UPDATED: New Study Finds Limited Coronavirus Transmission During Youth Soccer Activities In San Diego
While the CDC warns that children are at risk for COVID-19, a new study offers a path forward for San Diego County to safely reopen outdoor youth sports. Out of 143,000 soccer sessions analyzed, the rate was .01% with all new confined cases traced to transmission outside the youth soccer group.
Earlier this week, Surf Cup Sports has released the results of an eight-week study analyzing the safety of outdoor youth soccer in San Diego County.
We want the data and the science to drive safe decision for our kids.Brian Enge, CEO, Surf Cup Sports
The county’s top youth soccer clubs, led by Surf Cup Sports, have taken the lead on studying the impact of COVID-19 transmission within outdoor youth sports – and specifically focused on youth soccer.
Six youth soccer clubs in San Diego County participated in this study involving 6,560 players and 263 coaches.
The youth soccer clubs are located across the county from Oceanside to Chula Vista. Over the course of eight weeks, 143,000 soccer sessions were analyzed and only 15 (.01%) confirmed cases were recorded.
Now there is a KIDS1st movement to let kids play. “We believe the physical and mental welfare of our kids needs to be at the forefront as we battle the effects of COVID, seen and unseen. We’re not here to politicize this crisis. We’re here solely to give a voice to children of all ages and we’re asking to let the data drive the discussion.
Kids 1st says it all.
There is a petition to sign to help Give Our Kids a Voice & Get Our Kids Back On The Field! Rapidly gaining traction, the petition hopes to get Governor Newsom to pay attention to these future voters and let science decide, and not voices louder rule because they have lobbyists and funding, and threaten lawsuits. While the focus is CA directed at the moment, this concept clearly applies to the entire country.
Link to sign the #Kids1stCampaign petition.
“This initiative is 100% focused on asking our government leaders to use data to make decisions specifically for our kids,” said Brian Enge, CEO of Surf Cup Sports. “We want to come to them with data and a potential solution to further study the safety. That separates youth soccer from other industries that are asking to open for economic reasons only.”
“The physical and mental health of our kids has to be balanced with the risks of COVID.”Brian Enge, CEO of Surf Cup Sports
Southern Californias has always been a hotbed of amazing youth soccer talent with a high concentration of strong youth soccer clubs. Competition between the clubs has always been fierce but Enge believes now is the time to come together for the good of the game, and most importantly for the benefit of the players who have endured the uncertainty of the Coronavirus and the halt to life as normal. With schools going digital, soccer practice is one of the few outdoor and supervised activities for these kids.
The key to this is the word supervised. Quality youth soccer clubs all follow the state and local guidelines, providing a controlled environment in which kids can not only receive excellent coaching but adult supervision that helps minimize the spread of the pandemic. At soccer practice, kids are not sharing water bottles. Unsupervised, kids sharing a drink is not all that unusual, even now.
“As a community, we have to rise above the cynicism of competition and work together to get out kids playing again.”Brian Enge, CEO of Surf Cup Sports
“Surf is willing to help fund the effort to get our Southern California kids back on the soccer fields, and Surf isn’t taking any branding on the mission. That’s why we branded this movement Kids 1st. There is nothing about Surf on Kids 1st. This effort benefits all kids and all clubs equally. The kids need help from adults to get their voices heard. We need all of us in the soccer community to join together in this fight to get them heard,” said Enge.
DETAILS ON THE WHITEPAPER & MOVING FORWARD
The confirmed case of the Coronavirus COVID-19 identified in the study were all traced to transmissions from outside of the soccer sessions, and in several instanced were from older siblings who did not participate in soccer.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a dramatic toll on the physical and mental health of kids across San Diego County,” said Brian Enge, CEO, Surf Cup Sports who says this is the reason for the whitepaper.
“The positive value of youth sports has never been more crystal clear and this study indicates that when following safety guidelines correctly, a safe environment for outdoor youth sports is possible,” said Enge.
Eight weeks ago, on June 12, youth soccer clubs across San Diego County received the ability to Return To Play and the study was initiated Day One. Players were kept in consistent pods of 12 players which did not intermix with other pods of 12 players. According to San Diego County, players could scrimmage and have contact within their pods.
Surf Cup Sports is not a Washington DC-based think tank but it is an organization with close to 50 years’ experience in high-quality youth soccer. It does not take a rocket scientist to analyze the data of 143,000 soccer practices and see no real spread of the pandemic.
“Our study shows we’ve created a safe environment for outdoor sports in San Diego County, and we are asking for the City and Country to follow the Scientific Method and allow us to carefully add the variable of gameplay in a controlled pilot setting,” said Enge. “We’ve already presented the pilot to the City and are waiting for a response. We aren’t pushing to open the flood gates on competitive play, rather to allow this group of clubs to take the next step, study the impacts of that step, and then move forward accordingly.”
“It’s been a fantastic response from San Diego’s youth soccer clubs … we have all collectively supported the County and State’s guidelines,” said Brian Quinn, Director of Coaching San Diego Soccer Club. “This survey highlights how youth soccer can train in a responsible and safe environment where the safety of our children is the priority.”
“I am also thrilled that the statistics show there is a negligible chance of catching COVID-19 when social distancing and utilization of masks and sanitizing protocols are followed.”Brian Quinn, Director of Coaching San Diego Soccer Club
“The few cases that tested positive were all transmitted from external exposure,” said Michael Duggan, Director of Soccer Operations, City SC. “When you have a positive case, you have to quarantine the coach and the players and the good news is, no additional cases of the Coronavirus COVID-19 were diagnosed in our environments. This survey should allow San Diego county to move into the next phase with players allowed to scrimmage within their youth soccer clubs. I am confident that the findings will not change. And, then we go into local games.”
“This is very encouraging news. We were happy to see other big clubs in the county were showing the same encouraging results we were seeing,” said Abel Martinez, Director of Operation, Rebels SC.
“ALBION SC has taken the return to train very seriously and have only wanted to protect and move at the right pace,” said Noah Gins, CEO Albion SC. “With our knowledge and the collective responses from the selected clubs, we can see that all appears ready to move forward with the next steps in the process of return to play.”
What would happen if CA allowed a small group of Southern California clubs to test a potential solution furthering the study and allowed players to play closely monitored games?
“We are safely ready for the next step in the County’s Return to Play planning. Training has presented a 0.0104% transmission and it’s our ask to add the variable of controlled gameplay to the current, safe environment we’ve created for our players,” said Josh Henderson, National Technical Director, San Diego Surf Soccer Club.
Early scientific data supports this concept and suggests that the time spent in close proximity to other players during a soccer game is limited and falls far below the duration that is felt to represent sufficient exposure to result in viral transmission. According to CDC, “Recommendations vary on the length of time of exposure, but 15 minutes of close exposure can be used as an operational definition. Brief interactions are less likely to result in transmission; however, symptoms and the type of interaction (e.g., did the infected person cough directly into the face of the exposed individual) remain important.”
“Above all else it is our collective responsibility to keep our kids safe. Based on the lack of cases within the club, we believe we are doing the right thing with the kids.”Josh Henderson, National Technical Director, San Diego Surf Soccer Club
“We’ve listened to the kids, parents, and coaches and studied the data to make collective decisions on the safety of our kids,” said Henderson.
SURF CUP SPORTS YOUTH SOCCER STUDY
FROM THE YOUTH SOCCER STUDY:
As San Diego continues in Phase 1 of Reopening, activity and gameplay limited due to the increase and growing number of COVID-19 cases in San Diego, soccer players are being negatively mentally impacted without competition.
With clearance to return to play on June 12, youth soccer clubs around San Diego County have been hosting onsite training sessions for teams weekly.
With respect to soccer, early data seems to suggest that the time spent in close proximity to other players during a soccer game is limited and falls far below the duration that is felt to represent sufficient exposure to result in viral transmission.
As research and testing continue to provide clearer answers, it’s apparent that outdoor sports in large areas will almost certainly have a lower transmission risk than indoor activities in confined spaces.
We identified 6 top clubs (San Diego Surf Soccer Club, Oceanside Breakers, City SC, Albion Soccer Club, Rebels Soccer Club and San Diego Soccer Club) that represent the entirety of San Diego County, from Oceanside to Chula Vista. From there, we collected training data from an 8-week period that encompassed total players, sessions and COVID positive cases to track transmission.
Together, the San Diego soccer community had 6,560 players and 263 coaches participate in over 143,000 soccer sessions with only 15 confirmed cases, all transmitted outside of these soccer sessions – resulting in a .0104% positive rate per session.
SAN DIEGO YOUTH OUTDOOR SOCCER COVID TRANSMISSION STUDY
San Diego Youth Sports Study Dates: June 12 to Aug 12
*No known transmissions have occurred via the soccer sessions and all Positive tests have been associated with external transmission (primarily from siblings)
According to Surf Cup Sports, the data tells a clear story – kids playing soccer outdoors in a safe environment are not contracting or transmitting COVID at a material rate.
When you add this data to the following recently released reports from the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and the CDC – our argument becomes even stronger.
Since May, 2020:
- Physical activity levels dropped by an alarming 50% compared to pre-COVID levels. If extrapolated to the rest of the country, this could be the least physically active that children have ever been.
- Following the widespread cancelation of school and spring sports, 33% (up from 10%) 38% reported moderate to severe depression and 35% reported moderate to severe anxiety.
- Females have been particularly affected, with 40% and 45% reporting moderate to severe symptoms of depression and anxiety, respectively.
- National CDC data confirms the risk of hospitalization for children aged <18 years is extremely low. The CDC’s July 25th report on Morbidity and Mortality cites a total of 576 hospitalizations for kids under 18 since March 1, 2020
Based upon the finding of this study, Surf Cup Sports is urging San Diego City and County officials to allow Surf and the partner clubs which participated in the survey to create a pilot program to take the next step.
Next Step: Approval for a Pilot Program
Additional clubs wishing to participate in the pilot program are welcome, according to Enge, however, the total number of youth soccer clubs must remain small enough to gain city and county approval.
“We aren’t trying to exclude anyone, we want all kids to be able to play soccer,” said Enge. “However, we recognize that this pilot may require a smaller subset to create the forward movement that allows everyone to play.”