Preventing the Spread of Illness in Youth Soccer: by Rob Kelly of Soccer Coach Canada

With the increasing number of cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) being reported across the world, many of us are questioning whether we should cancel travel to tournaments, play matches without spectators, postpone evaluations, cancel practices or just put a complete stop on all soccer activities until this health scare is under control.

In past newsletters I have stated that it was my belief that the safety of our players should be a coach’s #1 priority. What is in the best interest of our players during a potential pandemic….to take precautions but continue soccer activities or cancel any soccer activities that may put your team in a more likely place where the spread of germs is possible?

First of all, I believe it is important to avoid panicking and be well aware of what the facts are around the potential health risk to your players and your entire soccer community. Listen to what the health authorities are recommending. Listen to what your governing body is recommending and your club.

For the most part in Canada, soccer has continued to be played with the advice to take precautions that will help decrease the possible spread of illness. Below I have outlined some tips to keep your players, officials, parents and spectators as safe as possible without interruption of soccer activities.

Guidelines for Limiting the Risk of Illness to Your Team

You are going to be hearing the phrase "social distancing" quite a bit in the near future when referring to sports games and crowds in general. If soccer is put on hold in the near future it will be following the mandate of social distancing which means to keep at least 3 feet away from anyone who may be sick. That definition will likely change to at least 6 feet and to keep away from anyone in public, showing symptoms or not.

When making decisions for your team, keep in contact with public health authorities and your soccer governing bodies. Base your personal decision making on listening to knowledgeable officials who have “real-time” information on what the actual risk is to take part in soccer activities. Currently you have a better chance of winning the lottery than contracting the Coronavirus in Canada and only 3.4% of those who contract the virus will die. For the time being, soccer activities in Canada still have the green light to proceed, however, that could change and it is up to each of us to keep on top of the situation.

Soccer activities are still on our schedule currently so what precautions can we take to limit the risk to our players being exposed to potentially harmful germs? First of all, follow the guidelines made public by the Canadian Government.

Here are some soccer specific tips to follow:

  • Players who are feeling sick should be advised not to attend practice or matches.
  • Unnecessary physical contact should be minimized. Handshakes, high-fives and even elbow bumps should be avoided. You can show your respect for your opposition after the game with a simple cheer, thank you or wave.
  • Water bottles need to be clearly marked to avoid drinking from each other’s bottles. Coach should bring a marker along to help mark individual bottles if players haven’t already marked them. Identical Gatorade bottles are constantly confused, especially with younger players.
  • Recommend to your players that they wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before and after practices and games.
  • Keep hand-sanitizer available on the bench and remind your players to use it.
  • Educate your soccer community about social distancing. As previously mentioned, this means to keep at least 3 feet away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Sanitize your soccer equipment between training and games. Spray and wipe anything that your players might touch.Simple precautions like the above are most effective in preventing the spread of infection.



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