Coaches FREQUENTLY Asked Questions
What rules and regulations is U.S. Soccer mandating in the return to play process?
Rules and regulations for returning to play will be governed by the requirements of the state and local authorities relative to group size allowances. U.S. Soccer is offering guidelines and best practices for its Members to support them at this time. U.S. Soccer has organized return to play considerations into five phases from Phase 0 (no organized activities; stay home) through to Phase IV (no playing restrictions related to COVID-19). Clubs have been recommended to adhere to COVID-19 recommendations including: safety protocols to limit exposure, contact tracing, checking for symptoms of COVID-19, sanitizing equipment and facilities, and social distancing in regards to physical interactions for players, coaches, and referees to ensure the safest possible environment.
Are there adjustments I can make to training to maintain social distancing?
During Phase I, be prepared to make significant adjustments to align with state and local social distancing guidelines. This will include limiting training sessions to small groups in physically separated spaces and designing activities to limit or eliminate player interactions. See the “Play On Grassroots Soccer Recommendations Guide” for details. Coaches should also plan a progressive build up to training at full intensity over two to four weeks, to minimize the risk of injury. During Phase I, training is recommended to be no more than 60 minutes to ensure a gradual return to full fitness.
In Phase II, full team trainings are permitted, but separate teams/age groups should not mix and full scrimmages should be avoided. Training should remain socially distanced, with the exception of small-sided games and set-play activities – which will help players build to full readiness for Phase III.
The only change during Phase III is full-team trainings can be returned to full length and intensity. Please note that even though games are allowed to resume, but separate teams/age groups should not mix, and full scrimmages should be avoided. With the addition of the referees, you and your players should avoid approaching the referee during disputes. Similarly, referees should avoid approaching players and coaches.
Should my entire team practice at the same time? Or should we try to practice in groups?
During Phase I, training should be organized into individual or small group sessions with a maximum of nine (9) players and one (1) coach (or less, based on state/local social distancing guidelines). Group sizes based on age and assurance of social distancing measures should be considered to avoid any cluster outbreaks. There should be no more than two small groups on a regulation-size field at any time. These groups should be organized on opposite sides of the field. Players and coaches should maintain all social distancing guidelines before, during and after training. When conducting small group sessions, each group should be provided with a specific training time (e.g. Group A trains at 6pm, Group B trains at 7pm, etc.). Be sure to assign areas to enter and exit the field to prevent crossover and work with your groups to stagger individual arrival times so that participants can enter the facility or field individually.
In Phase II & III, full team trainings are allowed. Avoid mixing separate teams or age groups, and full scrimmages. Small-sided games and set-play activities may be slowly and carefully incorporated to increase intensity and sharpen game-play skills. Excepting these select training activities, social distancing should be observed, and participants should be vigilant about following the general hygiene code of conduct to promote the safety of all those involved in the activity.
Since my players have not been training, how should I make sure a player doesn’t get injured when returning to play?
Due to stay-at-home guidelines throughout the country, many players have been unable to train and have been less active while at home. Players may not be physically prepared to return to full intensity training and as a result, are at greater risk for injury or illness should they be placed in a full-intensity training environment. Trainings are recommended to be no longer than 60 minutes during Phase I. Coaches should carefully assess their players’ fitness levels to best plan for and manage the volume, intensity and frequency of early return-to-play trainings. Avoid greater risk of injury and illness by gradually reintroducing players to play in a safe and progressive manner. Do not do “too much, too soon.” Coaches should plan to progress to full intensity training over 2-4 weeks.
During Phase II, trainings can be increased to 90 minutes. However, trainings should gradually build in time and intensity during the three to six-week period. Coaches should still monitor their athletes and slow down progression of time and intensity, if needed. Consider providing recovery strategies to implement at home to minimize the effect of delayed-onset muscle soreness. Review methods of recovery at Recognize to Recover here.
With the introduction of Phase III, trainings can return to full length and intensity. With high temperatures, it’s important that you monitor your players for signs of dehydration and make sure they are drinking enough water throughout the session. If your team is not ready to return to full length trainings, do not force it.
Should my players be wearing PPE while playing?
Do I need to wear PPE?
Yes. All participants (coaches, players, referees, instructors, administrators) are recommended to wear new or clean PPE upon arrival, departure and when not physically active during activities. While being physically active, PPE may obscure vision, increase respiratory challenges, or increase other injury risk. Provided all screening, hygiene and social distancing measures are followed, masks are not mandatory during exertional moments of training (i.e. when physically active). Guidelines may change based on evolving medical and health information, as well as local state or federal guidelines.
PPE (masks or face covering) should continue to be worn by all participants when not participating in physically exertional activities; however, coaches should especially plan ahead for “PPE breaks” to avoid the discomfort or respiratory challenges that heat and humidity may cause during the summer months. To take a PPE break, simply step a minimum of 10 feet away from other participants. Should a participant move within 10 feet, return your mask to covering your nose and mouth.
What precautions should I be taking to make sure equipment is sanitary?
Does each player need to have his/her own ball for training?
Players are not required to have an individual designated ball for training and the use of shared balls between players is allowed in foot drills with avoidance of the use of hands. Be sure to disinfect and clean balls before and after each training session while wearing PPE (face covering and latex gloves) by a virucidal cleaner (i.e. 70% alcohol solution or household bleach solution), and a disposable towel that can be disposed of immediately afterward. Field players should not handle soccer balls with their hands unless wearing gloves. For goalkeeper training, soccer balls should not be shared. Plan for one soccer ball per goalkeeper. If the goalkeeper is involved in an activity with field players and using his or her hands, use the goalkeeper’s designated ball(s). Where able, clubs are encouraged to provide soccer balls for training to ensure that balls are properly sanitized and stored before and after each training.
How should I handle bibs for training?
Can parents watch our practices?
Do players need to be spread out on the bench area to maintain social distancing?
During Phase III, benches can be expended to allow for six feet of space between each player and coach, if space allows. Individuals on the bench should use proper PPE including face coverings at all times. Team benches should always be clean of any waste or equipment. Benches should be left clean following the game.
Are team huddles allowed?
Are there any rules changes to gameplay due to COVID-19? (throw-ins, subs, etc.)
U.S. Soccer has organized return to play considerations into five phases from Phase 0 (no activities; stay home) through to Phase IV (no playing restrictions related to COVID-19). Phase I is structured around individual and small group trainings with a maximum of nine (9) players and one (1) coach. Matches should not take place during Phase I or II.
During training in Phase I, throw-ins and headers should be avoided. As teams progress to Phase II & III, throw-ins and headers can be considered, but only if it’s part of a necessary training activity. The player should wear gloves for throw-in activities. In accordance with U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiatives, deliberate heading should not take place for players in U11 and below.
Can parents watch our games?
How will set plays work?
Will there be postgame handshakes following the game?
Should there be any specific items to consider for pre-game warm-ups?
Warm-ups should not begin until the previous teams have left the field and equipment and benches have been cleaned and sanitized. You should still stay six feet away from all players and wear proper PPE. Participants should avoid intentionally touching each other during warm-ups. If match balls are used during warm-ups, they should be re-sanitized before the match.
Similar to training, consider setting up any warm-up drills in advance for a seamless transition from drill to drill.
Should there be any considerations due to increased temperatures during the Summer months?
Yes. Please refer to U.S. Soccer’s Recognize to Recover resources here. Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and exertional heat stroke (EHS), can be serious and potentially life-threatening conditions which can be brought on or intensified by physical activity. Be educated on the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and early management. It’s important to follow different heat acclimatization guidelines during practices and conditioning which typically takes 10-14 days. It’s recommended to avoid the hottest part of the day (11am – 4pm), as well.
Making sure players are properly hydrated and have plenty of water. Even though players should bring their own water (advised to bring two personally labeled bottles to training), clubs should have a backup plan to safely provide water in the event a player runs out of water.
Finally, PPE over the face can impact breathing. While your players are not encouraged to wear PPE during active training, you should be wearing PPE. Coaches should consider taking a “PPE break” by moving safely 10 feet away from other participants.