On the morning of Thursday, March 12, Alexandria Soccer’s tournament staff made the decision to cancel our spring tournament, set to kick off the following day. This was in the very early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when many professionals were still working in their offices, Americans were traveling domestically without masks and we didn’t yet know what the next months would bring. Our staff dove into all research available and ultimately decided that the unknowns were too great and we cancelled that weekend’s tournament for boys and the following weekend’s tournament for girls.
Looking back, we stand by this decision and understand that it set the framework for how we have approached all programming since then, with a belief of “safety first, soccer second.” As we have since March, we continue to stay apprised of local and national research and work closely with our local government and health department to ensure the safety policies we continue to implement are aligned with their standards. ASA participants are consistently reminded of the guidelines and we’ve publicly shared them on our website and in a thoroughly researched safety deck filled with supporting resources.
We are gearing up to host our Columbus Day soccer tournament for U9-U12 boys and girls on October 9-11and below are the safety standards we’ve put in place. This will help our attendees understand what to expect and hopefully serve as a useful resource for other clubs and organizations.
Please note: these safety policies have been put in place to ensure kids, families, referees, coaches and tournament staff remain safe and healthy. We are not health experts but have worked closely with our local officials to implement the guidelines. Inherently there is risk to playing soccer (now, during the pandemic, and always) and we respect each family’s decision to participate or not based on what is the best decision for their child and family.
Tips for Hosting a Soccer Tournament During a Pandemic
- Stagger game times — At any complex with more than two fields we have staggered game times to help the flow of traffic and limit the number of people exiting and entering at one time. This will make social distancing easier as teams arrive and exit.
- Additional buffer time between games — As you’ve likely experienced, tournaments schedule games close together (a ten minute gap between games is generally the standard) on the same field to maximize space usage. We’ve added an additional 20 minute of buffer meaning that there is a 30 minute gap after every game. This will allow teams and families to quickly leave the complex once a game is finished and limit interaction with the upcoming game’s participants.
- Share the Policies — ASA Tournament staff will share the tournament and club safety rules with clubs and team managers prior to their arrival. They will know the expectations and that adherence to the rules is non-negotiable. Key policies include:
- All people over the age of four should wear a mask unless actively playing soccer (this includes kids sitting on the bench or entering/exiting a field)
- All spectators should keep six feet of social distance from anyone outside their family pod
- Congregating at the fields in groups is not allowed
- Field Signage — In addition to safety reminders posted at the fields by the City of Alexandria we’ve provided ASA specific signage at every field. Signage will serve as a reminder and can be referenced if there are questions. In addition to field signage each location will have a sanitation station at the entrance with hand sanitizer.
- Tournament Site Staff — Each complex has a tournament staff member who can answer questions, hand out masks (as needed), remind spectators of safety guidelines, report scores and ensure that each site is running smoothly. We have invested in site staff in the past (prior to COVID-19) and found it extremely helpful to have someone to keep things running at all fields.
- No Medal Ceremonies — We understand that a post-tournament medal ceremony is a great way to end the weekend for winning teams. Unfortunately medal ceremonies are not conducive to social distancing or a quick exit from the field so we are encouraging coaches to hand out medals on their own time after the tournament.
- And finally, “Safety First, Soccer Second” — We know that tournaments are exciting and that emotions can run high. We are extremely grateful to offer this experience and believe it’s important for kids to remain active and with their peers in a safe environment during this time. With that in mind, we have to keep everyone safe in order to continue playing this fall and in the future and we are committed to keeping safety as the first priority, despite what’s happening on the field at any point.
Attending the Columbus Day Tournament this weekend? We can’t wait to host you! Thank you for supporting our event and adhering to the safety guidelines. Collectively we can keep everyone safe and healthy. Schedule can be found HERE!