Results

Results

COVID-19 Personas

Youth sports venue operators need to be prepared for four types of users at their venue in the summer travel season in 2021. The following persona descriptions are designed to give venue and tournament operators a window into the attitudes and beliefs of people coming to events this season.

The four groups were distinct and interpretable. Table 1 presents the scores for each group on each of the five questions used in the cluster analysis. Figure 1 demonstrates how the groups differed from each other using a histogram.

Figure-1.png
Figure 1. Cluster Group Differences from the Mean

 

Enforce GuidelinesEnjoymentAdaptation ScoreReturn to Normal
Normalcy Overdue-1.3-1.41.12.8
Ready to Return-0.5-0.70.51.9
Middle of the Road0.80.6-0.1-1.1
COVID Cautious2.21.7-1.7-4.0

Enforce GuidelinesEnjoymentThreat to Public HealthAdaptations RemovedReturn to Normal
Normalcy Overdue1.34.81.68.499% before now
Ready to Return2.14.22.37.596% now
Middle of the Road3.43.63.64.541% mask mandate
COIVD Cautious4.82.04.71.694% herd immunity
Mean2.63.73.05.6

Personas Defined

The largest group was Normalcy Overdue, accounting for 29% of all respondents. The Normalcy Overdue group wants to eliminate all the COVID-related adaptations utilized by youth sports venues and strongly believes that we should have “returned to normal” before now. When attending youth sports events, this group is not concerned if the venue enforces its COVID-19 guidelines and sees those guidelines as negatively impacting their enjoyment. They also strongly disagree that COVID-19 is a threat to public health.

Normalcy Overdue scored the highest (8.4 out of 9) on agreeing that the nine adaptations should be eliminated. Over 90% of Normalcy Overdue agreed with eliminating eight of the nine adaptations, with scaling back sanitization only receiving 70% support. Over 99% of this group believes society should have returned to normal before now. They were the strongest of the four groups in disagreeing that COVID-19 is a threat to public health and in disagreeing that it is important for venues to enforce guidelines. Finally, they were the most adamant that COVID-19 adaptations took away from their enjoyment at events.

Ninety percent of respondents in Normalcy Overdue wanted to eliminate attendance restrictions for indoor venues and 99% wanted to eliminate restrictions for outdoor venues. Regarding attendance restrictions, this group had a 90% response that there should be no restrictions at all on attendance at youth sporting events. Over 80% wanted to see the elimination of screening procedures for participants and spectators to gain entry.

Finally, Normalcy Overdue was distinctive as it was significantly more likely than other groups to not get the vaccine (52%), and only 20% have already received or will get the vaccine, compared to 48% in Ready to Return, 74% of Middle of the Road, and 94% of COVID Cautious who have received or will get the vaccine.

The Ready to Return group, accounting for 20% of respondents, is quite similar to the Normalcy Overdue group with two key exceptions. First, their adaptation removal score (7.4 out of 9) was less than Normalcy Overdue (8.5 out of 9). Ready to Return was significantly less likely to want to scale back sanitization efforts (46%) than Normalcy Overdue (70%). Second, 96% believe that society should return to normal now (96%), compared to the Normalcy Overdue group that believed it should have occurred before now (99%). The Ready to Return group wants to return to youth sports now with the caveat that sanitization is still occurring despite eliminating other COVID-19 related adaptations. They are no longer looking for facilities to enforce the guidelines and procedures that were put in place in response to the pandemic because they feel most adaptations should be eliminated.

The Ready to Return group is ready to eliminate health screening procedures for spectators (62%) and participants (52%). They are most supportive of retaining self-assessment questions upon entry if any procedures are to be implemented. They are nearly identical to Normalcy Overdue in wanting to eliminate attendance restrictions for outdoor venues (96%), but they were less likely than Normalcy Overdue to want to eliminate all restrictions (60%), yet significantly higher than Middle of the Road (20%) and COVID Cautious (4%). They are the most supportive of restricting attendance to extended family if restrictions are to be implemented.

Ready to Return is similar to Normalcy Overdue in not believing it is important for venues to enforce COVID-19 procedures and that COVID is not a threat to public health. The Ready to Return group feels COVID-19 related guidelines and procedures take away from their enjoyment of their experience at youth sports facilities and tournaments. This group is looking to watch youth sports without the use of COVID-19 guidelines or procedures in place, essentially how the tournaments operated pre-COVID-19.

The Middle of the Road group, accounting for 28% of respondents, agrees that COVID-19 has taken away from their enjoyment at youth sporting events (3.6 out of 5), however, has mixed feelings regarding when it is time to “return to normal”. While over 94% of every other group collectively agreed it was time to return at a specific time, this group was more split in their opinions, ranging from when mask mandates are lifted (41%), when herd immunity is reached (29%), now (18%), and before now (12%). While the name of this group is a metaphorical description, certain data points show that the overall viewpoints of these respondents fall right down the middle. For example, this group agrees it is time to eliminate exactly half of the nine described COVID-related adaptations (4.5 out of 9).

Middle of the Road is unlike Normalcy Overdue and Ready to Return in that they believe that COVID-19 is a legitimate threat to public health (3.6 out of 5) and that it is important to for facilities and tournament operators to enforce COVID-19 guidelines and procedures (3.4 out of 5). Middle of the Road sees a significant difference between indoor and outdoor venues when considering attendance limitations. Only 20% of Middle of the Road indicated indoor sporting events should have no attendance restrictions compared to 74% for outdoor. The 54% difference between the two is the largest such difference within the four groups. Despite their moniker, Middle of the Road is likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of the reason. Only 3% of respondents indicated that they will not get the vaccine or are against vaccines in general. This percentage is drastically lower than Normalcy Overdue (52%) and closely in line with COVID Cautious (1%).

The COVID Cautious group, accounting for 23% of all respondents, believes the opposite of the Normalcy Overdue group. The COVID Cautious group wants to keep all the COVID-related adaptations utilized by youth sports venues and strongly believes that we should return to normal when herd immunity is reached. When attending youth sports events, this group believes it is very important for venue operators to enforce its COVID-19 guidelines and does not feel those guidelines negatively impact their experience. They also strongly believe that COVID-19 is a threat to public health.

COVID Cautious scored the lowest (1.6 out of 9) on agreeing that the 9 adaptations should be eliminated. There was scant support in this group for removing any of the COVID-related adaptations, ranging from 27% supporting removal of face coverings for participants to 6% in favor of removing social distancing and face coverings for spectators. Over 94% of this group believed society should return to normal when herd immunity is reached through vaccination. COVID Cautious also showed the highest level of support for the vaccine, with 94% having received or saying they will receive the vaccine. COVID Cautious was the strongest in agreeing that COVID-19 is a threat to public health (4.7 out of 5), and it is important for venues to enforce COVID-19 guidelines (4.8 out of 5). They scored the lowest (2.0 out of 5) on COVID-related adaptations negatively impacting their experience.

COVID Cautious supports health screening procedures for participants and spectators. For participants, 72% want to see temperatures taken and 67% supported answering questions on a health screening form. For spectators, the most popular option was temperature screens (61%). This is in stark contrast to Normalcy Overdue and Ready to Return that showed little support for such procedures. Regarding attendance restrictions, COVID Cautious was the most likely to support restrictions to immediate family members for indoor (63%) and outdoor (37%) venues. In conclusion, the COVID Cautious group is not ready for normalcy. This group still wants to keep all precautions that youth venues have put in place last March 2020.

Removal of COVID-Related Adaptations

Respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed that a COVID-related adaptation should be removed. Respondents were polarized on whether to eliminate adaptations. Fifty percent of respondents wanted to see at least seven of the nine adaptations removed, while 35% wanted to see at least four of the adaptations remain in place. Table 2 presents the distribution of the percentage of respondents and how many adaptations those respondents want to eliminate.

Adaptations RemovedPercent
All 924.9%
815.6%
79.4%
67.8%
57.1%
46.4%
35.5%
25.8%
17.6%
010.0%

Removal of face coverings requirements for participants had the most support (75%), followed by removal of bench and dugout modifications (73%), limitations on spectators (71%), closure of amenities (71%), modified arrival and departure times (60%), limitations on personal contact between athletes (58%), requiring face coverings for spectators (57%), and requiring social distancing for spectators (55%). The exception was that only 36% of respondents agreed that facilities should scale back on sanitization to pre-COVID levels. Figure 2 displays how respondents answered each question about eliminating adaptations.

In comparing the four groups, Normalcy Overdue and Ready to Return were more likely to eliminate each adaptation than Middle of the Road and COVID Cautious. Over 90% of the Normalcy Overdue group and over 80% of the Ready to Return group believed each adaptation should be eliminated except for sanitization practices. In contrast, less than 30% of COVID Cautious supported the removal of each adaptation, and three adaptations received less than 10% support. Middle of the Road received the greatest variability, ranging from 75% supporting the removal of face coverings for participants to only 36% supporting removal of face coverings and social distancing for spectators and 17% wanting to scale back sanitization efforts. Figure 3 shows how groups differed on each adaptation.

Figure-2.jpg
Figure 2. Beliefs toward Eliminating COVID-19 Adaptations

 

"At this time, I believe...should be eliminated"Strongly AgreeSomewhat AgreeNeutralSomewhat DisagreeStrongly Disagree
Face coverings for participants62.2%12.9%5.8%8.6%10.5%
Bench and dugout modifications55.6%17.0%8.2%10.6%8.7%
Restrictions on limiting spectators51.6%19.5%6.7%12.4%9.8%
Restrictions on amenities49.0%21.9%9.4%12.2%7.5%
Arrival and departure times42.1%18.1%17.9%11.5%10.5%
Personal contact restrictions42.1%16.3%12.2%15.4%14.0%
Face coverings for spectators44.6%12.7%9.5%11.5%21.7%
Social distancing for spectators37.6%17.5%12.1%16.3%16.5%
Facilities can scale back sanitization to pre-COVID levels21.4%14.7%13.3%24.0%26.7%

 

Figure-3.png
Figure 3. Percentage Agreement for Removal of COVID-related Adaptations by Cluster

 

"At this time, I believe...should be eliminated."Normalcy OverdueReady to ReturnMiddle of the RoadCOVID CautiousTotal
Face coverings for participants98.9%95.3%74.5%26.9%75.1%
Bench and dugout modifications98.5%95.2%68.1%24.2%72.5%
Restrictions on limiting spectators97.7%94.3%65.2%23.0%71.1%
Restrictions on amenities97.1%90.9%63.8%28.0%70.9%
Arrival and departure times90.2%80.8%47.1%19.0%60.2%
Personal contact restrictions93.6%82.1%40.6%13.8%58.4%
Face coverings for spectators96.6%85.7%36.7%6.4%57.3%
Social distancing for spectators92.9%81.9%35.7%6.4%55.1%
Facilities can scale back sanitization to pre-COVID levels70.1%45.7%16.7%7.2%36.0%

Amenities

COVID-19 caused many facilities to eliminate amenities in response to health and safety guidelines. Respondents are ready for most of these amenities to be open except for drinking fountains and entertainment centers. Support ranged from 94% believing concessions should be available to only 32% believing entertainment centers should be open. Normalcy Overdue and Ready to Return are significantly more likely to believe all amenities should be available, but Middle of the Road and COVID Cautious are significantly less likely to want each amenity opened. Figure 4 shows the level of support for the re-opening of amenities at youth sports venues.

Figure-4.PNG
Figure 4. Support for Return of Amenities at Youth Sports Venues

 

Total
Open Concessions95.3%
Open Drinking Fountains33%
Open Playgrounds49.7%
Open Entertainment Centers32.1%
Open Merchandise75.9%
Open Lobby/Common Areas68.7%

Entry Requirements

Opinions vary on the extent to which venues and tournament operators should ask spectators and participants to complete health screenings to gain entry to youth sports events. Respondents were asked to select which procedures should be required for participants and spectators to gain entry. Respondents reported wanting stricter procedures for participants (coaches, players and officials) than spectators. Overall, 51% of respondents believe there should be entry requirements for participants, and 44% believe there should be entry requirements for spectators. The most selected screening procedure was the self-assessment (30%) for participants and having temperatures taken for spectators (33%). COVID-19 tests and proof of a negative COVID-19 test were the least selected screenings. COVID Cautious was the most likely to want to see each of the screening procedures and the least likely to select “No screening procedure” for both participants and spectators. Figure 5 shows how respondents differed on screening procedures for spectators and participants.

Figure-5.png
Figure 5. Opinion toward Health Screening Procedures for Spectators and Participants

 

ParticipantSpectators
Questions health screen31.9%24.1%
Temp taken33.1%27%
Self assessment33%30%
COVID test on site3.2%1.5%
Proof of negative test—4 days2.3%1.6%
None43.5%50.7%

Attendance Restrictions

During the global health crisis, youth sports venues have placed restrictions on who can attend games and tournaments. Respondents believe that indoor youth sports tournaments should have more restrictions than outdoor venues. Overall, 45% of respondents believe there should be no restrictions for indoor events whereas 76% believe there should be no restrictions for outdoor events. For indoor youth sporting events, Normalcy Overdue preferred no restrictions (90%), compared to Ready to Return (60%), Middle of the Road (20%), and COVID Cautious (4%). COVID Cautious preferred restricting to immediate family for indoor (63%) and outdoor (36%) while Middle of the Road preferred restricting to immediate family for indoor (51%). Middle of the Road had the largest difference of opinion between indoor and outdoor, changing their opinion of having no restrictions from 20% for indoor to 74% for outdoor. Figure 6 shows how respondents differed on attendance restrictions for indoor and outdoor venues.

Figure-6.png
Figure 6. Opinion toward Attendance Restrictions for Indoor and Outdoor Venues

 

IndoorOutdoor
Restrict to players and coaches only1.6%0.3%
Restrict to one family member6.4%0.9%
Restrict to immediate family33.6%11.4%
Restrict to extended family/friends13.7%11.1%
No restrictions44.6%76.2%

Perceptions of Youth Sports Venues

Attitudes toward enforcement and communication of COVID-related adaptations were polarized and varied across the four groups. As it relates to enforcement of guidelines, 37% believed it was important for venues to enforce guidelines, 44% reported it was not important, and 19% were neutral. Similarly, 49% reported it was important for venues to communicate their COVID-19 protocols on site, 35% reported it was not important, and 16% were neutral. Group affiliation explains the difference in viewpoints. Each group was significantly different from all other groups for both questions (F = 2950, p < .001 for Enforcement; F = 1283, p < .001 for Communication). Table 3 presents how groups differed on the importance of communication and enforcement of COVID guidelines.

EnforcementCommunication
MeanSDMeanSD
Normalcy Overdue1.31.651.781.14
Ready to Return2.132.132.631.28
Middle of the Road3.423.423.80.98
COVID Cautious4.834.834.83.42
Total2.862.863.211.54

Groups reported that COVID-related protocols impacted their overall enjoyment at youth sports events differently. There was more agreement amongst all respondents that COVID-related guidelines negatively impacted their experience. Sixty-five percent agreed that COVID-related guidelines take away from their experience. Each group was significantly different from all other groups (F = 1133.912, p < .001). Table 4 presents how groups differed on the extent to which COVID guidelines take away from their enjoyment of youth sports.

NMeanSD
Normalcy Overdue8574.76.60
Ready to Return5804.22.86
Middle of the Road8253.62.90
COVID Cautious6542.031.14
Total29163.721.34

COVID-19 Impact on Travel and Budget

Families that travel for youth sports have not seen much change to their travel habits as a result of the pandemic. Seventy-five percent of respondents reported the pandemic did not affect their travel plans or habits for youth sports tournaments. While there was widespread agreement on this question, differences did emerge between the four clusters (𝛘2 = 1050, p < .001). COVID Cautious was more likely to be less willing to travel (63%) and was the least likely to see no change to their travel habits (37%) compared to the other three groups. Table 5 presents how groups differed in their travel habits due to COVID.

Normalcy OverdueReady to ReturnMiddle of the RoadCOVID CautiousTotal
No change to travel habits90.4%92.1%79.3%36.5%75.5%
Less willing to travel1.2%4.1%17.6%62.7%20.2%
Traveled more than before8.5%3.8%3.1%0.8%4.3%
Total29.4%19.9%28.3%22.4%100%

Projecting forward into the summer months in 2021, respondents are comfortable lodging in a hotel for a tournament that requires an overnight stay. For each month from March to August, over 90% of all respondents are comfortable traveling overnight for youth sports tournaments. The only group showing hesitancy toward travel is the COVID Cautious, moving from 71% in March to 96% in August. Figure 7 presents level of comfort in traveling by month.

Figure-7.png
Figure 7. Percentage Comfortable Lodging in a Hotel by Month

 

Month1: Normalcy Overdue2: Ready to Return3: Middle of the Road4: COVID CautiousTotal
March99.4%98.9%93.7%70.8%91.4%
April99.5%99.0%95.5%74.2%92.7%
May99.9%99.1%97.8%81.8%95.1%
June99.8%99.8%98.6%91.2%97.6%
July100.0%99.8%98.7%93.1%98.1%
August99.6%99.5%99.1%96.2%98.7%

Economic conditions had almost no impact on respondents' sports travel budget. Only 31% of all respondents reported allocating less money in their budget toward youth sports travel, and 61.5% of individuals reported COVID-19 had no impact. There were differences between groups (𝛘2 = 62, p < .001). COVID Cautious was less likely than the other three groups to see no change in their budget, and instead were more likely to see budget reductions for youth sports travel. Table 6 compares changes in budgets for each group.

Normalcy OverdueReady to ReturnMiddle of the RoadCOVID CautiousTotal
Budget has increased9.7%6.4%7.8%5.8%7.6%
Decreased by <25%14.4%17.6%19.4%18.1%17.3%
Decreased by 24-49%8.0%8.3%10.3%11.9%9.6%
Decreased by 50-74%2.1%1.2%2.7%4.6%2.6%
Decreased by >75%1.4%0.5%0.6%2.9%1.3%
No impact at all64.4%66.0%59.3%56.7%61.5%
Total29.3%19.9%28.3%22.4%100%

Chi Square = 62.325, p < .001

Despite current economic and public health conditions, respondents claimed that keeping their child participating in sports is important to them. Ninety percent of respondents reported it was very important or extremely important to keep their child participating in sports regardless of financial situation. Normalcy Overdue and Ready to Return believed it was more important to keep their child participating in youth sports regardless of financial condition than the Middle of the Road and COVID-Cautious groups (F = 56.6 p < .001). Table 7 presents how groups differ on the level of importance placed on youth sports.

Normalcy OverdueReady to ReturnMiddle of the RoadCOVID CautiousTotal
Not at all important0.4%0.3%0.1%1.2%0.5%
Slightly important1.2%0.9%1.3%2.8%1.5%
Moderately important4.8%6.4%7.4%15.1%8.2%
Very important16.8%23.3%31.9%35.5%26.6%
Extremely important76.9%69.1%59.3%45.4%63.3%
Total36.1%21.8%20.0%22.1%100%