Playing it Safe? A Local Youth Soccer Club Believes It Has a Way to Start Playing Games Again

COVID-19 restrictions have prevented San Diego county youth soccer teams from playing games, but Surf Cup Sports has a proposal to get back on the field.

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Youth soccer games that would normally fill fields across San Diego are not happening due to COVID-19 restrictions, but one local soccer club is offering what it believes is a path forward, a safe way to start playing games again.

Surf Club Sports did an 8-week study on COVID-19 and youth soccer. 6,560 players and 263 coaches from 6 soccer clubs located across San Diego County, from Oceanside to Chula Vista, participated in the study. The participating clubs were the Oceanside Breakers, Carlsbad City, Surf Soccer, Albion SC, San Diego SC and Rebels SC.  Over the course of eight weeks 143,000 soccer sessions were analyzed and only 15 (.01%) confirmed cases were found. For each of the identified cases, all were found to have been transmitted outside of the soccer sessions.

Surf Cup Sports Chief Executive Officer Brian Enge said the results were promising, “We’ve now looked at a enough of a data set across enough of a county to believe what we are doing today is safe.”

To get on the practice field, each player lines up off the field in a mask and sanitizes their hands. Then, a coach asks each player county mandated COVID safety questions, such as “Do you have a fever? Have you had a loss of taste or smell? Have you been around anyone who has COVID?” If the player answers “No,” they can go on the practice field.

Deepak Sonthalia, who has 3 kids who play Surf Soccer, is encouraged by what he sees.

“I’m impressed every time I see it.  It’s the consistency every day, every time they come on the field.”

Asked if he had any concerns about having non-medical professionals determine If it was safe for his kids to be on the field, Sonthalia said, ”I feel comfortable as long as we are adhering to the safety protocols, which is basic screening, kids not intermixing in large groups, but playing in small pods.”

With what they believe to be a safe practice environment and the coronavirus study information in hand, what’s the next step for Surf Soccer?

“We believe we have created the baseline for safety, now we want to offer a variable which is game play and see if it is safe,” said Enge.

Surf wants to create a pilot program from teams that participated in the coronavirus data collection,  think small pods, 6 to 8 teams playing only each other for a few weeks, and being tested regularly.

“If we past that test, then we’d ask city and state to open up and allow our kids to play, if we don’t pass that test, then we think we should remain in state we are in, safety has to be number one,” says Enge.

Surf has presented its pilot idea to the city and Enge said he envisions this as partnership with local health officials, using data and science to drive safe decisions moving forward.

“There’s a little bit of a misnomer that we’re out there pushing that we should just open up and start playing games, our proposal is help us move the conversation forward, gain more data so that we can do it safely.”

Surf is awaiting a response from local officials to their pilot proposal.

Surf has received some pushback with people saying this isn’t a true scientific study, Surf says it’s simply trying to be proactive and find a safe way to get kids playing games.

There is a Kids1st movement to let kids play, and there is a petition that is gaining traction and hopes to attract the attention of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

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