Realities and Reflections on Return to Activity

What a couple of months this has been for our youth soccer ecosystem as parents, coaches, clubs, administrators, referees and others connected to the game have collectively and individually established a "new normal" as it relates to soccer experiences and interactions alongside the COVID chaos.

Parents want their children to be active, making healthy choices, and moving every day. Coaches want to teach, impact, and interact with players - and while the Zoom meetings and video exchanges have filled part of a void - coaches are looking forward to being back on the fields. Players want to compete.  While they have found some new passion with the skills challenges, wall ball, social media fun, and more - there is no substitution for being on the field with their teammates.

In the United States, as some states make moves to gradually reopen, parents must consider, reflect upon, and decide what they are comfortable with when it comes to their children and their reintroduction to the game.

When will we feel comfortable enough to drop our children off at the fields for practice?

When will our children feel reassured, safe, and cared for going back to playing a contact sport?

How will this gradual reintroduction to team sports play out?

While nothing is clear just yet how Return to Activity will look, there have been some interesting and noteworthy programs announced recently to possibly shed some light on the (at least short term) future of youth sports:

1.  GotSoccer introduced its new Coronavirus COVID-19 Crisis Package

A set of three tools for clubs to reintroduce soccer safely includes a social distancing, sideline ticketing, and contract tracing tool. While the intention of the software is certainly safety driven from a social distancing perspective and provides a potentially welcomed opportunity for clubs to cover themselves from a liability standpoint - the launch of this new package was met with much consternation, pause, and confusion from soccer leaders.  Is this really where we are headed?

2.  States announce Return to Activity Protocols

A number of states are reintroducing Return to Activity as their State government reopens business and allows for recreational activities.  Indiana Soccer Association this week announced their Return to Activity protocols. While your state will likely be different, have a look at these guidelines to give you some perspective about how Return to Activity will potentially look for your child.  

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3.  U.S. Soccer launches survey

In an effort to (I assume) put some much needed leadership from our Federation in place during these uncertain times, U.S. Soccer this week launched a survey for parents, coaches, administrators, referees, and fans regarding Return to Activity.  The survey questions confidence levels, inquires about fears, and gauges levels of uncertainty.  If you have not yet take the survey, the link is below. (if it is still open)

Of course, society as a whole is in the middle of a reorganization and reshuffling of priorities and perspectives. In some areas of our lives, things will not return to a pre-COVID state. Our youth sporting landscape is undergoing stress and with that stress comes potential structural shifts, innovation, and change.  Is an on-line ticketing app for seat selection at youth games a viable solution?  Is a child never touching a ball with their hands in training practical? Should coaches be held responsible for evaluating the potential COVID condition of a player? Can we expect volunteer organizations to have the manpower or logistical structures in place to proctor sidelines?

More than anything - how parents feel will drive this conversation regarding Return to Activity in youth soccer.  What parents believe to be true about the health and safety of their child will provide a path to action and solutions for clubs and organizations. Needless to say, parents can expect more surveys in the coming weeks as clubs work to keep everyone safe and healthy - both physically and emotionally.

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Skye Eddy

Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF "B" License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.