Stay Safe MN Guidance for Social Distancing in Youth Sports.

***Quick Note!***
Shortly before sending this email, Gov. Walz announced that we would be proceeding to Phase 3 beginning June 10. We delayed the email to see what would be changing, but it is still not completely clear. We will need to adjust some of this plan as we learn exactly how it applies to softball, but we wanted to get this out to you today so you have some notice on practices starting next week. We will start practices in pods per the timeline below and we will adjust for June 10 as needed. We know that much of the social distancing and sanitization protocols detailed below will remain in place.

 

Evolving goals for 2020.
Our goals for this season have no doubt changed from our initial parent meeting back in February. Now, it’s about providing a sense of normalcy and some exercise for the girls in our program during this unprecedented time, while doing everything we can to keep our families safe. We want the girls to have fun and continue to progress their softball and leadership skills, but at this point it’s less about getting into that tournament, or which team has the best record or raising funds for the program.  It’s about getting just out and playing the game.

As part of this, we want to let you know we will be removing our previously-communicated required volunteer shifts for the 2020 summer season. With all the unknowns, we just don’t know what opportunities there will be to fulfill shifts. We will still be asking for parent help from time to time, and it’s still possible that we host a tournament, so we ask that if you are able to help when the opportunity arises, please do so. If you have turned in a volunteer deposit check for 2020, we will destroy it.

 

June 9 deadline to request a full refund.

We understand that many of you do want to participate in the summer season given timing and other commitments.  We also understand that with the safety protocols we are implementing to keep you and your children safe, you may decide to forgo the summer season and see how fall comes together or even wait for 2021. We get that there’s more to life than softball, so we want you to be able to make an informed decision.

With that said, we are placing a deadline of June 9 to inform us if you plan to withdraw and request a full refund. This is the date the league needs us to register teams for summer so they can build schedules, assuming a start date is given for games. We do still intend to offer partial refunds depending on how the league part of the season shakes out for those families who remain in the program, but we can’t finalize that until we know more from the league.

We have more details on that later in this email.

 

Here’s what we are doing to keep families safe when practices start.
First, the safety of our players, coaches and families is most important during the COVID-19 outbreak. We are implementing protocols consistent with the state guidelines and will be walking through these protocols as a board this weekend.  Keep in mind these are the protocols for the current phase of the Stay Safe MN plan. As we progress to the next phase, protocols may become more relaxed. We will keep you up to date as things change.

Here is what you can expect next week:

  • All parents/guardians of participating players must agree to the Assumption of Risk, Release and Waiver of Liability, and Indemnity Agreement Relating to COVID-19 Exposure, Liability and Risks prior to the player participating in practice. Please print and bring to the first day of practice. We will also have blank waivers on hand for you to sign.
  • Players are required to self-check before entering the softball complex (parents/guardians can answer on behalf of players).
    • Have you come into close contact (within 6 feet) of someone who has a lab-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the past 14 days?
    • Have you had any of the COVID-19 potential symptoms listed below within the past 72 hours:
      • Fever (100.4 or feeling feverish)
      • Cough
      • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or respiratory distress
      • Chills (including repeated shaking with chills)
      • Muscle aches or muscle pain not related to strenuous exercise
      • Sore throat
      • Nausea/vomiting
      • Loss of or change to senses of taste or smell
  • Players will be checked in when entering the complex so we have a record of who has attended each practice.
  • Only players and coaches will be allowed past the entrance. No parents, siblings, relatives or friends.
  • Anyone parking at the fields will be required to park every-other parking spot.
  • We will be marking paths on the grounds that will direct traffic to the fields. Expect color-coded markings along the outside of the fields to indicate where your player’s pod will be practicing.
  • Multiple hand sanitizing stations will be located at the fields and players and coaches are encouraged to wash hands frequently.
  • Helmets, face masks, bats, gloves, catchers gear, etc. will only be used by one player
    • 8U will not use catchers gear
  • Players will be asked to disinfect their equipment at home at the start and end of practice
  • Each practice pod will have their own bucket of softballs which will be disinfected before and after each practice.
  • Coaches will be sanitizing softballs and other equipment. Equipment should not be shared between players. We will not use catchers’ gear for practices unless the player is using their own gear.
  • We will not be using the dugouts or the bleachers at this time; players will place their equipment in designated locations on the field to reduce common-area congregating
  • Players should bring their own water bottles with names clearly written on them.
  • No gum, sunflower seeds or candy will be permitted.
  • Concessions will not be opening at this time.
  • Coaches and RAAA representatives will be strongly encouraged to wear face coverings. Players will not be required to wear face coverings, but may if they desire.
  • If rain/severe weather is expected, we will err on the side of caution and proactively cancel practices to avoid congregating. There will be no indoor practices in the event of bad weather.
  • If a player or family member tests positive for COVID-19, that pod (or team) would stop events for two weeks and the MN Department of Health will step in for contact tracing. Parents/guardians must email SoftballDirectors@raaasports.com in the event of a positive test.
 

The practice plan and pod assignments.

  • 8U and 12U will practice on Mondays and Wednesdays. 
    • 8U field 4
    • 12U field 2
  • 10U will practice Tuesdays and Thursdays on field 2
  • Practice start times are staggered to minimize congregating during arrival and departure. Please follow the designated arrival times for your pod.
  • All girls in each age group (8U, 10U and 12U) have been placed into pods based on age, and each pod has been assigned two coaches. 
  • Click here for the pod assignments, coach assignments and practice times.
  • These pods are not intended for team placement. If we do have games this season, we will form teams through another process which is TBD until we know if we will have games. 
    • If we do need to form teams, we may need to do it faster than a typical evaluation day would allow given challenges we would have in coordinating such an event. Options we may consider include forming teams based on last year’s evaluations and observations during pod practices, forming teams based on age, or other potential options. If it comes to that, we will be transparent in how teams are formed. 
  • The colors of the pod names will correspond with colors painted at the fields to help with social distancing.
  • The girls in each pod and the coaches must stay together until we enter the next phase of the Stay Safe MN plan. There will be no switching pods.
  • Pods will rotate through opposing areas of the field (e.g., left field, right field, infield, batting cage).
  • Coaches for each age group will coordinate on practice plans so pods do not attempt to use the same part of the field at the same time. 
 

Great, we’re excited to get some practice time in...but what about games?

Here is where we are currently at for the summer season:

  • Game play is not yet approved by the state.
  • We are in close communication with Minnesota Softball who has joined with the various baseball organizations in Minnesota to develop return to play guidelines and present them to state officials for consideration. You can review the draft guidelines here.
  • While nothing is guaranteed, the league has told us they feel confident that we will be allowed to play games as early as June 15. We are expecting an announcement on Tuesday, June 9 as to how the season will move forward.
  • The RAAA Softball Board will assess decisions made by the league and then apply to our organization’s situation. It is possible that the league’s plan may not align with our situation and we could make the decision to cancel the summer season, even if the league moves forward.
  • If we start games, that would mean we have moved on to the next phase of the stay safe plan, and we would quickly move to form teams and practices would become full team practices instead of pods of 10.
 

Potential Season Format and Dates
Here is a look at the current proposed travel schedule, so you have an idea of the weekends that may have tournaments scheduled. Note for the purposes of what you are currently registered for, refer only to the dates marked “Summer.” Fall ball would be a separate registration later this summer.

Note for 8U families: This proposed schedule is reflective of travel team play only. We have had a number of our 8U in-house families decide not to play this summer, and we currently do not have enough players who signed up for in-house to field a team. That said, we currently have 18 girls total across 8U, and we will be creative to offer a program for all 8U families.

 

What if there isn’t approval for games by June 15?
The league has told us that if we slip 1-2 weeks beyond June 15 for a start date, they would likely cancel the summer season and start the Fall season. If that happens, fall ball may look different for this year, potentially starting as early as July 6 with a period of weeknight games before settling into our typical fall ball schedule of weekend-only games starting in mid-August. It could also just start in mid-August when it normally does. That’s all TBD at this point as the goal is to start June 15 for summer. 

 

Wow...that was...a lot. 
Again, our goal this year is to provide a sense of normalcy and some exercise for the girls in our program during this unprecedented time, while doing everything we can to keep our families safe. This season is obviously going to be very different from any we’ve ever had, and hopefully it’s just for this one season. We ask for your patience as we work through these things that none of us at RAAA, or anyone at Minnesota Softball or beyond has had to made plans for before.

Please reach out to us at RAAASoftball@raaasports.com  with any questions. You can also call Jeremy at 612-251-8946 or Grey at 952-994-4553 if you would like to talk through anything heading into next week.