When the coronavirus took hold in the Bay Area in March, Mountain View Los Altos Girls Softball – like many other youth sports leagues – was forced to shut down. However, the organization quickly adapted to state and local guidelines, offering programs throughout the summer and fall.
MVLAGS was founded in 1972 to “provide girls the opportunity to enjoy an organized sport, and get the benefits of teamwork and self-confidence that come with playing sports,” according to vice president Pete Dailey. The organization hosts a recreational league during the spring for girls ages 6-14 and a competitive club team in the spring, summer and fall for girls ages 8-14 that travels to places such as San Diego and Lake Tahoe, he added.
In the spring, one of those club teams, the Nova 12U team, had been practicing three days a week and competing in tournaments every weekend, according to Dailey’s daughter, Sophia, a member of the team and a sixth-grader at Oak Avenue Elementary School.
When all activities were abruptly suspended in late March, all practices and games were canceled, just as the season was beginning.
“For me, this spring season was new and exciting because this was my first year playing competitive softball as part of the Select team,” teammate Kaitlyn Nguyen said. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 made everything change. … We only got to play back-to-back games before everything was shut down. I felt sad not knowing if I would really be able to experience competitive softball.”
However, the team still found ways to meet online.
“Nova would meet on Wednesday on Zoom, and we would do some fitness workouts together, and we would sometimes get some guest speakers to teach us about throwing techniques and hitting,” Kaitlyn said. “This was especially important because when we first came into lockdown, we weren’t used to not seeing people every day, and it gave my teammates and me awesome ways to connect, and hang out in ways that we couldn’t do otherwise.”
In the summer, the league was able to restart with limited operations and new safety protocols, including temperature checks, masks and strict rules about sharing equipment.
“We have carried that program through the fall and it has been very successful,” Dailey said. “We have not had any cases of COVID among our players, coaches or their family members.”
For fall programs, teams met twice a week for an hour and a half each time and participated in skills training and “fun softball-derived games involving hitting, catching, throwing, running the bases,” Dailey said.
“We have heard from the girls that they have loved the fall program,” he added. “Sure, it might not be as much fun as playing competitive games, but the girls and the families have told us that they are just happy to be out of the house and to see friends. This has been especially important because the players have not been in school. They have all been in remote learning situations.”
Kaitlyn and Sophia echoed that sentiment.
“I miss being able to go into a close huddle, high-five teammates and being able to play games against other teams, but the practices have still been a great learning experience,” Kaitlyn said. “Coach Brian, Coach Maddie and all the assistant coaches that helped this year have put in so much work to keep everyone safe while keeping softball fun. COVID-19 softball is way better than no softball.”
Sophia said, “Softball has been an awesome outlet for me to hang out with my friends and other girls my age, and without it, COVID would be a lot worse for me. I am thankful that I have been able to get some exercise, and get out of the house, and especially have some time with other people.”
Playing it safe
While the league was able to successfully operate its programs for several months, Dailey said they decided to shut down “out of an abundance of caution” when Santa Clara County entered the “widespread” (aka purple) tier.
“The move to the purple tier did not require us to discontinue, but that was the choice the board made after consultation with public health officials,” he said. “We hope to resume in the spring when the weather warms up and, hopefully, we are seeing better data regarding infections.”
“I am very happy that the city and MVLAGS allowed us to play softball, our team stayed healthy, and I hope we can do it again soon,” Kaitlyn added.
For more information on the league, visit mvlags.org.