Summit soccer, lacrosse associations wait on state and county approval to reopen
DILLON — Up in the mountains, it’s a tale of two counties for youth sports association’s like 10th Mountain Lacrosse and the High Country Soccer Association amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Thanks to a state-approved variance, Eagle County’s Vail Valley Soccer Club began youth programming Monday night. On Tuesday, June 9, 10th Mountain Lacrosse plans to begin its training for high school athletes, including upward of a dozen Summit High School Tigers, at Freedom Park in Edwards.
“It’s foreign territory,” Summit High boys lacrosse and 10th Mountain Lacrosse head coach Matty Marks said. “It’s a Wild West for sure right now. It depends on who you talk to. You can talk to an optimistic county commissioner who’s hopeful and gives positive feedback, and you can speak to a more negative county commissioner, and it seems like the world is going to end.”
Despite Eagle County’s progress, High Country Soccer remains in a wait-and-see approach in Summit County, which has yet to enter phase two of its COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery.
At the state level, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment will finalize and implement Thursday updated guidance for organized recreational sports after publishing a draft and accepting public comment earlier in the week. The draft document, stipulates organized youth or adult recreational sports leagues can take place in groups of up to 25 people outdoors or 10 indoors while encouraging participation in what the state dubs “low- or no-contact” sports — such as baseball or running — as opposed to sports deemed “high contact,” including soccer.
That said, soccer associations across the state are drafting ways to organize training or camps without contact.
High Country Soccer Executive Director Andrea Rosenthal said the organization’s plan would be to paint lines onto playing grounds for individual athletes to inhabit a 10-by-10-foot square grid with a ball of their own.
Despite the state appearing to move forward, anything based in Summit County will be permitted only when the county enters into phase two, Rosenthal and Marks said. To enter into phase two, the county must see no significant increase in COVID-19 cases for four to eight weeks following the commencement of the first phase April 27.
Once phase two is entered, Rosenthal said the association will work with community partners, such as town recreation departments and Summit School District, to get permission to use their facilities.
“If you go to our soccer camp, it’s not going to look different (in terms of distancing) than a day camp beside the fact that there you are not playing soccer,” Rosenthal said. “Even if one of the towns said to us, ‘You can run it and rent but with only 10 campers,’ game on. We’ll do it. We’ll do whatever we need to get the kids on the fields.”
Rosenthal elaborated that she and High Country Soccer leaders traveled to Eagle County on Monday to see how Vail Valley Soccer is operating. With that knowledge, the soccer association would like to open with a “super slow” rollout in terms of contact and distancing. That would mean solo training to start followed by closer contact but still distanced with one-on-one and two-on-two training a few weeks later.
“Everything I’ve heard from Vail kids and families is they’re erring on the side of caution because they want this to work,” Rosenthal said.
As for Marks and 10th Mountain Lacrosse, he said he is remaining conservative in his hopes that he’ll be able to operate any lacrosse training in Summit County this summer. If he gets approval to train athletes at some point, he’d model it after the 9-to-1 athlete-to-coach ratio that he’ll operate with in Eagle County on Tuesday. There, kids would remain 6 feet apart wearing helmets and, potentially, special face-shields designed for lacrosse helmets while coaches wear masks.
He understands time and further developments will dictate where lacrosse training will be able to take place and how close to traditional game action it will look. He also comprehends that if and when a player gets sick, a lot could go in reverse. But he gets that lacrosse, like soccer, is a sport that provides relief for youngsters.
“And in these times, I think it’s one of the best things we can have for kids and the community in general,” Marks said. “I think it would uplift everybody once we get the ball rolling.”
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