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Return to Play: 5 tips for coaches

September 3, 2020


As a coach you are both a teacher and a role model. Helping your team return to play -- or at least practice together in some way -- underscores your commitment to both of these fundamentals. Ensuring return to play happens safely underscores your commitment, too. As coach, you are in a unique position to provide players, fellow staff/volunteers and parents with information and support tailored to meet new expectations and requirements that apply to youth sports.

Our SquadLocker Return to Play Guide is a comprehensive resource -- your MVP as you plan your team’s next moves toward the field or court or rink. Here are 5 tips from it you can use to up your coaching game during this unfolding post-pandemic season.


5 Tips for Coaches

1. Communicate!

There’s no such thing as TMI when it comes to keeping parents in the loop as you return to play. This is new for all of us, so we are all learning together. It’s much better to repeat yourself than to risk a parent (or another staff member) not receiving or overlooking some important detail.

Communicating with your players is more than important than ever, too – but it takes some rethinking.

We all want to win, so we all need to do our best. But it’s been a tough spring and summer, especially for our children who have dearly missed their teammates. As resilient as kids are, they need and deserve extra consideration just now. So let’s return to play with a focus on fun and safety. Getting through this new normal in good spirits and good health will be the biggest win anyone could hope for.


2. Adopt new "non-essential touch" guidelines

There are numerous operating considerations you’ll need to address as you plan your return to play. Most of these reflect the need for physical distancing as a first line of defense in limiting virus spread. You and your players will have to consciously change old habits, from hand washing and sanitizing to replacing handshakes and high fives with elbow bumps to just-say-no to spitting. This might be the hardest part of returning to play, but winners always love a good challenge, right?


3. Model safe behavior

Laying out the new rules in parent communications and team talks, displaying posters that explain about hand washing, etc., and posting reminders in highly visible places are all smart ways to educate and encourage safe new habits. Perhaps the most important of all, though, is how you conduct yourself. When you walk the walk, your team will follow in your footsteps. If you ignore the rules or take shortcuts, they’ll assume they can slide as well. You’ll lose their respect, and you could put people’s health in danger. It’s never been easier or smarter to do the right thing.


4. Keep up the virtual work

Great as it is to finally be practicing or even playing real games with others, there is no reason to step away from the virtual tools that have served you so well over the past few months. Digital communications can augment the in-person work you’re now able to do, helping you maintain maximum contact with the team as a whole but especially with individual players. In this time of uncertainty, personal check-ins can go a long way toward building self-confidence.


5. Set up a system for limiting shared resources or equipment

It’s BYOE (bring your own equipment) these days, since that’s the easiest way to avoid sharing. And there’s a lesson in that. As parents, we teach kids the importance of sharing. As coach, you teach players the importance of sharing within the team. But we also teach our children to respect others, and this is one time when respect for each other’s health outplays sharing our equipment.

In some sports, it’s pretty difficult to avoid shared gear or other sport-related supplies. You’ll need to have a plan in place to address this. But you might also consider recruiting some parent volunteers to serve as the equipment cleaning team -- wiping down balls, etc. between players to minimize potential virus spread.


It’s a work in progress

Learning to improve sports skills or learning new ways to function responsibly as we emerge from lockdown, we are all a work in progress. As coach, you can take the lead in helping players, their parents and even the community gear up for a winning season, whatever that turns out to be. We are, as we say, all in this together.

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