The Arizona Soccer Association (ASA) and its member have continued to demonstrate their commitment to the community and returning to play in a methodical manner. Effective August 17, 2020 ASA will move into Phase IV of our Return-to-Play guidelines. Phase IV is defined by the following activities and restrictions:
Moving into Phase IV comes with great responsibility and is a decision that is not being made lightly. ASA has continued to monitor the developments in Arizona and have sought input from various organizations at the state, county, and municipal levels, as well as with other state associations nationally who have returned to play. We are confident that moving to Phase IV is appropriate based on the downward trends in COVID cases, the fact that Arizona has seen the R Naught score continue to decline and lead the country, and the commitment of the ASA membership to adhere to defined guidelines and protocols.
Along with the review of data and results ASA has also been in contact with the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS). We reached out DCS to gain additional perspectives on overall child safety, as not all the 45,000 children who register with ASA have the same situations at home. After reviewing the ASA Return-to-Play guidelines and the three-step Return-to-Competition guidelines, DCS gave their endorsement that it would be in many children’s best interest to return to playing. Mike Faust, Director Arizona Department of Child Safety shared that “with kids currently unable to attend in-person school it is important that they be able to participate in structured organizations that promote social, emotional, and physical development and security. ASA is a recognized community organization that requires all members complete and pass a background check, as well as complete SafeSport certification, which provides training to coaches and volunteers in identifying and reporting signs of physical and sexual abuse. Keeping kids in the public view is critical in helping to keep them safe.”
Although in Phase IV, we must continue to respect and recognize that there are statewide Executive Orders, as well as county and municipal directives and proclamations that must be adhered to. ASA developed a three-step Return-to-Competition guidelines which will be implemented for all ASA managed leagues and sanctioned tournaments. They are:
It is recommended that all leagues statewide use the three-step Return-to-Competition guidelines however, we recognize that some counties or municipalities may provide additional guidance. Every league must meet the minimum requirements of their local directives.
ASA realizes that not having spectators is not optimal. However, this is what will be required to begin the season. We have been advised by many of our facilities that they will enforce the current Executive Order that does not allow for more than 50 people at a single event. In our discussions with various facilities they have defined a full-size soccer field as an event, therefore we can not have more than 50 people at any full-size soccer field. ASA has discussed this with our member clubs and their leadership and there is an understanding that this is the right direction at this time, considering that any single game will have between 37 – 50 people based on only players, coaches/team officials, and referees:
- Two teams with 15 players per team = 30 people (NOTE: Rosters max at 18 players)
- Two coaches/team officials per team = 4 people (Note: League rules allow for up to 4 coaches/team officials per team)
- Three referees = 3 people
- TOTAL = 37 people (Note: if all maximums were met it would be 47 people)
- This does not account for any ASA or Club staff that may be present to support the schedule games/events.
- Small sided games are also being addressed as it is expected to have two games (four teams) on a single full-size field.
Movement from Step 1 to Step 2 to Step 3 will be determined based on the continued evolution of the pandemic as well as any changes to state, county, and local directives.
Along with the three-step Return-to-Competition, ASA has developed the protocols and communications for if an individual is exposed, has symptoms, or receives a positive result. These protocols and communications have been developed with guidance from the CDC, Arizona Department of Health Services, and best practices from around the country where competitions have already returned and will be available on the ASA website.
It is imperative that we do not lose our discipline and continue our diligence in wearing masks, remaining socially distant, and practicing good hygiene by washing our hands. Even with that the following remains true:
Ultimately, if you are not comfortable with returning to play – DON’T. There is no single answer or decision that will be supported by all. But, it is our intention to continue to demonstrate a commitment to adhering to the defined guidelines and develop confidence in the community that playing soccer and returning to competition will be done as safely as possible and that ASA and its membership are doing everything we can to be thoughtful in our decisions with player, coach, family and community safety being our top priority.
ASA, its staff, and our member Clubs and Leagues are absolutely focused on the safety and well-being of everyone involved in our great game but it will be the responsibility of EVERYONE to work together to adhere to these guidelines. We are in a tremendous position to be able to get kids throughout Arizona back on the field and playing the game they love. Now that we are in that position EVERYONE, especially the adults must demonstrate the appropriate commitment and discipline to adhering to the defined guidelines. Let us all work together to show all of Arizona that the soccer community will do whatever it takes to allow our kids to play this great game.