Considerations for Recreational Sports

VDH provides recommendations for participation in recreational sports based on CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People [Español] and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) COVID-19 Interim Guidance:Return to Sports and Physical Activity.

During times of substantial and high COVID-19 activity in a community, participating in recreational sports may increase risk of COVID-19 transmission. This is especially true with large indoor events and close contact sports. Consider the extent of community transmission in a region/locality when deciding whether to participate. During times of high disease spread, organizers of such events should consider cancelling or postponing competition in favor of lesser risk activities such as low-contact drills or practices. 

Mask Recommendations:

Indoors: If tolerable, wear a mask while playing indoor sports, especially any sport that involves close contact. At K-12 schools, masks are not required when exercising, but should still be worn if possible when engaging in active sports play. Anyone (age 2 and up) should wear a mask on the sideline, in the locker room, or in the stands when in a school or when transmission levels are substantial or high

Outdoors: Playing outdoor sports is generally safer than indoors. Unvaccinated athletes, coaches, officials, and spectators should strongly consider wearing masks, especially if close contact is likely to occur. Fully vaccinated people might also consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor spaces if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised.


Wearing masks is especially important during indoor competition and practices. Wearing masks is also important in shared spaces such as locker rooms, and during shared transportation (including carpooling) to/from an event. Coaches and/or officials should monitor proper use.  Individual outdoor sports that do not involve close contact (e.g. golf, singles tennis, etc) may not necessitate wearing a mask. Masks are generally well tolerated during exercise; however,  masks may need to be removed under certain circumstances (e.g. if the masks become wet). Encourage athletes to bring more than one mask to practice or games in case their mask gets wet or soiled during play. Younger participants may need help adjusting their masks. There are some sports in which the mask could become a choking hazard or inadvertently impair vision and should not be worn, such as cheerleading-tumbling/stunting, gymnastics, wrestling and water sports.

Even vaccinated participants and spectators should wear masks in crowded indoor places, including while carpooling during times of substantial or high transmission. Prioritize outdoor play as much as possible. 

Travel outside of a local community and participating in large events such as tournaments may increase risk of COVID-19 transmission. Consider the extent of community transmission in a region/locality when deciding whether to participate in or host a tournament or similar event. Localities or regions experiencing high COVID-19 transmission may wish to consider delaying or cancelling large events. Individuals at high risk or whose family members are at high risk for adverse outcomes from COVID-19 should consider avoiding travel to areas with substantial or high transmission.

COVID-19 is also spread off the field.  Close contact in locker rooms, in carpooling, or in other confined spaces are high-risk situations, and should be avoided to the extent possible. Pre-game meetings and post-game ceremonies should be avoided or modified to allow proper distancing.. Some large events such as marathons and large sports tournaments have attractions such as live music or food vendors where people gather together. These additional attractions should be discouraged to minimize gathering, and race organizers should encourage people not to congregate at the start and finish of races.

Indoor environments are higher risk environments for spreading COVID-19.  While being outside does not remove the risk of transmitting COVID-19, indoor spaces are higher risk environments for spreading COVID-19. This is especially true if spaces are crowded or have poor ventilation. Spectators or other attendees/participants who are shouting and cheering, or having additional activities such as a pep band may increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, and are an additional concern in indoor environments. Prioritize outdoor play, as opposed to indoor, as much as possible.  

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should remain at home and seek testing. Participants with a known exposure to someone with COVID-19 should follow VDH’s quarantine guidelines before returning to practices and competitions. 

Participants who have recovered from COVID-19 infection should resume activities gradually. Participants should not return until they meet VDH’s criteria for leaving isolation. The AAP provides additional guidance for children and adolescents who plan to resume sports after recovering from COVID-19 infection, including symptoms to monitor. Participants who had severe or moderate COVID-19 infections should consult their primary care provider before resuming sports activities. 

Additional Considerations:

People involved in recreational sports should consider their household’s level of risk and interaction with other at-risk populations when determining whether to participate in recreational sports. Factors that place people (including household members) at higher risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19 include older age, not being vaccinated, and certain medical conditions.