RICHMOND, VA – The Elite Clubs National League today launched the ECNL Return to Play Recommendations as a free resource to support the health and safety of players across the nation’s youth soccer landscape of more than 3-million players.
With communities across the country beginning to transition from shelter-at-home orders, coaches, trainers and clubs are seeking guidance on how to responsibly re-introduce youth players after not competing for several months.
The ECNL Recommendations are designed to help players return to the sport they love, with the associated well-documented benefits physically, mentally, and socially, while abiding by local safe-distancing rules and being cognizant of injury risk from returning too quickly. The ECNL Recommendations can be found [here].
“Returning to sport is a critical step for the physical and mental wellbeing of our children, but it must be done in the right way, which means factoring in each particular pool of players and the current situation in each community,” said ECNL Chief Medical Advisor Drew Watson, MD. “Our eagerness to give our children the joy of sport should not overshadow the importance of minimizing the risk of injury after the massive drop in physical activity or the potential and not-fully-understood risk of COVID-19.”
The ECNL Recommendations begin with a practical overview of club and team preparation, and lead into a step-by-step approach to re-introducing players to a training environment. Data shows that athletic injuries are most common in pre-season, or when players are returning to play after extended breaks, making a careful progression important for injury prevention, while at the same time helping to minimize the risk of potential COVID-19 exposure.
“Just getting players back on the field with their teammates and coaches is a really important step as we begin to progress back to sport as we know it,” said ECNL President Christian Lavers. “It is critical that we all do this in the right way. The ECNL Return To Play Recommendations were created to provide clubs with resources to help them create their own specific protocol, for their own specific environment, and to support these clubs and coaches as they welcome players back to the environment they love.”
The ECNL Return To Play Recommendations include:
Developing a club-based plan
Step-by-step guide to a five-phased initiation of training:
Phase 1: Training at Home
Phase 2: Small Group Training at Club Facilities
Phase 3: Limited Team Training
Phase 4: Full Team Training
Phase 5: Local Competition
A- General COVID-19 risk reduction guidelines
B- Protocols for return-to-play following COVID-19 infection
The ECNL Return To Play Recommendations were developed by sports medicine pediatrician Dr. Drew Watson based on the evaluation of more than a dozen published protocols. The ECNL Return to Play Recommendations do not supersede or replace any local or state requirements or laws, and the Recommendations are not mandatory, enforced or policed by the ECNL. These Recommendations should be used as a supplement to any local guidance issued by the relevant state or municipality where each club is located.
The ECNL will also develop Return to Competition Recommendations in the coming weeks, which will be introduced prior to the kick-off of league competition for the fall.