After four months, it's game on again for the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association.
The city's leading LGBT recreational sports organization plans to resume activities on July 12.
It hasn't been an overnight process. "We started conversations on what reopening would look like in late May," CMSA president Matt Herek said. Those discussions included health professionals and city officials, with the goal of being ready when the city and state got to the point where sports were feasible again. "We started developing guidelines in early June," Herek said. "There's not a lot of warning (when the state moves to a new phase). We wanted to be ready and we wanted to do it thoughtfully."
Co-ed and women's softball will return at several parks on and near the lakefront on the North Side. The scale and rules will be different, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Herek expects some players to opt out for now, some because of health concerns and some for other reasons. "It'll look a little different," he said. "We're moving forward with mandatory face coverings even while playing your sport. There's some physical distancing features. "We're asking everyone to take a health questionnaire when you show up. That will clear them to play. We're taking what precautions we can."
At the same time, this is rec league softball and not Major League Baseball, whose return-to-play manual stretches more than 100 pages. The CMSA manual? Two pages.
While CMSA is doing all it can to keep athletes safe, Herek noted playing sports always comes with some inherent risk. "I've had people blow up Achilles tendons, I've had (people with) heat exhaustion," he said. But the hope is the return to play goes smoothly. After softball, ultimate Frisbee and flag football -- which had its entire spring season canceled -- are slated to return.
For now, just getting up and running again is Herek's focus. Down the line, there will be decisions to make about how -- and whether -- to bring back sports like indoor soccer and volleyball. But that's months away and no one can forecast now where Chicago and the nation will be on the road to recovery from the pandemic.
Herek does know this: "These are all volunteer leaders. Everyone has been really thoughtful about how we approach it. "We're an LGBT inclusive league. People have generally looked to take care and look out for each other. I'm optimistic it's going to work well."
Have a comment or story tip? Please email Michael Clark at email@example.com