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Catholic Youth Ministry plans to hold fall sports season in Diocese of Wilmington, but football is canceled

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Catholic Youth Ministry's football championship in 2018 was played at Saint Mark's High School. CYM sports will return in the fall, but football has been canceled for health reasons. (Dialog file photo)

Catholic Youth Ministry will move forward with its fall sports season, although a major component will be missing, and some other tweaks were made as coronavirus-related concessions. The announcement was made Aug. 11.

The state still has not approved football for competition on any level, so that will not be contested this fall. Cross country, soccer and softball will take place, with practice beginning Aug. 31. The CYM letter said the organization is instituting safety measures for each sport that gives it confidence that the sports can take place.

According to CYM athletic director Matt Carucci, there will not be football for the 2020-21 program year. In a letter to parents and other members of the CYM sports community, Carucci said the decision was made with disappointment, but it was not possible to play. The state Division of Public Health has not given football the green light, and during last week’s meeting of the executive board of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, a liaison with DPH said the division would not revisit that topic for at least six weeks.

“That’s the only one,” Carucci said. “We held out hoping they would update the guidelines. On (Aug. 6), Public Health announced they would not be updating their guidelines. It’s because (the players) are so close the entire game. They’re not willing to revise it in time for the start of normal fall sports.”

Unlike the high schools, CYM can’t reschedule football for late winter or early spring primarily because of the lack of daylight. Few facilities with lights will be available for practices or games, particularly if the high schools are playing at the same time.

The CYM office and its sports coordinators, the letter said, are working on offering “supplemental safe and enjoyable activities to provide to youth athletes.”

The other changes to the schedule include the switching of volleyball and softball on the calendar. Cheerleading likely will not start until the winter season. Volleyball, traditionally a fall sport, was moved to the spring, but not because of health concerns, Carucci said. Instead, it came down to availability of facilities.

“Our problem there is that almost all of the schools are going to have to use their gyms for classroom space. That sealed the deal. We had no gyms, so we had to delay it,” he said.

Pushing volleyball into the spring “might be a blessing in disguise,” he added, because indoor activities require more cleaning supplies and more volunteers than those outdoors.

Moving softball to the fall accomplished two objectives. First, it places a girls-only sport in the fall season, and it prevents girls who play both volleyball and softball from having to choose one or the other next spring, he continued.

The other two fall sports, cross country and soccer, are co-ed. They will go on as scheduled.

As for spectators, Carucci said there will be a limit, but the exact number is hard to say. At cross country meets, spectators tend to bunch up at certain spots where the runners start, finish, and are visible. Soccer spectators are allowed only on one side of the field. Volunteers at each event will help monitor crowd size, and Carucci hopes fans respect the rules and the people who are there to help enforce them.

“I don’t expect a volunteer or coach who sees people violating the rules, I don’t expect a confrontation,” he said.

Looking ahead, Carucci said CYM is planning on having its basketball season, which is the biggest in terms of numbers of participants. The season may start a bit later than normal, but he said there is flexibility with hoops in terms of time to get the games in that other sports do not enjoy. Again, facilities will be key.

“We’ll start whenever we have the gyms,” he said.

CYM also sponsors a senior division of basketball and volleyball for students who do not play for their high schools. Those are scheduled to take place this season, according to Carucci.

Carucci has been fielding queries from parents all summer about the CYM program. Most, he said, have been understanding given the uncertainty that has surrounded youth sports.

“Even when we say we don’t know, people understand.”

Families interested in signing up for a sports can visit www.cdowcym.org, and questions should be directed to Carucci at mcarucci@cdow.org.