Net positive: Youth soccer adjusts to covid restrictions

Jul 22, 2020

Soccer looks very different at the Dartmouth Youth Soccer Association’s practice field these days.

Most summer evenings, the fields are packed with hundreds of kids and parents. But with the season scrapped by the pandemic, they have mostly remained empty, save for the grounds crews who maintain the grass.

Now, with the easing of some youth sports restrictions, the DYSA’s facilities have begun opening back up for practice sessions — albeit with some new social distancing protocols in place.

“I don’t foresee games happening for a while, but I’m glad we can at least offer something to these kids,” DYSA President Bob Long said. 

Since the practices began in late June, coaches show up 15 minutes prior to the session, with players arriving shortly after. 

“It’s certainly been an adjustment,” Long said. “But our coaches have definitely been more than up to the task.”

During practices, coaches constantly monitor to make sure that players maintain their spacing and that they do not touch any of the equipment.

“It’s soccer, they aren’t supposed to be touching the ball anyway,” Long laughed.

Boys U14 Coach Joe Francisco said that while new protocols have been an adjustment, it hasn’t stopped the coaching staff from trying to get his players back into form.

“Some of these kids haven’t kicked a ball with their friends since March,” he said. “Right now, it’s all about trying to keep them engaged with soccer to keep our team top of mind.”

He said that so far the kids have mostly followed social distancing rules, but noted that he has had to remind them to keep six feet apart every now and then.

“They’re kids,” he said. “I’m not sure how long it will take to get to our new normal, but these rules will soon be second nature to them.”

Parent Dennis Giampa said he likes that his family is able to have a little bit of normalcy again. 

“Sure it’s not games, but at least they are able to practice and interact with each other,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep progressing to get closer to actual normal.”

Giampa added that he also enjoys being able to interact with other parents again, even if it’s from six feet apart.

“God knows some of us parents need to be around some more adults for our own wellbeing,” he said. 

Dartmouth resident Andrea Fernandes agreed.

“I’ve missed my soccer family,” she said. “So many friendships are built out here.”

She added that while it’s nice to see her son practice, she would like to see some full games.

Long agreed, saying that he hopes that state guidelines will change so there can at least be scrimmages with other Dartmouth teams.

For now, practices will remain limited to non-contact drills. 

But, for everyone involved, the sport lives on — even if it looks a little different.