USA Football released a plan on Monday, June 29, for a phased approach for the return of youth football in 2020.
The organization, which is the national governing body for amateur football, created a plan based on the reopening guidelines recommended by the CDC, according to a press release.
USA Football advises youth leagues to consult their city or county health department to determine which CDC phase their community is in. Clay County is currently in Phase Two, step two of the Clay County Public Health Center's Recovery Plan. From there, leagues should consult with local schools to share information and resources.
“During this very uncertain time, it’s important that parents know that USA Football has a detailed plan for getting their children back to the activities they enjoy,” said Dr. Michael Koester, chair of the National Federation of State High School Associations’ Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. “This document provides expert guidance in safely returning young athletes to football in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.”
The plan states leagues should screen for virus symptoms and other signs prior to any activities. Leagues should require all participants to practice 6-foot of physical distance in the first two phases of the plan before adjusting to 3-6 feet of separation in Phase 3.
USA Football adds that teams should commit to thorough sanitizing and cleaning requirements and participants should have separate personal items that include drink bottles, towels and clearly labeled footballs. It also advises all coaches to wear face coverings with players having an option to wear one.
“We have spent a lot of time talking to governing bodies and, for the most part, they are taking this conservative kind of approach,” says Scott Hallenbeck, USA Football’s executive director. “We’ve recognized the need to have direct conversations, ‘town halls’ as we call them, with a diverse set of constituents.”
Phase One of the plan concentrates on football workouts and drills while limiting practices to 10 or fewer people who must stay 6-feet apart within their groups.
Phase Two still limits attendance to 10 people for inside activities, but increases the limit to 50 people for outside activities, with teammates split into 5-10 person groups in station-based activities.
All equipment should be sanitized between each use. To maintain physical distancing, teams are asked to eliminate hand-offs or snaps under center. Passing, kicking, punting and shotgun snaps will be allowed.
Phase Three includes modified flag football and seven-on-seven games as well as modified tackle practices with up to 50 people in small groups. Player contact, including blocking, may be introduced with partners or within small groups. Games and activities involving a limited number of players will also be allowed.
In its fourth and final phase, USA Football said regular practices and games may be considered once local public health authorities allow public facilities to reopen and restrictions on the size of group gatherings have been lifted. Participants must pass pre-activity screenings and live in the same community that has met those requirements.
Hallenbeck notes that monitoring athletes’ health throughout is imperative.
“At any point if you start to get issues, you shouldn’t go forward,” he said.
More information can be found at usafootball.com/resources-tools/return-to-youth-football/.