The Coast News Group
Joe Papel, 6, makes contact with the ball during a Carlsbad Youth Baseball game on April 19 at Pine Avenue Community Park. Photo by Steve Puterski

Young athletes get back in action

CARLSBAD — Youth sports is back in full swing after more than a year away from competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A full range of youth sports have returned to the fields, tracks and pools as coaches, athletes and leagues resume. While the pandemic has taken plenty away, the reintroduction of sports is needed, said Carlsbad Youth Baseball President Bob Lundblad.

The league shut down after opening weekend in 2020 as the pandemic came into full swing, but since the county dropped tiers and with vaccinations rising, the league was able to restart about two weeks ago, he said.

“We were holding out hope to the point where we could play games,” Lundblad said. “We were able to build the season around more of a normal game format than what we could do last year.”

He began his tenure in August 2020, and said the league was able to stand fast and follow guidelines throughout the fall. The league was able to have a pseudo fall season where teams were allowed to practice, but not play against other squads.

Still, Lundblad was able to walk a fine line with parents coming from all angles, but mostly, he said, the league followed the lead from the Carlsbad Unified School District. Due to the uncertainty, though, the league struggled to attract its typical number of players, he added.

But once word spread that the league would be allowed to commence, he said registration shot up by about 200 kids and the drop in participation is only about 10%. In a typical year, the league will start practice in February with the season beginning the first week of March, Lundblad said.

Andrew Wylder, who coaches the Cubs’ 5- and 6-year-old team, said it was great to be back on the field during a game on April 19 at Pine Avenue Community Park. He said the last year has been tough on the kids, especially missing the socialization and lessons learned from team sports.

He said the teams follow the guidelines and protocols set forth by the CYB. Wylder said it was important to get the kids back into an environment where they can be with friends, play baseball and have fun.

“It’s been a total privilege and outstanding to see the kids getting outside to socialize and playing something they love,” Wylder said. “We had the opportunity to play in the fall with just practices and we relished that opportunity. But being able to play games has been a game changer.”

Other sports such as youth swimming, along with high school sports, have also returned. High school football wrapped up its season, while others are ramping up.

Christian Howell, a 14-year-old swimmer at North Coast Aquatics in Carlsbad, had already recorded several “A” times for the Junior Olympics despite months out of competition. While NCA started four weeks ago, Howell hit the “A” times in four disciplines.

Additionally, he said it was great to get back in the pool, socialize a bit and compete at a high level against solid competition.

“For me, it was pretty easy to get back in that mindset because I’m a competitive person and like competing against other people,” Howell added. “It’s really nice because I have an opportunity to go against other teams and raise my level and get better times.”