Recreational sports ramp up again: clubs for limited movements

German amateur sports are struggling to get off the ground despite the Corona relaxations. Adherence to hygiene regulations is challenging the clubs.

Improvised training: the Dragon Gym in Wurzburg offers outdoor martial arts Photo: HMB-Media/imago

"Now for some jumping jacks," Claudia Becker, a coach at the Berliner Turnerschaft, calls out to the two siblings in her athletics group. The two are eagerly doing jumping jacks – at a distance from the exercise instructor. They are meeting for the first time since mid-March, when the club’s sports operations were suspended due to the Corona crisis. The private training session is a small foretaste of the future sports activities during the pandemic: Everyone at a distance!

Ten days ago, most of the federal states allowed outdoor club sports again as part of their Corona relaxations – after distance sports such as tennis or golf had previously been allowed to be played in some places. What sounds gratifying brings great uncertainty for clubs. The sporting shutdown was nothing compared to the resumption of training operations. For now, strict guidelines must be adhered to – and these differ from state to state, from sports federation to sports federation.

The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) has presented a ten-point plan, "ten guard rails," to help guide the way. Among other things, physical contact is also prohibited during training, a minimum distance of 1.50 to 2 meters is to be maintained, locker rooms and showers must remain closed, and training groups are to be reduced in size. Whether five, eight or 20 athletes are allowed per group depends on the sport or the state.

Claudia Becker is now working on a concept for her athletics children and young people: A maximum of seven athletes plus a coach would be allowed to train together, the sports field would have to be divided into several zones so that the different groups do not meet, and entrances and exits would have to be separated. "I’m afraid of the task," Claudia Becker admits. "I’m afraid of the responsibility. What if my athletics training or running club suddenly become hotbeds of infection?"

Emotionally charged

DOSB President Alfons Hormann explains that board members and trainers* have nothing to fear if they comply responsibly. "Apart from all liability issues, however, the task can be emotionally and psychologically very stressful," he admits, "and everyone will surely understand if, for that reason, people wait before returning to active sports accordingly."

The Berliner Turnerschaft has indeed not yet resumed training – like many clubs. Claudia Becker hopes that in the course of this week some small groups can train again for the first time. Especially in children’s and youth sports, the guidelines pose a great challenge to the predominantly volunteer trainers. Who is supposed to supervise the smaller, but significantly more sports groups? Does the district or the sports office allow the use of the sports field, is it allowed to do sports together in the park? How, for example, are distance and hygiene rules to be conscientiously observed during soccer?

This is exactly what Maria Breuer is asking herself. The 67-year-old is head of the women’s and girls’ soccer department at TuS Worrstadt near Mainz. The former goalkeeper won the German championship title with SC 07 Bad Neuenahr in 1978. She tells us on the phone that although outdoor club sports are once again permitted in Rhineland-Palatinate, training operations in many sports clubs are still at a standstill. "Our city council has decided to keep the sports facilities closed until May 31," she explains, "the hurdles posed by clearance and hygiene regulations are simply too high."

Maria Breuer has spoken to her coaches, and all of them see the re-entry as problematic. "You can kick a little, run a little, put up a few cones – but playing soccer properly is simply not possible," says Maria Breuer, who at the same time stresses that health comes first and must be protected. The guidelines make sense, she says, but everyone has to make enormous cuts. That’s why she doesn’t think her first women’s team, for example, which plays in the regional league, will be able to resume normal play in August.

Unavailable children

What will become of amateur and youth competitive sports is currently still written in the stars; most competitions and league games have been canceled for the long term – in contrast to the controversial resumption of games in the German soccer league and the planned tournament to determine the German basketball champion. For the athletes of the Berliner Turnerschaft, important competitions have also been cancelled or postponed.

But Claudia Becker and her team are primarily concerned about the organization of training operations under pandemic conditions. Above all, they want to offer their children and young people the training sessions they have sorely missed. Not only do they miss regular exercise, they also miss meeting friends and coaches, who are often people they can trust. For young athletes, this is a disaster, says Claudia Becker. "We tried to scatter some information via the homepage, to give tasks. But we haven’t reached many kids at all, and at the moment I can’t even estimate what that means exactly."

The young athletes are also missing out on meeting friends and coaches, who are often people they can trust. This is a disaster, says gymnastics coach Claudia Becker.

The relaunch of club sports is therefore enormously important, not only from a sporting point of view, but also from a social one. DOSB President Alfons Hormann also emphasizes this: "The clubs were, are and will remain the social gas stations of our country!" He is aware, however, that it is a great challenge for the clubs to get people moving again in a responsible way.

Claudia Becker and Maria Breuer accept this challenge – as do most trainers in German sports clubs. However, the road back to sporting normality – that much is certain even before the first steps are taken – will be quite a long one.