ZIA YOUTH SOCCER LEAGUE'S FALL 2021 COVID-SAFE RETURN-TO-PLAY PROTOCOL
(This document is updated often, as our community's response to COVID-19 continues to evolve.  Most recent update: 9/13/2021)


New Mexico's COVID-19 Emergency Public Health Order currently allows youth sports programs to operate fully with both practices and scrimmages / games, following specific covid-safe guidelines provided by the State, and as amended by the City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department.  As such, it is imperative that all registrants and participants in this program fully adhere to this protocol in order to ensure everyone's safety and the continuation of youth soccer in New Mexico.   

(Note:  Although New Mexico is now "fully open," with all businesses and organizations again permitted to operate without a restriction in numbers, the State's face covering mandate does remain in place to a degree, with specific requirements in place for the youth sports environment for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals [see below].  Further, although youth sports has been declared "open" by the State, the City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department has maintained certain additional covid safety restrictions that we must continue to abide by in order to use their facilities.  Zia Youth Soccer WILL abide by all such mandates and regulations, for the safety and protection of our participants, community, and of the organization itself.  We appreciate the continued understanding, cooperation, and support of our participating families.)

***IMPORTANT!  ALL REGISTRANTS AND PARTICIPANTS:  Do NOT participate if you, your child, a household member or someone you have been in contact with has tested positive for COVID-19 or exhibited ANY COVID-19 symptoms within the past two weeks.  Should you, your child, or anyone in your household be exposed or receive a positive COVID-19 test, both Zia Soccer administration AND the New Mexico Department of Health shall be notified immediately.  Additional protocol will be in place for ANY participant who tests positive or undergoes quarantine for exposure, prior to returning to activity.***

- Should a participating player show any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, they should be sent home immediately and instructed to contact their healthcare provider.  Administration shall be notified and the player shall not participate in future sessions without following proper return protocol as directed by the organization.

- High risk individuals, including both youth and adults, are encouraged NOT to participate, and are advised to stay home in accordance
with CDC guidelines.  

- No parent or child should participate in soccer activities if they are not comfortable for any reason.


HEALTH AND SAFETY TRAINING AND EDUCATION:

1)  Parents shall review and educate their children regarding proper hygiene and safety protocols including thorough hand washing, not touching the face, properly covering the mouth and nose when coughing/sneezing, proper use and disposal of tissues, and social distancing.  Players must follow all of these recommended hygiene and safety protocols at all times during soccer sessions. 

2)  Coaches shall review with their players the importance of the aforementioned proper hygiene and safety protocols before each and every practice.  Remember, no participating child is too young to understand these basic life-saving concepts.  


PRE-SESSION HEALTH CHECKS:

1)  All coaches shall check their own temperatures within one hour of attending ANY league event.  Coaches shall either cancel their practice or request that the assistant coach fill in, notify both team members AND administration, and remain home if at any time their temperature reads 100.4 or greater, or if any COVID-19 symptoms exist as identified by the CDC.  Coaches should NOT ask a spouse or other household member to fill in as coach for the session, as that person should be considered potentially exposed.  If not vaccinated, all coaches agree to pursue COVID testing on at least a monthly basis as a precautionary measure, as currently required by the New Mexico Department of Health.  Any positive test result must be reported as discussed above.

2)  Likewise, all parents shall check their players' temperatures within one hour of attending a session, and shall keep their child home if at any time their temperature reads 100.4 or greater, or if any COVID-19 symptoms exist as identified by the CDC.

3)  As players arrive at the park for their activities, coaches shall conduct a brief verbal health check on each and every participant.  This includes asking the player if they, a family member, or anyone else they have been in close contact with is experiencing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or if they have any reason to believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19.  If the child is too young to answer this themselves, the parent should be asked (from 6-feet away).  The NM Department of Health requires all coaches to keep a record of these responses. 

4)  Coaches must confirm player face covering policy compliance prior to starting activities, as follows:

a.  Any player under the age of twelve (12)  must be wearing a proper face covering in order to participate.

b.  Any player twelve (12) years of age or older without a vaccination-based exemption on file (see practice and scrimmage game protocol, #8, below) must be wearing a proper face covering in order to participate.  A list of players, if any, with approved vaccination-based exemptions on file shall be provided to all coaches by league administration.

c.  Any player required to wear a face covering as described above, but not doing so, shall be sent to their parents to obtain one prior to returning to the field.  If at any time during the event such player removes his or her face covering for any reason other than to have a drink, the coach shall first remind the player to keep the face covering in place, and if the player does not do so, then the coach shall send the player to his or her parent, shall report the incident to league administration, and the player shall be suspended from Zia Youth Soccer activities as described in the detailed face-covering policy below.

d.  Coaches maintain the right to enjoy a safe environment by requiring and enforcing face covering policy compliance of any and all parents or other spectators present at their practices and/or scrimmage games.  Such enforcement provides coaches the full authority to order violators to vacate the field, and to make official reports of violation to league administration for further enforcement and assistance.


PRACTICE AND SCRIMMAGE GAME PROTOCOL:

1)  Coaches shall adhere to all covid-safe practices as described by the State of New Mexico. 

2)  Coaches understand that team rosters are determined by the organization, and shall NOT permit unregistered friends, family, former team members, peers, or anyone else to join in on their team's activities without administrative approval.

3)  Players should arrive at the park no more than fifteen minutes prior to their session start time, fully dressed for activity and ready to go. If a player arrives earlier than that, they must wait in their vehicle until time to go to the field.  Players shall walk directly to their assigned field without passing through other groups.  

4)  Bags or other equipment brought to the park must be kept at least six feet from others' equipment.  Players are NOT to share personal equipment, and are not permitted to touch or handle other's equipment, including the coach's, at any time, with the exception of soccer balls, goalkeeper gloves, and similar items that are properly sanitized before and after use, and the sharing of which is overseen by the coach.  

5)  Coaches and players must sanitize their hands (and goalkeeper gloves and other equipment), before and after their sessions, and periodically during the session as needed.  Again, hands MUST be freshly sanitized prior to entering the session field.

6)  There shall be NO intentional physical contact between ANYONE.  No handshakes, high fives, elbow bumps, or ANY other form of intentional physical contact before, during or after soccer activities. Alternate celebratory activities shall be used, that prevent such contact.  (This restriction does not apply to contact that takes place organically as part of the practice or scrimmage game activity).

7)  Players shall NOT share food or drinks.  Snacks brought to the field on Saturday scrimmage game days or to end-of-season parties shall be individually packaged and distributed, and all players must sanitize their hands before and after eating.

8)  In accordance with the COVID-19 Emergency Health Order of the State of New Mexico, and the Department of Health's associated COVID-Safe Practices for youth sports, Zia Youth Soccer League is enforcing the following face-covering requirements for public health and safety:

a.  ALL unvaccinated players and coaches are required to wear proper face coverings during any Zia Youth Soccer sanctioned event.  Face coverings may be lifted or lowered momentarily to have a drink or snack, or removed briefly for organized team/player photos on designated league photo days, but must be worn properly, securely covering both the nose and mouth, at all other times.  This includes during exercise and activity.  Many varieties of sport-friendly masks are available, which are highly breathable and increasingly comfortable for use in active environments.  Acceptable face coverings for sports participation must be constructed of soft material; hard plastic face shields are not acceptable due to on-field safety concerns.

b.  Fully vaccinated players and coaches, who received their second vaccine dose at least two weeks prior to practice or play, have the option of not wearing a face covering during active on-field practice or play IF they have certification of vaccination (signed statement, not a medical record) on file with league administrationThis is the only exemption to mask-wearing within the youth sports environment provided by the State of New Mexico at this time.  The State of New Mexico requires any league providing such exemption to keep written certification of vaccination status on file for any and all players and coaches requesting such exemption, and to provide a non-identifying number of said certifications to the State upon request.  Zia Youth Soccer League will comply with this provision fully, thus requiring written certification of vaccination for any player or coach requesting exemption.  Although fully vaccinated players and coaches will be given this option of not wearing face coverings during active on-field practice or play, such players and coaches MUST continue to wear proper face coverings at all other times, including before and after play and while on the sidelines, with the exception of when taking a drink, having a snack, or participating in photo day.  To request exemption, please print and sign this form, and return to Zia Youth Soccer administration at [email protected]  

c.  ALL spectators and non-coach volunteers are required to wear proper face coverings at all times during any Zia Youth Soccer sanctioned event, regardless of vaccine status.  As a youth organization, Zia Youth Soccer has been advised that such requirement can be expected to remain in place AT LEAST until which time children of all ages have the ability to become fully vaccinated if their families so choose.

d.  ANY player, spectator, coach or other volunteer found by league representation to be knowingly, willingly, and intentionally violating this face covering policy shall be given one (1) courtesy warning as an opportunity to comply.  ANY player, spectator, coach or other volunteer found by league representation to be knowingly, willingly, and intentionally violating the face covering policy a second time, or who becomes irate or confrontational in response to the initial warning, shall be required to immediately leave the current event and shall be suspended from the next two (2) league sanctioned events, which must include at least one (1) scrimmage.  ANY spectator, coach or other volunteer found by league representation to be knowingly, willingly, and intentionally violating the face covering policy a third time, or who becomes irate or confrontational in regards to the matter a second time, shall be subject to either seasonal suspension or permanent expulsion from the league, at the full discretion of the league. 

Scrimmages in which significant numbers of players, coaches, and/or spectators are found in violation of the face covering requirement may be stopped at any time by a member of league representation.  Such stoppage shall be an opportunity for all in violation to immediately comply or vacate the field, at which time the scrimmage may continue.


e.  Zia Youth Soccer League reserves the right to protect the health and safety of its participants by reinstating face covering requirements for all participants at all times, regardless of vaccination status, should COVID-19 statistics and/or public health recommendations deem such action necessary, even if not required by the State, at any time and at the full discretion of league administration.


9)  Coaches shall sanitize and properly disinfect any equipment they bring to and use during their sessions (balls, cones, goals, etc) before and after each session, as well as periodically during the session as needed.

10)  Players shall sanitize their hands immediately after leaving the field for any reason, including but not limited to scrimmage game stoppages and practice water breaks.

11) The use of shared pinnies / scrimmage vests is prohibited due to sanitation concerns.  Should a coach plan a practice activity that requires players to be identified by different colored shirts, then he or she shall request in advance that the players arrive at practice wearing specifically-colored shirts accordingly.  Separate pinnies shall be provided for any player requiring one for the goalkeeper position, and such pinnies shall be properly washed and sanitized (by the coach or parent) prior be used by another player.  

12)  No spitting on or near the soccer field!

13)  Should a non-life-threatening medical issue or injury occur during a session, the player should leave the field and seek the assistance of his or her parent, if able.  In case of an emergency, or if the child is not able to walk to his or her parent, the coach shall take all steps possible to SAFELY ensure that the child is stable (sanitizing his or herself fully before and after any unavoidable contact with the child), and shall immediately retrieve the parent for assistance.  Coaches are encouraged to have all parents' telephone numbers readily accessible in their cell phones for this purpose, and parents are encouraged to stay visible from the field for this purpose, if possible.  Coaches MUST remind players to keep a safe distance of at least six feet from the injured or ill child, and from one another, as the situation is addressed.


PARENTS:

1)  Parents are responsible for ensuring that their child arrives to their session with plenty of their own water.  Players are NEVER to share water bottles.  

2)  Parents MUST provide hand sanitizer for their child's personal use before, during, and after soccer activity.

3)  Parents shall keep tissues and other necessary hygiene products available for their child's use, and shall dispose of said products properly in a sealable plastic bag for disposal upon returning home.  Parents shall remind their children to come to them for a tissue if needed, to NEVER wipe their nose on their clothing, and to ALWAYS use hand sanitizer after utilizing a tissue.

4)  Parents MUST ensure player’s clothing, gear and equipment is washed and sanitized before and after each soccer activity.  The New Mexico Department of Health further asserts that players should return directly home following their activity, and immediately shower and wash their clothing. 

5)  Although Zia Youth Soccer does not currently have a limit on spectators, parents are asked to keep the number of spectators to a reasonable level.  Spectators must maintain a 6-foot minimum distance from others outside of their household, and shall follow all social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines at all times.

6)  Porta-potties will not be placed at the parks this season due to sanitation concerns.  Parents, please keep this in mind as you prepare to leave home for your child's sessions.  

7)  All participants are responsible for picking up and removing their own trash.  If a parent or player brings anything to the park that creates trash, that parent or player shall be the one to clean it up.  No one shall be responsible for picking up other people’s trash.  Parents agree to leave fields clean.  Pack it in, pack it out please.

8)  Carpooling and shared transportation are HIGHLY discouraged at this time.  

9)  Parents shall communicate, preferably electronically, with their child's coach if any questions or concerns arise.


POSITIVE COVID TEST:


Should a player or coach test positive for COVID-19, league administration shall be notified immediately.  Said player or coach shall not participate in league activities for at least ten days following the positive test. The player or coach may return to activities after that time period only if he or she has been symptom-free and fever-free for at least 24 hours.  

Administration shall notify all teammates and recent opponents who may have had close contact with the positive player or coach, in accordance with CDC guidelines.  Said players and coaches with close contact shall also be required to quarantine for ten days accordingly, and may return to play after that time if he or she has been symptom-free and fever-free for at least 24 hours.  


We thank all Zia Youth Soccer participants for their full cooperation and understanding as we keep the health and safety of each and every child at the forefront of our concerns.  Adhering to this safety protocol helps ensure that players are able to continue enjoying their sport.

***Zia Youth Soccer takes these safety precautions very seriously, and reserves the right to suspend, permanently ban, or otherwise take disciplinary action against any registrant or participant found to be intentionally disregarding these protocol, with or without warning.**

This protocol is subject to change at any time, with or without warning, for the protection of the organization, its participants and community, and in accordance with federal, state, local, league or association guidelines and/or requirements.

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