Regular games cannot happen yet, but youth soccer players in Terrace are finally getting off the sidelines and back onto the field at Christy Park.
Terrace Youth Soccer Association (TYSA) is starting their season on June 27, under a customized Return to Play Plan with four phases.
“For the most part the response from the community and those that will be attending the 2020 season for TYSA has been really really positive,” said Adam Glass, TYSA technical director.
At first, there will be no contact or close interaction between players – each will have their own box of cones to do individual drills and adhere to physical distancing guidelines. Coaches will direct players when to enter and exit their individual box through a safe zone.
Two wash centres will be located at each field, stocked with sanitizer and hand wipes. The stations will also have bleach for coaches to use to clean equipment. One person will be allowed in the washroom at a time, and those will be cleaned every 30 minutes.
Parents are asked to wait in a designated spectator area. Half of the parking spots will be marked as closed using traffic cones, with the goal of increasing social distancing. The second lot at the rear of Christy Park will be used as well.
The second phase is a return to small group training. Much remains the same as the first phase, but players will be able to share equipment and interact more with teammates. Some one on one contact will be allowed, but only under certain conditions.
Phase three is the resumption of normal team training activities. There will be a minimum 15-minute gap in between different teams’ sessions to minimize contact. Coaches will continue to be cautious during this phase.
Finally, phase four is a return to competitive play. With all formal restrictions lifted, teams and players can play like they would under normal circumstances.
Moving from one phase to the next will be determined by recommendations from BC Soccer and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top public health official. At any time during the latter phases TYSA can revert back to phase one or two if required.
“For us there is no timeline,” said Glass. “We’d like to reach phase three maybe by September if possible but realistically we don’t know.”
During all phases, players will be asked to submit a weekly screening questionnaire about COVID-19 symptoms. There will be a check in station at the field where players will talk to TYSA’s designated safe sport officer.
Glass said that there is variation in return to play plans across B.C. and Canada. TYSA is partnered with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, so they are using a version of their protocol customized for Terrace.
“Every community will face a unique challenge so for example a club like us is relatively fortunate, we are in an isolated area where our cases are much lower and where we can better control our resources because we only have one central hub, which is Christy Park.”
Clubs in the lower mainland may share fields or face other challenges, and in turn will have different protocols.
There has been a slight drop in overall registration which Glass attributes to the disrupted season schedule and multi-sport athletes choosing to hold out for another sport to restart.
Given that some clubs have cancelled their seasons, Glass said TYSA is in a “strong and healthy position” with the registrants they have.
Some professional European leagues like the German Bundesliga and English Premier League have resumed playing televised games without fans in attendance. Glass said that did not factor into the restart of youth soccer, but it is reminding people about what sports are all about.
“I think when sports went away they only thought about the part that was on the field and missing that, when really sports is a through line for all social activities that we do,” he said.
“I think just having it back on TV is reminding people it’s such a fun thing to be around and a fun thing to talk about and a fun thing to connect with people over.”
While professional soccer has its own priorities, Glass said that for TYSA it is all about the players.
“We just want to reassure everybody and talk to everybody and let them know your kids are the most important thing and we are going to do our utmost best to keep them safe, keep them happy and deliver an enjoyable season for them.”