Skip Navigation LinksYouth-Sports-FAQ 8.3.20

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State of California—Health and Human Services Agency
California Department of Public Health

August 3, 2020

All Californians

Youth and Adult Recreational Sports Questions and Answers

​​ This Q&A is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only.

​To help slow the spread of COVID-19, California's stay-at-home order issued on March 19, 2020, effectively suspended youth and adult recreational sports. On July 30, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) permitted youth and adult recreational sports training and conditioning under specific circumstances including physical distancing.


Who does this guidance pertain to?

The new guidance applies to youth in grades K-12 in school, community-sponsored recreational, club sports, organized youth sports, and adults playing recreational sports. It does not apply to collegiate or professional sports.


What sports are allowed?

Sports are permitted depending on:

  • The Tier the jurisdiction is in (see Table in guidance).

  • The level of contact participants in the sport have with each other (low, moderate or high).

  • Whether the sport is played indoors or outdoors.

Conditioning and practice for all sports are considered low risk if conducted outside and at least six feet of physical distancing can be maintained. The wearing of face coverings, including during conditioning, practice and competition, and the maintenance of physical distancing should be implemented at all times to the extent practicable without compromising player safety.


Is scrimmaging or competition allowed?

  • Inter-team competitions (i.e., between two teams) may resume in California beginning January 25, 2021, based on the guidelines outlined in this document. The status of return-to-competition is subject to change at any time given the level of COVID-19 transmission in California. 

  • Currently, there is no timeframe for when tournaments that involve more than two teams will be permitted in California.

  • Travel outside of California for competition is not allowed, several multistate & multi-jurisdictional outbreaks have been reported in CA residents and around the nation.


What does it mean to wear a face covering and maintain physical distancing to the maximum extent possible?

  • If sports participants will be frequently or consistently within six feet of each other during play and face coverings can be worn without compromising player safety, they should be worn; this includes most low- and moderate-risk sports except for swimming and diving.

  • Sports participants on the sidelines must wear face coverings at all time.

How are sports classified as low-, moderate-, or high-contact?

Low-contact sports: individual or small group sports where contact within six feet of other participants can be avoided. Some of these sports have relatively low exertion rates that allow for consistent wearing of face coverings when within six feet of other people.

Moderate-contact sports: team sports that can be played with only incidental or intermittent close contact between participants and have moderate exertion rates.

High-contact sports: team sports with frequent or sustained close contact (and in many cases, face-face contact) between participants, high exertion rates, and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants.


See Table in guidance for categorization of sports. The list of sports is not exhaustive but provides examples of sports with different levels of contact so the level of contact can be assessed for other sports.


Returning to sports after infection[1]

  • Children and teens with symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend practices or competition. They should consult their physician for testing and notify their coach, athletic trainer and/or school administrator of their symptoms.

  • Youth recovering from COVID-19 will have different paths to return to sports based on the severity of their illness. Those who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms should not exercise until cleared by a physician. See the American Academy of Pediatrics Interim Guidance on Return to Sports for additional guidance of more serious infections. 

Factors affecting the risk of transmission

Risk of COVID-19 infection increases with higher COVID rates in the community where sport participants live.

  • Risk increases for indoor activities; indoor sports are higher risk than outdoor sports due to reduced ventilation.

  • Risk increases with competition involving two separate teams; intra-team games and competition involve less mixing of households and communities.

  • Risk increases when face coverings are not worn, and physical distancing is not maintained.

  • Risk increases with increasing levels of contact between participants; closer contact (particularly face-to-face contact), and the frequency and total duration of close contact, increases the risk that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants.

  • Risk increases with greater exertion levels; greater exertion increases the rate of breathing and the quantity of air that is inhaled and exhaled with every breath.

  • Risk increases with mixing of cohorts and groups, particularly when from different communities (during or outside of sports play); mixing with more people increases the risk that an infectious person will be present.


Is anyone allowed to watch youth or recreational adult sports?

Observers for youth sports (age 18 years and under) are limited to immediate household members who may observe practices and games as needed for age-appropriate supervision. No other observers are allowed.

  • Observers should be limited to ensure physical distance can be maintained, reduce potential crowding, and maintain indoor capacity limits.

  • Household groups must wear face coverings and stay at least 6 feet from non-household members.

  • In indoor settings, observer capacity is limited; 25% in Tier 3 (Orange/Moderate), and 50% in Tier 4 (Yellow/Minimal), and ventilation for indoor sports should be increased.   


Are athletes or coaches able to participate in more than one sport at a time?

Athletes and coaches should treat their team as a cohort and should only participate on one team over the same season or period of time.

[1] COVID-19 Interim Guidance: Return to Sports (