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Competitive Soccer Skills Challenge

A Contact-Less Alternative During the Coronavirus?

Sator Soccer - May 14, 2020


NOTICE: This article is written as a suggestive piece for members of the soccer community to consider and spark thoughtful deliberation among those who plan to create a phased return-to-activity plan specific to their own groups' situation. Caution and player safety should always take precedence above all. Please continue to adhere to regulations set forth by your local and state governments, as well as public health authorities, especially as safety measures and news related to COVID-19 constantly evolve.

As communities across the country and around the globe continue to balance the delicate act of combating the spread of COVID-19 with social distancing and returning to some form of normalcy, groups within youth soccer seem to be at an impasse between these two pendulums. Scattered throughout social outlets, parents, coaches, and other club members have voiced their opinions–some calling for a complete halt to whatever may be left of spring season and all of summer gameplay, while others urge for a return to the pitch. And even when states begin to ease restrictions on social gatherings for youth sports, possibly allowing for a small number of same-team players and coaches to interact, social distancing rules may continue to be enacted for said group gatherings. Some state associations, such as Minnesota Youth Soccer Association, have suggested 10-person training sessions (9 players and 1 coach or trainer; 8 players and 2 coaches or trainers) as part of Phase 2 of their Return-to-Play proposal sent to Governor Tim Walz.

What if there was a happy medium? What if, instead of standard match play, clubs and leagues enacted skills-based challenges in the interim while social distancing requirements remain in place but when states begin to allow for small group or team gatherings? Think of it akin to the NBA's All-Star Skills Challenge, but for soccer. Only one player would run through a given challenge at a time. Coaches or referees, from a distance, can time each player as they thoroughly complete each stage and calculate the team's total time to compare against an opposing team. Or, when certain areas allow for wireless internet connectivity, teams can hold virtual competitions via Zoom, Skype, or Facetime as they conduct their respective challenges on separate fields.

Here are just a few ideas of different challenges to consider:

  • Passing Accuracy Challenge
  • GOAL: Standing from a distance of 10 feet or greater, player attempts to successfully pass the ball through several passing arches at varying distances and angles as fast as they can. Use standard passing arches on grass fields, and turf arches on turf or delicate surfaces.

  • Slalom Dribbling Challenge
  • GOAL: From a starting position, player dribbles with a soccer ball as fast as they can as they weave through a series of training sticks at varying intervals and angles. Depending on player age, increase or decrease intervals and angles accordingly to raise or lower the challenge difficulty. For hardwood and turf surfaces, use turf training sticks.

  • Striking Accuracy Challenge
  • GOAL: Standing from a certain distance, player attempts to strike the ball at an exact target on the goal. For younger players, consider a larger target at a closer distance. For older players, consider smaller targets at a greater distance. You can use either use a combination of target patches with flat goals or goals with built-in targets.

  • Speed Burst Challenge
  • GOAL: From a starting position, player runs as fast as they can to the end position. Since soccer is not played in a straight line, you can choose to either have players maneuver through a specific pattern marked by cones or through a series of hurdles.

  • Defensive Shuffle Challenge
  • GOAL: Set up 5 cones in a diamond pattern with one in the center. With player starting at the top of the diamond, they run backwards to the center. Then, they shuffle laterally to the cone on the right, then to the cone on the left cone, and back to the center cone. And finally, they run backwards to the bottom of the diamond and run forwards to the top.

Clearly, all players, coaches, and personnel that are sick and exhibit such symptoms as—but not limited to—coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, or fever should stay home. Those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 should follow state-mandated quarantine requirements.

Equipment should be carefully disinfected before and after each challenge. Equipment, especially soccer balls, should only be handled by the coach and never the players. Consider having enough soccer balls for each player or routinely sanitizing communal soccer balls before a player starts his or her challenge.

What are your thoughts on this idea? Do you think this makes sense and can still achieve the goal of each pendulum in keeping players, families, and personnel safe while offering athletes an opportunity to get outside and hold competitive play? Is this something you would consider implementing in your Return-to-Play Plan? Let us know what you think.

Stay safe and healthy, and together we'll get through this!


NOTICE: This article is written as a suggestive piece for members of the soccer community to consider and spark thoughtful deliberation among those who plan to create a phased return-to-activity plan specific to their own groups' situation. Caution and player safety should always take precedence above all. Please continue to adhere to regulations set forth by your local and state governments, as well as public health authorities, especially as safety measures and news related to COVID-19 constantly evolve. As such, Sator Sports, Inc. makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for the completeness of this information.