It wasn't the decision president Chris Boswell and the Blair Little League Board of Directors wanted to make.
Ultimately, though, it was the one they felt they needed to.
The Little League baseball season was officially canceled Sunday. The decision came about two weeks before organized team practices will be allowed through Nebraska's Youth Sports Reopening Guidelines announced by Gov. Pete Ricketts earlier this month.
Those comprehensive sanitation and spacing guidelines, the Little League board determined, were going to be difficult to implement for its volunteer coaches.
“It's too much to ask of them,” Boswell said Monday.
The financial implications would also have been a challenge for the organization to overcome. According to a post on its website, Little League expenses start at $14,000-plus each year before games are even played. The fixed costs include insurance and maintenance fees.
With reopening guidelines indicating the closure of all concession sales, the potential cost to the organization without incoming revenue could have negatively impacted future seasons as well.
So, Boswell and the board determined the decision to make was cancellation.
Blair Little League is providing 100-percent refunds to all participants, but also found that a number of families are willing to donate their registration fees. A refund form — which includes donation options — can be found online at blairlittleleague.com.
In addition, Boswell noted that “sandlot” games are possible for young players later during the summer if state and city guidelines allow. He also stated that older Blair Grizzlies youth baseball teams are allowed to move forward with practices.
Several youth sports organizations in Washington County made similar difficult decisions in the past week. The following details how some of them are moving forward into the summer.
Fort Calhoun Youth Sports
While the T-ball season is canceled, Fort Calhoun Youth Sports Organization (FCYSO) baseball and softball teams are moving forward on a case-by-case basis come June.
FCYSO President Angie Kubicek said surveys sent to the organization's families indicated that some were willing to move forward along with the guidelines set by the state.
“We're going to take a lot of precautions,” Kubicek said Monday.
The president noted that organization will be key as various teams set off toward summer sports participation.
Arlington Youth Sports
Arlington Youth Sports (AYS) President Brad Soll confirmed the cancellation of all baseball and softball seasons Monday.
“Obviously, safety is our No. 1 concern,” Soll said, noting several more factors played into the decision. Among them were costs, potential scheduling issues and staffing concerns.
“The board will continue to meet and monitor developments with COVID in the hopes that we can provide some sort of baseball activity later in the summer,” AYS Vice President Mike Monke said via email.
Official statements and refund information were expected to be sent out to member families earlier this week.
Blair Youth Softball Association
The Blair Youth Softball Association (BYSA) announced the cancellation of its Modified softball season May 14.
The association's fields at the Youth Sports Complex will not be hosting games or tournaments this summer either, which includes its annual fastpitch events.
Team practices, however, are a possibility once June begins.
“The BYSA will have two fields open to approved and scheduled practices only that are scheduled by the BYSA staff in order to monitor the number of players and coaches in the facility at any given time,” said BYSA President Dean Thoene via email. “This will allow a rotation of teams coming and going for practices to allow a stagger in times to keep teams separated and minimize congestion on the fields, as well traffic in the parking lot for parents dropping and picking children up from practices.”
While those practices are possible, BYSA canceled its own seasons and tournaments due to concerns about meeting the state's reopening guidelines. Thoene said the organization's status as a non-profit, volunteer-based program wouldn't allow it to “proactively monitor and enforce social distancing guidelines” as well as the daily and nightly cleaning requirements.
The cost of meeting guidelines also led to BYSA's decision. Thoene said organizations often spend large portions of their budgets in February and March to prepare for the season. The pandemic, he said, came right after many already spent their kick-off expenses, leaving revenue streams dry for additional costs necessary to meet guidelines.
Information regarding BYSA refunds or donations can be found online at blairyouthsoftball.org.
Blair Cubs President Jake Christensen said the organization is still working out details as it pertains to June baseball and beyond.
In a Monday email, he said the Cubs continue to work with the City of Blair and the organization's governing body, the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), to determine their plans.
The Blair Football Club (FC) is working on its own plans to host June 22-25 soccer clinics.
Current state guidelines don't include organized soccer, so a group of volunteer Blair FC parents are making contingency plans in case participation is not possible on that date.
“We will adjust the nature of those clinics based on the information provided by the appropriate government officials regarding spacing and number of participants,” an email response from the Blair FC Board said.
The email stated that the situation regarding coronavirus cancellations has been “trying” for the board. The timing of the restrictions did not allow for proper spring season refund planning and about 10 parents have worked ever since to “provide the best options possible for our community.” That work includes refund planning, clinic options and fall season plans, provided the possibility for a fall campaign exists.
“I think it is important for people to know that this small group of volunteer parents have worked very hard to help as many families as possible over the past several years,” the Blair FC response stated. “Blair FC, like many other clubs across the country, is very close to shutting down if we are unable to hold a fall season.”