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Diane Scavuzzo

States Differ on The Return of Youth Soccer

As the custodians for the next generations, we are responsible for caring for well being for today’s kids — and, the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for all ages. Isn’t it time to get kids out of the house, in safe conditions, and at least with modified training? Hmmm, small groups of school age kids under adult supervision, doesn’t that sound like childcare?

Isn’t Youth Soccer a Form of Childcare for School-Age Kids?

Amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, it is important to think of the unintended consequences. How are kids dealing with the moratorium of youth sports?

Kids need to be active, outdoors, and away from screens. The Return to Play youth soccer, even in its most modified form, is healthy for kids.

It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to enjoy the game we all love, and I know you’ve all missed it ….

From U.S. Soccer Chief Medical Officer: A LETTER FROM DR. GEORGE CHIAMPAS

What is stopping some States from allowing kids return to play? It can’t be the science … can it? It was comforting a month ago to listen to pledges to ‘follow the science’ — until the science set benchmarks too hard to reach.

Then the markers were lowered, without explanation of the revised scientific reasoning. Maybe the decisions were driven by economic forces or perhaps there were good reasons for lowering the thresholds, but what exists today is a patchwork of states differing significantly on when kids can Return To Play.

Part of the problem is America is a huge country. The East Coast and West Coast were obviously hit harder by the Coronavirus than other parts of the country — New York’s Governor Mario Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered their citizens to shelter-in-place ten weeks ago. And, no one back then expected any of the restrictions to last this long.

As the custodians for the next generations, we are responsible for caring for well being for today’s kids all across America— and, it is time to get them out of the house in safe conditions.


Bob Turner, President Cal South Soccer

Arizona, Alaska, Maryland, Washington, Utah, South Texas, and Oklahoma are among the states with kids already back on the field — at least in some areas of the state, and to varying degrees, ranging from small group training sessions with no contact to action-packed games.

“Just getting players back on the field with their teammates and coaches is a really important step.”

Christian Lavers, President ECNL

In Arizona, youth soccer players returned to the fields on May 16 with very specifically defined guidelines for Phase 1 from Arizona Soccer Association (ASA) — and, from all accounts, it has been quite successful. Yesterday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has announced that organized youth sports can return to more normalized operations. Arizona has approximately 18,000 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus COVID-19, according to USA FACTS, a reporting source used by the CDC.

“The saftey of our players and coaches are our #1 priority. In partnership with our youth soccer clubs, ASA Staff walked the youth soccer fields to monitor progress,” said Rick Kelsey, CEO of Arizona Soccer Association. “To show up at a field and see a club create 10 yd x 10 yd boxes and have identified stations at least 10 feet apart for players to drop their bags and others for water, well it was awesome.”

“Arizona youth soccer clubs and coaches demonstrated the type of community leadership and player/family first commitment that separates soccer from other sports in Arizona. While others were throwing caution to the wind, Arizona’s clubs worked tirelessly to provide a safe return to the field for their players, coaches, families, and communities,” said Kelsey.

The silence on when youth soccer can restart in any modified form in CA is deafening.

With over 104,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 in CA, the state allowed houses of worship to open earlier this week and announced today that hair salons can reopen — both of which have been classified as a higher risk for the transmission of the pandemic than outdoors activities following social distancing guidelines.

Why is Calfornia, known as a hotbed of youth soccer talent, not able to allow kids to return to the field yet?

“We know we are not ready to play games, but we are ready for the kids to be training in small groups.”

Michael Duggan, Director of Soccer Operations – Rise Soccer Club in San Diego County

While California youth soccer clubs wait for permission to begin training with a phased Return to Play, the question arises — does youth soccer provide a form of childcare, and therefore meet the guidelines common with industry understanding?

The question is — do clubs and coaches need permission for modified training as childcare providers?

Some county health officials say there is no need for any particular legal deliberation on this point. The childcare of school-age children under the responsible supervision of an adult(s) does not restrict or specify the actual activity. So, is there a difference between painting a picture or juggling a soccer ball?

The critical factor is that social distancing guidelines, as well as and other safety protocols, must be maintained. Are the youth clubs in Calfornia ready? Many believe they are prepared to welcome players back.

“We are ready for our Surf players to come back to their fields.”

Brian Enge, CEO Surf Soccer in San Diego

“We are ready. We have been working on setting up the fields all week and we have implemented the proper protocols, and even have separate entrances and exits,” said Brian Eng, CEO of Surf Soccer. “Our coaches are all highly trained and licensed. We know our players miss soccer and want to get back to the game they love.”

This brings up the nagging question again. If childcare providers can assemble kids in consistent groups of twelve under the supervision of a responsible adult(s) then why can’t youth soccer players do the same with a coach?

It is really paradoxical and it shouldn’t be. What is the difference?

Why can’t coaches meet their players in small groups for modified training with individual drills as long as they respect all the safety guidelines?

According to our sources, this question has never been asked before the pandemic and could be answered by the state as this quandary falls in a gray area. The State Department of Social Services, under the California Health and Safety Code, defines organizations by their actions and these codes do not seemingly exclude recreation programs and organizations from being considered as child care.

Some people believe youth soccer organizations can be viewed as childcare providers for school-age children.

Obviously more clarity is desired. While this is a very fluid process with a lot of moving parts and several levels of government, no one wants to go against their State’s orders and everyone wants to understand them.

Should youth soccer clubs rush to get childcare licenses? As an example, the majority of San Diego childcare providers of school-age children under the age of 18 years old are license-exempt — so licenses do not seem required.

Some clubs are working on multiple opportunities to meet the needs of their youth players and families. “We are working in tandem with local and county officials to present what we believe to be a safe and responsible way for youth soccer to return to play in Contra Costa County,” said Fred Wilson, Executive Director Mustang Soccer.

“We feel it important for the health and well being of all the kids to have the physical and mental stimulation of youth soccer back in their lives.”

Fred Wilson, Executive Director Mustang Soccer

Governor Newsom announced today that California’s local public health officers will decide when it is appropriate regarding additional openings in their counties.

Perhaps this entire issue will be decided next week.

In fact, in California’s Marin County, summer camp operators can already proceed with their reopening plans, starting June 1. In this country, the requirements for child care facilities and summer camps include limiting group sizes to 12 children or fewer and keeping the same groups together for a minimum of three weeks. Arrival times are to be staggered, and parents should avoid carpooling to such facilities. And, most activities are to be conducted outdoors, where the risk of contracting COVID-19 is much lower.

Why are other counties different? How does Marin County allow this and Contra Costa County not? This difference between what CA Counties are doing can not be explained by a difference in the number of confirmed cases or deaths from the Coronavirus.

Some counties are just waiting for approval from the state.. San Diego Supervisor Kristin Gaspar submitted a Return To Play plan approved by the San Diego County Public Health Office to the Governor of California on May 19. As of Friday, there has been no answer.

So, then again the question arises. Why can’t youth soccer clubs act in accordance with the guidelines for childcare providers?

Why Does There need to be a big Battle to get our kids back on the soccer fields?

In the absence of feedback and consistency across the state, questions morph into frustration. With the unprecedented global health crises, among other issues, we simply do not need any more uncertainty.

There is no evidence of a disagreement on how youth soccer players should return to the soccer fields. From Arizona to Texas, the Phase 1 plans for Return To Play reflect many of the CDC protocols. “It is critical that we all do this in the right way,” said ECNL President Christian Lavers whose guidelines for Return To Play are very similar to many other proposed plans.

The plans in GAME ON SAN DIEGO, similar to those in other parts of the country, are very comprehensive. Provisions include that all parents and guardians, and organized sports program youth participants will be required to sign a commitment to abide by the plan requirements and facility social distancing requirements prior to being allowed to participate or entering the facility. In addition, waivers must be signed acknowledging the symptoms of COVID-19. There is no room left for misunderstanding by a rogue soccer parent.

“The Big battle is just to get an answer, and to find a way to get approval.”

Micahel Duggan, Rise SC

“There is no reason I can see that our coaches shouldn’t be able to meet with small groups of our players while maintaining social distancing guidelines,” said Duggan. “Can someone please tell me how this is different than any other childcare provider? And our coaches are well trained and all licensed many childcare providers have no license at all.”


Will People Follow State & Local Guidelines for Social Distancing and Wearing masks?


Resources and Related Soccer News:

U.S. Soccer Phase I Grassroots Soccer Recommendation guide is a comprehensive model to allow soccer to operate under key safety plans and considerations, with additional guides to follow. These guides include a detailed approach to social distancing, screening, training, and interactions to ensure consistent and best practices are followed. These guidelines and best practices are intended for use WHEN AND IF your local authorities have deemed it safe to return to the practice field.


Aspen Institute’s Project Play Return-to-Play 2v2Download

For helping young players understand the Coronavirus pandemic, this free book might be of interest: MY HERO IS YOU, HOW KIDS CAN FIGHT COVID-19’ BOOK HELPS KIDS COPE

San Diego County link to CHILD CARE SERVICES FAQs

– from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) in collaboration with the California Department of Education (CDE). PDF below:

San Diego County Pilot Program-Proposal-DRAFT-FINAL-REV-05-20-2020Download

International Guidelines

MAY 5 2020 GERMANY’S DFL Sports Medicine Task Force ReportDownload
OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategyDownload


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