We’ve seen an unending stream of statistics regarding COVID-19 cases, deaths, recoveries, etc., all sorted by geographical area. This data can be incredibly useful when used by authorities for making larger social decisions. Low community rates may indicate it’s safe to open up, while spiking community rates may point to increased restrictions.
However, we generally don’t hear much about COVID-19 rates by sport, other than professional teams. For us in amateur sports, we really have no idea as to the infection rates of our sport, locally, nationally or internationally. In fact, the treatment of amateur sports is generally decided solely on prevailing community infection rates.
The reality is that opening up amateur sports, especially ones involving children, should take into account both community rates and sports-specific rates. Imagine, for instance, the differences in training environments between close-combat sports, such as wrestling or judo, and isolated sports, such as cross-country running or skiing or open-water swimming. Decisions for these disparate sports shouldn’t all be based on the same community infection rates.
Our pool-based swimming has two different training modes, from a COVID-19 point of view: indoor training and outdoor training. We know there must be a difference, but the reality is that we have no idea how much of a difference.
Now, we need to add one more level of complexity: a return to on-site schooling. Any concept of a sports training bubble is completely destroyed if the athletes are in school, and we can expect that infection rates within teams and within geographic areas will subsequently change.
All this is really pointing to the value of knowing infections rates and directions for individual sports, and for that matter all other groups: dance, choir, drama, scouts, etc.
So, here’s what we need.
National sports bodies should establish the necessary databases and reporting processes, and demand that teams report positive cases and fatalities to both public health authorities and to the relevant regional or national sports body.
In addition, sports should be coordinating with public health authorities to find out from them when one of their athletes has tested positive OR has been informed that they must quarantine. And if so, that athlete’s training bubble may also have to quarantine.
COVID-19 is dangerous, and it’s far better to make decisions with as much information as possible.
NOTE: Thanks to Coach Mike Finch for the central idea and numerous suggestions.