Chair of US Youth Soccer on the Impact of the Coronavirus COVID-19
Dr. Pete Zopfi, chair of the board of U.S. Youth Soccer, spoke with SoccerToday on what it will be like when we are able to return to the field.
Dr. Pete Zopfi, the Chair of US Youth Soccer (USYS), is a leader in the boardroom, the soccer field, and the hospital. A highly acclaimed trauma surgeon, Zopfi has more than 30 years of coaching experience in addition to being a collegiate player at the University of California, Davis and the University of San Francisco. Believing youth soccer should always be about the kids, Zopfi is determined to provide youth soccer players with the best experiences and development opportunities.
Due to the Coronavirus COVID-10 pandemic, USYS has recently canceled its Regional and National Champions and announced the moratorium on youth soccer practice and games will be extended now through May 1.
Will players start playing June 1, and what, if any, changes will there be from the impact from the Coronavirus? We wanted to know the answers to these questions.
Interview With Dr. Pete Zopfi, Chair of US Youth Soccer
Diane Scavuzzo: Are you surprised we are facing this unparalleled pandemic?
Dr. Pete Zopfi: No, I think people don’t realize how virulent viruses can be and how quickly they can mutate. Pandemics have happened throughout history — and, unfortunately, it’s our turn to experience this.
Diane Scavuzzo: As a doctor, you’ve experienced firsthand the Coronavirus COVID-19. What can you tell us?
Dr. Pete Zopfi: It’s a silent, invisible danger. Psychologically, people are very frightened. There’s a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety — which is very unfortunate.
Diane Scavuzzo: US Youth Soccer is the largest national youth organization with 3 million members and 55 State Associations — as the chair of the organization, what advice can you share with our readers?
Dr. Pete Zopfi: I think it’s extremely important for everyone to realize — and speaking from the dual role of a trauma surgeon and the chair of US youth — that fighting the Coronavirus is really a team effort.
The successes we are seeing are being achieved by team efforts — and, we have to defer to the experts in this kind of a challenge.
I would just encourage everybody to continue to follow the guidelines, and be patient. It will resolve.
Diane Scavuzzo: When do you think kids will be back playing soccer in America?
Dr. Pete Zopfi: It is too early to know when we will be able to return to play but
I actually think when the kids get back to playing youth soccer, there are going to be some changes.
Diane Scavuzzo: What kind of changes?
Dr. Pete Zopfi: US Youth Soccer has Tips for Safe Soccer.
For example, youth soccer clubs should have hand sanitizer available before, during and after activities. That’s not something we’ve seen before.
Probably the handshakes and high fives that we are used to seeing all the time will be gone. We are also discussing requiring the parents and spectators to maintain social distances from each other — this is to avoid everyone gathering together in one big group, which is just a big magnet for sharing germs.
Remember all those dirty vests and bibs? And the soccer balls? I think coaches and managers are going to have to be a little bit more attentive to cleaning the equipment in between practices from now on.
And, we are discussing perhaps not recommending team snacks because everybody’s touching everything and then eating … and no one is taking time to wash hands or sanitize first.
Diane Scavuzzo: No orange slices? Makes sense. What are the US Youth Soccer Tips for Safe Soccer?
Dr. Pete Zopfi: Here is the list, and we may be updating this in the weeks ahead.
US YOUTH SOCCER’S TIPS FOR SAFE SOCCER
- Limit play groups to 10 people or less. (This is a recommendation for initial practices and when kids return to play with a gradual resumption of the usual numbers for games, based on specific age groups.)
- Require parents and spectators to maintain “social distancing”.
- Do not allow anyone with symptoms to attend activities.
- Have hand sanitizer available before, during and after activities.
- Prohibit hand contact (i.e. handshakes, “high fives”, etc.).
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with hands.
- Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- No spitting on the field or sidelines.
- Do not provide team snacks or drinks.
- Do not share water bottles, drinks or food.
- Disinfect balls and equipment before, during and after activities.
- Launder clothes, uniforms, and vests after activities.
Diane Scavuzzo: This is great advice to help keep youth soccer players, their families, and coaches safe when we are able to return to the field.
Will there be a push to get TOPSoccer programs back up quickly when the fields open up?
Dr. Pete Zopfi: Absolutely. TOPSoccer is a top priority for all of us — and, for me personally.
We had our 3-day National TOPSoccer Symposium planned for Kansas City and we had to postpone it until later this year and it is currently scheduled for the end of August. I look forward to speaking at this event.
Diane Scavuzzo: The Coronavirus has financially impacted the globe, and in particular, our soccer world. What are your thoughts?
Dr. Pete Zopfi: A lot of clubs are already being hit hard financially. We’ve made the tough decision to cancel our Regional and National Championships, which are our crown jewels — while there are many reasons we canceled, we do hope that sacrificing our USYS events will give the States Associations and the youth soccer clubs a larger window to hold a few events when we return to the field.
Diane Scavuzzo: Doesn’t canceling these flagship events financially impact your organization?
Dr. Pete Zopfi: Yes, but we are focused on the big picture and providing opportunities for our members. US Youth Soccer has three pillars we focus on:
- Organizational growth,
- Improving our member services and benefits,
- Rebuilding our reserves
Rebuilding reserves are going on the back burner for now and we’re going to continue to put our investment into growing the organization and into improving the quality of USYS’ services and benefits. Hopefully, the state associations will, in turn, do the same thing and that’ll have a halo effect for the clubs.
In the future, we want the membership to grow for not only us, but for every organization.
Diane Scavuzzo: Any final words of wisdom on the impact of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr. Pete Zopfi: I believe people are going to realize the value of enjoying life — sometimes we’re so busy with our job or our time commitments that we forget to stop and smell the rose as the old adage says. Maybe people will take a step back from the speed, the quickness of today’s society and just stop, and enjoy life and their family a little bit more.
Images Courtesy of US Youth Soccer