COVID-19 Impacts Cal South Soccer Athletes for the Indefinite Future

Cal South’s president speaks out about the struggles and plans for youth soccer during the pandemic

Photo+Courtesy+of+CNN

Photo Courtesy of CNN

“Get us back on the field and let us police this,” Cal South President Bob Turner said in an interview with the Matador Messenger. On March 13, 2020, all youth competitive soccer in Southern California was suspended due to COVID-19. The suspension was lifted on June 12, 2020, which allows teams to practice without contact, but there is still no competition allowed.

Cal South, the California State Soccer Association-South, is a California public benefit corporation and the official youth and adult state soccer association of US Youth Soccer, the United States Soccer Federation, and the United States Adult Soccer Association. This organization has a service area that extends from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Cal South provides recreational, and competitive services to all ages (About Us-Cal South).

Turner sees Newsom’s rules as too restrictive and unnecessary.  “We could police this much better,” said Turner. Although there is not a return date for competition, a “return to play policy” has been set in place. For starters, future games will be staggered to reduce an overlap of people on the field. All coaches, staff, parents, and substitutes will have to wear masks. Substitutions will be spread out sitting on the grass rather than on a bench. Athletes playing on the field do not have to wear a mask, but it is up to the parents and players to decide if it is necessary, although previous studies by the CDC show that it is not healthy to wear a mask under exercise exertion. If one team refuses to follow the guidelines, that team will forfeit the match.

A limit to one parent per player will be set in place, in which the parent is allowed onto the field five minutes prior to the start of the game and will have to leave directly after the game. All parents will also have to social distance along the sideline. Temperature checks, masks, and hand sanitizer will all be provided at the field. As kids do, there will be no high fives, hugs, or any unnecessary contact between players, parents, or coaches.

According to Turner, California needs to know that sports teams, by the hundreds, are traveling to bordering states such as Utah, Arizona, and Nevada and are competing under less stringent safety guidelines. They then come back, bringing whatever disease they contracted with them. Turner explains how if Governor Gavin Newsom would allow him control, Cal South could manage the situation much better. The longer California athletes are sidelined, there is additionally a greater risk of injury when they do return because they will not have the same game speed and conditioning they once had.

“You need to be out there for these kids, you need to be there for their emotional welfare,” said Turner. He explains that youth soccer not only needs to go back for the physical health of an athlete but for the emotional wellbeing too. Research shows that many youth athletes that cannot play are going through a bad time emotionally. Suicide rates are on the rise, and kids are experiencing bouts of anxiety and depression. 

“You have your stages, 1, 2, 3, 4, but youth sports is like an afterthought… I can’t believe that he’s (Gavin Newsom) this ignorant,” said Turner. 

California currently has four stages of reopenings. “Widespread,” closes many indoor non-essential businesses, “Substantial,” opens up small amounts of non-essential businesses, “Moderate,” includes more indoor businesses to operate with modifications, and “Minimal,” allows a high population of indoor businesses to open with modifications (covid19.ca.gov). 

“As we contemplate reopening parts of our state, we must be guided by science and data, and we must understand that things will look different than before,” explained California Governor Gavin Newsom (cnbc.com).

Given that youth sports does not fall under any of California’s COVID-19 stages, there will most likely not be a permanent return date for soccer until further notice.

“The most frustrating thing about not being able to compete at the moment is that we aren’t able to practice and get ready properly for next year especially because I have dreams of becoming a pro,” BYMS Matador and Cal South club soccer athlete Cate Mc Coy said.