A Few US Youth Soccer States Return To Play & End The Long Coronavirus COVID-19 Moratorium
COVID-19 IMPACT ON SOCCER: Soccer Parents are Following Safety Protocols
Youth soccer has kicked off on fields where stay at home restrictions have lifted … but the Return-to-Play strict safety protocols as well as state and local guidelines must be adhered to if soccer balls are to continue to be kicked in America.
As youth soccer resumes in select areas across the USA, there is a clear difference from the pre-pandemic joyful play. Regardless of the level of youth soccer training, from recreational fun to highly focused training of those hoping to become professional players, all pre-pandemic soccer training was free of worry from the Coronavirus COVID-19. Now it is a pervasive concern on the minds of people everywhere, regardless of one’s belief or skepticism of science.
It all looks different, but at least the kids are back on the field.
Now youth soccer players arrive on the fields to discover their separate and separated area for training. The days of players arriving and greeting each other with hugs and high-fives are on hold, without anyone knowing when they might be back.
In Oklahoma, NOKC‘s soccer coach Andi Phillips says this picture above shows 10,000 air hugs as kids return to the fields — while the parents remain a safe ‘social distance’ away in their cars. OSA’s president Tom Wedding said, “Players and coaches are excited to get back to the pitch, and are looking forward to the return to play.”
“As we return to play, it’s important that we all follow the return to play guidelines.”Tom Wedding, President Oklahoma Soccer Association
According to the Oklahoma Soccer Association (OSA) Return to Play protocols, “Players are encouraged to not engage in the standard celebrations and comradery of the game.” In addition, the guidelines remind everyone to stay 6 feet apart when off the field, not to share water bottles and “Avoid unnecessary touching such as high fives, hugs, and group “pile on’s” in goal celebrations.” There also has to be a minimum of 6’ between families on the sidelines.
Youth soccer kicked off in Arizona last weekend and Rick Kelsey, Chief Executive Officer of Arizona Soccer Association (ASA) walked the fields and saw the real joy on the faces of the players. There were also concerns noted regarding the observance of Return to Play protocols.
“As more Clubs and teams begin training it is imperative that everyone adhere to the ASA Return-to-Play Guidelines.”Rick Kelsey, Chief Executive Officer of Arizona Soccer Association
“Along with our players’ safety, we must demonstrate our commitment by adhering to the guidelines to earn the trust and confidence of everyone in our community,” said Kelsey who recognizes that not all soccer parents are on the same page regarding their interpretation of the protocols or in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If we want the game of soccer available for the millions of kids who play the world’s most beautiful game, we have to be respectful of the Return to Play protocols, regardless of our personal opinions.
“Our focus now is not about wins or losses, it’s about bringing communities back together through soccer,” said Skip Gilbert, CEO of US Youth Soccer.
“If players all follow US Youth Soccer Guidelines and those specific to their State Association, we’ll get back to competitive play quicker.”Skip Gilbert, CEO of US Youth Soccer
Perhaps now is the time to make sure we are not “that” parent who no one ever wants to admit to but we all have lapses of. We, the soccer parents of America, are overall a proud bunch who hate to be told what to do, if there has ever been a time for us to listen, this is that time.
If only everyone would listen … We are all in this together.
According to CNN, America’s response to the coronavirus is the most American thing ever. “It’s a symptom of American individualism, a national value that prizes personal freedoms, limited government, and free will over all else.”
At this moment, the Return to Play protocols are clear. Even if a parent doesn’t believe in masks for themselves, they can think about the value, protection, and peace of mind mask bring to others who are near them on the field.
“Keeping our players, coaches, families, and communities safe must be everyone’s top priority.”Rick Kelsey, Chief Executive Officer of Arizona Soccer Association
Arizona’s state association is highly organized and created excellent and easy to understand Return To Play graphics.
Arizona’s Return to Play effort was a balance of practical and economic and also kept in mind the following — and these principals were also shared by many state associations across America:
- 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.
The state of Utah may be ahead of the rest of the country in getting players back actually playing soccer. On May 18, the Utah Youth Soccer Association (UYSA) announced, “Utah’s Move to Yellow Phase Brings Back Full Contact Soccer Trainings/Scrimmages/Games.” Since receiving approval from the Utah Health Department, UYSA has released its Yellow Phase Return to Play Guidelines that allow for full contact training, scrimmages, and games for Utah Youth Soccer players.
“Utah Youth Soccer Association is grateful for the opportunity to work closely with both the Utah Health Department and our medical partner TOSH Sports Medicine to ensure we take all necessary steps and precautions as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic as the governing body of soccer in our State.” said Utah Youth Soccer Association, CEO, Bryan Attridge. “We are excited to see our players back on the field as we transition back to a new normal … and follow the restrictions we’ve set in place.”
Maryland State Youth Soccer also has youth soccer players back on the soccer fields in certain counties. Always a forward-thinking state, Maryland has held a series of weekly leadership webinars and been actively working with state and local government officials. In fact, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, Boyd Kevin Rutherford made a special appearance on Maryland Soccer Youth Soccer Association’s (MSYSA) weekly COVID-19 update.
“We at Maryland State Youth Soccer are working closely with our State officials making sure the safety and health of our soccer families is the top priority during this pandemic,” said Flo Egan, Executive Director Maryland State Youth Soccer.
“As Maryland slowly takes some small steps to re-open in certain counties throughout the state, we hope the counties still under a “stay at home” order will follow soon.”Flo Egan, Executive Director Maryland State Youth Soccer
“We look forward to the day when we will all be back on the pitch soon and playing the game we love,” said Egan.
MSYSA also produced Recommended Guidelines for a phased approach to resuming organized youth soccer in the State of Maryland.
One of the most important Return To Play protocols throughout many of the US Youth Soccer state associations is:
- In ALL phases, no one is to share water, towels, or any personal equipment. This includes, but not limited to:
- Shin guards, tape, hairbands
- Pinnies or bibs of any kind
- In some phases, this includes soccer balls (phase I and II)
- Recommend having sanitizing options available. This may include but is not limited to:
- Hand sanitizer
- Disinfectant wipes to be used to wipe down all equipment
US Youth Soccer also has released guidelines and the USYS Return to Activity Notice and State Association Resources are listed here.