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Youth team practices among latest to fall under governor's coronavirus directive

Youth team practices among latest to fall under governor's coronavirus directive


Omaha Suburban Little League President Darren Obrecht kept busy doing a little field maintenance last week.

He says he can’t wait until kids can get out and start playing on those baseball diamonds again.

“The virus has had a huge impact on us,” he said. “We’re all trying to figure out what we’re going to do.”

Sports organizations saw their seasons get put on hold a little longer last week because of coronavirus concerns. The latest directed health measure from Gov. Pete Ricketts included the shutdown of all organized team sports — youth and adult — until May 31.

That directive included but was not limited to club sports.

These are uncharted waters for many sports organizations, such as the baseball and softball little leagues in Omaha. Obrecht said he is maintaining regular contact with the others in an effort to keep everyone informed.

“There are about 20 of us and we get on a conference call every week,” he said. “We all want to know when and if we can start on something.”

Obrecht said he is hopeful that organized play can begin June 1, but there’s no guarantee of that.

“We have a huge Memorial Day tournament that we haven’t canceled yet,” he said. “We’re trying to hold off as long as we can.”

Obrecht said players have registered for the 100 teams at Suburban but that everyone currently is playing the waiting game.

“We’re holding off on refunds for now,” he said. “We’re still hoping that we can play this summer.”

Baseball isn’t the only sport that’s been affected. Volleyball and basketball clubs in Omaha also are dealing with that latest May 31 health directive.

“It is having a big impact on us,” Elite volleyball club director Andrew Wehrli said. “I think a lot of people in our community were upset because it seemed like club sports were being singled out.”

It really hits home for Elite, which has had to close its new home — the 134,000-square-foot Union Bank & Trust Sports Complex in Elkhorn. The facility, also shared by the Omaha Sports Academy, includes eight volleyball courts and six basketball courts.

Wehrli said the governor’s latest health directive, which extended the 10-person limit on public gatherings from May 11 until May 31, came as a surprise.

“I think we were all settling in on that earlier May date,” he said. “It’s something that’s affected the whole youth sports landscape, but we’re all in the same boat.”

That volleyball boat includes Papillion-La Vista junior outside hitter Norah Sis, a Creighton recruit who competes for the Premier volleyball club.

“It’s been a struggle for me because I also would be running track at school right now,” she said. “To go from regular team workouts and matches to nothing is a big change.”

Sis added that this has been the longest break from organized volleyball that she can remember.

“It’s up to each player to do individual workouts, and it is harder to get motivated,” she said. “But I keep telling myself that in the end, it will all be worth it.”

Sis said she is hopeful that club play can resume by June 1, giving her squad a chance at nationals in Dallas later in the month.

“We’re all still trying to keep positive about that,” she said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Mike Mackie of the Team Factory basketball club said he was not caught off guard by the governor’s extension.

“It didn’t come as a surprise to me,” he said. “I’ve kind of been in the mindset that we’ll be lucky to get going by July.”

Mackie said his facility was abiding by the 10-people-or-under directive but eventually closed the gym, at least for now.

“I don’t think it’s the worst thing,” he said. “These guys would be in here seven days a week, if they could.”

He added that Team Factory, which includes some of the top local high school players, could miss out on some important recruiting time.

“We should be going down to a national tournament in Arkansas,” he said. “Getting seen in the summer is huge because a lot of coaches don’t come sniffing around Nebraska.”

Mackie said despite the impact that coronavirus has had on the sports world, he’s trying to keep everything in perspective while passing that sentiment along to his players.

“If we can’t play basketball right now, I’ve told them to concentrate on other things,” he said. “Family. Education. Friends. The important things in life.”