LATEST RETURN TO PLAY UPDATES

The following letter was submitted to Governor Inslee’s office by Washington Youth Soccer after working with our medical expert Dr. Drezner and requesting the endorsements from other youth sports organizations throughout the state. Contact Terry Fisher at terry@washingtonyouthsoccer.org with any questions about this proposal or other return to play issues. 

As the COVID-19 situation continues to ebb and flow around the world, youth sports organizations like ours are doing everything we can to monitor the virus and how it affects our children and the games we all love. Our number one priority is safety for our players, coaches, officials, and families. But we also want to recognize and acknowledge the importance of youth sports on the mental, emotional, and psychologically development of our children.

With the support of youth sports organizations across the state that comprise at least 325,000 players– including but not limited to 125,000 youth soccer players (100,000 recreation; 25,000 premier), 90,000 youth baseball and softball players, 20,000 youth lacrosse players, and 7,000 youth ultimate frisbee players, we believe that finding ways to get our youth back into sports as quickly as possible is of the utmost priority—as long as proper safety guidelines are crafted and followed. As for youth soccer, roughly $400,000 is given in financial aid to players who can’t afford to play and for many, this is their only sport; the majority (approximately 100,000) are recreational-level players who may not have a season without the implementation of statewide phase 3 protocols. Students also need Physical Education credits to graduate from high school in Washington State, and allowing our sports to move forward in order to help students fulfill those requirements will help ease the burden on schools, students, and parents.

The below proposal outlines our goals for moving outdoor recreation, including outdoor youth sports, to phase 3 guidelines across Washington State. This was created with the assistance of our medical expert, Dr. Jonathan Drezner. The proposal has been endorsed by the following, along with Washington Youth Soccer:

Snohomish County Sports Commission

Snohomish Boys Lacrosse Club

Spokane Youth Sports Association

SOZO Sports

USA Softball of Washington

USA Softball

Richland National Little League

 

Outdoor Recreation: Proposal for Phase 2 Modification

Background and Rationale:

Knowledge about SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the factors that determine risk have quickly evolved. Proximity, duration, and environment are major factors that influence viral spread and the risk of new infections (Jones et al. BMJ 2020).

After studying results in over 8,100 youth soccer players that have been participating in Phase 2 small group trainings from mid-June through mid-August in Washington Youth Soccer RCL clubs, we would like to request modifications to the Phase 2 guidelines for outdoor recreation that have been put forth by the State of Washington. 

The data has shown that there have been zero cases of transmission among participating athletes in the current Phase 2 protocols. This is consistent with similar data collected in other areas across the country for youth soccer trainings, including data from San Diego County and North Carolina involving physical contact at practices and games where no cases of player to player transmission occurred. 

It is clear that when infection-control protocols are employed with adult oversight, physically distanced soccer training is safe, and that more normal training and competition outdoors does not appear to present a high risk for spread of SARS-CoV-2.

The concept that playing outdoor sports or having school-sponsored extra-curricular activities is somehow linked to students being in the classroom for in-person learning is not supported by science. The risk of students sitting in a classroom is far greater than youth playing sports outdoors. Indeed, one study estimates a 19-fold higher risk of transmission in indoor environments than outdoors (Nishiura et al. medRxiv 2020).

Beyond simply boosting the physical health of young athletes, we have also found that getting kids back into sport is just as important for their mental health. A recent study at the University of Wisconsin found that young athletes across their state reported feeling a variety of negative mental health symptoms as a result of not being able to play sports in the early days of COVID-19 quarantine measures. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed reported suffering symptoms of anxiety in May 2020, while 68% reported symptoms of depression. The latter was compared to historical data, with moderate to severe depression reported at a rate 3.5 times higher than that found in historical data.

Proposal:

We propose to eliminate restrictions on outdoor recreation that have been focused on small groups of 5 or less, and to advance to guidelines consistent with Phase 3 outdoor recreation. Specifically, approved activities for teams and larger groups would include those where: >6 feet between players is mostly maintained, rare and brief physical contact with other athletes may occur, but only fleeting (or no) face-to-face time is anticipated between players. This would allow many outdoor sports to advance to full practices, scrimmages, and games. Tournaments would not be allowed.

Additional safety precautions recommended include:

  • Players should remain physically distanced >6 feet apart as much as possible
  • Players should use hand sanitizer before and after practice and games
  • Players on the sideline should be physically distanced >6 feet apart and wear a mask
  • No handshakes, fist-bumps, or group celebrations
  • Coaches should be wearing a mask at all times and any team instruction be conducted with the players physically distanced
  • Officials and umpires should practice appropriate hand hygiene and use of a mask is encouraged
  • Each player that is a minor can have only one parent/guardian at a game
  • Parents should wear a mask and be physically distanced from each other and the field of play
  • There should be no pre- or post-game gatherings

Sports-specific precautions to consider:

  • Soccer: replace corner kicks with pass-in restarts
  • Baseball/Softball: catcher, batter, and base runners wear a mask
  • Lacrosse: avoid face-offs

Impact and Follow-up:

Advancing outdoor activities with a continued focus on safety will allow hundreds of thousands of youth to resume outdoor sports and avoid the harm of inactivity and social isolation. Surveillance for new infections will continue with continual re-evaluation of safety protocols and the need for further modifications.

 

CLARIFICATION:

To clarify, small group training with appropriate physical distancing and no contact is not considered a “close contact” or high risk exposure. The recommendation to inform and test a small group pod is out of an abundance of caution.  If it is truly a high risk exposure (ie carpool, household contact, players went and scrimmaged on their own, >15 min within 6 feet), then the person should quarantine for 14 days regardless of their test result.

Thanks to our continued cooperation with, and support from, Governor Jay Inslee’s office, Washington Youth Soccer has received clarification that our latest Return to Play guidelines are current and approved for use. This includes the latest changes to Phase 3 counties; the change from groups of 50 to 10 does not apply to youth soccer at this time. In Phase 3, soccer teams can play games if all other guidelines and procedures are followed. The governor’s office reinforced that outdoor activity that strictly follows state and other safety guidelines is always the best option.

The governor’s office provided no updates for us beyond what has been announced and addressed by WYS already, but they praised our organization’s leadership on this topic and are pleased with the guidelines we have released thus far. It’s also worth recognizing that they don’t see all youth sports as equal in terms of returning to play in the different phases of reopening. While other sports may see tighter or looser restrictions or guidelines, what WYS has provided is considered the best for youth soccer in consultation with our medical expert, Dr. Jonathan Drezner.

As we’ve mentioned before in our Return to Play updates, things are constantly changing at a local, state, national, and global level. The governor’s office, as well as state and county public health officials, continue to monitor the pandemic closely, following all data and metrics to determine next steps. We at WYS are doing our best to acknowledge, clarify, and communicate all changes and updates with any relevance to youth soccer in Washington.

Phase 2 – Goalkeeper Group Practice.

In phase 2, goalkeepers can practice in groups of five (5) and must continue to follow all the other phase 2 guidelines.

Additionally, goalkeepers must disinfect/sanitize their gloves before and after practice sessions. Goalkeepers should not spit on their gloves.

Only coach supplied soccer balls to be used for the practice, and these soccer balls and equipment need to be disinfected before and after each group practice.

This is a letter sent to our member associations regarding the current outlook for fall soccer in Washington. 

Washington Youth Soccer’s Recommended Steps for Fall Soccer

We recognize and appreciate all the hard work by our members during this time, and sympathize with the uncertainties, the questions, and the needs that many of you have. As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, we have a few steps that we recommend our members take right now.

  • Keep registration OPEN for the fall season. Until we know in certain terms what the season will look like, we want to operate as if a fall season is in the cards for all levels of youth soccer in our state.
  • Continue clearing RMAs in your organization. This is one of the most important steps you can take to be ready to go at a moment’s notice if a fall season is to go forward. We want all coaches and administrators to be fully cleared and approved as soon as possible.
  • Keep training your coaches. Coaching education might look a little different now with virtual learning and other changes from the norm, but we are working hard to make as much coaching education as possible available.
  • Recruit volunteers wherever you have need in your organization. Youth soccer is powered by volunteers at nearly every level, and that budgetary uncertainty makes their presence even more significant. Identify the needs in your organization and recruit wherever and whenever possible.
  • Make a plan, display it proudly, and stick to it. Make Washington Youth Soccer aware of any and all plans you have for the fall season, ideally with alternative plans at every phase of reopening and return to play. The plans outlined by Washington Youth Soccer in our return to play documents are still valid as of 7/30/20, and you can use whatever you need from them to craft your own. This includes our initial recommendations for youth soccer in phase 2 and 3 in Washington State, which are currently unaffected by the governor’s office’s latest changes to public gatherings in phase 3.
  • Continue to communicate with your members, your leadership, and Washington Youth Soccer as things change on a local, state, and federal level. We will support you however we can, but the decisions must be made by you.

Above all, control what you can control and plan for every possible scenario that you see your organization facing. Washington Youth Soccer will continue to update our Return to Play page with all relevant information for our membership, and we welcome questions at terry@washingtonyouthsoccer.org. Our priority is the health and safety of our players and families, and we will not do or recommend anything that unduly jeopardizes that goal. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay connected. Together we will get through this, and don’t forget—MASK UP!

CASE OF INFECTION

When an athlete is diagnosed with COVID-19:

  1. Contact your Director/ED regarding situation so appropriate contact tracing can be performed by club personnel.

2.  Fill out COVID-19 Reporting Form within 24 hours.

3.  Have that athlete stay home.

4.  Contact parents or guardians if for some reason they do not know already.

5.  If the infected athlete was in contact with their small group within 48 hours of diagnosis, have that group also stay home – contact each of their parents or guardians that “someone” in their small group has tested positive for the virus (do not reveal name of infected individual). Each of these players should also be tested for COVID-19 and if they have a negative they can return to training.

6.  Infected player cannot return to practice until 10-14 days after symptom onset (10 days after symptoms AND 3 days of no symptoms) and must have a written medical clearance from their physician.

7.  Disinfectant all equipment

 

When you, as a coach, have come in contact with or are infected with COVID-19:

1.  Get tested and stay home.

2.  Contact your director immediately.

3.  Inform your team – if you have maintained social distance from all your players your players do not necessarily need to get tested but may choose to.

4.  Disinfect all equipment.

5.  Fill out COVID-19 Reporting Form within 24 hours

We are aware of the governor’s recent announcement regarding steps to address the spread of COVID-19 in phase 3, and as of now we have confirmed that this will NOT affect our previously laid out guidelines for youth soccer in counties that have entered phase 3. Everything you see in this document regarding phase 3 is still considered accurate and current in the state of Washington. 

The governor’s office’s recent release regarding when face masks on 7/1:

WHEREAS, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that, in addition to its recommendation to maintain six-feet of physical distance from non-household members and frequent hand washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, people wear cloth face coverings when they are in public settings where they cannot reliably maintain six feet of distance from others at all times, given the substantial increase in the numbers of cases of COVID-19 infection, these precautions must be mandatory; and

WHEREAS, the science also suggests that by ensuring safe social distancing hygiene practices, and the use of cloth face coverings, many business and recreational activities can be conducted with limited exposure to customers, which is important to revitalizing Washington State’s economy, restoring jobs, and providing necessary goods and services; 
 

Governor Inslee’s office posted an update last night on phase 2 requirements for outdoor activities in line with much of what you see on this page and in our documents, and it does not change our recommended guidelines for contacting local officials, but it provides another document to show them when requesting return to play in your county. 

Professional Sports & Other Sporting Activities Phase 2 and 3 COVID-19 Requirements – WA Governor’s Office

The most notable section re: youth sports:

In Phase 2, team practice can resume if a) players are limited to groups of five in separate parts of the field, separated by a buffer zone and b) practice can follow social distancing of a minimum of five feet between players with no contact.  Each league, organization, or club must publish and follow a “return to play” safety plan. Parents and household members must not congregate on the sidelines during practice.

To be clear, this statement and the WYS Return to Play documents DO NOT give clubs automatic permission to resume play in Phase 2. If your county is in Phase 2, clubs MUST reach out directly to their local county officials, city council, and parks and recreation departments and get permission to rent fields. Clubs should use the above document from the governor’s office, as well as the WYS RTP documents to craft their own Return to Play safety plan as required by the release. If permission is granted, you CAN return to play. If permission is NOT granted, you CAN NOT return to play until Phase 3.  

As Washington progresses through the Phased Approach on a county-by-county basis, we urge you and your members to contact the appropriate departments about returning to play in their respective counties if one has not been established. Contact the following groups and be sure to mention the governor’s release and your club’s Return to Play safety plan:

  • local city council
  • county officials
  • parks and recreation departments

As counties across the State of Washington adjust their criteria for safe return to play for youth soccer, it is imperative that associations, clubs, and their members work hand in hand to understand these local criteria. Applications and approval for use of fields need to be directed to your local county officials, city council, and parks departments. Please continue to use the Washington Youth Soccer RTP documents as a resource in your application process. We are here to support you.

There has been no change in Washington Youth Soccer liability coverage for facilities that were requested for the seasonal playing year that runs from September 2019 to the end of August 2020 by our members. Those COIs (certificates of insurance) remain on file and were issued to your facilities as requested in the past nine months.

DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT INTENDED OR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, DIAGNOSIS, OR TREATMENT. ALL CONTENT INCLUDING TEXT, GRAPHICS, IMAGES, AND INFORMATION, ARE PROVIDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

Washington Youth Soccer’s #1 priority is to PLAY ON…SAFELY!

Players and their families health and safety come first; their physical and mental health are of utmost importance to us. Getting our kids outside, in fresh air and playing soccer safely is our goal. When our kids play, their body produces endorphins, which are a natural mood booster that can fight stress and depression. Feelings of empowerment, relaxation, and optimism follow. Play not only promotes healthy weight and cardiovascular fitness, but also enhances the efficacy of the immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems.

Check out US Youth Soccer’s latest return to play notice, which we consulted and worked from as we formulated the below protocols. 

Below is Washington Youth Soccer’s phased approach to returning to play, based on the official phased approach to reopening Washington State businesses and modifying physical/social distancing from Governor Jay Inslee. 

Protocols

KNOW YOUR ROLE! KNOW THE PROTOCOLS. The following best practices are intended to offer guidance to our Washington Youth Soccer community. Adherence to these considerations and recommendations does not ensure immunity from exposure. Washington Youth Soccer makes no representations and assumes no responsibility for individual activity or participation decisions by Associations, Clubs, Coaches, Parents, or Players.

  1. Be smart: if you are sick, stay home. This applies to everyone: players, coaches, and parents. If you have been sick, stay home for 14 days after recovery.
  2. Screening: Greet all participants before practice and ask if they have been sick in the last 14 days or in direct contact with a person who is sick. Send home immediately if the answer is “yes.” 
  3. Sanitize: have hand sanitizer available and encourage hand washing before and after all activities. 
  4. Group play: all activities must be limited to the max number allowed in the current phase. 
  5. Physical play: facilitate soccer activities that eliminate physical contact. All drills and small-sided games should have as little physical contact as possible. Tackling, shielding, etc. should not be included in small-sided games or drills. 
  6. No high-fives, handshakes, or hugs: as much as we want to physically connect, this is not a safe practice for anybody right now. 
  7. Masks: coaches and spectators should wear a mask before, during, and after practice. Players should wear a mask when not actively practicing. 
  8. Drop-off/pick-up: if possible, parents should remain in car for drop-off and pick-up. All spectators must remain 6 feet apart. 
  9. Water bottles: to minimize accidental sharing of water, players must keep their water bottles in their own bag when not in use. 
  10. Have fun, stay positive: everyone is looking to each other to stay calm, supportive, and compassionate during this time. 
  • Distribute these protocols to your members.
  • Have an effective communication plan in place, identify strategies for working with public health to notify adult leaders, youth, and their families if the organization learns a participant or adult leader has developed COVID-19 and may have been infectious to others while at a youth activity, while maintaining confidentiality.
  • Small group sessions need to maintain the same group of players. This helps with contact tracing and limits exposure.
  • Have a written action plan in place, in case of a positive test. If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, the entire group must return to self-isolation until symptom-free for 14 days.
  • Distribute your written action plan to administrators, coaches, managers, and parents, electronically or otherwise.
  • In your action plan include both a communication chain for team personnel, including volunteers and managers, as well as triggers for executing the action plan.
  • Be prepared to shut down and stop operations. Develop plans for temporary closure of indoor facilities and cancel outdoor activities or camps to properly disinfect and ensure other adult leaders or youth are not infected.
  • Provide adequate field space for at least six feet of social distancing per player.
  • Develop a relationship and a dialogue with health local officials. (identify Risk Tolerance)
  • Ensure the health and safety of your players. Inquire how the athletes are feeling, send them home if they act or discuss feeling ill.
  • Follow all established federal, state, and local protocols.
  • Ensure all athletes have their individual equipment (ball, water bottles, bag, etc.) and prohibit them from sharing anything. Equipment placement should be spaced at least 6 feet apart.
  • The coach is the only person to handle cones, disks, etc.
  • All training must be outdoors and coaches must strictly enforce social distancing per the current phase guidelines.
  • Coaches must always wear a face mask per current phase protocol and social distance from players when required.
  • Wash and sanitize your own equipment after every session.
  • The use of scrimmage vests/pinnies is not recommended.
  • Increase your communication with parents, they need to know what you are doing as a coach and club to maintain their safety.
  • Have fun, stay positive – players and parents are looking to you to stay calm, supportive, and caring during this time.
  • Ensure athletes are healthy, check their temperature daily.
  • Limited or no carpooling.
  • Stay in car or social distance when at training, wear mask at all times if outside your car.
  • Ensure child’s clothing is washed after every training session.
  • Label your child’s equipment to guard against cross-contamination.
  • Ensure all equipment, cleats, ball, shin guards etc. are sanitized after every training.
  • Notify club immediately if your child becomes ill for any reason and do not bring them into contact with coaches or other players.
  • Do not assist coaches with equipment before or after training.
  • Be sure your child has necessary sanitizer and cleaning supplies with them at every training.
  • When traveling, take responsibility to sanitize hotel rooms.
  • Take temperature daily.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after training and any contact outside your home.
  • Bring and use hand sanitizer with you at every training session. Especially at the beginning and end of sessions.
  • Limited or no carpooling.
  • Wear mask before and after all training sessions. This protects others in the event that you are unknowingly carrying the virus.
  • Do not touch or share anyone else’s equipment.
  • Bring your own ball to training, label it as your own.
  • Practice social distancing and place bags and other equipment at least 6 feet apart from your teammates’ equipment during sessions.
  • Wash and sanitize all equipment before and after every training session.
  • No group celebrations with players closer than six feet, no high fives, hugs, cheers, etc.

Additional FAQs

Understanding that masks can inhibit a player’s ability to breathe during exercise, players will only be asked to wear masks to and from the field.

In the initial Phase 2 and 3 plans, we encourage non-contact activities, and instead focus on technical and tactical. For training sessions, clubs will be encouraged to have their players engage in non-contact activities until a full return to play is better known.

WYS will follow CDC guidelines and USYS directives regarding the transmission of the virus.

WYS will advise clubs on best practices.

Because kids can be carriers, and will interact with other at-risk individuals, they may pass the virus on to others unknowingly. Additionally, just as we Honor the Game in soccer, which means following the rules even when you can get away without following them, we choose to partner with our Governor and local officials and follow all mandates to insure the safety of all in our community.

Yes, but we ask that they wear masks and social distance, according to current phase of return to play. Phase 3 has a max of 50 people at events, as long as it’s under 50% capacity for the venue.

WYS recommends that parents monitor and check temperatures prior to sending children to practice.

Referees will follow the same protocol as players.

Coaches and sidelines observers will be asked to wear masks initially, but players will only need to wear them to and from the car and the field.

Players with symptoms should stay home to limit the spread. Players and coaches should still practice social distancing when they can, no high fives, handshakes, hugs, etc., and wash their hands/use hand sanitizer if they come in contact with another player/coach. If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, the entire group must return to self-isolation until symptom free for 14 days.

We would promote the return of soccer via our platform. When we have a better idea on when we will return to play and at what capacities, we will support our members to make sure they get all the help they need.

All our policies will be shared on all members association websites, as well as the WYS website.

WYS simply sanctions tournaments but it’s up to individual organizations and teams to makes decisions on whether or not to hold or attend these tournaments. Organizers should be following the current state guidelines on outdoor gatherings when planning.

Players come first. Their physical and mental health are important to us. Being outside in the fresh air and with their team safely is our goal. We will also follow federal, state, and local guidelines.

WYS insurance covers injuries only, not infectious diseases or viruses. When a player participates, they are willingly accepting the potential risks that come along with that. Each club has the option to review and offer a “play at your own risk” waiver.