Another fear regarding outside basketball courts: spreading COVID-19

The closing of parks and recreation spaces has come as part of restrictions put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. In reading online discussions regarding these closings and observations that some people continue to engage in group activity, multiple sports have come up. One stuck out to me: playing basketball.

I have argued in previous posts (see here, here, here, and here) that there is a lack of basketball courts in parks and community areas in many places. Even though basketball is a popular sport, there are not as many courts as there could be. Why? The people who often use such facilities are young men, not a demographic many communities are looking to see congregate regularly.

Now, there is a new reason to conspire against building basketball courts: they are public health risks when diseases like COVID-19 are present. If social distancing helps stop the spread, basketball as a sport does not lend itself to this with its close contact and relatively small playing surface. Shooting hoops in the driveway with family members is one thing; courts in parks could attract up to ten players at a time (more if halfcourt games are in process) plus whoever else might be waiting. Add in that schools are in remote learning mode and the crowds that might end up at basketball courts could prove worrisome.

Other sports regularly played in parks or other recreational activities could face the same issue. Baseball and softball games generally provide some space yet the batter, catcher, and umpire are regularly close, runner and fielders end up near other, and then there is the matter of dugouts. Soccer games take place on large fields yet chasing the ball presents problems in getting near other players. Tennis is often played at a distance but players have to occasionally come to the net. People walking, running, and biking can adjust to put more distance between them and others (unless the sidewalks or paths do not allow this).

Yet, these other sports and the spaces needed to carry them out do not always receive the same negative attention as basketball courts. In a post-COVID-19 world, will outdoor basketball courts become even more scarce in favor of recreation activities that give participants more space?

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