After A Long Moratorium Due to COVID-19, Arizona Soccer Association Restarts Youth Soccer This Weekend
In Arizona, youth soccer is kicking off again this weekend … The decision to Return-to-Play adheres to Arizona Executive Orders, CDC guidelines, and local directive and clubs are asked to follow strict safety protocols but — soccer balls will be kicked across green fields starting tomorrow.
Arizona Soccer Association (ASA) has suspended soccer since March 13th and has kept a close watch on the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, US Youth Soccer state association in Arizona is giving the green light for their youth soccer clubs to allow their 45,000 players to return to play soccer. US Youth Soccer is the largest youth soccer organization in the country.
Now, this weekend, kids will be playing soccer at in Arizona.
This decision to return to play was not made lightly and was done in alignment with Arizona’s Governor Ducey‘s Executive Order “Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger” announced earlier this week. Accordingly, Arizona Soccer Association has developed Return-to-Play Guidelines that will be implemented over four phases beginning with Phase I on May 16, 2020.
While many are going to be excited to return to play there are others who may be apprehensive.
Returning to play youth soccer should only be done if the parents and players are comfortable and feel safe. “We have remained steadfast in our focus on making decisions that put our players, families, communities, and all of Arizona first,” said Rick Kelsey, CEO of Arizona Soccer Association. “While we will do everything in our ability to create a safe environment, the decision to return-to-play must be made by the parent. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they must.”
It is important that parents and players understand that they do not have to come back and that participation is on a voluntary basis.
And, youth soccer will not look like it did pre-pandemic. No High Fives & No Knuckles At Practice Either.
One of the differences is youth soccer players returning to the fields for the first time in two months will have their own practice spaces and no more than 30 people can be in any single area.
Among the many Phase I Guidelines: Parents need to remain a safe distance from other families during pick up and drop off of players and there can be no training drills that would involve players getting within ten feet of each other. Coaches and players will have to wait until Phase II to begin small group training which will not be allowed to exceed 4v4 play.
In this unprecedented and fluid situation, the Arizona state soccer association has consistently provided information for its 72 plus youth soccer clubs and their players. “During the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, we have hosted weekly calls with the Directors of Coaching and soccer leadership to maximize the lines of communication,” said Kelsey.
“The Return to Play Guidelines were developed with input and endorsement from AZ Region Volleyball, Arizona State Little Leagues, Arizona Basketball Coaches Association, Canyon Athletic Association, and Positive Coaching Alliance,” said Kelsey.
“We believe these guidelines will create confidence in our community and demonstrate that ASA and its member Clubs are focused on the safety of the community and responsible return to play in the communities that we live and play,” said Kelsey.
One Critical Note: Players must adhere to social distancing requirements.
ASA Return-to-Play Communication provides complete guidelines and kept in mind the following:
- There were full-time coaches who had to take pay cuts or salaries cut altogether.
- There were many families who had their players engaged in private training which meant they were not covered with insurance nor were any of the coaches who may be providing the private training, and there were no guidelines defined that they would be required to follow.
- Finally, not every person is in a good situation at home. With that knowledge and knowing that for youth throughout Arizona, school, extra-curricular activities, and in many cases their friends were “taken away”. So we felt that, as long as we could create a safe return-to-play environment, if we can get people back on the field, in constructive environments, it would be beneficial.
Arizona’s Return To Play Guidelines:
Players must be responsible to adhere to, and respecting the social distancing requirements and contact guidelines that have been established.
As the Return to Play evolution goes through each of the four phases occurs, it is important that players, parents, and coaches remember:
- If you are sick or feel sick, STAY HOME
- At risk individuals, youth or adult should STAY HOME
- Assign an area or a ‘station’ for each player to place their equipment, and that they should return to during breaks
- Each player must have their own ball and equipment
- No one is to share water, towels, or an equipment
- Sanitation stations should be available.
Previously, Arizona had extended the moratorium on youth soccer in its state through May 15, 2020 and the 2020 State Cup and 2020 Presidents Cup were canceled.