After shutting down due to COVID19 and the lockdown in mid-March we re-started some 175 days later.
We wanted to try and get back to some form of normality as best we could but obviously a risk assessment needed doing and plans put in place to try and create a safe environment for goalkeepers, coaches and parents.
The groups the goalkeepers are divided into is pre-planned to save time and avoid mingling within the session. The goalkeepers wait (socially distanced) outside the 3G pitch and are met by myself where they have Anti-Bacterial gel squirted into their hands before they put their gloves on and are told which coach they are working with. They are pointed in the direction of a set of cones for that particular group which are spaced out two metres apart, this is where they leave their drinks bottles and any kit they have brought.
During the session, whenever they are brought together with their respective coach to discuss coaching points, they are reminded to not bunch up too close together with their fellow goalkeepers or the coach.
Importantly, while these aspects are thought about, we still want them to go about their goalkeeping in a normal way, have fun and experiment with techniques and methods of goalkeeping. They are still encouraged to have social interactions with the other goalkeepers and the coach, just making sure they are leaving space between each other while talking. This is important both from a goalkeeping perspective but also their general life skills.
At the end of the session, before the next group are allowed onto the 3G pitch two of the coaches clean the footballs with anti-bacterial spray and wipes. While this is going on, I am helping the first group depart.
At the end of each session, normally parents sign the register when collecting their child. I take child welfare seriously and I like to know they have been picked up and gone home with who they should, rather than just wander off on their own. This I have had to adapt as I can’t have parents handing the same pen around while signing the register. Therefore, each child has to point out their parent to me and I visually see them go off with their parent or guardian. This again happens in the small groups that they have been working in and each other group waits patiently while we complete this process.
The whole process then starts again as the older group are allowed onto the 3G pitch.
In terms of the toilet facilities on site, the children are encouraged to go before they get onsite, however they are available if required. A coach will first wipe down with anti-bacterial wipes the door handles, cubicle door handles, taps and flush handles first before the child enters and the coach remains outside. Once the child has finished the coach will repeat that process thereby respecting other users of the site.
It’s important to me that as Coaches we run this process efficiently and quickly so as to ensure as much coaching time is still possible within the session time so I thank my coaches for the help they give me doing this.
For September certainly as we phase back in, at least one parent or guardian must remain for the session (outside of the 3G) and if any of the goalkeepers suffer an injury or appear unwell, the coaches will ask the parent to come on the pitch and assess their child themselves. We will only act if it is a serious emergency. However, I hope to relax this policy at the start of October to go back to giving the choice to the parent of if they want to stay or drop off their child at which point, we would go back to taking care of any injury/illness issues.
So, if you have read this far, you will see all of this is not an easy process and we have had to consider a number of issues. So far so good though and I’m pleased to say I feel we have handled it well but pardon the pun, we still need to “keep our eyes on the ball” as we maintain this safe environment as a coaching school.
Even before lockdown I’ve had my concerns about young people today and the lack of communication skills shown. With all the different game consoles, with WhatsApp, texting and all other types of messaging, the art of physically speaking, communicating to me appears to have declined. The lockdown has perhaps made things even worse as many children have obviously been restricted from seeing their friends (or adults for that matter) and talking face to face.
At my goalkeeping school we encourage the young goalkeepers to talk, to communicate and organise as it’s a goalkeeping skill and a life skill.
Now we have started back we have a good mix of goalkeepers who were with us before the lockdown and new goalkeepers to our coaching school. Therefore, our first few sessions really have been focussed on goalkeepers and coaches getting to know each other and we actively encourage communication between all. This breeds confidence within their character and personality and we are keen to see them all grow as goalkeepers and as young people.
It’s good to be back helping our young goalkeepers and we look forward to the weeks and months ahead of our 14th season.