Still a ways away from this sort of full-team training. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country
Soon, Major League Soccer players will be able to use team facilities. It’s a small-but-significant step on the road back to having live sports in the world in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
From League release:
NEW YORK (May 1, 2020) – Major League Soccer today announced that as of Wednesday, May 6, players may begin to use outdoor team training fields for individual workouts, in compliance with detailed health and safety protocols that were created in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts. All individual workouts are voluntary and may not be in conflict with local public health official or government policies.
By allowing players, on a voluntary basis, to utilize team-operated fields for individual workouts, MLS clubs will be able to provide a controlled environment that ensures adherence to safety protocols and social distancing measures for players and staff.
The individual player workout protocol prohibits access to club facilities including but not limited to locker rooms, team gyms, and team training rooms. Team gyms and training rooms may still only be accessed by players receiving post-operative and rehabilitation treatment, as directed by the club’s Chief Medical Officer.
Prior to initiating any individual player workouts, every team must submit to MLS a club-specific plan that outlines how the team will implement health and safety protocols, including:
- Restricting training facility access to essential staff only, with specific staff listed in the plan.
- Sanitization and disinfection plans for all training equipment and spaces, including disinfection of any equipment used by players (balls, cones, goals) between every session.
- Completion of a Standard Screening Assessment survey by each player prior to every arrival at the training site, and temperature checks upon arrival at the facility.
- Staggered player and staff arrivals and departures, with designated parking spaces to maintain maximum distance between vehicles.
- Player use of personal protective equipment from the parking lot to the field, and again on return to the parking lot.
- Staff use of the appropriate personal protective equipment throughout training, while also maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet from players at all times.
- Hand washing and disinfectant stations for required use before and after individual workouts.
- Clubs will have the use of the outdoor fields at their training facility, divided into a maximum of four quadrants per field. A maximum of one player per quadrant may participate per training session with no equipment sharing or playing (passing, shooting) between players.
- An Emergency Action Plan for all COVID-19 related issues.
All plans must be reviewed and approved by the club’s medical staff and local infectious disease expert before submitting to Major League Soccer. Every club will designate a member of the staff to oversee adherence to MLS-recommended protocols and club-specific implementation plan.
In addition, each club will also be responsible for confirming communication of these protocols to players and team staff.
The league-wide moratorium on small group and full team training remains in place through, and including, Friday, May 15.
My fear/expectation is that, as we see some of these states start to try to ease distancing recommendations too soon, there’s going to be another boom in cases, and even steps like this – pro athletes are probably not going to be at significant risk in any short-term window – are minuscule ones in the big picture. Nonetheless, the idea of getting back toward team training has to start somewhere, and allowing players to use club facilities is that first step.
Getting back to small-group training and use of all team facilities (locker rooms and weight rooms are still going to be off-limits) is the next step. I doubt that these things are ready for the current May 15 deadline, though it’s looking possible for the first time, at least.
In the meantime: stay inside, wash your hands.