22 Jun Blog 3 – Football post lock down
With football beginning to resume again it seemed appropriate to write blog no 3 about our experiences when returning to football.
There were several considerations whilst planning to restart. Our main consideration was obviously player/coach/parents safety. Having read the guidance from the FA and thankfully due to my role for the British Virgin Islands we also had some significant resource and guidance from the World Health Organisation on safely restarting.
Having stayed in regular contact with players/parents during lockdown their over riding consensus of opinion was their son/daughter were struggling psychologically with the lockdown and the immediate loss of the normality of daily life but also the loss of football which they were all playing 4/5 times per week across different organisations.
With this in mind we then had to consider the balance between fulfilling our duty to our players but not compromising their safety at the same time.
Having carefully considered the guidance and being satisfied we could adequately carry out the needed protocols we then began to write our Covid19 strategy.
Following this we then wrote to all parents confirming our guidelines and whether they felt comfortable to come in and train. We also ensured we continued our virtual sessions for those who could not train.
During discussions we also decided we wanted to design something special to coincide with our return. We settled upon ‘Reconnected’ as the aim was purely to reconnect players with each other the ball (albeit from 2 metres!)
We were also very keen to show our gratitude to the NHS and also dispel any notion that we returned for financial gain so all proceeds for the Reconnected events have been donated to the NHS via our gofundme page.
In terms of safety measures we work with groups of 5 (and a coach) and have 3 groups in different areas of the facility. We run sessions in two waves with a 15min window to allow us to disperse one group and sanitise equipment before the next group arrives. Each station is 10 metres apart with a one way system in place to ensure players do not cross over during breaks etc. Other safety measures include
- covid19 guidelines sent out prior to session
- Players/family members displaying symptoms asked not to attend.
- Parents asked to take temperatures prior to session.
At the facility
- players temperatures checked on arrival
- Players asked to bring hand sanitizer and use in arrival (we have a supply if needed)
- Players asked to bring their own football where possible (they then sanitize on arrival)
- All players 2 metres apart
- Parents requested to stay at the session and spectate from a safe distance
- Session areas set up 10 metres apart with a one way system to walk between areas
- Sessions designed to keep players apart
One concern I had was how the session would feel with these stringent procedures in place, I’m pleased to say after a briefing and some parent support the players have shown an excellent maturity and we have had little or no instances of players not adhering to protocol.
The obvious counter argument to this is, if this is needed should we be training? This would be a fair point and one you would have to decide upon should you be considering returning. In our case we are fortunate to be well resourced and confident we can deliver sessions safely. Couple this with the need for the players to get together we decided to go ahead.
In terms of content we were really keen to highlight to players and parents that this isn’t ‘pre season’ and the events as we said earlier to reconnect players with each other and the ball. With no start date for the new season and with not being able to have contact and train as a group any pre season type session would not have been beneficial and not an efficient use of time.
When discussing content the main aim (other than maintaining safety) was for the players to go home smiling and happy. On that basis there has been a big shooting element to the sessions, with 5 players this is an ideal time to focus on shooting without having the challenge of engaging bigger group sizes.
We’ve also tried to ensure all sessions have a friendly element of competition and have been challenge related. Our 8-14s we’ve resisted the urge to make the sessions fitness based and also tried to avoid straight line practices with players stood opposite each other passing, receiving etc. We’ve also been careful not to add to much structure as again we didn’t want the players to feel constricted.
Through July the sessions will gradually start to form some structure as I believe the players will be in a better place to begin learning, with August sessions having more of a pre season feel.
This will of course be subject to WHO and FA guidance.
In conclusion my advice would be to check the guidelines, decide whether you could adequately fulfil the safety aspect, consult players and parents and present your strategy. Once agreed ensure you carry plenty of sanitisation supplies and arrive early to ensure the areas are set up and ready to go prior to the players arrival. Once the players have arrived we’ve found the safety checks time consuming and would leave little time to set up if you tried to do all at once. We’ve found 15 players and three supervisors fairly easy to manage and having 3 pairs of hands helpful at arrival/departure times.
Again think really carefully about your content and challenge yourself to come up with practices which are fun and present the players with a challenge.
If anyone would like any further support and guidance please get in touch using contact details below
British Virgin Islands Football Association
Champion Sports Group
Email: [email protected]
Facebook Daniel Neville
LinkedIn Daniel Neville