San Diego Supervisor Kristin Gaspar on San Diego’s plan to Bring Back Youth Soccer
In-Depth Interview on the current effort to get the tens of thousands of youth soccer players back playing youth soccer in San Diego and loosen the restrictions in place in response to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The approval to resume youth sports as part of Phase 2 will effectively restart segments of the youth soccer economy which has been shuttered since the pandemic provoked California’s stay-at-home order on March 4th.
The impact of the Coronavirus COVID-19 on San Diego’s youth soccer scene has been dramatic. With an unprecedented shutdown of youth sports in an effort to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the pandemic, youth soccer fields were closed. While several Southern California counties are restarting their economies as the USA relaxes it’s stay-at-home Coronavirus COVID19 restrictions, San Diego is pushing for youth soccer to start up again soon.
San Diego is one of California’s 58 counties and it borders Mexico to the South and Orange County on the North with LA just a bit further up the freeway. While San Diego County is one of the latest areas to get state approval to push from Phase 1 through Phase 2, the area is working hard to accelerate the return of youth sports.
When will youth players be allowed to return to play?
Getting the green light on San Diego’s Accelerated Plan — which advances the return of youth sports from Phase 3 into the earlier Phase 2 — should come at any moment from California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Or approval can be granted within the next few days, or not at all.
What is San Diego County’s plan?
San Diego County has created ‘GAME ON SAN DIEGO‘ which is focused on “Reimaging Youth Sports Post COVID-19” and proposes a plan to restart youth soccer. With the tagline, “Building a safe plan back to ALL sports for ALL San Diego youth,” GAME ON SAN DIEGO’s action plan was to create a local coalition that would develop sport-specific physical distancing and safety plans. Bob Turner, president of Cal South, and many leaders of San Diego’s youth soccer clubs including Surf SC, CIty SC, Albion SC, San Diego SC, Oceanside Breakers, and DMCV Sharks among others joined to help this effort.
The plans were submitted to and approved by the San Diego County Public Health Office and have been submitted to the Governor of California on May 19 for approval. The plan has the support of UCSD, Palomar Heath, Tri-City Medical Center, Rady Children’s Hospital, Alvarado Hospital, and Paradise Valley Hospital.
COVID-19 Variance Attestation: Proposal for Accelerated Implementation of California’s Roadmap to Modify the Stay-At-Home Order PDF and Pilot Program to Further Accelerate Resilience Roadmap can be downloaded below:
What happens if Newsom doesn’t approve the expedited plans which include restarting youth soccer (San Diego County Youth Sports Physical Distancing & Safety Plan – Attachment V)?
While there is some restless talk within San Diego County of broad defiance of the Governor’s orders if the acceleration plan is not approved, as the San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar says, “That can bring short term gains at the expense of long term pain.” And, all signs look positive for the plan’s approval.
Kristin Gaspar is leading the charge to bring back youth sports in San Diego.
Elected in 2016 to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Gaspar was the first elected mayor of Encinitas. A real leader in the world of San Diego politics, Gaspar is refreshingly straight forward, upfront, and easy to talk to. She is also deeply passionate and has thought through the issues clearly.
Diane Scavuzzo Interview with Kristin Gaspar on Restarting Youth Soccer in San Diego
Diane Scavuzzo: San Diego is a city of 3.3 million people, many with kids who play sports. When can San Diego County expect to restart youth soccer?
NEED YOUR URGENT HELP! Our San Diego youth sports safety protocol is sitting on the Gov’s desk. We expect him to make a decision any minute. Please contact the Governor now & ask him to approve San Diego’s pilot program to get our kids back on the field. https://t.co/SECugoxmmy pic.twitter.com/pmNk7NozxW— Kristin Gaspar (@KristinDGaspar) May 23, 2020
Kristin Gaspar: We have come a long way with Game On San Diego and this is about the safe return of our kids to youth sports.
Wilma J. Wooten, San Diego County’s Public Health Officer has approved the plan and submitted our accelerated plan to the Governor’s office and we are waiting on the Governor’s approval. We are hoping for approval soon, at least before Wednesday when the County Board has a meeting scheduled.
Diane Scavuzzo: What does the plan propose for youth soccer?
Kristin Gaspar: This is a multi-phase plan which restarts youth soccer by permitting practice and drills with groups of 12 players. The groups of players will be consistent during this phase, which if all goes well will last for two weeks. Coaches and all adults helping with training must wear masks but the players do not have to.
Any equipment used for the training sessions is to be kept consistent and sanitized regularly.
Coaches have to have a wellness check with a temperature check. The player’s wellness check can be done verbally and does not require a temperature reading.
Social distancing guidelines are to be followed by parents when they are watching.
Diane Scavuzzo: 12 players per training group — do the players have to keep the 6’ social distance from each other?
Kristin Gaspar: No, making contact is ok.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do the players have to bring their own equipment to training, which is happening in some states?
Kristin Gaspar: No, we prefer it is under the control of the coach and they keep the equipment.
Diane Scavuzzo: What about playing soccer games and traveling to other counties to compete?
Kristin Gaspar: We want to keep players in San Diego County to start. Orange County is also working on restarting youth sports and has launched Game On OC and we would want to explore opening up travel between these counties first.
The focus is on keeping a close watch on San Diego’s hospitals and the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases.
While we expect additional cases of COVID-19, what we are watching are the hospitals’ capacity to treat patients. Right now, we are at a 40% capacity.
When the capacity increases and goes over 60% or 70% then we need to slow things down.
I am focused on prevention strategy. In addition to San Diego County’s hospital beds available, we have set up 500 additional beds, which are empty and are outside the hospital system. I hope we will never need them but that are available to deal with any surge.
If there is a significant rise in cases, we can’t move into gameplay, or if games are going on, we might have to roll back a bit … to just practicing but hopefully, this will not happen.
Diane Scavuzzo: Any recommendations for players who fall into high-risk health groups, such as a player with asthma?
Kristin Gaspar: I am mindful that no one should be penalized for not showing up now. Practice should be voluntary. It is not appropriate for high-risk kids, or adults, to participate.
Diane Scavuzzo: Ever since March 4, when Newsom proclaimed the State of Emergency, youth soccer players in Cal South and Cal North have been banned from practicing on the fields. You seem to understand the mentality of the youth sports landscape well … are you a coach or a soccer parent?
Kristin Gaspar: I am a coach. I coach La Costa Canyon Lady Mavericks Cheer. The cheer team are National Champions and I am very familiar with Pop Warner. And, I have two children, so I understand these issues.
We have modeled our accelerated plan for youth sports after our protocols for childcare, which has worked very well.
We want to make sure that youth athletes do not drop out of youth sports in San Diego.
You might remember that 45% of kids dropped out after the 2008 financial crises.