As a soccer tournament director, you should be crafting a plan to address the coronavirus for your event.
A soccer tournament hosts a lot of people in a concentrated area. As a tournament organizer, you need to be prepared with a written statement, a strategy and a training session for all volunteers. Hopefully, this post will help you formulate that plan, assuage anxiety within your staff and with the teams you are hosting.
You should not panic, but you should be cautious, vigilant and prepared.
Firstly, keep yourself informed. Misinformation is not helpful for you or your hosted teams. The best organization for information is the World Health Organization. In the United States, the prevailing authority for the coronavirus is the local health officials, so make sure you are in direct contact with the municipalities where your tournament is being played.
DISCLAIMER: We are not medical experts and this post is not medical advice.
Ok, that said, and following the advice of the medical professionals at the WHO and your local health departments, here are some soccer tournament-specific tips we think will help everyone attending your event.
- Firstly, respect the wishes of your guest teams. If they wish to withdraw amidst fears of the coronavirus, respect that. Have a plan in place, whether that is event insurance or a refund.
- Stock Lysol or similar disinfectant that is specific for a coronavirus.
- Map out all the public areas like restrooms, porta-lets and concession areas. Create a plan to methodically disinfect all these areas. Assign volunteers to disinfect these areas throughout the tournament. Post a sign-off sheet in plain view of the participants with dates and times the area was last disinfected to assure them you are taking necessary steps to ensure their safety.
- Include a statement in your liability release that indemnifies your event. (consult your legal counsel on this one, please)
- Ask your local health department if they have a brochure you can hand out or post to your forms area on your website for the coaches and parents.
- Wash your own hands frequently. Make sure all your volunteers do the same. You may want to do this in plain site of the participants to set an example and also assure them you are protecting them.
- Make sure your vendors are aware and ask them for their coronavirus prevention plans, especially any food vendors. This is no time to be shy; ask them directly. Make sure they stick to the plan they say they will abide by. Again, be direct.
- Post signs in every restroom areas — above the sinks, on the front and back of each door, in each stall, on the porta-let doors, on the concession stand areas — reminding participants to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. Provide soap that is listed as killing a coronavirus and make sure you never run out.
- Keep the restroom areas clean and make sure any used hand towels are contained entirely in trash cans. Don’t allow them to overflow.
- Encourage all participants to make your soccer tournament a “no touching” event. Eliminate handshaking as much as possible. Ask teams to air-touch hands, fist-bump or elbow touch at the start and end of the games. Also, encourage parent to NOT make a tunnel for the players to run through.
- Spray the game ball with disinfectant before and after every game.
- Respect the parents’ wishes! If they don’t want their kid to play in the event, don’t force it or punish them. You are responsible for the team, but the parents are responsible for their kid’s overall health.
- Respect the coronavirus policy of the tournament. Make sure your parents are also respectful of the policy, regardless of their personal opinions.
- Encourage your players to keep the soccer ball at their feet at all times. A cool unintended consequence of this is they get more touches and develop more ball control skills.
- Identify and eliminate times when players will touch.
- Encourage players to cough into their elbows or upper arms. Don’t play players who are sick.
- Practice precautions yourself and be a good example to your players.
I’m sure there are a few more tips that you can think of, but the important take-away is to be prepared, be vigilant but not panicked. Above all, do not spread misinformation or allow it to be spread. Be clear, concise and visible about your coronavirus policy.
Soccer is a team sport and we are all in this together. Let’s do all we can to make your soccer tournament a safe event.
*That graphic at the top of this post is just me saying, “Hey Siri, set a timer for 20 seconds” before I start washing my hands. I’m told singing two verses of ‘Happy Birthday’ is also about 20 seconds long.