Foreword 

Sports, recreation and active lifestyles are integral to helping youth reach their full potential. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has caused most of us to hit the pause button on providing opportunities for youth athletes.  Many of us in the youth sports sector believe this virus is potentially an existential threat to the youth sports industry. The fragmented nature of youth sports called for an industry coalition to work cooperatively, and with the federal, state and local governments and agencies, to advocate for collective relief.  

 

These organizations are a lot like the redwood trees located in California. The redwoods are some of the biggest, tallest and oldest trees in the world. What's unique about redwoods is their roots are shallow reaching down only to 12 feet.  However, they survive earthquakes, flooding and strong winds because their root systems are intertwined. Now is the time for us to collectively stand together.

 

That’s why we’re part of the PLAY Sports Coalition. We're advocating for the return of play on behalf of youth sports organizations across the country. We also want to ensure that youth sports return safely and under the guidance of state and local guidelines.  That’s why we’ve created these return to play considerations.  They’re intended to help youth sports organizations create a Return to Play playbook that is right for their geography, sport, and circumstances.

 

This new resource is a compilation of the great work of many organizations. We intend to provide you with access and direct links to the many great tools and resources already developed by sport and health experts at all levels of competition and government.  These are tools you will need to create safe Return to Play guidelines that are customized for your situation.

 

I'd like to thank several individuals who helped make this resource possible including Luke Zaientz (Reigning Champs), Jon Butler (Pop Warner), Keri King (Triple Play Sports),  Brian Litvack (LeagueApps) and Derek Ernst (Augusta Sportswear Brands).

 

At the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS), we know that helping young people to live healthier lifestyles gives them a better chance of improving their overall well-being.  We thank you in advance for taking a proactive approach to the health, wellness and safety of the youth people in your care.

 

Sincerely,

Wayne B. Moss

Executive Director


How to Use This Document

This document is not a prescriptive list of Return to Play protocols. It is a summary, synthesis and set of links to the work of government and non-government agencies and is intended to be helpful as you build your own Return to Play playbook.

Use as a research tool

Use as a template for letters and communications

Use as a template to build your own Return to Play plan

Please find an example of a Return to Play plan from Little League. Your operating plan does not have to be a 40-page binder. It can be short and simple. What is important is that it reflects your situation, guidance from appropriate experts like the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is communicated and executed well.  The basic elements should include:

Much of the content in this guide is authored by others and cited. If you reuse any content, please cite the author. Feel free to use it as your own by co-branding with your logos.

The information provided in this document does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Instead, all information, content, and materials available in this document are for general informational purposes only.  You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any legal matter.  You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of information in this document without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.

Index

Foreword        2

Index        4

Return to Play Checklist        6

Understand Liability & Minimize Risk        6

Create an Operating Playbook        6

Communicate to Field Owners, Parents, Referees and Coaches        6

Create a Learning & Feedback Plan        6

When to Return Considerations        7

Liability Considerations        10

Concepts to Consider        10

Legal Defense Concepts That You Should Consult Your Own Attorney About        10

Parent Waivers of Liability on Behalf of Minors        12

Insurance        12

Event Signage        13

General Operating Considerations        15

Assessing the Safety Risk Levels of your Situation From the CDC        15

Promoting Behaviors that Reduce Spread From the CDC        16

Maintaining Healthy Operations From the CDC        19

Preparing for When Someone Gets Sick From the CDC        22

Oversight and Leadership        23

Emergency Protocols        23

Reporting & Feedback        23

Scheduling and Time        23

Cloth face masks for players?        24

Sport Specific Operating Considerations        25

Softball & Baseball        25

Flag & Tackle Football        25

Basketball        26

Field Hockey        26

Golf        26

Ice Hockey        27

Lacrosse        27

Rowing        28

Soccer        28

Swim & Diving        28

Tennis        29

Track & Field        29

Volleyball        30

Water Polo        31

Wrestling        31

Communication Considerations        32

Mental Health Considerations        32

Communications to Secure Play Spaces and Resume Operations        39

Communications to Parents        45

Communications to Coaches and Officials        50

Links to Other Organizations        54


Return to Play Checklist

Monitor When to Return

Understand Liability & Minimize Risk

Create an Operating Playbook

Communicate to Field Owners, Parents, Referees and Coaches

Create a Learning & Feedback Plan

When to Return Considerations

When to Return to Play is a combination of six considerations:

1. The type of play and dynamics of your sport - Cross country running has different training and competing dynamics than boxing or football. Important differences in potential contagion in sport have to do with sustained proximity to other players and protective barriers.  Consider where your sport fits on a spectrum of Distanced Play to Close Play.  

2. The Phase of COVID locally - The CDC and White House defined a Path to Return in Phases. A phase is a 14-day period in which gating criteria have been satisfied. The timing of a phase is because 14 days are when virus symptoms generally appear. Gating criteria include things like lower new case rates and hospital visits. The chart below shares some concepts of what type of activities may be available depending on the phase. Local Health Officials and the government will determine what phase, orders and rules apply to your location.  Here are charts on state-level case rates

It is very important to understand that phases go both forward and backward. If there are additional waves of the virus locally, your area may move from a Phase III, to Phase II or I. Continue to monitor your local situation and act accordingly.

3. Explicit approval from your state & local government - There is no one answer for the entire country on when to Return to Play. The government’s authority on when is typically local. States and municipalities largely have authority in reopening communities. However, you need to do your own research on the decision-making for your area and be sure that there are clear orders that allow you to operate. If you are unclear, communicate directly to the appropriate office and ask. If you do communicate with the office, it may be helpful for you to have prepared your Return to Play plan and share how you intend to prepare and solicit feedback.  While you need government approval, that alone does necessarily mean it is time to Return to Play.

Here are some examples of links on what to look for in your State and County - White House, NY Times: State Level Detail, LA County, City of Los Angeles, California Department of Public Health.

4. The ability to secure a place to play - In case you don’t own your own facility, operating approval from the government does not mean that you will have approval from the property owners. Property owners may not grant your organization the space for financial reasons, risk concerns or in some cases, their facility may remain closed even after orders have been lifted (e.g. school districts). Start communicating early with the property owner to understand the situation and be prepared to share your Return to Play operating plan to assure the property owner that you will operate responsibly. There are examples of communications and tips in the Communications section of this document.

5. Your organization’s readiness to reasonably operate in a way that aligns with CDC Return to Play Considerations - You will likely operate differently than you did prior to the pandemic as your organization returns to play. After you read through this document of considerations, consider changes you will make and if you are able to execute those changes effectively.

6. Risk is clearly understood and minimized - Even with approvals, a place and plan to play, you should still take time to understand the risks of your local environment (i.e. your county has orders lifted, but you know there is a flare-up in your town). You should also understand your legal liability and financial risks.

 The CDC provides a useful Decision Tree for youth programs and camps, illustrated below, which is a close analogue to youth sports.

Start Slow, Observe and Iterate

When you do return to play, consider opening with a 2-week practice plan before the regular season and narrowing attendance to focus on players and include minimal non-player attendees. This will give young people time to warm up, time for administrators and coaches to get new operating processes in place and to monitor the health of players and coaches.


Liability Considerations

Concepts to Consider

Legal Defense Concepts That You Should Consult Your Own Attorney About

Parent Waivers of Liability on Behalf of Minors

Laws vary state to state with respect to the enforceability of minor waiver/releases. Minors are likely not legally competent to enter into a binding waiver/release, which would require a parent’s signature on the waiver/release. However, many states will not allow a parent to contractually waive their minor children’s right to sue for a sports-related injury. Additionally, the enforceability of the waiver/release could turn on whether or not the released party is a for-profit business or a nonprofit organization. A parental waiver/release on behalf of minors may be upheld in a minority of states.  Sadler on Waivers

Consultation with your attorney regarding the modification or creation of a liability waiver/release with respect to minors is important.

Insurance

Any existing liability coverage should be carefully reviewed for provisions that may impact coverage for an injury based on COVID-19 exposure. Although normally general liability policies purport to cover claims and lawsuits for bodily injury, some liability policies specifically exclude injuries resulting from communicable diseases. Even without this exclusion, some insurers may argue that coverage does not apply for other reasons. However,, insurers generally must provide a legal defense for claims that even arguably fit within the policy’s coverage, so without a clearly applicable exclusion, it would be fairly aggressive for insurers to outright deny claims for COVID-19 exposure.

If insurance coverage is not already in place, it should be expected that a large number of insurers will begin specifically excluding loss arising out of communicable disease and/or virus exposure. Any new policy should be carefully reviewed before purchasing with this point in mind. Sadler

Event Signage

You should consider posting conspicuous signage at sports facilities, warning of coronavirus risks and what steps can be taken to reduce such risks. The following is sample language that could be included on signage, which should always be reviewed by your local legal counsel to ensure compliance with any federal, state or local requirements.

Sadler

 Other Links to Consider: Sadler Sports, NAYS, US Justice Department


General Operating Considerations

A majority of this section comes directly from the CDC.  There are links to original CDC documents throughout. As you make your own guide, many of the items in this section should be considered to be included. Your sport, age groups, locality and travel/tournament nature of your organization will affect what is appropriate for you.

Assessing the Safety Risk Levels of your Situation From the CDC

The way sports are played, and the way equipment is shared can influence the spread of COVID-19 among players. When you are assessing the risk of spread in your sport, consider:

Promoting Behaviors that Reduce Spread From the CDC 

Youth sports organizations may consider implementing several strategies to encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19.


Maintaining Healthy Operations From the CDC 

Youth sports organizations may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy operations.


Preparing for When Someone Gets Sick From the CDC 

Youth sports organizations may consider implementing several strategies to prepare for when someone gets sick.


Oversight and Leadership

Many Organizations are specifically assigning a team leader to manage adjustments related to the Pandemic or have created an oversite body.  The leader or body ensures safety policies and practices comply with any governing regulations from Federal, State, County and Local; align with the standards, guidelines and best practices of the youth-serving sector; and are reliably executed.

Emergency Protocols

Develop a written emergency protocol for hazards and threats that might reasonably affect persons participating in its programs and activities. Managers, supervisors, coaches and others should be familiar with the protocols and have access to them when needed. The section on “Preparing for when someone gets sick” has much of this.  

Reporting & Feedback

Players, Coaches and others involved should report any symptoms they experience and if they become sick.

Scheduling and Time

Understand that as you constrain locker room capacity or make other changes, things can take more time. Plan accordingly so you don’t unintentionally create queues and other congestion areas.

Cloth face masks for players?

There is no clear answer yet on whether a player or participant should wear a cloth facemask during play. Distance sports may not require the use of a mask and in some close play sport situations where  there is intense cardio and or body moisture,  wearing a mask may cause more risk than prevent. The CDC yet does not take a position on whether participants should wear a mask.


Sport Specific Operating Considerations

The Operating Considerations are relevant to most sports. Please also review the following considerations that are unique to certain sports.

Softball & Baseball  

Links - USA Baseball, USA Softball, Sports UAC

Flag & Tackle Football 

Links - NFL FLAG , Pop Warner, USA Football

Basketball

Links - Team USA 

Field Hockey

Links -USA Field Hockey

Golf  

Links - USGA

Ice Hockey

Links - USA Hockey

Lacrosse

Links - US Lacrosse

Rowing

Links - US Rowing

Soccer

Links - US Youth Soccer

Swim & Diving

Links - USA Swimming, CDC

Tennis

Links - USTA

Track & Field

Links - USA Track & Field

Volleyball

Links - USA Volleyball

Water Polo

Links - USA Water Polo

Wrestling

Links -USA Wrestling


Communication Considerations

On the following pages, you will find tips and examples of communications to Property (Field & Court) Owners & Government Agencies, Parents, Coaches & Officials

Timing

Don't wait until registration opens to communicate with Parents, Coaches, Referees, and the broader community.  Keep the community in the loop on what is going on even if you don't have all of the answers.

Provide a simple playbook and set of instructions and train your staff and athletes on it.

Over-communicate and be available for Q&A.

Mental Health Considerations

As your organization communicates and Returns to Play, please remember that many children and families are going through challenging times. People have lost loved ones, lost jobs, been disconnected from friends and school and haven’t had the structure they are accustomed to. This creates a lot of stress that can show up in different ways. You can help reduce this stress through your communication approach. The Special Olympics shares the Bridges Model , (more on Bridges) which have some helpful insights on leadership in times of crisis.

The CDC also has some helpful useful resources, which include: Helping Children Cope  and Talking with Children. Helping Athletes Cope with Covid was published by NCYS.

Youth Sports are often the center of communities. With your voice, you have the opportunity to bring your community back safely and with empathy.

Mental Health Considerations continued

(Special thanks to the Doc Wayne Team)

If you suspect your athlete is struggling with a mental health concern:

What to Look For:

What to Say:

What to do:

As the health of our communities continues to improve during this pandemic it's important to note that we are just at the beginning of a secondary mental health pandemic. The implications of social isolation and the stress upon all of us will continue for years according to the World Health Organization (World Health Organization. (2020, March 18). Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During the COVID-19 Outbreak). It's even more vital that we not only lean on the provider community but turn towards other known and trusted helpers in the community such as coaches. Although most coaches are not working in a professional capacity, there are 6.5 million coaches and only 577,000 mental health providers in the United States (Grohol, J. M. (2019, April 9). Mental Health Professionals: US Statistics 2017).

Provide Structure and Support to Help Build Skills - Mental health professionals often struggle with workforce shortages and long waitlists. As there are simply not enough mental health providers, coaches have the potential to be our front lines of defense when given basic skills and guidance around mental health. Many studies have shown how sport provides different vital life skills such as teamwork, resiliency, connection, and problem-solving. But these skills don't get built unless there are coaches there to teach these skills. Coaches can provide structure and support for growth through sports and therefore play a pivotal and integral role. Coaches are already providing the skills that young athletes need during the stressful time of dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19 and returning to sport. There is an increased need to step up and realize that you are already healers and educators. By taking on a trauma-informed lens, coaches can be helpful not only for kids who have experienced trauma or community violence but also those who have experienced the loss of sport, disconnection, and disruption in their daily routines in quarantine. Whether that be due to removal from school or inability to interact with friends or other social contacts, coaches have the opportunity to support and help youth athletes.

Harness the Power of Sports - Coaches are vital in a number of ways but the key to their influence is that their work is relationship-centred and that relationships with these young people harness the power of sports. Sport is seen as the global language of young people. COVID has caused a great deal of stress. However, stress, in general, is not necessarily bad for children and can lead to growth when properly supported. For example, if an athlete is met with a difficult situation on the field, anxiety has the potential to make them a better player or further hinder their performance. So when equipped with the proper skills, the next time they’re in that very situation they may be able to grow and do better. When stress is buffered by caring relationships like parents or coaches athletes can gain skills from it and learn to navigate situations better in the future. However, when stress is not buffered and lasts lengthy periods of time, it can alter the brain and inhibit one’s ability to learn. This can also result in poor behaviors and ultimately, poor life outcomes. When coaches buffer this stress, they act as regulators and can also serve as community connectors to a variety of different services, providers, educators, and other trusted people in the community. They model good relationships, good boundaries, good skills, and they ultimately build better performers on and off the field. Our aim as coaches, especially during a pandemic, is to build life skills, keep mental health stable, and to build community members on and off the fields and courts.

Regulate Yourself and Build Coping Skills - How exactly do we do this well especially with kids coming back to the field with more and more challenges? This is where we can look to reimagine sports and coach education to truly leverage the power of the coach. First, you must start with yourself and maintain regulation. For a coach to really make the most impact, you must be regulated because you can't regulate someone else until you're regulating yourself. To do that, coaches must develop their own coping skills. This could be as easy as creating space for yourself in sport, exercise, deep breathing, texting a friend, or watching a funny movie. Coping skills have to do with doing things that make you feel better in your life. We're taught through sports to use warm-ups and cooldowns in the sport context, but we often don't use them in conversations with our athletes or life in general. We're involved in a lot of challenging conversations right now, so teach yourself to take a deep breath before a hard conversation and to reflect afterward. Find mentors or trusted friends to download these experiences, plan for your future, and have these conversations in non-player spaces so that you're creating a space for yourself. Accessing affordable mental health services are also important. We can't expect our players to access these services unless we're utilizing them as well.

Create Safe Spaces for Athletes - There are many techniques that you can use to create a safe space. One way is using your voice as a tool, such as using your relaxed tone of voice. If you talk really quickly then you may create some more anxiety for your athlete. Instead, help them into a regulated state by using a soft and gentle tone of voice. Utilizing open-ended questions and reflecting on feelings that come up can also lead athletes to feel safer. If you hear thoughts and feelings come up in your conversations with your athletes, reflect that back and say “I hear you are anxious”, “I hear you are worried about that”, “I hear you're very excited about this upcoming game”, or “I hear you're excited that we're re-entering sport”. It’s also important to incorporate choice into sessions and conversations. With choice, a good example is when you're building norms and expectations into your team culture and environment. Allow them to create those rules and expectations for your teams but also design drills and games for practices that teach mental health skills. Oftentimes we leave mental health for off the field or refer to others but we can get the most out of practice time when we create and develop physical and mental skills simultaneously. During these dual sessions, give praise for specific skills accomplished and always debrief with your athletes. Don't just assume that your athletes are connecting the dots, but make sure you touch base with them, process, and check for understanding.

Include Mental Health in Your Strategy and Team Culture - Discuss mental health as part of your game plan and show your players and families examples of athletes who discuss mental health openly. There are a lot of great examples these days like Kevin Love, Imani McGee-Stafford, Hannah Hall, and etc. You can find them talking about mental health, their struggles, and their victories. Their content is on YouTube which you can access easily; allowing you to seamlessly send it to your team, have conversations, and talk to them about how the content might help them in life and as a performer on and off the field. Real-life examples and connections to athletes are going to engage youth athletes. Be sure to leverage your role as coach and model openness about mental health by checking in with them about their traditional “physical”  game as well as mental game. This doesn't have to be something that's uncomfortable as a coach but you can say something like, “Did you get 100 touches on the ball at home?”, “Were you able to concentrate or was there something that was going on in your head?”, and “Do you want to check in with me about that?”.

Make Referrals for Mental Health - It can be overwhelming for coaches to think about all of the different things that might come up in a conversation with their athlete, but there are a lot of people out there that can help support you and your athletes. Coaches should create a referral list for mental health so that when your athletes experience a mental health struggle you have a phone number on hand. You probably have a list like this for strength and conditioning or physical therapy and adding mental health resources to that list can be extremely helpful. Point out what gaining and improving mental health skills accomplish for your athletes such as how it improves their performance on and off the field, makes them feel good, and assists with friendships and school work. Mental health skill-building should be part of the conversation for the full athlete, especially as we return to play in a new and challenging environment.

Examples of Application on the Field - Many practices start with either formal opening circles for the younger athletes or informal team time and arrival for the older athletes. Using this time to check in with your athletes is where you can implement mental health and relationship-building strategies. Checking in with a sport based prompt is immensely helpful in reducing stigma. At Doc Wayne, we ask what's your “swish” and your “miss” of the week in a basketball practice for younger ones. With the older athletes, you can simply walk alongside them as they're getting their gear on or as they're getting some touches on the ball with their teammates, check in with them while using language that is parallel to sports psychology. This can be in the form of asking “Are you focused?”, “Are you ready or is something on your mind?”, “How is it going?”, or  “What's impeding your performance?”. You can get your foot in the door through these questions and through building trusted relationships with student-athletes —you can open the door to talking about mental health. As mentioned before it is time-efficient and helpful to build your practices in a way that accomplishes sport-based and mental health skill-building simultaneously for maximum output on and off the field. For example, if you're playing two v. one and you're training your athletes to both convert points quickly on offense while the defenders work on angles and defend as quickly as possible, you can debrief about perseverance and overcoming obstacles. You can also discuss a story about Michael Jordan not making his high school basketball team and connecting the two v. one drills and the uneven teams to speak on perseverance and resilience. Help athletes understand that they overcame an obstacle by discussing the practice scenario with them. Asking teams to identify challenges that they have worked through on and off the court and how they did so can help build up these skills. In discussing these topics, it’s important to both support and challenge athletes and connect the situation and skills to both sport and life.

As an additional example, Tom Brady is playing in his 40s, won many Super Bowl championships, and played at a high level for 20-plus years. Tom Brady is very particular about his self-care— he keeps himself on a strict diet, his sleep routine is to be in bed as early as 8:30, and he's very careful about his exercise. Tom Brady is a great example to talk about mental health skills and its connection to wellness and performance. Tom Brady says he wants to be the best he can be every day. This is an engaging and approachable way to talk about self-care with kids. Ask them, “How can you be the best you can be?” or  “How can you be your best possible self?”. Talk them through their thoughts and provide suggestions. When your athletes respond, praise them for their response, ask them how they landed there in terms of their critical thinking skills, and frame the conversation that way.

Conclusion - In re-entry to sport, the mental health needs of youth must be considered. Even prior to COVID-19, youth were dropping out of sport and this is our opportunity to think carefully and critically about the role of sport in society. We can work towards infusing these concepts around life skills and mental health into sport across the United States. Just as training programs are rolled out across the US and globally, mental health programming for coaches can be rolled out. We need to shift the perspective on mental health and sport so mental health is not considered only on the sidelines, but is something for the field. It must be seen as vital for our youth athletes as healthy kids and athletic performers. To accomplish this, always start with yourself as the coach. Don't roll something out to your athletes without looking internally and doing the hard work within yourself.

For more training and information Mental Health First Aid is a great resource! https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/ . Doc Wayne has collaborated with Aspen, to put together a webinar on “Prioritizing Life Skills As We Return to Play”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=432&v=DWtscZsT_mA&feature=emb_logo 

Emergencies or Big Adjustments

Have a plan to get important information and announcements out quickly to your community of Parents, Players, Officials, Coaches and Vendors. For example, there may be a COVID flare-up in your community, or a staff member or athlete tests positive.


Communications to Secure Play Spaces and Resume Operations

Tips

Example Letter 1 - Request to Secure Fields from City

To:         City or County Recreation Manager

RE:         Request to Secure Fields

Dear [Name of City or County Official]:

My name is [your name] and I am the [your sport] of [your organization].  Our organization provides [number of participants] kids in [your city or county] with the opportunity to play [your sport].  We believe we serve an incredibly important resource for both kids and families in [your city or county], enriching their lives through physical activity, mental well-being, and community connection.  

I am writing to you today to request access to [the fields/play areas] to further serve our mission.  Given the current circumstances, we do not make this request lightly.  As a small business in [city or country], our first and foremost priority is the health and safety of the kids and families in our community.  After carefully reviewing the guidelines established by the state of [your state] and [your city or county], we believe that we can operate in a safe manner under the right conditions.  Those conditions are fully listed and detailed in the attached Return to Play Operating Protocols.

To create these protocols, we have not only reviewed our state and local guidelines, but also the guidelines released by the CDC, WHO, OSHA, White House, in addition to the sport-specific recommendations provided by the USOPC, NFHS, NCAA, and [NGB or other relevant guidelines].  We have also worked with [local health officials or local health authorities] to gather their feedback and receive approval for our protocols.  Finally, as a part of our protocols, we are committed to providing you with tracking of our players in an organized and non-invasive way that we hope can also be helpful to [your city or county].

Please also know that we are very open to your feedback and modifications to our Return to Play Operating Protocols.  We are asking to be a part of the solution as we move forward and would love to collaborate with you on how to create a safe, enriching [your sport] experience for our kids.  Our goal is not simply to restart play.  We would like to work with you to create a safe solution that works for everyone involved - the [city or country], [your league], and especially the kids and families that love to play our game.  

As a next step, we would like to request a meeting with you to review our Return to Play protocols together.  We are available to discuss this at any time. Our contact information is listed below.

Best Regards,

[Name]

[Title]


Example Letter 2 - Request to Reopen

To:         County of Your County Here Department of Health CCHS

County of Your County Here Board of Supervisors

USSoccer COVID-19 Task Force – George Chiampas, Chief Medical Officer

CC:         City Officials

RE:         Submittal of Social Distancing and Sanitation Protocol Plan (SDSPP) Under Essential Business For Use by Private Soccer Clubs Which are Equivalent to Golf Courses/Essential Child Care and Pose Lowest Risk

Dear Mayor, County Board of Supervisors, Your County Here Department of Health, and County Board of Supervisors:

This letter represents the request for [Your Club] located in [Your Municipality] to reopen under the current guidelines established by Your County Here County and the State of California. We are committed to both our sport, our place in the community, and keeping our children safe.

We are also a local small businesses and care deeply about our communities and our children, We have reviewed the State’s proposed phased reopening plan recently released by Governor Newsom April 28, 2020, along with current guidelines released by OSHA, EPA, State, and the local County of Your County Here required business templates for social distancing plans for child care, essential businesses open to the public, parks and golf courses currently available on the County website.

We are submitting our SDSPP under “Business.” We follow a team formation process which results in a team roster of children that are set for the entire season. This group of children stays constant and does not change. We also serve as a significant after school anchor program in our communities for children from age groups from 5 through 18. We are not fitness gyms. We do not have rolling memberships which change on a daily basis open to the public like a fitness gym. We align most closely with the requirements outlined for essential businesses (care programs) and golf courses. We pose less risk than any business in Your County Here County with modified operations. This request is being made for our competitive program only at this time in a very modified and phased return to play. This will allow us to effectively monitor the policies in our SDSPP and make any necessary changes based on those observations.

We have very seriously considered how we as a collective club sports program can significantly modify our operations to meet all of the requirements in the currently available guidelines published by [Your Municipality] and [Your State] for training, social distancing, sanitation, and even tracking. We have provided a detailed plan to outline these considerations.

We have determined we can operate in a safe manner and have developed the attached Model SDSPP for your consideration, acceptance, and use by local soccer clubs, including Your Club Here. Your Club Here is submitting this SDSPP for your approval based on the criteria to reduce the risk for all categories posted by the [the Municipality]. We fall under the requirements that allow golf courses to be open as well as for child-care groups.

We wanted to emphasize the nature of our operations so that you will be able to approve our SDSPP under the “Business” category and understand why we are a substantially lower risk classification than any other business in Danville. We should be allowed to be open based on the risk reduction criteria set forth by the County of Your County Here for Businesses, Golf Courses and Parks:

[Your organization] is not open to the public. Our rosters are closed once the teams have been selected. Therefore, we are more closely in line with the daycare criteria. We have complete control of our facility. We can therefore significantly modify operations to meet all criteria for essential business, parks, and golf courses. Our club has 800 competitive players. Because of set rosters of no more than 11 to 18 players, we have a list of every player so we can track and control when and how many players enter our facilities from our set team rosters. We can stagger our schedules to make sure no more than 8 players are entering or exiting a field at any given time. While we have 800 competitive players, we have attached a plan that makes sure there are no more than 32 players on a field at any given time and no more than 8 players in a 35 yard by 60-yard area of a field. Each space that a child is in is at least 9 feet away from the next player in the modified training environment we have detailed. Coaches will be in masks maintaining a distance of 10 feet or more from the players as they train.

Our facility is a large, completely open outdoor turf surface floor. We have two fields that are each 98,000 square feet that are in the direct sunlight outdoors. This allows for the successful implementation of the SDSPP through scheduling for sanitation and social distancing.

As identified under [Your Municicipality] guidelines for essential child-care groups, team rosters are stable groups of players consisting of between 10 and 18 players that have been consistently together from November to date. In the cases where a roster exceeds 8 players, it will be split in half to two areas of the field to maintain the distances described above.

The small size of a team roster and large field open space lends itself to social distancing at our facilities with proper scheduling and logistical planning. Coaches and players among teams do not intermix before, during or after practices. Soccer practices and training can be accomplished in a safe manner through scheduling and utilizing our outdoor facilities to achieve social distancing with very strict guidelines on drills and training to meet all County requirements. All players will return in a modified individual space in which they will train for the time they are with us.

[Your organization] is located in [Your Municipality] which by Zip Code is one of the lowest COVID-19 rates in the [Municipality] at [xx people per 100,000 as of [Date]..

[Your organization] will follow this plan and the low-risk business classification will be maintained. As a part of this plan, we are committing to provide tracking of our players in an organized and non-invasive way that will be helpful to the overall goals of the County.

Last, and most importantly, we are asking for approval as an essential, low-risk business equivalent to a child-care or golf course to open under the attached SDSPP. We ask that this model be available to [Your organization] in [Your municipality].

[Your organization] serves an incredibly important resource in our youth athlete’s lives and their families both mentally and physically. We are asking to help our kids out, especially now. We are asking to be a part of the solution as we move forward. We are all prepared to substantially alter how we function to maintain a low-risk classification. We are open to any and all suggestions for improvement to our SDSPP from the County and State Health officers to further this cause.

We appreciate the opportunity to be heard and hope that you will review our carefully considered SDSPP and approve our plan. We are a lower risk than any golf course in the State or the County and function as a children’s program that is in alignment with child care guidelines for a stable group of kids. Our youth are just as important as being able to golf.

We are available to discuss at any time comments on our SDSPP or any other questions you may have on how we would modify our operations to accommodate all guidelines so this SDSPP can be approved. I can be reached at [phone number] to arrange a discussion or call.

Best Regards,

[Name]

[Title]


Communications to Parents  

Tips

Example Letter 1

Parents and Families-

As the country begins to recover from the pandemic, our state and local authorities have released guidance that allows youth sports leagues to resume activities. We are excited about the prospect of bringing youth sports back to our kids, families, and communities. However, we also firmly believe it’s important to maintain incredibly high standards for safety and health during this tenuous time of reopening our society. As such, we plan to restart [our league’s name], but under strict guidelines outlined by the CDC and national governing body for [our sport].

Included in this email are the newly modified play rules that we will utilize in conducting practices and games. [Alternative when re-starting practices only]: Given the high contact nature of our sport, we do not believe we can modify our games in a manner that is both safe and maintains the integrity of our game play]. In addition, we’ve also attached our new operating protocols to provide you with full transparency over the measures we’re talking to ensure our facilities, people, and processes are maximizing the safety of everyone involved in the new [league name] experience.

Our first practice is scheduled for [date]. Prior to that, we plan to train our [coaches, referees, volunteers, others] on our new modified play rules, as well as the new operating protocols. Additionally, during the week of [date], we will hold a series of online meetings for parents to give you the opportunity to ask questions on anything related to the new experience. Please mark your calendars accordingly for both of these dates.

Lastly, we recognize that some families will face a difficult decision when it comes to returning to [our sport] this season. Please respect each family’s decision. For those that choose not to return this year, we fully support your decision to do the right thing for your family. In that case, please contact [person’s name] at [phone/email] and let us know as quickly as possible. To provide the best experience possible for everyone involved, we may need to re-allocate teams based on these decisions.

Thank you again for your support of [our league]. These are extraordinary times and we believe strongly that youth sports can help us in our recovery. However, it has to be done safely, with the utmost care for the health of our youth and our society. Let's bring [our sport] back to our communities together.

Sincerely,

[Name]

[Title]


Example Letter 2

Good morning Moms and Dads!

 I can imagine we're all very excited to get the boys out of our house and back to practice ASAP! Please check the calendar for the practice schedules. Our first practice will be Friday 5/22/20 at 5 pm at Al Ruschhaupt field 5. Through the summer, we'll practice/condition every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (weather permitting). I'll hold Beast Camp every non-game Saturday. The locations may change based on field availability. Today, we're uncertain of the league schedule and may need to enter tournaments throughout the summer. I'll have more information on this as the season takes shape.

We'll prioritize 7th-grade UIL 7v7 schedules should it return this summer. Meaning, if your middle school is participating in UIL 7v7 events, then your player should play and practice with that team on those scheduled days instead of with us. Just communicate any schedule conflicts with me. I'll do the same as well. UIL 7v7, Performance Course, and the High School football camps are extremely important and should be prioritized accordingly.

Our first practice will be brief. We'll cover some practice guidelines and break the boys into groups that will practice against each other at specified times. This is to limit the total number of boys practicing at the same time. For example, the Gold Offense will practice against the Navy Defense during session one. The Navy Offense will practice against the Gold Defense during session 2. Based on the numbers, some boys may practice during both sessions. Based on the numbers, some boys may need to switch from Navy to Gold or vice versa (I'll cover the cost of the jersey if needed).

Before each practice, I'll complete the NFHS COVID-19 Athlete/Coach Monitoring Form. Most of our current guidance for returning to play comes from The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). This is until we get further guidance from the UIL. https://www.nfhs.org/articles/guidance-for-state-associations-to-consider-in-re-opening-high-school-athletics-and-other-activities/

 Here are some general points:

 I have the uniforms and will hand them out at the start of practice.

 I'll need some assistance with sanitizing and conditioning the balls before and after practice. If you have some sanitizer spray and can help please let me know.

See you Friday!

Coach [Your Name]

 

Example Letter 3  - from CDC

 Dear Parents,

First and foremost, we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We have received questions from the community about if and how COVID-19 will change this year’s athletic season. We know this outbreak has been stressful to many and recognize that exercising and participating in activities like sports can be a healthy way to cope with stress and connect with our community. After careful thought and planning, we are excited to let you know that we plan to resume youth sports while following CDC considerations to protect players, families, and our community.  

 

The health and safety of our athletes, staff, and volunteers remain our highest priority. Below, you will find a summary of actions we are taking to help ensure we are lowering COVID-19 risk as much as possible while also allowing our athletes to play. We are:

 

·         Intensifying cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation within our facilities and premises by [insert examples, such as cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces on the field, court, or play surface at least daily or between use as feasible, cleaning and disinfecting shared objects and equipment between use, and ensuring safe and correct use and storage of disinfectants]

·         Reducing physical closeness or contact between players when possible [insert examples, by allowing players to focus on building individual skills (like dribbling or kicking), keeping children in small groups, and staggering arrival and drop off times, putting signs and tape on floors or playing fields to ensure that coaches and players stay 6 feet apart, discouraging unnecessary physical contact, such as high-fives, handshakes, fist bumps, and hugs]

·         Postponing travel outside of our community [insert examples, we will compete against teams in our local area (e.g. neighborhood, town or community)]

·         Promoting healthy hygiene practices [insert examples, such as providing hand sanitizer before and after practices and games, encouraging children to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or to use the inside of their elbow, and reminding them to not spit]

·         Requesting that coaches, youth sports staff, officials, parents, and spectators wear a cloth face covering during practices and games. Players may opt to wear a cloth face covering on the sidelines and the dugouts, and during play if feasible.  As a reminder, cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.

·         Limiting the sharing of equipment [insert examples, by providing extra equipment to minimize the need to share or encouraging players to bring their own equipment].

Anyone who is sick or has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19— including players, family members, coaches, staff and spectators — should not attend practices or games. Be on the lookout for symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Call your doctor if you think you or a family member is sick.

If someone does get sick during practice or at a game, we have plans in place to isolate and transport that person to their home or healthcare facility. If you have a specific question about this plan or COVID-19, please contact [person/staff/contact information] for more information. You can also find more information about COVID-19 at www.cdc.gov.

We look forward to seeing you. Now, let’s play!

 

Thank you and stay healthy,

[sports administrator name] 


Communications to Coaches and Officials

Tips

Example Letter 1: Coaches

Subject Line: Returning to Soccer

Dear Coaches,

We hope you are staying safe and healthy! We know this is a challenging time for, not only our families but also for you, our coaches and staff. As the safety of our team and families is always our number one priority, our team is working with the [Company Name] to diligently track and follow information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) for guidance on the proper actions to take in order to reduce the spread of the virus.

We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding as we all work through these unprecedented times. As businesses begin reopening, we are preparing for our return to Soccer by making sure our coaches are equipped to handle our updated safety measures for this season. Like you, we are anxious to return to the field but need to do so in a way that best represents our brand and keeps our families at the forefront.

 [Insert information here about local start dates. i.e. we will begin offering in-person sessions on xxx to finish out the spring season, we are currently planning to begin summer soccer on xxx, etc.]

Health and Safety

To adhere to social distancing measures, modifications are being made to the curriculum and our operating procedures. Before returning to the field, all coaches will be required to complete a new e-Learning course that covers these new procedures.

[Insert e-Learning information here – how to access, the deadline for completion, etc.]

 Coaches will be expected to:

 We will also do our best to use smaller group sizes and/or larger field setups to allow for the distancing of participants and observers.

 We are also requesting that families attending in-person sessions follow these guidelines for the health and safety of other families and our coaches:

We understand this is a lot of information, but our top priority is keeping everyone safe. We will be holding a virtual coach meeting to cover our new requirements as well as answer any questions you may have.

[Insert information here about virtual coach/staff meeting details – date, time, link, etc.]

 As we are monitoring the situation and working with local contacts, we will let you know if anything changes and additional precautionary steps need to be taken.

Thank you for continuing the fun and helping to keep safe!

Sincerely,

[Name]

[Title]


Example Letter 2: Coaches & Officials

[Date]

To All Coaches and Officials

We sincerely hope that all of you are remaining healthy during the current pandemic.

This unique event has made your already challenging jobs even more demanding as we all work together to get our young athletes back onto the field and into the gyms.  We know that the process will be lengthy and painstaking, but we will get through it working together.

There are recently developed “Return to Play” guidelines for almost every sport.  It’s important that you know them and follow them.  Equally, if not more important, are your local and state health guidelines and facility opening policies.  Currently, those policies vary by state, and, in some cases even within the same state, so it’s vital to contact your local governmental Health Department and coordinate closely with them.  Keep in mind that a friendly, cooperative approach will achieve more positive results.

Our young people want and need to play sports.  It’s important to their physical health and their psychological wellness.  It’s our job to provide this opportunity as safely as possible for everyone involved – athletes, coaches and officials.

Thank you for all you do for the young scholar-athletes!

Sincerely,

[Name]

[Title]


Links to Other Organizations

Government Agencies, Healthcare,  Media & Research

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

World Health Organization (WHO)

Mercy Hospital

OSHA

Directory of local health departments

NY Times US Map

Worldometer

State of Texas

Aspen Institute

US Sport Governing Bodies

USOPC

Team USA

USA Hockey

USA Baseball

USA Swimming

USA Volleyball

USA Wrestling

USA Triathlon

USA Pickleball

USA Field Hockey

Special Olympics

USGA

USA Track & Field

NCAA

NAIA

NFHS

USTA

US Lacrosse

US Rowing

NRPA

Little League - Guide

Little League - Best Practices

USSSA

US Youth Soccer

Pop Warner

USA Water Polo

Thank you

This document includes citations from many amazing organizations and has received support from many others. From the Youth Sports Community, you are all appreciated.