When Shelley Gillwald, executive director of the Park City Soccer Club, began to think about the possibility of reopening the club for the upcoming summer season, she knew there was one person she must consult with.
Enter Eli Ulvi, technical director of the Park City Soccer Club.
Gillwald knew that if the club was to reopen safely and have the kids come back with their parents supportive of that idea, Ulvi was going to have to be a big part of that process due to his closeness with the kids and his ability to connect with them.
“For our kids to be able to regain some normalcy and get back to the connecting the people in their lives, that was important to us,” Gillwald said. “I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I wasn’t a little anxious, but I’m super thankful that I have Eli and that he and I are on the same page. We have a board, with some people who are in the healthcare system, that supports us and believes in what we are doing so that does help a lot.”
With the help of the “Return to Training” subcommittee formed by PCSC, Gillwald and Ulvi came up with a detailed plan to get kids back on the field that was within the guidelines implemented by the Summit County Health Department.
“We kept our eyes on everything going on within the county and the rest of the state, as well as other soccer associations from other counties to see how they were going about reopening,” Ulvi said. “Some of our board members were involved with other areas in Park City as far as returning to normalcy, so their knowledge definitely helped. But for us, we elected to be more restrictive than we needed to be just because safety has been and always will be our top priority.”
Now, every coach has a kit with them that they use during any practice or training session. Included in the kit are gloves, disinfectant and a thermometer that are used at every session.
In order to make sure that coaches were familiar with how Gillwald and Ulvi expected to run the sessions, they held a model session for coaches on social distancing and sanitizing facilities.
They even went so far as to have designated dropoff and pickup times to hopefully avoid large groups of kids and their parents coming and going at the same time, this way to avoid any unnecessary contact and spread of the novel coronavirus.
“I do think that the plan we have is a very good one and that it’s allowing our kids to come back and train at a high level, and without their parents having to worry,” Gillwald said. “We know that not everyone is comfortable coming back right now and that’s fine, we support that. But for those who are back, we want to make sure that we can support them also and I think we’ve been able to do that.”
The majority of those guidelines were made when Summit County was in the orange phase of Gov. Herbert’s plan. But by the time the kids and coaches were allowed to resume training, Summit County had moved into the yellow phase, allowing for the easing of restrictions and more possibilities training-wise.
“Just because we are in yellow now and that allows us to do more, we are in still more restrictive in some ways,” Ulvi said. “This does allow us to go back to scrimmaging with normal capacity and without social distancing, but we still have our coaches wearing a mask when within 10 feet of any player or addressing the team. We are trying not to share equipment, cleaning hands at every break and trying to keep them as distanced as possible.”
Thus far, training sessions for kids who were on the teams last season have gone well. But they’re expected to get much more competitive over the next two weeks as “player placement” sessions are set to run on Tuesday and Wednesday of this upcoming week, and Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week. The younger kids will have their placement sessions this week while the older kids will do theirs the following week.
“All of our staff will be on hand to assess the players,” Ulvi said. “We really try to look at the bigger picture as soon as possible. It will be so much more than how the player performs during those two days, we will be assessing them off their full year involvement in the organization.”
According to Gillwald and Ulvi, there are still some families who don’t have their kids out participating and training — and that’s perfectly okay with them. They understand what’s going on in society and they support any decision these families are making regarding their respective safety.
PCSC is expected to compete in the statewide summer league, which is set to begin on June 22 through the middle of July. Usually, the summer is reserved for tournaments before the league games take place in September, but with many of them being canceled, this league is a way to get the kids’ competitive juices flowing.
But Ulvi isn’t ruling out playing in any tournaments this summer. It will depend on the teams and their comfort level, as well as the restrictions for the respective counties that will be hosting the tournaments.
“Things are opening across the state, and it sounds like things are going into the green phase more quickly with events being held so we’ll just wait and see,” Ulvi said. “We don’t know about out-of-state or national tournaments yet, but we typically have state and regional tournaments first so if those happen, then we’ll see. It’s all a domino effect so if those are happening, other bigger ones might be happening.”